They entered the room soberly and quietly - some cradling infants. Was that fear or sorrow in their expressionless eyes? I had been told that many of them had arrived in the back of a small truck – 43 men and women to be exact - counted as they walked through the front gate of the compound where we gathered. It was the faces of these women that captured me as they entered our “Upper Room"; not just their stoic nature, but also the painted black vertical stripes that were part camouflage, part defense against evil spirits, and part cosmetic beauty, I was told. And then there were the multiple silver-colored rings lining their ears and the pieces of what looked like bone in their noses. But it was the somberness of their facial expressions that drew me the most.
On my way to India I had asked God His purpose for my trip.
I did not want to miss what He wanted me to accomplish. The answer was clear: “To encourage them and share in their suffering. It is not just what you will say, but showing them My love that is important.” I later learned that one of them, a pastor’s wife with three small children, had recently become a widow; her husband shot by “Maoist militants” in their jungle village.
Father, show us how to love them.
We started with the story of Esther, an ordinary woman with courage and an extraordinary gift of beauty that God used to save her nation. They listened intently throughout the lesson and its translations: English to Hindi to Kui. Gradually their expressions softened as the lessons progressed, and soon there were hesitant smiles breaking across those beautiful faces as they sat for hours cross-legged on the blanket-covered cement floor. Yes, they were nursing their babies and tending to toddlers, but they were also beginning to believe who they were in Christ. They were loved, they were chosen, they were forgiven, they were accepted, and adopted by the King of Kings, and He had a calling on their lives to bring transformation to the women in their villages and their nation. They began to worship and even to dance before the Lord. Smiles lit up their faces, young and old alike, as they received God’s love and hope and in turn prayed for and encouraged one another.
And yes, very quickly we hugged them and prayed for them. We blessed their babies and laid hands on the sick. We shared our own life journeys of hardship and victory in Jesus. In small groups women shared their struggles and prayed for one another. They dreamed together about what they could do to bring hope and help to their communities, and how to encourage and support one another.
We laughed and cried together in that small room, sharing the “suffering” of the heat and crowded conditions, but rejoicing in the truth that we are one. Sisters. We are daughters of a Heavenly Father who sees each of us, and loves us, and unites us in service for Him and the expansion of His Kingdom. When the commissioning call was given in the final session of the conference, many of them responded. “Yes, we will go to the villages who have never heard, and share the good news of God’s love and forgiveness through the blood of Jesus.”
Somehow, I believe that our lives will never be the same.
In an outcome I could never have anticipated, these humble, courageous women have challenged me to not fear suffering for the sake of the Gospel.
Lord, here am I. Send me.
- Connie Parker, Esther Initiative Ambassador to India
Global Advance is training frontline leaders with the call to reach remote villages in India where the Gospel still needs to go. In February, our ambassador teams conducted two powerful Church Planting and Esther Initiative conferences to provide training and resources in Chhattisgarh and Odisha States, where persecution for Christians is on the rise and only a fraction of 1% of the population professes Christ. Global Advance is on a mission to see the Great Commission become the Great Fulfillment. Your gift today helps us move one step closer to THAT day...