Michelle Oberst via Crowdrise
October 07, 2011
In the Fall of 2010 I studied abroud with Semester at Sea. I spent a good amount of time with a Christian organization in Tenali India, named Harvest India. Harvest India is a humanitarian organization that operates as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in India and a non-profit ministry in the United States. Although their 14 acre campus functions as the hub of their ministry, they also oversee over 1,000 village churches, 10 orphanages, 6 Bible schools, a nursing training center, and numerous other ministries. Their Mission: to carry Christ's compassion to every village in India. Harvest's long term vision is to reach 10million people in 5,000 unreached villages with God's grace, construct 1,000 permanent church buildings in India, establish 10 bible colleges, provide 1,000 pastors with ministry tools, conduct hundreds of pastor conferences to equip and train the workers, develop teams of prayer partners in every country in the world, provide shelter, food, and education to the neglected children and orphans, provide safe drinking water in every village where it is not available, build AIDS and HIV care centers so they can comfort people with eternal hope, and be self-supporting as their ministry continues to grow!
My personal Story:
How do I even begin to explain to everyone India? How will they understand? I don’t even think the amazing individuals traveling with me would understand, for each has their own experience. I could tell you about the Beautiful Colors, the Gorgeous Saris, the delicious smell of hot curry, or the sad truth of poverty. I could explain how terrifying driving is, that drivers like my mother would be considered the BEST drivers in India. I could tell you about every building I saw or every person I met, but that would not explain… not even come close to telling you how India worked in me, how it inspired me, how it moved me. At the beginning of my voyage, I prayed to God that he move me, that our relationship become stronger, that I may get to know Jesus better and have stronger faith in his plans for me. God answered, “India.”
Saturday, Oct. 23:
Alex, Mike, Leah, and I meet our drivers at the gate and begin our 6hr. drive to Tanali, where we would spend the next 3 days volunteering with Harvest India. I had never met my traveling companions before, but I quickly discovered how kind, fun, and full of the spirit they are. They made it very easy to like and befriend. Suresh, the son of Lalitha Kumari who started EARE (Harvest India), took over the project, and continued her mission after her death, invited us to his home and introduced us to his family. There were 3 other missionaries already there to greet us all with open arms as well. John came for a couple months during a church mission visit, and Christ called him to stay and help Harvest India as their leader in Communications. Kelsea and Anne both own their own businesses that provide jobs to women in need at fare wages. They teach the local women how to sew and create beautiful and comfortable pajama pants that they then ship and sell around the world. Both Kelsea and Anne were in town to teach a new group of women. We only spent 3 days together, but it already feels like home… they are family.
Our first night, we had lunch with the family then went to tour the orphanage school. We taught English to all the boys and girls for a couple hours. My class was made up of 9th and 10th graders who were already pretty great speakers. We discussed Direct and Indirect speech… difficult but fun. At the end they asked me to sing…out of no where. Usually I’d be horrified when put on the spot like that, but I had no fear. I asked one of the boys to sing first, so I got serenaded by India prayer. It was beautiful. I then began to sing “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music, followed by the Intro to “Strongest Suit,” from Aeida! Lol! …they loved it ok! That’s what matters. After class, the girls taught us a game that was like the Indian version of “Red Light, Green Light.” We then went back to the group house (Suresh’s old house they now use for mission groups and guests) for dinner and an easy night. We ended up staying up playing cards and talking all night.
Sunday morning, Suresh and his wife Christina came for breakfast and we shared the Word. It was all about having faith in God plan. That we are all blessed… that we are all CHOSEN by God to be an example of Christ’s love to the world. Almost cried. It always seems to be what I need to here at that exact moment. We spent the rest of the day cleaning out the new church site. It is only pillars, cement, and dirt right now, but it’s on its way to something Awe inspiring. When we arrived the base floor was covered in rubble, hay, piles of crumbling brick, and trash. We were asked to remove the bricks to the outskirts of the building and using groups of sticks tied to together with string, as brooms, to sweep the trash and hay and pile it outside as well. By lunch time, the 3 of us had successfully piled ALL the bricks evenly and orderly outside of the pillars. By dinner time, the entire structure was not only swept clean of trash and hay, but ALL the rocks had been thrown out and the ENTIRE place was clean. It was a community effort towards the end. All the children from the orphanage who live right up the road from Suresh came to help us. We couldn’t have done it all, especially so quickly without their help. Again, we went to the group house for dinner and cards and happy ruckus til sleep overtook us once again.
Monday was the best. We were very busy. After breakfast we traveled to Mercy Camp at Sulthanbad, Tenali, and distributed Eggs, breads, and Fruits to the Beggars, Poor, Sick, Homeless Children, and Elderly people. Over 300 people line up twice a week to eat and be bless by this program. Sometimes this is the only time they eat all week. We also visited the Free Medical Center there. During the discussion, an elderly women approached us, her hands pressed in prayer. Suresh translated for her; She was thanking God that we were there and blessing us for all that we had given her and her people. At the end of the tour, our SAS group said a prayer and blessing over all the sick who came to be treated that day. I still kept it together. Later we visited one of two Harvest India Elderly Homes. As we walked through the gates, we were met with beautifully hand made bouquets of carnations and strong, powerful hugs. I felt like I had been missing for years and finally returned home. These women knew me and were so happy and thankful for our arrival. We toured the house and then a few women came to tell us their stories. Most were the same. They raised children (usually many), and when they got too old and needed care, their children disserted them and left them to beg on the streets. Harvest India had given them a home (shelter, thin mattress, shower, toilet, food, and the Bible). They had barely anything, but were SO INCREDIBLY Happy! I was asked to say the prayer at the end, but I just broke down. One woman had suffered so badly on the streets that she decided to commit suicide by pouring acid over her body. …Some how she survived and Harvest India took care of her till she healed. They gave her a home and a family. They gave her Christ God and something to live for. When have I ever TRULY suffered?! When have I ever been so low a place? God has blessed me with so much that at that moment I cried and fell to my knees, because I knew I was SO undeserving. After Alex said the prayer Suresh asked us to pray and bless the people. We walked through the crowd, bent down, held each other, hands, foreheads, arms, embraces, prayers whispered both Indian and English together. This was speaking in tongues (my voice and hers together in prayer.. all of gods people praying together) this was the voice of God. And still later we traveled to the Hope Care Center (HIV/AIDS hospices) at Cherukupalli and blessed the people and project there as well. Lunch was served on the way home where we crashed the ordaining of a new pastor in one of the villages. We had tea at Suresh’s home, where we received hand-made pant dresses as a gift for our help! We chatted for a long while about our “not-wanting-to-leaves” and “I-Love-You’s” and “I-promise-to-be-backs,” before making the long journey back to the ship in Chennai.
I leave now regretfully, but I know God needs me to spread Harvest India’s mission back home. I need to share my experience, so The World will know the Face of God and hopefully work to help spread his love to Suresh, his family, Harvest India, and all the people of India. They need to understand what I’ve seen, what Harvest India has done and will do for millions and millions of Christ’s children.
This is India SAS Fall 2010. This is my story. And it is only the beginning.