In John 3:1-21, Jesus Christ famously tells the Pharisee, Nicodemus, that the way to enter the kingdom of God is to be born again, and he tells him how it’s done: through belief in Him, through revealing evil deeds into the light of truth, through water, and through spirit. What has always fascinated me about this passage of scripture is how Jesus describes the Spirit and how it functions. He tells Nicodemus in verse 8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Since I studied the Bible, chose to repent of many sins, and got baptized four years ago, truly believing Jesus Christ is the solution to everything, the Holy Spirit was deposited in me. When that happened, I asked myself, “Okay, what next? What do I do with this. . . this conscience I’m carrying around all the time?” Naturally, I began to share my faith with others and go deeper into mine. I made a few errors here and there, and naturally learned things about my character. What I did not consider at the outset of my life as a disciple was that this conscience given to me by God could be something bigger than I imagined it would be.
In combination with God’s Word, the influence of brothers and sisters and Christ around me, prayers spoken and prayers answered, plus a year and a half of psychotherapy and some seriously vivid dreams, I began to understand that this little voice in my head was really like being carried somewhere – somewhere to do something important – as if I was being blown by the wind. And, I began to understand that if I don’t choose to be carried by it and instead choose to stifle it, I could veer away from the opportunity to live forever (1 Thessalonians 5:19, Revelation 2:7).
For some reason, this “conscience” told me helping the poor in India would be a cool thing to do. I couldn’t stop thinking about it because I was born to a single mom on welfare and I really liked Indian food and culture. Also, some brothers and a sister in my first Bible Talk group had gone to India to serve the poor with HOPE worldwide and they shared their stories of how it changed them. I told one brother I wanted to go to India, too. He said bluntly, “Well, go to India.” Soon, God provided me a job working on the phone for World Vision, a humanitarian organization like HOPE, and then I discovered Bollywood movies on Netflix and watched Slumdog Millionaire. Being the film nut that I am, that last part was the kicker. Isaiah 58 rang like bells in my head and I was memorizing Hindi songs in private. I was quite consumed and it scared the daylights out of me. Why? Because India isn’t very safe for a woman and I’d never been out of the U.S. before.
In India, prenatal sex determination is illegal because there is so much female infanticide. During the 2014 New Year, I was shocked by all the internet headlines I read of a woman attacked and killed on a New Delhi bus at Christmastime, causing country-wide protests about women’s safety. I had to start seriously praying. God kept saying go, however, so I fundraised and saved my money. Low and behold, I made it to south New Delhi in February this year. I stayed almost a month, helping teach English to underprivileged Indian students in the Sangham Vihar slum at HOPE’s Tigri School. God provided me a protective family of disciples to stay with a week before I left, to whom I paid rent for a bed and meals. He even let me go to the Taj Mahal in Agra, a plan also confirmed at the last minute, miraculously without having to plan or pay for it. God made it all happen despite all my fear and I made it back home safe and sound.
What I discovered in Delhi astounded me. I was crammed amongst humans, traffic, cows and the world’s worst pollution you could ever see. I was broken by amazing hospitality and the dedication and love of the school staff. Though the Indian government finally put public education for all into effect in 2010, children of lower castes (especially girls) are continually shamed, leading to drastic drop out rates. While I was there, a school girl in another part of India committed suicide over not having a pencil to write with. However, the Tigri School has a godly, giving woman principal who is retired, but she still shows up to work full time as a volunteer because she loves the ministry so much. She also happened to be my host. I could see that she affected everyone, and the tenacity of the girl students because of her influence was so inspiring. In a country still learning the worth of its women, these girls were both confident and obedient, and super smart. I felt like an observer more than a helper for any of them. By the time I left, one of the Hindu girls in the Tigri vocational English speaking course, a spark of whimsy named Preetika, asked if she could call me, “Didi,” which is a Hindi for “big sister.” I said sure. I was touched she felt she could call me something friendlier than “Ma’am.”
The director of the HOPE foundation programs in Delhi, Chandra, spoke with me several times while I was there, since he went to church in the same sector. He shared passionately about their new program called Each One Educate One, offering sponsorship specifically for girl students. He showed me their brochure and asked for help with editing it. This is a big deal in India, still a new concept. They wanted their English to look professional. I remembered how I walked around the UW campus, studying playwriting and acting on loans and grants, wondering who to hang out with for lunch after class. My public school teachers never scolded me growing up because I’m a girl, my mom was on welfare, and I didn’t have a pencil. They just gave me a pencil. Hearing him speak, I began to ask myself, what on earth have I even done with that amazing education that I should be there? I make phone calls for a living, now. The Spirit blew me there to offer something, albeit small, so I agreed to edit the brochure. He was so considerate about this detail and about so much regarding my volunteer experience that he and his wife escorted me to the airport for my departing flight late at night to make sure I was safe.
The truly remarkable thing about this journey to serve HOPE was that I wanted originally to help in their Delhi orphanage, and I never got to even go there. I did tour the other HOPE projects, even the Village of HOPE, their leper colony program and it was astounding the level of love and care they gave the people there. The opportunity to serve at the Tigri School just happened to be open and they needed help with English. I happened to have some skills with that and I happened to be randomly going to India. I still don’t know how much I really helped, but I know they certainly helped me see what Isaiah 58 really looks like. I wrote some stories for them of what I saw them do. I hope they use them. The Sprit blowing me to India inspired me to be grateful for the education God gave me, to utilize it more, and to be tenacious in the application of it, which was something I’ve been praying about for a long time.
So, what’s next for you? If the God is calling you do more for the poor, you can a direct donation to the HOPE foundation in India. You can use your credit card at www.hopefoundation.org.in to donate in Indian rupees, and you can sponsor a child at the Tigri School for $25 per month. Call your card company first to insure it processes. Or, if you’re a doer like me, get out of your comfort zone and sign up for HOPE Youth Corps or HOPE Singles Corps. I know what’s next for me. I will head where the Holy Spirit counsels me, though I don’t know what will happen. Ultimately, I know it will lead to heaven.