Thursday, July 22, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
It’s been a while since our team (Candice, Daniela, Drew & Naomi) has updated you on our lives here in
week one: 07/04 - 07/09
My team and I spent the week in the rural village of Athmakur. We arrived on Sunday morning after a two-hour bus ride from Hyderabad and were joyfully greeted by the Pastor of the local church and his beautiful family. Over the course of the week, we began to live life with this family, taking upon ourselves their passion for this village and its people.
One of our ministries to the village over the week was leading a VBS for the children there. On our first day, forty-two kids from all over the village gathered around the simple church grounds, eager and courageous in spirit. We began to lead them in the knowledge of God’s love, yearning with all our hearts to convey its deepness in the simplest of forms to their young minds. The kids were beautifully eager, hanging onto every word we spoke. Our only hope was that their eagerness was drawn to the Spirit rather than the group of Americans who came to their village. Towards the end of the night, we began to play games with the kids, and the church seemed to almost explode with joy. Our team then noticed a man, sullen-faced and angry, staring through the window. When Premdas, our dear friend and translator, approached the man, he began yelling in Telugu, shouting that we were corrupting his son with the words of our religion. He then demanded his son leave with him and stormed off toward the village.
The next day as we sat in the church preparing for the days events, we received news that shook us all quite deeply. The father that dragged his son out of the church that night beat him so badly that the boy suffered from pains in his body. The father then took his son to the doctor, claiming that the candy we had given his son made him sick. He even went so far as to report us to the local newspaper, saying that the foreign Christians had come to corrupt and convert their children, forcing our religion upon them. The reporter that the father spoke to was also the largest anti-Christian Hindu in the entire village. Our fears began to rise as talk spread of our motives within the village.
Later that day, we were scheduled to speak at a school assembly. Our aim was to encourage the kids in their value through Christ's deep love for them. When we arrived at the school, the anti-Christian reporter was there, camera ready in hand and face screaming his utter disgust for our being there. Originally, our talk included references to God and His creating us out of His great love for us. But because of the strong anti-Christian sentiments, we decided to re-word that section of our speech, trusting that the Spirit would move despite the absence of a direct reference to God. Praying that the LORD would protect us as we did His will.
I was much reminded of the book of Esther during this time, in that although God’s name may not be in the book, His name is definitely on the book, working together all things for the good of His people. So that became our prayer…that the LORD’s name would dwell on the assembly even if His name was absent from its content.
We witnessed God’s providence in a beautiful way that day. As the reporter’s suspicions were silenced by our omission of God’s name in the assembly, his demeanor was drastically shifted to welcoming us with open arms. So much so that he wrote a story about the Americans who came to
week two: 07/11 - 07/16
This past week, our team was sent out to a coal-mining city about six hours away from
Something we’ve been learning here in
The LORD is truly doing big things here in India, and we are so blessed to be used in such beautiful ways. May we continue to see ourselves as broken vessels, fixed by the King, and directed by the Spirit. May His good, pleasing, and perfect will be done.
Friday, July 16, 2010
This past week, The Justice League team (Victoria, Peter, David, Megen) left the congestion and dense population of the city for Bommakal, a village of 1200 people located about 170 km from Hyderabad. We soon discovered that we had exchanged the smog of the city for intense heat and humidity and dirt roads that, while not congested with traffic, had to be shared with amazingly large and unconcerned herds of livestock. These roads also took their toll on our vehicle; the faithful old sumo fell prey to a punctured tire the second night we were there, which required an emergency tire change (including at least 4 attempts at jacking up the vehicle, which only proved successful when the entire team lifted the gigantic sumo high enough off the ground to properly position the jack) on the side of a deserted road at 11:00 pm.
When we first arrived at the afterschool center and met the kids we would be working with this week, our response matched theirs: reserved. Having just finished an amazing week with the kids at Ashirvad (see previous posts), it was hard to keep from making comparisons between the two groups of children. While the Ashirvad kids had been overflowing with love and enthusiasm toward us, which they expressed in amazingly good English, these village kids seemed shy and hesitant to interact with us. To further complicate connecting with them, they spoke virtually no English. At our nightly team prayer times, we asked God to open our hearts to love these kids without making comparisons.
We had decided to begin the week with an experiential activity that would allow us to present the gospel to the kids. As I shared and asked questions, I noticed that their response was usually “I don’t know,” but I assumed that they were still feeling too shy to venture an answer. Based on what we had been told about the kids, we were under the assumption that all of them were familiar with the gospel and that about half of them knew Christ as their Savior. We continued to emphasize the gospel, but it wasn't until our third night in Bommakal that we found out that these statistics had recently changed. The afterschool center had taken a year's break from its programs and had only reopened a few weeks before we arrived. Our host in the village told us that nearly all of the students were Hindu and that this was their first involvement with the afterschool program or the church.
That night, our team went back to our lodgings stunned and overwhelmed by what we had just learned. No wonder the kids didn't know the answer to the questions I had asked them about the gospel. No wonder they were shy and still learning how to love and be loved. Our team of four went up on the roof of the church where we were staying and sat in silence as we remembered the eager pairs of eyes fixed on us as we shared those words of life, those serious faces that appeared to be listening as though their lives depended on it. And we realized that, in fact, their lives did depend on it. It had been difficult at our previous ministry site to look into the beautiful faces of the kids at Ashirvad and realize that despite their happy smiles, unless God does a miracle, they will die a difficult and early death as a result of AIDS. How much more heartbreaking to look into the equally gorgeous faces and bright eyes of the kids at Bommakal and realize that, unless God does a miracle, they are headed toward an eternity in hell. And so, sitting there on that rooftop in an Indian village, we began to pray. We prayed for the souls of those kids who, we realized, we had come to love every bit as passionately as we had loved the Ashirvad kids. We prayed for the church there that makes up such a tiny percentage of the population of the village and for God to use those believers to lead the kids to Him. And we prayed for our remaining time in the village – 1 ½ days seemed so short suddenly. We felt that what we had to offer was so little, yet we knew that the same God who fed 5,000 people with one boy’s lunch was able to take our small offering and multiply it for His purposes. We had no idea when we offered our last days in Bommakal to God how He would choose to use them.
The day before we left the village, we decided to give the kids an opportunity to respond to the gospel. We led them in making simple origami hearts and writing the names of people they loved on the hearts they had made. Then we told them if they loved Jesus and wanted to invite Him into their hearts, to write His name on their hearts. Peter shared with them that the love they have for the people they wrote down is tiny compared with God’s love for each of them. He asked the group to close their eyes and anyone who wanted to pray and receive Christ as Savior to raise their hand. To our astonishment, 24 students raised their hands! As one of our team members said later, those hands weren’t just raised – they shot up and they stayed up the entire time Peter led them in prayer. In fact, we had to remind them to put their hands down when we finished!
We went “home” that night and climbed the stairs to the same roof where we’d sat and prayed the night before. Again, we were stunned and overwhelmed – overwhelmed by what God had done and stunned that He had allowed us to be a part of it. We realized that God had done a miracle and that we could now look into 24 pairs of bright eyes and know that these beautiful, amazing children are now sons and daughters of God and that we will see them again one day in heaven.
Before we left Bommakal, each of us made an origami heart identical to those the kids had made. Each heart is covered with names, written in different colored markers, some in English, some in Telugu characters – the names of the children of Bommakal. When we drove away, we took those hearts with us as a testimony to us of the way God taught us to love those children and a reminder that 24 of those children also have their names written on His heart and in His book of life.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Before coming on this trip to India we were often asked, "Why are you going to India? What ministry are you partnering with there? What are the needs there?" The following story of Rayudu, although heartbreaking, paints a vivid picture of the ongoing needs here and of the hope that the Shining Stars Centers for Youth Development are offering to the children and families that attend on a daily basis.
- While lying on his hospital bed he placed both of his parents hands into Peter Wiig's and made Peter promise that he would take care of them.
- He collected all of his father's money and asked that it be used for the education of his siblings (like his sister's pictured above).
- He also asked the Shining Stars to promise to take care of his sister's education and help her to study.
- He told his mother that he wanted all of his clothes and body parts given to the poor (though he himself was very poor).
Tom and I (Donna), along with Peter Wiig (all pictured above) have stayed behind this week in Hyderabad to prepare lessons for the Teen Workers Training Retreat we're doing this Thursday-Saturday. Here's Life Inner City is partnering with India Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade and Shining Stars to train 30-40 people working with youth. This is an exciting training for me because this will be the inaugural training using training curriculum that Here's Life Inner City's Youth development department has been developing over the past 3 years. This is my first editing project ever! Please pray for:
- Pray for God to bring the people he wants there for the training. We are expecting between 30-40 people there which would be fantastic!
- Pray for Donna, Tom, Peter Wiig, Megen, and Jean as they teach/lead the various seminars.
- Pray for the participants to be blessed and encouraged by the training and that they would apply the lessons learned to their various teen ministries throughout the city of Hyderabad.
Thank you for your prayers!!
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Have you ever felt trapped or helpless? Maybe money and available resources have kept you from experiencing such moments of desperation. Last week, team P.U.L.S.E. (Wade Norman, Jean Johnston & Tiffany Nickles) went to visit a home with a few workers from YWAM (Youth with a Mission). One of the houses we stopped at was a one room home filled with five residents. A widow and 2 of her 4 children anxiously invited us in. There was no room for all of us to be in their home at the same time so most of us sat on the ground outside. During the conversation we discovered that the widow and her youngest and only son were infected with H.I.V. The widow and her two daughters really enjoyed our company and we really enjoyed theirs. I (Wade, pictured above) felt helpless and humbled because it was all we had to offer.
The original plan for that day was to help YWAM finish building a restroom for this family. However, due to rain our plans for completing the restroom were put on hold. My heart was filled with pain as I looked at the two girls as my own sisters. I tried to imagine my own sisters going through similar hardships. It was difficult to say the least.
Before we departed from their home I was asked to pray for the family. This request alone compounded the pain I felt for this family. What could I possibly pray that would take their eyes off the reality of their current circumstances? I felt unequipped but I prayed anyway. As I began to pray the pain that surrounded my heart slowly turned to joy. God wasted no time reminding me that He cared for these people more than I could ever know. Who was I to think that I had anything to offer this family? God exposed my prideful motives that I had buried under my heart. I was convicted as the words of my heart foolishly belittled the power of prayer and by belittling the power of prayer I was belittling the power of God.
This situation, like many others, was an opportunity to trust Him. I needed to believe that God could help this family and that He would help this family in the way that He chooses. Sometimes I want God to work the way I want but God is not afraid to blow my mind by doing something totally different. This family will continue to be reached out to and loved by the local ministry here and I will continue to pray for God to do a miracle in their lives. Praise His Holy name and lets give thanks that we have hope in Him!
--Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are acheiving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal --2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
Monday, July 12, 2010
In the town they will be speaking at local school assemblies, working at a Shining Stars Youth Development Center at a local church (doing VBS type activities with the children, homework, skits, Bible stories, games, arts & crafts, etc.), leading a Women's and Youth Bible study.
Please pray for them:
- Pray that they are able to sleep well this week after starting the week so tired from their late night travel.
- Pray for God to speak through them as they speak at local school assemblies.
- Pray that God help them make special connections with the children at the youth center and that they would be bold to share the Love of Jesus with the children.
- Pray for unity as these 2 teams (Team Hydergood & Team Pulse) work closely together for the first time.
Our third team, The Justice League (Peter, Victoria, Megen and David) left at noon on Sunday for Bommakal. Bommakal is a small village where they said the only cars they've seen in the last day was the one they drove and a delivery truck. They are helping to jumpstart the Shining Stars Center for the new school year by visiting the children in their homes and inviting them to the Center for tutoring and Bible lessons.
Pray for the Justice League:
- Creativity in connecting with the kids.
- Healing for Victoria and Peter as they recover from a cold.
Thanks for praying for these teams! Check in tomorrow for update and prayer request for our busy team leaders.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
“We love because He first loved us.” These simple words from 1 John are the first steps to understanding my experience at Ashirvad Children’s Home. If I have ever seen love with my own eyes, it was at Ashirvad. Ashirvad is a home for children who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. Most of the children are orphaned or semi-orphaned (a situation in which the father has died and provision for the family is nearly impossible) but all of them have been affected by HIV/AIDS and many of the children are HIV positive.
We are called to “love one another.” Before working with these children, it was easy to question what that even means. Now it is all too easy to understand. Seeing the way these kids treat each other was one of the greatest definitions of love that I have ever witnessed. Love is when Ramya sees Bharathi struggling with putting a flower in her hair so she immediately removes the clip from her own to help. Love is when, in the middle of a game of Chain-cut (a crazy form of tag), twenty girls will pause at any moment and rush to help a fallen and injured sister. Love is when Kumari can just look at Pooja and know why she is crying. The love that these children have for one another is captivating. It is a reflection of the love that the staff so wonderfully pours out to them by caring so ardently. Above all, it is a reflection of the love of Christ that was poured out for each of us.
Friday was one of the hardest days of my life. It was the day that my team, The Justice League, and I had to say goodbye to the children. With each hug I was overwhelmed by memories of the past week. Their faces are engraved in my mind and in my heart and I long for the sweet music of footsteps pitter-pattering on the rooftop where we played. I had approached our time at Ashirvad with the standard American missionary mindset; I was going to serve these kids. Saying goodbye in those final moments reiterated what I had learned from my first moment there; each act of love that I witnessed was a service to me.
Our last act of service to the children was, perhaps, the most rewarding of all. Looking at the model that Jesus set forth in his Word, on how we should love and serve one another, we decided to wash the feet of each of the children. Even after we had given our explanation they kept asking why we were doing this. We took buckets and basins of water, and one by one gently washed their little feet, occasionally taking a moment to look up into a pair of big, sparkly brown eyes that looked amazed to be served in this way. Those eyes alone were another of the beautiful ways in which those children served me and each of the members of my team. Ashirvad means ‘blessing’ and I do not believe that a name more appropriate could ever be possible.
Please pray for Ashirvad Children’s Home and Ark Family Ministries (the group from which it is based.) Pray that God will provide all of the needs of the children and the staff. They are currently praying that God will give them land so that they can care for more children and so that the kids have more room to sleep, play, and just be kids. Please pray for their finances and that the three children who do not have sponsors would be sponsored. Ask God to bless this ministry with grace and favor from the community and please pray for the health of the children. For our team, I ask that you would pray that God gives us perseverance in ministry and that we would continue on with a servant’s heart. I ask also, that you would pray that we would take this lesson of love that we learned from the children and staff at Ashirvad and apply it to our ministry and to our lives.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
- I am so proud of all the students/team members as they have stepped out in faith to minister each day! We have challenged them to be F.F.A.T. (Flexible, faithful, available, and teachable) throught the entire summer and they have definitely taken us up on that challenge and demonstrated godly patience & flexibility day after day. They continue to work hard each day to prepare but things here never go as planned! I have been so impressed as our teams have adapted to ever changing circumstances. I have also appreciated their hearts for the people they are ministering to. They have been praying with/loving on many people who are HIV positive. This is not easy work--it is emotionally draining and heartbreaking for them to see these wonderful children, who are so full of energy and hope, then have to stop and watch them take their HIV meds. Please pray for our teams to continue to be F.F.A.T.
- Do you ever feel like you have so many distractions/comforts built in all around you that it makes it difficult to maintain an intimate relationship with God? Being here has stripped me of many of my comforts and taken me out of my comfort zone. There is so much different here--like the food, clothing, no hot showers, unfamiliar surroundings, a new language, fewer entertainment options, etc. and this has been so good for me because it has forced me to focus on what is most important--my relationships with people around me and my relationship with God. It has also led me to think about the many "distractions" that I have at home that lead me away from people and God. As Christians we know that the only things that last for eternity are God, people, and His Word. This trip has been a good reminder for me to make some changes and invest more in eternity. It also inspires me to try and bring as many people into eternity with me as possible by sharing the good news of Christ's death and resurrection with as many people as I can!
- Lastly, another highlight for me has been getting to know Peter & Mercy Wiig the founders of the Shining Stars Centers for Youth Development here in Hyderabad. Peter is pictured above with Donna and I and I am amazed by the work God has been doing through him. It also breaks my heart to see that they are underresourced here and undersupported. I hope that we can do something to help provide them with ongoing resources to better equip them for their ministry here. He shared with Donna and I that they sometimes feel isolated and I would love to see our ministry of Here's Life Inner City partner with him to help him feel empowered, encouraged, and equipped for the ministry here. I am also praying that God raises up the necessary support that his family needs. If you are interested in joining their support team please get in touch with me and I will let you know how you can get started (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Please pray for the following for our India project: 1) Pray that we would continue to grow in our relationship with God. 2) Pray that we would be unified as a team and encourage one another. 3)Pray for Peter & Mercy Wiig that God would provide them with all the necessary prayer & financial support for their ongoing ministry here.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
The most beautiful part of the service was when a woman wept as she spoke of how she had been praying and praying to have a Bible in her own language (Tamil). She had finally received the Bible that morning and she kept kissing it and thanking God that she now had opportunity to read God's word in her mother tongue. Something that I so often take for granted (I have several Bibles) meant the world to her.
Today (Monday) our team served at the Nareekshena (Hope) clinic for those infected with HIV and AIDS and we served at a Christian school originally founded to give the Children of Leprosy patients a solid education (today many of the students are orphaned or semi-orphaned from HIV or other issues). We will be serving at these sites for the next several days.
I am still processing all that we saw and experienced, but I have come to see many many ways that something as devastating as HIV and AIDS is being redeemed by God to bring people to faith in Christ and to give a hope and a future. What Satan meant for evil, God has used for good!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Today the Justice League Team (David, Victoria, Megan, Peter) visited a school for children infected and affected by AIDs. From the moment we laid eyes on them, we knew it was gonna be a good day. They absolutely took your breath away. They were beautiful and kind and generous and affectionate. Their love was all that we needed after the tough time we have had adjusting to our tough schedule. With so much to prepare and almost no time to do it, the our team has been running on fumes and prayers. We've been feeling overwhelmed and under-equipped to love properly.
Please pray for our energy, focus, and harmony. With the tough schedule and jetlag exhaustion, we're finding it hard to love as we should.
Though at the school, love was in plenty, as the kids gushed over us.
Honestly, it was hard to imagine that these bright, happy, loving children were either infected with HIV/AIDS, or had parents who were infected with HIV/AIDS... or both.
After dinner, we saw our first reminder that these were no ordindary children. We quietly observed some of the children taking their medication, and fought back tears that were welling up.
In our team brief, we couldn't hold back the tears any longer as we prayed. We were so grateful to have met these kids, and so humbled by their love. We were in awe of the love of Jesus, as he redeemed these kids as His own.
We prepared hard last night to prepare a lesson for these kids.
But the only lessons given today, were for us.
Please pray for team Hyderagood (Drew, Candice, Daniela, Naomi) who are out in the field in the remote rural areas this week. It was an unexpected assignment that they accepted with a servant's heart.
Also Tiffany on Team Pulse, is battling a cold. Please pray for her as well.
Our team will actually be a bit different from the rest. We will be traveling outside of the Hyderabad area to a rural area called Athmakur and staying in a rented house there for the week. We leave today and won’t be returning to St. Ann’s until Wednesday night. We’ll do some additional training here on Thursday and Friday with the large group, but we will be traveling back to Athmakur on those days as well to continue to serve in the same area.
We were asked to lead a service at one the local churches in Athmakur today, so we will be leaving St. Ann’s right after breakfast for that. Then, during the week we will be spending some time visiting the families of the church. We will also be serving at a local school everyday, where we will be sharing a lesson with the children there as well as simply spending time with the kids. In addition to that, we will be speaking at three different school assemblies about character development. The children that we will be working with range in age from five to fifteen, all of who speak the local language here in India, Telagu. So we will be traveling to all of our sites with one of the staff here that will translate for us. He is such a blessing!
We are so excited for what the LORD has in store for our team this week!
We are so excited about the work ahead of us! Please continue to keep us all in your prayers! Specifically, if you could be praying for one of our leaders, Tom, who is diabetic. His insulin was accidently frozen, and is now unusable. Be praying that the LORD provide the proper medication for him, and that his body would react positively with it. May we be in complete dependence of the Father.
Thank you! We love you!
Friday, July 2, 2010
We arrived in
Once we got to the retreat centre, the staff allowed us to check in and we got the keys to our spacious, lovely rooms. Seriously, they are amazing! Then, we were served breakfast 8:00am, still trying to adjust a bit to the twelve and a half hour time difference! Can you believe that we are on the other side of the globe!? We’re still in shock! But it was nice to have the morning to simply relax as a team and get to know the retreat centre where we will be living for the next month.
As we walked back to our rooms, a few of the girls noticed an open door leading to a balcony, so we decided to check it out as the view here in
The scene before us was littered with densely packed buildings and houses. They were almost ancient looking, sporting chipping paint along almost every angle, scattered with pieces of clothing hung out to dry, and screaming character with their assorted colors. All enclosed within the confines of the beautiful mountain ranges. And, not only was the view breathtaking, but the sounds were almost mesmerizing. Cars honking for sometimes absolutely no reason but to warn another of its presence, stray dogs barking as they roamed the streets, and a constant flow of traffic noises and chattering added to the soundtrack. We were all taken captive by the beauty of this place, and as we sat up on that roof together, we began to talk about why.
The people and the landscape simply are, and they make no apologies or excuses for it. The buildings are full of character in their worn condition and broken appearance. Almost as if to say that they are content being so, just as they are. It’s a rather beautiful thing.
Life here is unapologetic. It is what it is. There is such vulnerability here. No attempts to display false perfections. Brokenness is reality, and it is on beautiful display. May we learn from this place, from these people. May our brokenness lead us into relationship with this nation for which God is yearning.