After spending 2 weeks falling in love with the country of India and it's beautiful people, I am back in the U.S.A. I actually got back at 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning, after a super-delayed flight from D.C., but have not had the chance to blog yet since I was unpacking and acclimating to my "normal" life.
To be perfectly honest, I do not want to go back to normal. God revealed so much to me while I was in India. I left a piece of my heart in Hyderabad and took Hyderabad with me in my heart. I will never be the same. I cannot be the same.
As a way of sharing my life-changing experiences with all of you, I have decided to include excerpts from my journal in every post for a few weeks. However, before I begin, I have to share a summary of what my team actually did while we were there.
My Journey 117 team was composed of 12 people from all over the country. We ranged in age from 19-33. Only 2 pairs of people had met before the trip. Though we were different in many ways, we were all united in our passion for serving the Lord by caring for orphans. In preparation for the trip we had 8 training calls during which we explored God's heart for the orphans and how it's not just a good idea for Christians to care for them, but rather, God's people are commanded to...
"Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
It was in obedience to that command, the 12 of us set off on a journey that changed the course of our lives forever.
While in Hyderabad, we spent time visiting different branches of the Bethel Gospel Church where orphans are being cared for by pastors and their wives. These precious children are not in institutional orphanages, but rather belong to families with mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters who love them. I have never seen such sacrificial love as what I saw pouring from the pastors and their wives. These pastors are not rich. They do not live in mansions. They have their own kids to provide for. Yet, they have obediently followed God's commands and have brought 8, 10, 12, or 13 orphan children into their homes and have cared for them as their own children. What beautiful families.
In addition to visiting these different homes around the city, we also went to a farm where there are 4 orphan homes in which pastors and their wives, and widows are caring for orphans. What an incredible idea! Orphans and widows being cared for and caring for each other all in one.
|Orphan homes on the farm.|
The Bethel Gospel Church has got it right when it comes to orphan care!
What's even cooler is that they are working to make the farm a sustainable source of all the food that the kids need. They are already growing some crops such as rice, eggplants, peanuts, bananas etc. and plan to grow more. Eventually they will have chickens too for eggs and meat. When there is excess, they will sell the goods to the city to earn money for other necessary supplies. How awesome is that?!
|View of the farm from atop a mountain.|
It was such a blessing to be able to see this kind of ministry and to love so many beautiful kids. Each time we visited a new site, I was struck by the bright smiles of the children. I seriously wish that I could bottle up some of them to carry with me to brighten my day when life gets hard. How could I not be happy looking at a smile like this?
Just looking at Praveem, I bet you would never know he is an orphan. In fact, he and his older sister Divya lost their father when she was 5 and Praveem was just a baby. Their mother is mentally disabled and could not/cannot care for them. After her father's death, Divya had no money for school and had to beg for food for her and her brother. Can you even imagine a 5 year-old girl begging for food and parenting her baby brother? Could one of your kindergarteners do that?
Fortunately for Praveem and Divya, a loving pastor took them in and now both children are being cared for and loved. They have food. They go to school. They have dreams and goals. They know their Savior, Jesus Christ! Praise the Lord!
Hearing the Praveem and Divya and many other children's painful stories of orphan-hood broke my heart into a million pieces. I have never seen such deep sorrow and pain. However, my grief for these precious ones was tempered by great hope. All of these children have been brought into homes full of God's love. They have loving parents, brothers and sisters, and pastors. They are studying and serving, learning and loving.
Bethel Gospel Church, with the help of World Orphans, is changing the course of orphans' lives. The church people's faithful obedience to God's commands and their extreme generosity is a challenge to me and should be to us all. Few churches I've seen are so committed to being the hands and feet of Jesus.
I know that I will pray daily for Bethel Gospel Church, for the orphans I met, and the many others around the world, many of whom are not being cared for and loved in any way. I will also continue to ask God to show me His heart for those in need.
Will you do the same?
Will you find a way to show love to hurting children?
What's awesome is you don't have to go around the world to do it. There are orphans and children in need right where you live. Some of them may even be in your classroom. So, ask yourself and ask God this...
What can I do for orphans?
How can I love children in need?