2023 India Team Blog
Our first post-C***D trip into India went better than we could have imagined. It has been over 2 years since Faith Journeys was able to serve in India and it was a huge blessing to our team to see, serve, and love the beautiful people of Goa.
Jan 1-2 | Travel Days
Our team met up in Chicago for our first flight to India. The long journey is made longer with a 10+ hour time difference. We arrived in Goa Jan 3 a bit weary but in good spirits. Only one bag missed the connection and it arrived later that afternoon. Kristi, on our team, was delayed by 1 day and thankfully she is a pro-traveler and was able to manage her journey into India on her own. A local staff member, S*, met us at the airport to take us by taxi to the guest house where we will be staying. Most of our team had their own room with shower. The beds are comfortable, there is running hot water, and A/C. Frankly, compared to what we're used to for serving trips, this is the lap of luxury.
Jan 3 | Day 1
We arrived in Goa around 5:30 am so we went straight to bed when we arrived. We woke up around noon and met with Vicki, who will be the team leader from our partners. She has been serving India for over 20 years and is a wealth of information. Vicki walked us through orientation of what to expect in-country and some of the do's and don't. Mainly, we received a history lesson of how Rahab's Rope was founded, the areas where they work, and some of the stories of hope they've been a part of over the years. Rahab's Rope started in 2004, with the intention of giving women an alternative option to the work they have found themselves in. The rope Rahab made was a tool she used to save herself and her family from destruction. Similarly, these women are being given a tool by learning different trades from Rahab's Rope. Ladies in their care are able to learn how to make jewelry and sew. They are taught life skills like budgeting and nutrition and they are growing in self-confidence. It's so beautiful to see.
In addition, Rahab's Rope focuses on education for children. Girls especially are at a deficit because the typical belief is that women are meant to serve in the home only. Most families only invest in the son's education and a good education is not free. The majority of children who are enrolled in school have dropped out by 2nd grade. Rahab's Rope partners in multiple slum areas across the country in the hopes of changing the future for many of these children. And they are succeeding.
After orientation, we met up with L* and S*, a couple who leads some vocational programs for women and an afterschool program for middle school aged children. We briefly said hello to the women but this afternoon was dedicated to making connections with the kids. Some of them are from the slums close by and some are more middle class. They have two teachers who help tutor and there are about 30 kids each afternoon. This tutoring program started because a mom was worried her child wouldn’t be safe while she was away working. Our partners agreed to keep the child after school for a bit and one child quickly grew to 60 kids. Unfortunately, C****D caused the numbers to drop drastically but they are starting to grow again, praise God. The team spent time getting dancing lessons and Jenn P. and Summer shared testimonies. The children were shy to interact at first and some of the women from downstairs came up to add some fun. They wanted to take pictures with us and tell us about their children. Moms are moms everywhere. Afterwards, we exchanged money and purchased some traditional Indian clothes. Although some women in India wear more western clothing, our partners prefer we dress more traditionally while we are there so as to not be overly distracting.
Jan 4 | Day 2
This morning, we took the bus back to see the women. Jenn P. taught a Biblical lesson on “not to worry” and one of the women was asked to read and translate the verses in Hindi for the class. She took the task very seriously and was studying the passage for well over 30 minutes to make sure she had the words correct. Some of these women are Christian, some Muslim, and others Hindu. All of them are beautiful. Although they know this is a Christian ministry, they feel accepted and safe in this space, and all equal. No one is pressuring them to make a decision for Christ, but slowly, they are starting to come to that conclusion. The love of Christ is shared in deed here, rather than word and it is making an impact. After Jenn's lesson, she handed out materials to make a special bracelet together. The women are very talented when it comes to making jewelry and they picked up the lesson quickly, with some of the more experienced ones helping to teach the others. Thankfully, none of these women have worked in the red light district and, because of the skills they've learned here, they are able to provide for themselves and their families. Here, they are also taught life skills. L* is very much an Auntie to them and it touched us to see them fellowship with one another as they worked side by side. As we were wrapping up, Jenn L. played peekaboo with a sweet little one. She was a tough one to make smile, but Jenn was up for the challenge and very much succeeded. This little girl became Jenn's "high" for the day. Once jewelry making was over, we asked some of the women if we could pay them for mehndi. This is the body art using henna and each piece of art is made unique for the person. It washes off in about a weeks' time and is so beautiful. Our team was happy to support the ladies through this and to chat with them while they did it for us. It was great bonding as we all talked about our kids and being a mom. We are not all that different, honestly. Just hoping for good things for the ones God has entrusted us. L* made lunch for us this afternoon and gave us a cooking lesson. We all love Indian food and Goan Indian food is slightly different than the rest of the country. We've become partial to it.
We spent the evening in a slum community with some beautiful children. They’ve been preparing a Christmas program for a couple months. It is something they’ve started to do in January to avoid some Christian persecution that happens often in December. There were about 75 children packed in a small space and wearing coordinating outfits for various dance numbers. For some, that simply meant matching colored shirts. Others had on very pretty dresses. You could tell each one had put forth great effort for this once a year performance. Summer was asked to played guitar for one of the numbers and then sang The Little Drummer Boy for the group. It was so lovely to see all the children enjoying her song and special to see parents taking photos of their children’s performance. Here, there are not many moments for that and the kids were beaming.
This slum area is one of the largest in Goa. Our partners erected a recreation center here and this is where they work with the children. Here in India, boys and girls equally love to dance and we could see so much personality shine through as they showed off their skills.
Jan 5 | Day 3
Today was spent in a different slum community. A few years ago, it was home to the largest red light district in Goa but the government bulldozed those buildings and scattered many people. Those that remain are very poor and most of the children are not in school. Our partners have a building right in the middle where they teach kids 2-10 years old with a Bible lesson and tutoring. They are working hard to prepare the kids so they can be ready for school and the teachers come faithfully everyday. We met M* who works in this area to disciple women. They have many young women learning how to sew and learning about Jesus. It's a dangerous thing to teach about Jesus in India but M* and her husband H* are very upfront with their intentions in this community. Rumors can easily spread that Christians are somehow bribing others with promises or treats in exchange for becoming Believers so it's important to be very clear about your motives from the beginning. M* is an encourager by nature and a prayer warrior. It was beautiful to see her faith for what God can do and to watch her encourage the others working beside her.
Kristi led us in a Bible lesson about Jesus calming the storm and then we helped the kids create a very neat craft that will also serve as a fan. The kids had fun with paint, plates, tape, and q-tips representing the disciples scared on the boat. As we were leaving, there were disciples everywhere on the floor. We found it really funny.
After the craft, we gave the kids a little candy and then went for house visits with our partners. There are a few families in the community who request prayer visits when teams come so we were blessed and honored to be welcomed into their homes, drink chai tea and then pray for them based on their requests. Many asked for prayer for their children and for their health.
In the afternoon, we met with some of the teen girls in the community as we were asked to lead them in a hygiene class. Summer taught the lesson and shared a Bible story about how God cleansed the lepers. All the girls were engaged and eager to learn. As an example of how bacteria spreads, we had one girl cover her hands in glitter and then shake hands. The glitter went everywhere!! It was a perfect example. Later, Susan shared on healthy relationships and how to practice wisdom and guard our hearts well. It was interesting to see the girls give each other knowing looks. Funny how God tends to bring the right message at the right time.
In the evening, we had dinner with the staff couple who has served here the longest. They have been faithful to their community all these years bringing food, finding oxygen tanks, and praying over those who ask for it. S* grew up in the slum where he now serves and has a huge heart to bring hope and Jesus into that area. R* has a heart for children and teens and leads several after school programs there. They are such an inspiration.
Jan 6 | Day 4
This morning, we went back to see the ladies who are learning to sew. Jennifer L. led us in a lesson on how to work through family conflict and then taught everyone how to knit. It’s amazing how quickly the ladies picked up in it and then helped each other. Learning to knit is something they’ve been asking to learn for a long time, so Jenn really filled a need today. This is more than a hobby for them; it will be another tool they can use to provide for themselves and their families. Jenn did a great job and prayed for some of the women who asked for it.
After the visit, we were invited to the home of one of the local ministry leaders. They are a husband and wife couple and he has been serving here for over 14 years. We heard their testimony of how they came to Christ, how their ministry began, and how they met. In India, most marriages are arranged, as was theirs, and almost all of those marriages last. It’s fascinating what can happen when you truly commit to something. They are a loving Christian couple and so faithful to the community they serve. We have been inspired by them both. They took us to the new school supply store they began. It fills a need for the children and helps fund the ministry as well. Our team bought several items to bring back home.
In the afternoon, we spent time with the children and delivered letters from Ms. Lindelli’s middle schoolers. 70% of her students are Indian so it was neat to see the kids here connect with the letters and see some similarities. Once they read their letters, we asked them to do a similar one for us to take back. They all took great pride in making their letters detailed and colorful. Many of the younger children needed help translating the English and we loved seeing how the older ones were so willing to lend a hand. One of the questions on the sheet we gave them asked, “where would you like to travel?”. While some said far away places, most said “the beach” or “a park”. It’s funny how our perspectives can be so different. Contentment doesn’t have to come from far away places.
After the letter exchange, our team visited a couple homes with R* just to encourage the home owners and pray for those who asked. Then we hurried back to host a jewelry lesson for the teen girls in the community. Jenn P. did a great job teaching and these girls were determined to make a beautiful bracelet for themselves. It was really special to see and be a part of. This space is called a Life Skills class and has grown to 30 girls now. Every week, they meet to learn various lessons, to visit together in a safe place, and encourage each other. It has become a great place to grow in much needed confidence and security. Young ladies here often feel unseen and unimportant. That is not the story for these specific girls and we are so grateful. Godly people are making a huge impact on these lives just by showing up and loving on them.
We put in a 14 hour day today, not including the time we took to untangle all the yarn last night and time on and off of buses. This team has been working so hard. We are exceptionally proud of them.
Jan 7 | Day 5
Today we went back to spend time with the same kids from our first visit. We hosted them for a field trip day to the beach but first we did the letter exchange with more of Ms Lindelli’s students. These kids did an amazing job filling out the details of their “All about Me” paper and were thrilled to take home a letter from a new friend as well. Then we loaded onto a bus and headed to the beach. The bus ride took maybe 15 minutes but most of these kids don’t enjoy the beach often so it was nice to treat them. We took several of the moms as well and it was hard to tell whether the moms or the kids were more excited. Actually, it really touched us because a few of the moms had made homemade treats for us and were so proud to share them. Kindness just pours out of these women. After snacks on the beach, we taught the kids a new game and then let them have free time to enjoy the water. Kids being kids. It was beautiful to watch. The women were chatty with each other and each one loved on and cared for the others' children. The loving nature between parents and children here is really beautiful to watch. We've witnessed it on the bus, on the beach, and everywhere in between.
Jan 8 | Day 6
Today we went to church about 1.5 hours away. There are several churches close by but not that many that offer translation in English. The pastor from the church we visited has been friends with our partners for more than 20 years. They have seen each others' kids grow up as they all serve the Lord in different ways. Worship was simple and beautiful, led by some local Bible college students and they asked Summer to sing during offering. She really has been amazing how many times she has stepped up at the last minute like that and done fantastic. The message was such as good one from John 4. We were taught to worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth bringing a true attitude, true acquaintance, true adoration, and true awareness. After service, we had lunch in town at Route 66. This is one of the very few places you can get a true beef burger in Goa. In most places, beef is not allowed.
In the evening, we hosted a staff appreciation event for the local staff. They have done so much for their local community and served our partners diligently. Our team was honored to be a part of sharing love for this team, who are so faithful to the Lord. Our team created our own version of a Word Cloud for each person as an award. The clouds contained words chosen by our team and their leaders to describe the best parts of them. Jennifer L. is talented beyond measure when it comes to these things and she did the outlines of each piece while the rest of us added some creative color. Overall, the awards came out beautifully. Summer also sang a beautiful song for them at the request of our partners. In the pictures below, you can see where Jenn L. locked herself on her back patio. We got help, of course, but only after snapping a picture.
Jan 9 | Day 7
Today was a sightseeing day. We started at the Spice Plantation where we toured several acres of various plants such as turmeric, pepper, noni fruit, and all spice. A few team members did their best to climb a coconut palm. "A" for effort all around. We ate lunch there and then headed to Old Goa where 400 year old Cathedrals are still in tact and being used. There is a strong Catholic influence here with 8 churches within a square mile. The buildings and architecture were beautiful. We were able to go into one but the other was closed for the day. Unfortunately, Summer started having a very bad migraine so we headed back home after seeing the cathedral. Some of the team headed to the beach to watch the sunset, which was stunning. Overall, a beautiful day with a gorgeous ending.
Jan 10 | Day 8
Today is our last day here and most of us are not quite ready to leave. We have met so many special people here and our hearts are full. We spent the morning back with L* and S* and the beautiful women. We watched as one woman wove a gorgeous purse using macramé and another adjusted stitching on a dress for her child. We are blessed to see the talent these women possess and that it's being put to good use. They are able to function independently and provide for their families, all because someone took the time to teach them a skill. S* invited us into her home which she shares with her mother, father, and little brother. God has been working on her this week as she was also the one studying the scriptures at the beginning of our journey. She asked her to pray for her father and the rest of her family. We were honored to do so. What an amazing young woman she is. Keep her in your prayers for us please.
Jan 10 & 11 | Travel Day
We began our journey home and parted ways in Atlanta. By the time we made it home, we had traveled 30+ hours. The idea of flying for that long is exhausting just to think about, but these ladies handled it with grace and love. Even on the trip home, Summer found an opportunity to share the Gospel with her seatmate. Doing so in India is illegal, but the plane ride home was far game! So proud of this one. Her heart of obedience is beautiful to see.
India, dear India. Each of us went on this journey out of obedience to His call. The Lord loves India and His presence is very much felt there. Along the way, our team learned that the people in this country are gracious, loving, and beautiful in spirit. He helped us see beyond the poverty and the traffic and into the absolute beauty that exists within the people. Our hearts have grown bigger on this trip and we are indeed in love with India. God is always on a mission to surprise us and we are grateful for this life journey he has us on.
Thank you for all your prayers. We felt them. They mattered. Be praying for the people we've shared with you. Those serving in some way and those being served. God is doing a mighty thing in India.