When God invited me to travel to India I believe it was an invitation into His heart. To see as He does and to care, because He does.
I love India. It is vibrant and pungent with aroma and colour. It is ancient and earthy, communal and spiritual. It is raw and real and pulsing with life. Relationships dominate, rather than tasks. India is the people I know.
I hate India because, where I have been, there is so much pain and intense suffering and every single story stands as a testament to what is true for thousands, perhaps millions of others. This, let’s be honest, can be overwhelming. But, I guess I want to say is that I’ve come to know there is more than that. Because the invitation continues!
Recently I was reading from Luke 24. Jesus had just died and despair and confusion among his followers reigned. Two of his followers were talking about this when Jesus himself joined their conversation. It took some time for the truth to be opened to them. But when they finally recognised Jesus they exclaimed “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us along the road…”
The risen Messiah was breathing real hope into the confusion, the despair and the aimless wanderings of these two men on their way to Emmaus. I almost cried, because I know that feeling, of my heart burning within me. The hope of His presence bringing a different future! And this is the stuff that matters to me.
You see Jesus’ invitation is not to despair, and not to aimless confusion. His invitation may travel through these, but it has always been to see through His eyes. Eyes of hope. Real hope. Where there seems to be none. And then to love in action.
The stories I want to share with you here are stories of transformation. Stories where hope has become real, one baby step at a time and where I see His Kingship touching down on earth which makes my heart burn within me. I’m not sure if, in a few paragraphs of print on a page you will be able grasp the full extent of what these stories mean to the people involved. But let’s see.
These few stories I have chosen are from the work of the many dedicated Indian Christians we worked alongside as part of Emmanuel Hospital Association’s (EHA) community work.
While these people all live many, many miles from New Zealand, my prayer is that they will encourage you and enable you to think about Jesus’ invitation to you, into His own heart, even be it though despair, that you would be enabled to see with hope and then to act in love. I know they would be excited to know of such impact!
Nitu is a girl from Bihar in India. Two years ago, when she was 15, Nitu was studying in 9th grade. She was good at her study and dreamed of becoming a teacher but extreme poverty forced her to leave school and work in a neighbour’s field. Being a determined girl however, she re-enrolled herself, but failed her tenth grade exam. After this her father tried to arrange her marriage. The prospect of marrying a much older stranger devastated Nitu. She tried to convince her parents that she should not marry but they too were determined!
Nitu heard about a girls group which had been started by the EHA project in her village. She joined the group and told her story to the group members and project staff. Several of the members and project staff visited Nitu’s home and talked with her father about the risks involved in getting married at a young age and that child marriage is a punishable offence. Nitu’s father was unaware that what he was trying to do was illegal and that he could be imprisoned for up to 2 years and fined. He agreed that it would be best to cancel the wedding plans and for Nitu to return to school. The project supported Nitu by paying her tuition fees and she has since passed her tenth grade exam. She is working hard to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher.
THE ROSHNI SELF HELP GROUP
In a mainly tribal area of Champa district, the community had relied on agricultural work. With continuing poor rains and lack of land ownership, there were huge struggles. People were starting to migrate for work (with all the dangers involved in that) or were doing small local jobs. The EHA project working in the area helped 15 of the women form a ‘self help group’. Together they were able to identify some 5 acres of uncultivated land to use. They fenced it off to protect it from animals and worked hard, transforming it into a vegetable growing area. The project team supported by digging a bore well. Through this initiative the women appreciate the time they get to spend working with their friends. Most importantly, they are all now self employed and earning enough to support their families!
Mr. Raju is from Fatehpur in the state of Uttar Pradesh. He has had a disability since birth and was totally dependent on his parents for all his needs. Through the EHA project he was supplied with a wheelchair that was customized for him. This enabled him to help with chores and he was able to go out with friends. His parents were relieved with the changes they saw. The project motivated him to take part in a skills training program and he learnt to repair mobile phones. He has since got work at a local phone repair shop and now also can stand and walk a little with a stick.
Amanda, Returned Mission Partner from India