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Saturday, July 28, 2012

india - day 5 {hubli}

(Continuing my India story. If you missed them and are interested, 
you can catch up: Days 1-4 and Days 4&5)

Thursday June 21, Day 5
I left you at the morning of Day 5.
Before I continue, I need to backtrack just a touch.
As I mentioned before, I didn't get much sleep the
night before this very big day. I spent most of the night
crying, praying, and listening to my iPod. In the early hours of
the morning, a song came on and I was compelled to sit up
so I could scribble the lyrics in my journal...they so perfectly
articulated my emotions and my prayers.

"I know I'm not strong enough
to be everything that I'm supposed to be.
I give up.
I'm not strong enough.
Hands of mercy won't you cover me,
Lord right now I'm asking You to be
strong enough
for the both of us.
I can do all things
through Christ who gives me strength."
"Strong Enough" Matthew West

After our devotions, and after I told Matt I had a shame story to share,
I began to feel His strength. I should have been dead on my feet.
If I were home, I probably would have been sick...I tend to get low grade
fevers if I don't get enough sleep in the midst of lots of busy-ness.
But I felt great. I had a feeling I'd never experienced in my life:
divine purpose.
I had no idea what I was going to say. Apart from God and Jason,
no one knows this story in it's entirety. And this thing has layers...
like an onion.
Each time Jesus heals another piece of my heart, He unfolds
another layer of the amazing miraculous story that is my salvation.
So I put it all on Him. Lord, You are the Potter...I am merely clay.
Give me YOUR words. Give me YOUR strength.
I trust You completely...this isn't my story, this is YOUR story.
Give me the words when the time comes.

After visiting the farm and planting the trees and praying over
the new building, we had a loooong drive to get to the seminar.
7 hours if I remember correctly. I got to be in the same vehicle
Pastor Solomon was in, and I got to sit right beside him!
Which meant he got to answer all my inquisitive questions...
like a 3 year old, really, I was. HA! :) But he was very patient with me
and answered all my questions. I learned SO MUCH about India
that day. We saw miles upon miles of Indian countryside, villages, farms,
and people. Lots of fields and farms...but I don't remember seeing one tractor.
The people in this part of India do all the farming the way Americans did it
before technology. With sickles and oxen and hand plows and
sweat, blood, and tears!

Finally...we arrived at our destination.
It was a peaceful retreat settled in a small forest. Quiet and serene,
surrounded by trees, far from the honking of the main thoroughfare.
I felt a sense of peace and even relaxation as we all unloaded from the vehicles.
As I looked around, I saw women everywhere. Peeking meekly through their
beautiful saris veiling their heads. They looked at me with curiosity and uncertainty...
until I smiled. As soon as I smiled at them, their faces broke into the most gorgeous
returning smiles...beaming, really. And I saw hope in their eyes. Seeing that hope...
fear and doubt threatened to creep back in because who am I to bring them hope?!
I am nothing but a vapor...a mist...dust. But those thoughts were immediately quieted
by the whisper of the Holy Spirit "Keri, I am bringing the hope. You simply need to obey."

You may be wondering what exactly we were doing here because
I don't think I've gone into detail about that. Pastor Solomon asked us
months before our trip if we would be willing to conduct a seminar for
women who are or who have been devadasi.

What is a devadasi?
A devadasi is a woman who offers herself
(commonly through the persistence of her parents, by way of "inheriting" the honor from her mother)
to the Hindu Temple as a sacrifice.
Hindus believe a devadasi to be the equivalent of a Catholic nun. But there's a big difference.
Men come to the temple and use the devidasi sexually as a form of worship.
While the devidasi is active and considered "vital", she is of the highest honor,
second only to a priest, who is number one.
But once the devidasi has "lost her vitality", she is cast aside.
Removed. Thrown away.
She is no longer a woman of highest honor, she is now lower than dirt.
Unable to find any other form of work or income, often she is forced
to live on the street. To find some way to feed her children.

We were there to show these women love. We wanted them to know
they weren't dirt in our eyes. But most importantly, they aren't dirt in
Jesus' eyes. We were there to share Jesus. We were also there to share
practical information that the women may have never heard previously.
Joel met with them one-on-one to discuss HIV and how it affected them personally.
Erica taught the group simple hygiene like washing hands, being careful with food, etc.
She also shared HIV facts and frequently asked questions, as well as myths versus facts.
Andy A. talked about HIV medication...how to prevent HIV and how to treat it.

We all performed a skit we had prepared.
A story of a woman becoming a devadasi, then being cast aside,
but Jesus picked her up, dusted her off, made her beautiful again.

Matt talked about shame. About how it can feel like a piece of luggage
loaded with heavy rocks. He told the women how they can unload that luggage.
Then it was my turn. Sitting and listening to Matt, my stomach was full of butterflies.
I kept making eye contact with some of the women, giving them smiles,
hoping and praying that my smiles conveyed to them that I am not superior.
I am not The Great White Hope.
I am just a woman. A woman with a story of shame, just like they may be.

But when I stood up, all those butterflies disappeared.
I felt strength pumping through my veins. The words filled my mouth.
Not my words.
I can't even remember exactly what I said!
I know I started out telling the women how beautiful they are.
They met me with gazes of disbelief, bashfulness, some even snickered as if
I told a joke. As if I was just blowing hot air.

Then I shared my story of shame. I told them no one knows this story,
not even my friends who are sitting here behind me.
Their expressions changed. Some were wide-eyed with shock.
Others dropped their jaws. A few shook their heads as if they didn't believe me.

Next I told them how Jesus took that shame away.
He is healing my heart. I am not perfect, but I know I am forgiven
and loved by the King. The One True God.
I told them how He has redeemed me...how He has blessed me with
a godly husband and three beautiful children.
At this point, some of the women began wiping away tears.

Finally I told them the King loves them too.
You are a princess! Jesus Christ wants your shame.
All you have to do is allow Him to take it.
He loves you. Each and every one of you. He wants to
heal you, he wants to give you life.

And then I sat down. That was it. It was over.
I've never felt so completely smack-dab in the middle
of God's miraculous Plan.
All the fear, doubt, dread, darkness...it was all GONE.
As if someone turned on a light and I realized I wasn't in
a dark scary cave at all...duh...I'm right here in my own bedroom.

We were supposed to meet with 150 women.
We met with 250!
We gave them each a brand new bible in their own language.
A bible that was purchased by a woman here in America
who simply obeyed God when He prompted her to buy them.
To buy them when she didn't know where the money was going to come from.

There they are again...those layers! Those God layers! Those ripples that come
from His miraculous amazing Plan. The thing that happens when His people obey.
I am forever changed.
My prayer is that those women are too.
Forever changed by the power and the healing and the love and the acceptance of
Jesus Christ. The One True God.

"This is where the healing begins.
This is where the healing starts.
When you come to where you're broken within.
The light meets the dark.

Sparks will fly as grace collides
with the dark inside of us.
So please don't fight this coming light.
Let this blood come cover us,
His blood can cover us."
"Healing Begins" Tenth Avenue North


Keetha Broyles said...

I know I heard this in person, but I'm crying all over again reading it now.

It is a wonderful testimony of faith, hope, and love.

Danavee said...

Beautiful. I wish you could go back and see how these women change in response to this!

Alyx said...

Oh my gosh, Keri. This is beautiful. I can only imagine the effect you all had on these beautiful women.

Vidya Sury said...

God bless you, Keri. I know how proud your Mom must be of you. I am proud of you, too. It takes a lot of strength and purpose to do what you're doing and I am thrilled you're listening to your heart.

I live in Karnataka, the same state which has Hubli.

God bless you. What can I say? I am privileged to be reading your words.

Hugs. When you visit Bangalore, know there is a friend here. Me.

Keri said...

Hello Vidya! Thank you so much for your encouragement and for taking the time to read my story.

We were in Bangalore! I just haven't posted about that yet. We drove from Hubli to Bangalore then flew from Bangalore to Hyderabad. So keep checking in...I still have many days to write about! Bangalore is gorgeous!!!

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please know that I pray for your country every single day. I am forever changed because of India.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for sharing. Your mother sent me here. God bless these women now. In Christ's name.

Kathy (Pearson) Troyer said...

What an amazing experience. I pray God will continue to use your 'shame story' to reveal Himself to these beautiful women.

You are a rock star!

Erin said...

Beautiful story Keri.

nancygrayce said...

What an amazing testament to the love Christ has for us being shared with women who don't know Him! Many of them will because you weren't afraid to tell your own story of redemption! Baring our secrets to share His glory is not easy but powerful!

Thank you for you love for Him!

Ann H said...

Thank you for being obedient--and for sharing your story.

Tami said...

I am visiting you from your Mom's blog. She said your post would bring tears and it sure did!! This is a beautiful post. You are a wonderful, wonderful person and an inspiration to all!

Jason *Go Blue* said...

Babe this was so beautiful! Even though this mission trip is over and I have you home, it's still not over. Your words, words from God are still echoing.

I love you so much.

Headless Mom said...

Keri, your mama sent me here and I'm so glad she did. My girl has a passion for missions and I'm sharing this with her and her travelin' friends.

What a powerful story. Jesus is so good. Thank you for sharing!

Mark Wilson said...

A beautiful, powerful story. Thanks for sharing.