One evening we were on our way to a church in India and I couldn’t find a seat on the bus. As I looked around, I heard a quiet voice call “brother” and looked to find one of the little girls from the orphanage motioning for me to sit by her.
As I met Mounika, pronounced like the English “Monica,” and began to talk to her, she immediately walked right into my heart. Her English was better than I had found among any of the other children in India. As we drove, she pointed out the various types of trees and plants that we passed. She taught me about India and told me the Telegu words for things I did not know. She asked me about my sister who had previously visited India and told me that Rebekah had given her our family picture. We shared a delightful bus ride.
Mounika is 13 years old and in the “10th Class” as they call it in India. Her father died awhile back and her mother is too poor to care for her. She has an older brother in college and an adult sister who lives in Hyderbad. Watching Mounika at the orphanage, I noticed that she was a real leader among the children. She frequently led singing and prayers during devotional times. Her love for God was quite evident.
Leaving all of the children in India was very hard but I knew that I would miss Mounika in particular. She did not say much as we left but her faced showed the sadness that she tried to hide. Ten days after we left, we were rejoined in Sri Lanka by some of the team that we left in India. They brought a note for me from Mounika and this is what she wrote…
My brother Andi,
Hi how are you brother? I am fine. My name is Mounika and I am no forget you and you no forget me. I am studying well. I miss you. I am so sad and I miss you Brother Andi and I am greetings for your family and I am writing letter your sister. Happy new year and happy christmas and pray for me and pray for my family. I am pray for you and your family and I miss you brother. You will next year come in christmas. I will pray you will back in India. Ok I love you and I love your family and you and I love you Rebekah. I love all. Ok bye
I couldn’t imagine a sweeter note. I will never forgot Mounika and how she walked right into my heart on a bus ride in India.
I was reading Acts 1 this morning and found a story that pertains to what we are doing as Mission Focus. The story is of Matthias, the man chosen by the eleven disciples to replace Judas as an apostle. Many preachers have assumed that it was not God’s will for the disciples to choose a replacement. They generally base this argument on the fact that we hear nothing further about Matthias in the biblical record. It is as though his value as a disciple is dependent on how much we know about him.
The worth of God’s servants is not measure by how much we know about them but by everything that God knows about them. There are countless obscure and unknown followers of Christ’s whose works will live on in heaven although we may never know about them. I think of the Indian pastors who live on $12 of support a month and in poverty level homes, yet labor tirelessly to lead people to Christ. I think of the many women who devote themselves to the needs of children, both their own and others. We may never know about them but God does and their love will not go unrewarded.
Our goal at Mission Focus is to tell the stories of God’s servants. We want people to know what God is doing abroad in order to enlarge their hearts and to expand their sights into areas they’ve never considered before. We think Christians ought to focus on missions and that God’s servants are worthy of our recognition, appreciation, prayers and support. We will never be able to tell every story and discover every servant of God, but for those we have the opportunity to find we pray that the intersection of our paths will have a last impact not only for them but for the kingdom of God.
We don’t know much more about Matthias but let us never assume that the only things relevant to God’s kingdom are those we know about. His work is so much larger than our field of vision. What is relevant to God is far beyond what we value or appreciate. Lord, open our eyes!
In a tiny little mountain village, outside the town of Paderu, I saw a modern illustration of Jesus’ words. The members of the church had just brought their tithe, consisting not of money but of a portion of their crops. The people of this area earn a meager wage of about a dollar a day. Among the bags of rice there was a tiny little sack sitting on top. It was a small tithe from one of the poorest members of the church.
As I looked at the sack I could not help but remember the story of the widow’s mite. Jesus saw the large gifts made by the rich but when he saw a widow give the small amount that she had, He said that she gave more than the rest. This small sack of rice came from people who have nothing. Wouldn’t it be tempting to think that having so little would make it not even worth it to give to God? Imagine the rewards in heaven for those who have so little but love Christ so much. This sack of rice is so little but it says so much.
I’m having a hard time transitioning from India to Sri Lanka. We’ve been here for four days already but sometimes it seems that my heart is still in India. As I process my pictures of the Indian orphans, I remember each one and all of the joy that our time with them brought. Their sadness when we left still breaks my heart. Gotume, one of the little girls, said, “You leave for Sri Lanka. All the children sad. No games.”
I do love the kids here at the children’s home in Sri Lanka. They are very sweet but it seems that they have so much more than the kids in India. They have beds, a beautiful setting, ample sporting equipment and an excellent assortment of food to make them healthy. By comparison, the children in India have so much less yet they have such an amazing love for God.
I miss India with all of of the beautiful orphans, the Mekela family and the ministry there. I did not think that it would be hard to move from place to place but as much as I like seeing new countries, moving from one film project to another is not going to be easy.
I first met Jwala when she walked into a classroom so that we could conduct an interview with her. As we asked her to describe what her life was like before she came to the orphanage, she began to talk about her parents but then she stopped. A sad look came over her face and although she tried to suppress it, tears began to stream down her face. As she cried and we tried to comfort her, we learned that her parents had died only 6 months before. We already knew that her father had been murdered and that her mother refused to eat and died a month later. What we did not know was how recently this had taken place.
A few days later I had a chance to speak to the children about God’s love for the fatherless. I shared with them how I lost my father when I was 9 years old and of how faithful God had been to me as my Father. She was crying as I spoke and from that day we were inseparable. Jwala needs prayer as she is still healing from such a difficult experience for an 11 year old little girl. I will never forget her.
After a little over a week in India, it finally seems like we are starting to get somewhere with our video project. On the one hand, we’ve gotten a lot of good footage of the various ministries here but on the other, we haven’t been able to start actually setting up film shoots and capturing critical footage. This has been in large part due to our struggle to say “no” on the mission field.
Not realizing the amount of time that we would need for filming, Pastor Mekela scheduled our time quite fully. Since any other mission trip we’ve ever taken has consisted of showing up and helping the ministry in whatever way we could, it was hard to break out of this mindset. We love to preach, pray for people, minister, attend church services and play with the orphans, but we had to remind ourselves that as important as all of these things are, they are not the ultimate reason that we came. We want to be of help to the ministries we are serving in whatever ways possible, but our primary goal is to tell compelling missionary stories. We are here to capture Pastor Mekela’s story on film and to communicate it with the world through our film.
With precious time slipping away and very little getting done, we finally had to force ourselves to do what we dreaded doing, namely, saying no to opportunities that we would otherwise love to take. Brian did a good job of tactfully explaining that we if went to everything they had planned for us, we would not be able to accomplish what we came to do. Last night was particularly hard because we scheduled a planning meeting and then found out that the village had already prepared food for our entire team. Since only some of us were going, they were going to have extra food. This was something that was very hard to do but if we didn’t carry on with our planning, we wouldn’t have been prepared for the intensive shooting that we have to do over the next couple of days.
Right now we are in the Sumo on our way to our first full day of shooting. Today we are interviewing Pastor Mekela in his hometown and hoping to capture the footage that will be foundational to our film. We’re a little behind the schedule that we’ve never defined but happy with the footage we’ve captured so far and optimistic about our final week of filming here!