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On a cool and rainy day in Belfast I boarded a plane to arrive 20 hours later in the sweltering heat and sun of Mumbai at the beginning of two weeks that would challenge, enrich, and change me forever. At the same time two other Servants of the Word and two women from the Sword of the Spirit had boarded four planes around the  world, and soon Tadhg Lynch, Dave Quintana, Sarah Quinn, Claire Robinson, and I found each other and six missionary friends among the billion people in India.

The India Trip Team

From left: Sarah, Brian, Dave, Claire and Tadhg teach a song at the camp in Khandala

Our hopes for the trip were three-fold: to serve together with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) – one of the largest mission organizations in the world with 18,000 full-time staff and over 200,000 active missionaries; to help establish a sub-regional youth program in India by running a youth camp for the four Sword of the Spirit communities in Pune, Mumbai, Vasai, and Bangalore; and to visit and serve with a Christian orphanage and slum-church in Pune. We soon met the organizers of the youth camp and, learning that we were to give 14 sessions in the next four days to a group of youth aged 11 to 27, we quickly set to planning our part in it! More than 100 young people from Pune, Mumbai, Vasai, and Bangalore came together (via a 24-hour train ride!) in Khandala for the first-ever Sword of the Spirit India Youth Camp. The topics Choosing for God, Discipleship, and Being on Mission were the focus of the talks, and the experience of the team. Throughout the four days in the mountains here was little time for relaxing but, buoyed up by the help of the enthusiastic Indian leaders and the endless excitement of the youth, we soared through the week and were saying sad goodbyes before we knew it. The days in Khandala were such a full time and yet “the camp in Khandala was truly a time of grace for all those involved,” reflects Nicholas D’Cruz from Pune, one of the main organizers of the camp. “This was the first time all of the communities in India came together and, through all the differences, it was heartening to see the bonding and building of relationships between the youth.”

With the camp finished we boarded a train back to Pune and took some much needed rest, tried to fight off the mosquitoes, and catch a bit of sleep. Then began the second phase of the trip: working with YWAM Mercy Ministries and Vanitashray Orphanage in Pune. When we entered the orphanage the next morning, any tiredness that we might have had was swept away by the smiles and welcoming hands of 20 girls aged 3 to 14 with contagious energy and joy. Their joy took on a new depth once we learned of many of their histories that made your heart cry: Rescued from rubbish bins, back alleys, and child prostitution, these girls had found welcome and a home with Anu and her husband, John, who run Vanitashray. We spent two days playing with the girls, teaching and learning songs and dances, sharing food and stories, and praying with them; but these girls with their open hearts taught us much more than Indian dances and hand motions to songs – they showed us a living image of the Gospel that they were receiving in the orphanage.

All I knew about slums before was what I had seen from the movies, but as we drove the next morning into one of the city’s biggest slums where over 10,000 people live in less than one square kilometer, the reality assailed all my senses at once. We met a pastor of a small church who took us on a walk around the slum stopping in to visit each of the 15 families that attend his church, sharing and praying with each as we went. At the end of the day, dusty and tired we returned to find the window of our car broken with a brick, but our host only smiled and said it is a small price to pay for the hope of reaching these poor and broken people. Oh, that we might have that perspective!

As I sit at my desk reflecting on these things we did, I can’t help but laugh at how small they were when compared with the magnitude of the need; and yet I also smile with faith  because our Lord is one who takes the small offering and feeds 5,000. “Do small things with great love” was what Mother Teresa said about her work in Calcutta. We are blessed to be able to do some small things with great love; may we live with our hearts open to the world and live generously as Dave Quintana says, keeping “less for self, more for others, enough for all.”

–Brian Shell

This article is from our Fall 2009 Newsletter: View Entire Newsletter (requires Acrobat Reader)

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