But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are all the work of thy hand. Isaiah 64:8
By Hannah Hilfiker
I recently had the chance to visit the Girls Home of Pune on on my first overseas missions trip. This verse was often on my heart during our team’s two-week stay in India. Above all else, God led me to consciously focus on my relationship with Him as I saw His handiwork all around me. From the different aspects of India’s culture, to the precious girls at the Girl’s Home and the Bible College, to the mountains we passed on our drive to the airport to return home; my heavenly Father was calling me to know Him more.
It’s hard to believe that two and a half weeks ago (from when I am typing this) I did not even know if I would be able to make the trip! My application for a visa to India was on hold after three long weeks and dozens of calls, emails, and countless notarized documents. It seemed like nobody was listening. The team was leaving in less than a week and I had not heard any updates from the Indian government in days. I was so stressed and confused about why this was happening that I often cried out to God.
O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done marvelous things, things planned long ago. Isaiah 25:1
I found comfort in this verse five days before our planned departure, when there seemed to be little hope I would ever get my visa. I wrote in my journal to my heavenly Father, “God, please do marvelous things with this situation!” So many people were praying for this and I heard so many words of encouragement, that I became confident that God was using it all for good, whether He took me to India or not.
That evening, my parents, Pastor Ben, Steve Morse and I came to the decision that we needed to drive all the way to New York City to visit the Indian Consulate in person. There was no way of being certain that I would come home with my visa, but Steve, my mom and I went anyway, to get my passport back at the very least! In the end, my mom and I had to stay overnight, still in uncertainty, but I was finally granted my visa, just THREE days before we left for India.
While it was all so difficult in the moment, when I look back I see God’s love and faithfulness in it all. He showed me that there are times when I have to do more than pray. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says that as Christians “We walk by faith, not by sight.” This is something He wanted me to understand before I left for India.
Praise God for His Faithfulness
I learned so many things on this trip. It’s astounding to think that two and a half weeks ago, I did not know what jet lag felt like. I did not know what it’s like to be one of the only people around who doesn’t understand the language being spoken, or to be a Christian in a place where my faith is not accepted. Each instance took a step of faith.
Thinking back on it now, the trip was both chaotic and beautiful. We toured New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, which gave us a chance to learn of the general culture, traditions and history there. After that we finally made it to Pune, where we spent many hours with the girls at the Girls Home, sat in a few classes at the Koinonia College of Theology, and did devotions at the chapel every morning. The people I met were kind and inspirational.
I could write for days about the joy and sadness I found in India. Now that I am back home, I am looking forward to a closer walk with God. I have to admit that my relationship with my heavenly Father was dry this past summer, but over the past few months He has been calling me to seek righteousness. He is showing me more and more of His love and purpose for me, which is to love. I praise Him for His faithfulness and His unending mercies. Praise the Lord!
Thank you all for your prayers. – Hannah
Glory to God Most High
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:3
By Lesley Howe
In the 8 days we had with the girls at the Girls Home I did not have a chance to hear everyone’s story, but we spent a lot of time with them and got a good sense of their individual personalities. I have never seen a group of young girls so:
From the moment we met them as they gave us a tour of their rooms and showed us the things they were thankful for, like their clothes, the girls chose an attitude of joy. That was even true of the girls that were struggling with things, as the Lord allowed me to sense/know. The day we arrived they presented us with a handmade card and sang and danced for us. No arms were folded or voices silent.
2. Ready to praise God
During devotions they all sang and danced and willingly prayed. Their whole attitude reflected praise to God. The college girls were also part of the mix, showing much kindness to the younger girls.
They were no respecter of persons; they were loving towards us all. There appeared to be no arguing among them, no back-biting, envy. When we passed out hygiene bags, some had flip flops and some didn’t. If they didn’t fit, the girls passed them on to someone who could make use of them.
Everything the Lord allowed us to do with them they were very thankful for. They were always willing to try new things, even the French toast we made for everyone one morning. In their culture they aren’t used to something sweet for breakfast, so they didn’t like it but they ate it without complaining.
The girls were helpful EVERY step of the way; from setting up VBS to help clean up after every craft. They insisted!
They caught on so quickly how to do the crafts, and then went on to help the other kids learn. The hairstyles they did on my teammates’ hair were neat and professional, just like their Henna drawings on us. I was just in awe! To be honest, I had to pray: Lord give me what they have!
This trip helped me to put things in my life into perspective. On our last day, Pastor Joseph described how a surrendered life and Faith in God had allowed God to use him as a blessing to many. As he told us his life story, I asked the Lord to help me trust Him and completely surrender all areas of my life to Him. Life is short and we only have one life to live; I want to give all I have to Lord!
Blessed Is She Who Believes
By Heather RussellWhen I first started working on the Girls Home committee 6 years ago, I knew that one day I would go to India. Many times I was encouraged to go, but I did not want to without a clear purpose and call from the Lord. So, I waited. This past spring, at our first trip informational meeting, I met four eager teenage girls who were willing to be used for Christ. Immediately I saw my role and knew that this was now the time to go. The calling the Lord put on my heart was to plan, lead, encourage and pray.
From the very beginning, our trip was bathed in prayer. We prayed for provision, unity, safety, traveling mercies, good health, connections with the girls & staff and to be used by the Lord to bring encouragement and love to all we met. Upon returning home, I can say that the Lord answered each one of these requests. We felt Him go before us in our travels and build relationships deeper than we had imagined.I had some specific requests of the Lord before our trip. One thing I asked was for Him to allow me to connect in a special way with at least one girl; that He would use the things that He had walked me through in life to minister to her. I didn’t know how the Lord would answer this prayer, but I trusted that He would.
On our fourth day with the girls, we gathered in their activity room, set-up watercolors, brushes, little cups of water and passed out canvas boards. The room was more quiet than normal as we all worked intently creating our masterpieces. One of the girls wanted to paint the same flowers and design I had created, so we sat together as I showed her how to do it. After a little while, she looked up at me and simply said “My mother is dead”. Immediately, I knew this was the connection I had prayed for. I was able to look at her with love and respond “Mine too”. We talked a little bit about when it happened, but it was clear she was uncomfortable talking about this with the other girls around. So, I asked her if she wanted to talk later and she said “yes”. The next evening, we sat together – with a translator – and talked about our Moms.
Talking about your feelings is not commonly done in Indian culture, however, we know that acknowledging your pain and releasing it is part of the healing process. So, one of the things the Lord put on my heart to share with the girls was the practice of journaling; to write down their thoughts, feelings, questions and fears as prayers to Jesus. I shared with them how this impacted my relationship with Jesus and how I have a record of the work He has done in my life since I was 9 years old – the same age as many of them. We gave each of them a journal and made pretty flower pens. My prayer is that these will be used to bring healing and that they will see God work in their lives in a new and very real way.
On the morning of the day we gave the girls their journals, one of the professors from the college spoke in Chapel about belief. He said, “Take a step of faith because you believe. God will fulfill His promises to you when you walk by faith.” I have seen this in my own life, we saw this as a team as we traveled around India, and I pray that the girls will grow to trust in Jesus and walk in faith, believing that He will fulfill His promises to them.
Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her. Luke 1:45