“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.