The time I spent at Lipscomb for my undergrad was one of the most spiritually impactful times in my life. Not only did God use the community there to draw me closer to Him, he also used that time to give me a passion for missions. After graduating, I found my faith community at Ethos, which consistently reveals the heart of Jesus to me, and challenges me to pick up my cross and follow him whether that means knocking on my neighbor's door or jumping on a plane headed for India. It was amazing to see the two communities that play such a strong role in my story with Jesus come together for this trip.
My time in India was an emotional and spiritual roller coaster. Every day was full of laughter and tears, sometimes these moments coming only minutes apart. I haven't felt as close to God as I did in India in a long time. I witnessed the Spirit moving in myself and in our team in powerful and tangible ways. I also have never been to such a spiritually dark place in my life. The first day we arrived to Kolkata we visited a Hindu temple where people were pouring out their hearts in desperation to idols and false Gods. Money and animal sacrifices were made in exchange for power, pregnancy, wealth, and everything else you could possibly imagine.
It was heartbreaking.
It was heavy.
It was difficult to see God in that place.
In Nashville, it is easy to worship the false Gods of wealth, power, greed, and sex, but still convince ourselves that we are following Jesus. Our worship of these idols is ingrained in our American culture, and without the literal act of bowing down before an idol made by human hands, it is easy to passively worship false gods without even knowing we are doing so. Watching people pray and beg at the feet of these idols right in front of me, opened my heart to the reality that what I am seeing is what God sees when I chase after things other than Him. Why would I ever pour so much of myself into these idols and the false hope they provide when Jesus is standing right there offering to fulfill everything my heart could ever need or desire?
India was a dark place. But...
There was a light in the darkness. In dark places, even the smallest of lights seem to shine brighter.
Jesus is alive in India.
He is working in the lives of the beautiful people there. He is healing the sick. He is mending broken hearts. He is giving hope to the hopeless. He is restoring marriages and families. He is speaking truth. He is good. He always keeps his promises.
I want to tell you about everything I witnessed and how God is playing out His story of redemption in India. The best way for me to share my experience with you is through photos. The story starts with these two....
This is Jaiashree and Piyas. They are amazing. I've never met two people who want to do nothing more than serve the Lord wherever he may call them. They truly are empty vessels for the Lord. The things that we got to witness and participate in were all the result of years of hard work by Piyas and Jasashree. I will dedicate the rest of this post to photos with short descriptions that give you a glimpse into the work Jesus is doing in India.
Do you see the child in the photo? You have to look for him.
This child had a huge impact on me. Maybe because I feel like him sometimes, all alone in a place I have yet to figure out or maybe because he could be one of my sons. There is a photo in Piyas's office of two kids they found living in a dumpster. He said he realized that it could have been his son in that dumpster, so he began his journey to do something about it.
Piyas and Jaiashree started a school in the slums to give kids an education, keep them safe, and feed them. Most parents have to work long hours far away from home, which means kids are left alone all day long to fend for themselves. This breeds conditions for abuse and an environment where they are much more likely to start getting into things like crime or drugs to make money and pass the time. The schools that Piyas and Jaiashree started keep the kids safe and gives them a future.
The children learn about Jesus, standard education, and receive a meal. For most of the kids, this meal is the only meal they will have that day.
They have also planted two churches in partnership with Ethos. We were blessed to hear the testimonies of people who had given their lives to Jesus through these churches. Most of the people that converted from Hinduism to Christianity literally gave up everything. They sacrificed their family, jobs, homes, and sense of security to follow Jesus. Christians are kicked out of their communities and are even forced to register with the government. We heard powerful testimonies about God healing them and even their family members after giving their life to Jesus and others experienced restoration in their marriages.
Clean water is a huge problem in India. In the area where one of the churches is located the water is full of arsenic. Ethos funded a well on the church property and we got to see it while we were there.
One of the amazing ministries that was started in India is a trade school where women can learn to sew or be a beautician, ultimately enabling them to start their own business. This allows them to work from home so their kids aren't left alone, and also allows them to contribute to their family's income which alleviates a host of problems. Here is a photo of our group with the women who have completed the sewing course and received their very own sewing machine.
There is so much more I could say about the trip and the way that I saw God moving in India, but I will leave you with a few more photos instead and hope that they stir your heart to get involved with the work God is doing in India. If you want to know more or get involved you can visit Ethos Church or One Life International.
"There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain."