On November 2nd, our sister in Christ Heather will be heading off to India for a year to serve God through a ministry that is committed to seeing children equipped and empowered to achieve physical, emotional, social & spiritual wholeness through the gospel. We sat down with Heather a week before her departure to learn more about what she will be doing and how she is feeling as she gets ready to go.
What will be you doing in India?
I will be providing individual therapy services for children who are currently residing in residential care. Many of them have been rescued from environments of poverty, or have been abandoned by their parents due to reasons of poverty, or have been rescued from child labor environments or trafficking environments. Specifically, I will be providing individual psychotherapy in addressing their issues of trauma and abuse, along with doing some group work with some of the kids dealing with clinical issues, such as grief, loss, and anger management. The exciting part of this work will be that the Gospel and biblical principles will inform my clinical treatment for these kids. I will also be training staff on how to deal with traumatized kids, as a lot of them have little to no understanding of trauma or abuse and how to respond to the needs of these kids.
What led you to your decision to serve God for a year?
About 3 years ago, I was on one of my routine runs, which have always been a good time to pray and have a time of solitude, and I started to feel very panicked about my life. I started to think about the question, "If I were to die right now and came face to face with God, what kind of account would I give of my life?" And I felt panicked because I didn't know what kind of account I would give, and I couldn't confidently say that I gave up everything for the Lord and the cause of the Kingdom. At that moment, God definitely rebuked me in my understanding of what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and He started to convict my heart about living with a sense of reckless abandon for the Gospel. For much of my life, I've battled against selfish ambitions and what I desire out of life and how I want to control the outcome of my life. So I think the Holy Spirit led me to start praying about how I can recklessly live for the gospel. That led me to my first trip to India 2 years ago. I went for 4 months, and when I came back, I continued to pray that prayer, and God led me to consider going overseas longer term and to consider being overseas indefinitely.
I've also been practicing as a clinical social worker for the past 8 years, and I came to a wall in providing therapy for kids divorced from the gospel. I was encountering people in very broken and hurt places in their lives, and I walked away from a lot of times from these kids and families and feeling like ultimate peace, and this sense of shalom and holistic healing wasn't really achieved because I couldn't engage them in the Gospel. So the last time I went to India for 4 months, I was able to do that and really see this ministry of reconciliation actually happening in people's lives, in a way that I believe God intends wholeness in people's hearts to be brought back to a redeeming place to Him.
What are your feelings as you get ready to leave?
As of today, I think it still hasn't settled in with me; I'm a very task oriented person, so I'm far more focused on things i still need to do. I would be lying, though, if I said i wasn't scared, and if I didn't feel some sense of panic or fear about the unknown. A year is the longest time I've been away from anything. I'm mostly scared about how I'm going to respond to being away for so long, to being away from everything I've known my life to be about thus far, and to completely being in a place where Jesus is my only plan right now and even thereafter, because i have no idea what will happen after the year.
But it's definitely exciting at the same time, because I think I'm pushed into places of my faith that I've never experienced before, and having this sense of, "Wow, Christ is literally the only thing I have in my life." I've never pushed my self to that degree before, because living in America, there's always this sense of always having some sort of safety net. I’m not saying I'm going to the most dangerous place in the world, or will have nothing on my back or no money in my pocket, but this is definitely uncharted territory for me. I'm excited to see how God desires to develop my faith in ways I've never experienced before, because it will really bring me to a place of understanding that the work has nothing to do with me, but everything as to what God can do.
How can we pray for you?
Please pray for my heart. I think I will be facing a lot of my fears, a lot of which I've either avoided or ignored for many years of my life. Like i said earlier, when everything that you know to be familiar to you has been taken from you, you're left to confront everything that is genuine and incredibly raw in you. I'm scared to confront myself, so i ask that you pray that the Holy Spirit will deliver courage within me to fight that with the truth of the Gospel, and to ultimately know that Christ himself is the greatest joy in my life, and not necessarily church, career success, or reputation.
Second, I recently watched this documentary of Mother Teresa. This woman had such a way of injecting herself into peoples lives and connecting with their pain and brokenness. The very darkness of poverty became that real for her and distraught her daily, to the point where she would cry out "God, where are you?" I personally believe it is because she let herself identify with these people that she was ministering to, and she loved them exactly to the place where they were at that she experienced that sense of depravity in poverty. That is the love that i want to mirror because that's the kind of love Christ showed to people. Christ became flesh himself, so that he could understand us and love us and become death and sacrifice on our behalf. So i wanna be able to love the people and kids of India in that way, not in this very distant and segregated way, but but to really love them in a very self-denying and personally identified way.