I had the pleasure of talking to Sanam on one of my recent visits to India. He is the epitome of joy and fully committed to his daughters, which he serves wholeheartedly. I wish there were more Sanam's in the world. Here's his story:
When hired in 2011 as a part-time tuition teacher, Sanam had no idea the ways God would use him in this ministry. In 2013, he was promoted to full-time academic coordinator and father figure in the home. Over time, his name has changed too – from Sanam Sir to Dad.
When I talked with Sanam about his role as a father figure, his face lit up. He said, “I only come for the girls.” There is no other motivating factor beyond his love and the heart he has for the girls and this ministry. He said he doesn’t feel like an academic coordinator. Instead, his main role is being “dad” to a house full of girls.
From taking care of school payments, attending parent-teacher meetings, ensuring uniforms and supplies are maintained, to combing hair, Sanam has been fully integrated into the family. He loves the girls the same way he loves his own son, who affectionately refers to the girls as his “didis” or older sisters.
For Sanam, this isn’t just a job. He has brought his own family into the ministry with him. His wife and son are part of the family too. They love the girls, visit them frequently, and pray for them daily. It’s their support that allows Sanam to be so devoted to his large family.
One indicator of how deep his relationship with the girls has grown over the years is the fact they call him “daddy” outside the home. When they see him at school, it’s the name they call him and the teachers and staff know which girls belong to him. He advocates on their behalf, ensuring their educational needs are met and keeps them engaged with daily activities to aid in their development.
He contributes his parenting success to the ongoing education and support that is provided, which teaches him and the rest of the staff about parenting and child development. He has successfully incorporated the things he has learned into the home where the girls reside and at home with his own son as well. For Sanam, being a good parent to his children is of upmost importance to him.
In his words, “I praise God for the ways He is working marvelously here.” Just like any proud father, his heart swells with affection and a smile fills his face as he talks about his daughters. He wants what’s best for them and he wants to be prepared for the years to come. He jokingly asked, “Do you have any extra guidance on parenting teenagers?”
A house full of teenage daughters is on the horizon, but Sanam is joyfully up for the challenge because after all, he is their dad. And a great one at that!
I remember sitting in our apartment in India about this time last year, crying and sharing the desires of my heart with Ricky. We were in the midst of making the gut-wrenching decision to return to the USA so we were sorting through our deepest thoughts, longings, passions, etc. During this discussion, he asked me this question: “what would a perfect day look like to you?” As I thought about it, I said, “I want to sit with women from hard places and make their value known. I want them to know and understand their identity and worth. I want to hold them in my arms and let them know it’s all going to be alright.”
But that never happened while we were there.
Before I left for Romania, people kept asking me what I was most excited about and I never had an answer. I’d just say, “I don’t know. I don’t know what to expect.” And I’m so glad that was my position because it allowed me to keep an open heart and mind. What God did in my heart through this trip far surpassed any hopes or expectations I could have dreamed up.
He used the people around me to confirm my calling, inspire me, and force me to dream bigger. He used the kids to show me the need of the Gospel and His love in the life of every person. He allowed my interactions with them to be nothing less than Holy. He built my confidence to lead, to inspire, to help.
But most of all, the words I spoke a year ago came true on this trip.
It wasn’t a woman from a brothel in India; instead, it was teenage girls living in orphanages in Romania. I held them in my arms, I spoke words of truth and life over them, I was a shoulder for them to rest their head - and it has brought more joy to my heart than any other experience ever has.
These kids long to have their parents or a family of some kind and face an array of difficulties growing up as orphans. They don’t have stability, guidance, or experience love. They are often shunned and not given equal opportunities. They have few people cheering them on to succeed. They have been abandoned for a multitude of reasons. Their parents have died, have moved to other countries for work, are in prison, or simply walked away. I don’t know all the reasons nor understand them, but I do know this: these children are worth loving. And, they’re longing to be loved, to be seen, to be heard.
I’m learning firsthand the power of speaking truth over others. These children need to be told how amazing they are, the potential they possess, and know that someone believes in them. We can’t adopt them, but we can support them – and that’s orphan care too.
This is something we all can do. We can all love the orphan, the widow, and the oppressed that live among us and around the world. With our support, they can overcome the odds so let’s reach out, encourage, and love deeply!
To support the work of The Archibald Project, please visit their website.
What are you doing to my heart, Lord?
There are no adequate words to describe the depth and rawness of emotion I feel. He has allowed a little girl to open the door of motherhood in my heart. This isn’t something I say lightly, but sincerely.
I’ve never felt this way about a child before. The connection is strong between us and in the moments spent hearing her story, I shared her pain and am now carrying it in my heart.
She has a tough story and has only been in the orphanage for two years. Her fourteen-year-old self has endured much pain and a lifetime of being told she wasn’t enough, through action and words. But in the time we’ve spent together, I’ve been able to speak truth and life over her – it’s just heartbreaking to know it’s probably the first time she’s heard these things.
I’ve tried to put myself in her position and can’t even come close. Our stories have collided through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and I’ve been able to encourage her very specifically, but I still can’t imagine the level of pain and brokenness she’s tucking away inside.
I really do believe I can feel it though. It’s as if God has transferred her pain to me. The depth of my aching heart is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I can’t even think about her without tearing up. I want her to know she’s loved. I want her to understand how beautiful and valuable she is. I want her to understand that she’s worth loving.
And while I have told her all of these things, I want her to “get it.” I see such great potential in her sweet, gentle spirit. I see the ability in her to ignite change and leave an imprint on the world. I believe she can impact the hearts and lives of many like she has mine.
Here’s the problem, though. I don’t know why the Lord is allowing me to feel so deeply about her, knowing I can’t bring her home or be with her daily. I can stay in contact with her and continue to love on her through my words, but to know I can’t give her a mama hug and tell her everything’s going to be alright, just about kills me. To have my heart broken and deeply aching yet know I can’t act upon these emotions seems like an impossible place to be.
However, I know God can make the impossible, possible. I know He’s working and stirring something major within me. I know my words to her can still be a powerful tool. But this new, raw mother’s heart for her is having a hard time facing this reality. It’s probably not going to be pretty when it’s time for me to leave here, but I know this isn’t a goodbye or the end to this story. I truly believe it’s a “see you later.”
So Lord, do what You wish with my heart, but please promise me she’ll always get to live in it.
To support the work of The Archibald Project, please visit their website.