IT'S THE JOURNEY THAT COUNTS

I know people say this kind of thing all the time, but if someone would have told me back in my college days the kind of life I would live in the future, I wouldn't have believed them. Something beautiful has been birthed from my many seasons of pain, and I stand here today thankful for everything I've experienced, good or bad. God makes no mistakes and He doesn't allow you to walk through things on accident. I mean.. who could have guessed that my diet and interest in the failing food system would lead me to my greatest and ever-deepening passion that I live for today? 

I have heard Christine Caine preach a message several times now about allowing God to develop you in the "dark room" of life. She goes on to explain that just like film has to be taken to a dark room for the development process - a process that takes time - we need to allow God to do the same in us. Due to the instant lifestyle we've become accustomed to, this can be really hard for us to do. She uses the example of Instagram vs Film and being a visual person, I love it. 

The truth is that it's hard to see the value in the process when you're in the midst of it. Life throws you curve balls or things don't go according to plan and we (myself included) start freaking out because we're not where we "should be" when we think we should be there. Over the last five years or so, God has really shown me that it is the journey that counts. 

I know how frustrating this life can be. As a visionary, I'm always 10 steps ahead of reality and get discouraged when things don't match up immediately. But God, in His grace, doesn't allow us to move from A to Z in an instant. Instead, He allows us to be put into uncomfortable places to refine us and extraordinary places to use us. One is not more important than the other; both are necessary ingredients for us to be molded and shaped into the image of Christ. 

I am convinced that our greatest calling in life is to become Christ-like. "To become" signifies a process and the process we're called to is to simply live life one day at a time, trusting Jesus with obedient hearts. It's in the everyday, mundane moments that our character is being refined and our lives start to mimic Christ. No matter where you find yourself, know that if you're trusting Jesus and growing in maturity in your faith, you're living out your greatest calling. It really is that simple. It's this pursuit of Jesus that sanctifies us and transforms us from the inside out. And it's this pursuit that allows us to love like Him, act like Him, and live in accordance to His will. 

Surrender to the process and enjoy the journey. Trust me, I've tried to take my own short cuts - they don't work. 

THE EVER-DEEPENING PASSION OF MY HEART

I've struggled to find the words to write about my experience this time around because none of them seem sufficient. I had been praying for an opportunity to learn and see more in the slum communities of India. I knew that I needed to better understand the complexities that lead to human trafficking, but I wasn't prepared for what I would see, and most importantly, feel. There's a time in our lives when head knowledge has to become heart knowledge and that happened to me as I absorbed the pain and poverty surrounding me. 

Every time I've been to India I've seen the severe poverty from the car. But to be up close and personal, peeking into people's homes, hearing their stories, and seeing the magnitude of the need with my own eyes was a completely different experience. The children were hard to for me to take in. So many of them were dirty, hungry, and expressionless. However, those that were joyful and smiling provided such a contrast to their surroundings that it comforted my weary heart. To see people living so exposed and vulnerable without protection was unreal. And to think about the lack of safety and security, in all areas of life, broke my heart. We take so much for granted. 

There was one thing that caught my attention on the very first day;  it felt like I was being slammed by a Mack truck every time I saw it. That thing was child marriage.

It's recognized as a form of human trafficking so I've studied it over the years. And when I saw a very young girl picking up her little one from preschool, I knew. The passion within my heart automatically deepened. Sharp pains swept across my chest that afternoon as I watched girl after girl pick up her young child, some pregnant with a second. Needless to say, I went back to the hotel and had a good cry. 

It's something I heard about. It's something I knew the facts about. But to come face to face with it broke the deepest, most impassioned part of my heart. Here's why: they're in this for life. In a place like India, the likelihood of a marriage ending is slim. Divorce is shameful and death, while inevitable, is more than likely a long time away. When a girl is married off at 13, 14, 15 years old, she's been stripped of her right to choose. Her life has been planned out for her, whether she wants it or not.

At the root of so many of these marriages is poverty which means that under different financial circumstances, this probably wouldn't be her reality. 

Throughout the week, I met several young girls living in extreme poverty along with their husbands. One was married at 13, pregnant at 14, and had a 9 month old on her hip at 15. There was a beautiful 15 year old who was married to an 18 year old a few weeks ago. Their future is grim as he doesn't have a job and they plan to move into a shack across the busy road from their parents. 

I think the thing that bothered me the most is WHY? What's the point? Sure, it alleviates some of the financial pressure from the parents. And maybe religious reasons contribute to it, but what's the point in stripping away a child's future and setting her up for a life of poverty and suffering?

These children start having children of their own, they struggle to feed and educate their babies, and the cycle continues on. 

It seems hopeless but there is always hope. The contributing factors can be addressed holistically and future generations can be set free from the struggles my eyes have seen. More than that, healing can happen. Lies can be undone, pain can be reconciled, and lives can be restored. It's this hope and endless possibility that keeps me running this race that Jesus has called me to.

Friends, I'm in a new season. It's the start of a new chapter and I cannot wait to reveal what's being birthed from this deeply burdened and passionate heart of mine. I am determined to be part of the solution and together, we WILL be!

Stay tuned for more. 

SANAM'S STORY

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!