India Fall 2016 Visit Recap

The day after Thanksgiving, my husband Myles and I boarded a plane bound for Calcutta with our friends and fellow HelpLive USA board members, Chris and Maria. In Calcutta, we met up with our teammates: John, president of HelpLive USA; Esther, founder of a ministry mentoring at-risk youth in Kenya; and Paul, a missionary living in Thailand. We then flew to Dimapur in the northeast state of Nagaland, where Kilang served as our native guide as we learned about Naga culture, history and politics. Kilang's sister is the founding member of HelpLive India, and our team got to hear firsthand her ideas for developing a sustainable ministry to serve at-risk youth in Nagaland.

Our trip was a great experience for learning about Naga culture and politics so we could better understand the context of HelpLive India’s ministry. Kilang’s parents graciously hosted us for dinner each night with Naga-style hospitality. A member of Kilang’s family or community cooked for us each night, with the exception of one night where we tried to throw together American barbeque food (burgers and s’mores) for the community using locally available groceries. We were treated to a Naga-style picnic by the Chathe River, in which Kilang’s friends and family actually prepared and cooked the food next to the river and served it on banana leaves. We visited the Hornbill Festival in Kohima, where we watched tribal dances and learned about Kohima’s role as a strategic Allied outpost during World War II.

During our trip, we met with local leaders who shared about challenges HelpLive India might face culturally and politically. We also had the privilege of interacting with several teachers and got to learn about their personal challenges such as delays receiving their monthly salaries and the logistical difficulties schools face to help children. Our first induction into the hardships endured by the people of Nagaland was the road we took from the airport to our hotel. Whatever pavement had once existed had long worn away, leaving behind a seemingly endless minefield of deep potholes and a cloud of dust pervading the air. What should have been a quick 5-minute car ride would often take three times as long. We tend to take paved roads for granted here in the States. In Dimapur, we were faced with the impacts of inadequate pavement every time we went outside. I couldn’t help but wonder how much school instruction time, productivity and possibly even lives were lost due to the poor condition of the roads.

In addition to our Naga cultural experiences, we visited some plots of land in the surrounding villages which HelpLive India was considering purchasing to establish a school campus and develop agricultural businesses to help sustain their operations. We also visited some potential locations for another business opportunity in downtown Dimapur. Seeing the land and storefronts helped us better envision what the school and businesses could look like. It made us excited for the vision, which in turn allowed us to encourage Kilang and his sister in their goals.

Kilang escorted us to a girls’ home, where we shared a meal with the kids and Esther taught the kids a worship song in Swahili. The director shared her powerful testimony about how she came to establish the home in the aftermath of a traumatic experience. She started with little more than a few rupees, but God has continued to bless her ministry by meeting the girls’ every need. The home is now expanding to a larger facility so that the number of girls being served can grow. Her testimony and continued success in ministry was truly a story of God turning brokenness into beauty.

Myles and I had no idea what to expect when we embarked on this trip. Honestly, we didn’t really even understand why HelpLive India was being established in the first place. Yet God met us by breaking our hearts for Nagaland so that He could mold us to reflect His heart for the Naga people. We now understand the need for the school Kilang and his sister are trying to start. We see the bigger picture and the ways God is calling Kilang’s family to shape the next generation into men and women of integrity. That alone was worth the trip.

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