It’s always a difficult thing to answer the question, “How was your trip?” When the answer is so much fuller than saying, “It was good/great/wonderful.” This time abroad was the culmination of years of prayers, hopes and dreams--all of which I have given to the Lord many times in my pursuit of following him.
I had the privilege of facilitating the transition of Institute student, Gabby Ladd, into her first culturally immersive experience in India. During my own first immersion to India in 2007, I remember being exposed to so many harsh realities that stem from poverty; abandoned children, hunger, substance abuse by men without jobs and by children not in school. The most devastating to me was the alarming maternal and infant mortality rate. According to UNICEF in 2007, India was home to 20% of all maternal deaths worldwide. Back then, I was afraid of the need because it was so great and I felt so small. Fast forward to my experience this past week as a woman equipped with faith, hope and love that is rooted in God’s Word and a skill set in childbirth education, I felt a confidence unlike anything I have ever felt before.
I taught a class for a young teacher, Priyanka Ma’am, who was midway through her pregnancy and very eager to receive education about childbirth. (In their culture, it is considered taboo to discuss details of such an intimate event with other women.) It was one of the few moments in my life where I felt like all my prayers, late nights studying, and personal struggles had all come to mean something that was bigger than me. There are few words that can capture what it is like to transfer this kind of education to a woman who desperately needs it. Our laughter and shared smiles strung together the moments where my Hindi fell short and her English was limited. She walked away from our class with hands folded, “Thank you, Ma’am, this is so much help for me.”
I enjoyed my time leading Bible studies and discussions at our headquarters. I focused on the plight of women and their place in society. Each of the passages I covered from Luke highlighted Jesus’ interaction with women and how his activity was connected to healing and humanizing them. In Luke 13, Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath and
rebukes the religious leaders for being willing to water their oxen while neglecting to offer healing on the sabbath to a woman in their midst. Discussion participant Sneha Purti (Paul) commented, “The cows in India are safer and more valuable than we are.” Although her words hung heavy, they were not without hope as we acknowledged the work of the Kingdom among us. Sneha herself is being empowered to address the very issues surrounding reproductive health that keep young women from participating in society with confidence.
My time was full with dozens of moments just like this where I saw the Lord’s hand at work, moving in the lives of my friends. Moments where even my painful experiences as a woman and stories of healing were able to benefit someone on the other side of the world, in a different culture. I'm thankful that my commitment to the Lord has taken me from being young and afraid to someone with experience and hope. I hope the same for Gabby, and all the other Institute students undergoing similar experiences. I’m confident that the good work the Lord has begun in them will be taken to completion. I’m certain they too will be able to look back years later and see how He has prepared them for this work.