God has called us, now what?
Do you remember those Christmas holidays as a kid, counting down the days with eager anticipation for school to be out and family to come stay from out of town…aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. Family coming from far away also meant exciting presents, delicious meals, endless games, special outings to the Christmas Tree lighting and so much more.
OR, if you’re like my younger brother, you remember grandma coming to stay for the week and “suddenly” feeling ill and needing to stay home. Being sick with grandma was equivalent to fresh cinnamon buns and Phase 10 all day, who wouldn’t want that?
As we arrived at the Shanti Niketan home in northern India, I realized that for these children it was “Christmas”. We were the cousins, uncles and aunts from out of town coming to stay for the holidays. These children started their Christmas countdown as soon as the previous team left, 730 days before we arrived. Our weeks together were filled with laughter, gifts, worshipping God, delicious meals, treats, special outings to the river and into town and, my favourite, “special items” (aka performances from the kids). Most of us could hardly wait until 5pm every day – school was out and our work days were over. 5pm meant family time: football, cricket, card games and good chats, to name a few. Daily I was amazed at the sudden burst of energy the team, staff and children had after the long days of work.
I have so many things I could share and write about from our time in India, but what stood out the most was the love of our extended family at the home. The children and the staff at the Shanti Niketan home were an example to me of how Paul asks us to live in Philippians 2: “…to be of the same mind, having the same love…do nothing from selfish ambition…but in humility count others more significant than yourselves…look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others.” I cannot think of a situation in our two weeks there, that one of the children put their needs above mine. As soon as they got home from school, the “small boys” would race to get changed so they could help us pave the pathway. When chai time came the older girls would jump up and serve us tea before themselves. Dance parties happened quite frequently and the kids graciously taught us how to dance and then proceeded to tell us how good we were (liars :P). I’m not saying the children are perfect, but needless to say, I have a lot I can learn from them! How selfish I am. How focused I get on my own life and forget what others are going through.
I’ve been home for two weeks now and so quickly have I forgotten how I felt as we hugged the kids and staff goodbye in tears and got on the school bus for the last time. How quickly I have forgotten those special conversations with the older girls and the million hugs I got each day.
This upsets me. I don’t want to forget, I want these memories and the kids to still be on the forefront of my mind.
What do I do with this?
Why did God call me to India, to the Shanti Niketan home?
The calling part, that I’ve got down. I could go on and on about the reasons God called me on this trip and all the lessons He wanted to teach me before we even got on that plane to India, and I am sure He will reveal even more reasons in the days and months to come.
I have yet to know, however, exactly what to do with being back. How do I respond to all I saw and felt while I was away? It doesn’t matter how many overseas missions trips I’ve been on, this part is always confusing.
Let me share a couple things I do know I am supposed to do in response:
- Tell others about my experience and about the staff and children at the home. If you want to hear more, please don’t hesitate to ask myself or one of the other team members!
- Encourage others to partner with Child of Mine. The more I learn about Child of Mine the more excited I get about the work being done and the lives being changed. Child of Mine partners with the Homes so that the children and young people might be equipped to reach their own ethnic groups and establish the Kingdom of God in whatever field of life they choose to be part of. Many of the children want to be in medical professions, business and law. However, overwhelmingly, against the odds, many of them are electing to become pastors and church planters in order to reach their own people for Christ. To learn more, go to childofmine.ca.
- Encourage others to go on future trips. Almost every year a team goes to the Shanti Niketan home. The kids have already started their next countdown!
- Pray for the children and staff.
- Be on mission where I am now.
God has called me to where I am now. God was preparing me, while in India, to start my first day back working in one of the most challenging mission fields I’ve been in yet, a drug rehab centre for women. A ninety day treatment program were these women have made the decision to detox from substance use and start treatment. Daily, I am faced with much darkness, trauma and emotion. Daily, I am grateful for the family and home I grew up in. Daily, I leave work with an aching heart for these women.
What do I do with this mission field?
I know I cannot deal with any of this on my own, it’s already in God’s hands. These women are in God’s hands and they need Him! So I pray. I pray for these women constantly at work and in the middle of the night when I wake up thinking of them.
The past couple weeks have made me even more grateful for the Shanti Niketan home, where most of these children have come out of a difficult situation and are now living with a large family whom they love, pray with and learn about who God is. Here, there is hope despite the circumstances.
I pray these women find this hope.
Think about your mission field. Where do you work? What teams are you on? What coffee shop do you go to? Are you being on mission? Are you getting out of your comfort zone and putting others above your own needs? Are you praying for those who need God?
This is NOT an easy call. None of this is easy. I’d rather ignore the hard conversations or watch my favourite show on Netflix, but I challenge you, and also myself, to walk in this calling.
Carllee is a Registered Dietitian who works with women at Heartwood Centre, a residential treatment program with Provincial Health Services. She has been attending Westside for over 8 years and went on the VBS team to India in 2010. Carllee has been involved in CG leading, coaching, hosting, and recently lead the India Construction team with Jared Hebb.