India visit Summer 2013

This summer has been a busy one for me and my family. I seem to have only slept in my bed for a couple of days in a row before going off again on another trip to somewhere exciting. One of the most exciting places I visited this summer was India. I, along with twelve others, went to Agra, North India to serve in Sharonsthan children’s home. As a group we’d prepared a rage of songs, dramas, words, testimonies, English lessons and workshops, but what we could never have prepared for was the way in which God touched our lives. This trip was my second time experiencing India and all of its cultural differences, and although I knew where I was going, geographically, I had little idea about the significance of where God was going to take me whilst on my travels.

The purpose of our trip was to serve in Sharonsthan children’s home, where they take in children who no longer have families or are from homes where parents and relatives cannot look after them anymore. Sharonsthan means refuge and a refuge it is. Surrounded by rubble, dirt, piles of rubbish, chaotic streets and open sewers, Sharonsthan is a walled haven of refuge. Children live in houses with around ten others, plus their house parents. They go to school, do their homework, get time to play outside, prepare meals, do chores, have times of worship and devotions and listen to bedtime stories. They are part of a family! Children at Sharonsthan are shown the love of God in all that they do. If they are naughty (and some of them are very cheeky) then they are told off, by loving parents, but most of the time the children at Sharonsthan enjoy living as part of a family with up to fifty brothers and sisters at a time.

Throughout the trip I was reminded of family and of its great importance. The children’s home is all about family. It is about regaining and creating family for those who may have never known the support of parents. When we met them the children at Sharonsthan were not downcast by their past, instead they seemed optimistic about the future. One girl, Puja, spoke of her father’s business as a shoe maker and of the little money her family had. She then went on to explain that she desired to be a nurse and that she would train to become one. This brought a tear to my eye, her passion and determination were inspiring. Puja, had aspirations, she, unlike many we had witnessed on the street, had a hope for the future. Ralph and Renuka Gloekner are to thank for Puja’s belief in herself and the hand of God on her life. They are the founders and overseers of Sharonsthan and the family created there.

Within the walls of Sharonsthan children are taught that Jesus is Lord and are brought up being encouraged to form a personal relationship with Him. Nearly all of the children we came into contact with spoke of their own living relationship with God. One boy talked about Jesus being his mother and Father and another girl mentioned wanting to give her life to becoming a worship leader so that she might see more people enter the kingdom of God. And, when talking about our apprehensions for the coming year, one child said – ‘Don’t worry, God is with you’.

The difference between inside the walls of Sharonsthan (where the grass is green and the atmosphere is one of peace) to outside the walls where chaos reigns, horns beep and foreign gods are worshipped, is striking. Those who work at Sharonsthan have created a culture of love and family that is refreshing. The atmosphere refreshed the team, even in our hardest moments; God reminded us that we were serving Him and His family.

Sharonsthan as a family; quickly took us under its wing to show us the ropes. We leant bits of Hindi, new worship songs, playground games, lots of children’s names, how to plant a row of hedges and much, much more. For me, I think the greatest lesson was in love and hope. When we are loved by the Father he equips us! Sharonsthan is a wonderful demonstration of the way a Father equips his children. It is a practical expression of the Father’s love.

Throughout our time working with the children and with the Church as a whole I was constantly inspired by God’s love and grace. In the two church meetings we took; thirty hands went up to accept Jesus as Lord. Amazing! As we gave our testimonies, spoke God’s word, danced and performed skits, God was using us. Hearts were being made whole again, spirits were being awakened to the one true God and life was being breathed into once sin-dead lives. I was continually humbled by the power of God moving through his people.

When at a local ladies home group, James Pettinger and I sat in a small room (10t x 10ft) with twelve women, which served as a bedroom, living room and dining room all in one. We began by singing in Hindi to a tambourine. Although James and I were making an effort to learn some Hindi, we weren’t quite fluent, so we hummed, clapped and sang in tongues. It was incredible to be in a room with so many passionate people. These women were brave – they were praising Jesus, loudly (I might add) in a village where most people were Hindu. They were praising Jesus in a small back room where children gathered outside, fascinated at the scene. These women were praising Jesus no matter what! James and I left feeling inspired and invigorated after sharing our stories and praying for the women. We were empowered by God and knew that we had to let him use us like this more often.

So here I am, back in the UK. God is moving, he is the same in me here as he was out there and I’m learning to let him use me wherever I am. He has taught me to trust through all circumstances and never give up hope. When we lack, he provides. What an amazing Father!

by Emily Rowe