Heather Mehra-Pedersen weaves her way along a street crowded with vendors, beggars, rickshaws, cars and the occasional elephant. The smell of sweat, sewage and other unpleasant odors mingle with the rich aromas of spices and sizzling pans of street food.
As Heather glances at a child asking for change, the voice of an orphan from a past service trip echoes in her mind: “In America, do you dream in rainbows?”
“It does take your breath away,” says Heather. “Delhi should be one of the great wonders of the world in and of itself.”
This is Heather’s India. She has visited nine countries with the International Children’s Network Matsiko World Orphan Choir searching for orphaned or at-risk children in Asia, Africa and South America to participate in the U.S. World Orphan Choir tour. All proceeds earned on the tour support educational sponsorship, giving the children a chance to earn a university degree.
When Heather is not globetrotting for a cause, she owns and operates Talus Rock Retreat in Sandpoint, Idaho. It took Heather and her husband, Bruce, more than 28 years to purchase land, and design and build the retreat.
After the couple and their three children, Kipling, Rio and Selkirk, moved into Talus Rock in February 2008, their vision for the home quickly changed due to the recession.
“We originally built (the house) to serve those who serve others. Those who serve others don’t make very much money like teachers, soldiers, pastors, missionaries,” says Heather. “When the economy turned in 2008, we had a large infrastructure here so we used our biggest asset to hold during the economic downturn. Now we get to do tourism and service.”
The money earned from Talus Rock Retreat allows Heather and her family to serve in countries throughout Africa and Asia. Heather’s favorite is India.
“My father is from India. It feels like home to me and those kids feel like little brothers and sisters, and it looks like they could all be my kids,” Heather says, who is the international director of Asia for International Children’s Network. “I love the food and the challenge of traveling in India.”
Talus Rock Retreat has shaped the Pederson’s lives and allowed them the opportunity to contribute to a global mission. Heather enjoys the many connections she makes with her guests while stewarding her property, which hosts weddings and business retreats year-round. It offers many artfully crafted rooms, a large swimming and fishing pond, and it is located only a mile from downtown Sandpoint, with countless opportunities to explore the region.
The retreat house features many artifacts from the Pedersen’s travels. Small touches scattered throughout the house exhibit true attention to detail and craftsmanship.
Although Talus Rock Retreat is a chic, rustic get-a-way, Heather explains that their property does not reflect the character of her family.
“This really isn’t our skin,” says Heather about the family’s 8,300-square-foot retreat home. “We don’t have fancy cars, dripping jewelry. What we love to do is serve.”
While raising kids at the retreat has exposed them to people from all walks of life, the service trips give the Pedersen kids a global perspective.
“Our kids have grown up realizing what it’s like to not have running water, (to be) sick, uncomfortable,” says Heather. “We eat beetles. You eat whatever’s being served, sometimes you don’t eat.”
Last spring, Heather and her youngest son, Selkirk, completed a three-week tour for the ICN’s 2016 Matsiko World Orphan Choir tour. The trip took them on 14 different planes and through eight countries in 21 days.
Selkirk, 17, recalls one of his favorite moments was playing in the river with Filipino orphan children.
He has been on seven different service trips in his lifetime and enjoys exploring the countries, experiencing other cultures and meeting new people. These trips have enlightened him to the many advantages he has had growing up in America.
“I just think (traveling) kind of makes students my age aware of what’s happening in third world countries to broaden their perspective about how entitled and spoiled (they are) and be more grateful for the things they have,” says Selkirk.
Selkirk has a crowd funding campaign on gofundme.com to film orphans and at-risk children living in third world countries to raise awareness. He plans to study business and law with a minor in film in college.
“I want to continue to travel and film and be a voice for orphan children,” says Selkirk.
Talus Rock Retreat is the reason Heather joined ICN. In 2008, the World Orphan Choir U.S. tour visited Sandpoint, and eight of the tour’s teachers and choreographers needed a place to stay. In 2009, Heather and her daughter, Rio, went on their first trip to Uganda to help with auditioning and filming children for the upcoming 2010 U.S. tour.
Since the start of the orphan choir, nearly 4,000 children worldwide have had their education sponsored.
“You think you’re going over to bless, and you’re the one who comes back humbled and blessed,” says Heather.
For more information, visit www.talusrockretreat.com or call (208) 255-8458.