by Lynn Cowell, author and speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries
Emerging from the van, the stench pushed me back. Having never witnessed deep poverty like this before, the raw sewage and animal waste filling the trench-lined streets caught me off guard. Even the fumes couldn’t extinguish my excitement to experience firsthand the life change God was bringing to small, slum communities through the work of Mission India.
Steps from our vehicle, our Mission India host, Josh, led us to the home we were invited to visit.
Slipping off my shoes, I stepped across the threshold and there she stood. Strong. Beaming.
The soft, delicate, blush-shaded sari swirled around her slender frame as Sunita stood at the entrance greeting us. Her gentle, yet sparkling eyes twinkled as a smile swept her sun-worn face.
Her grace in this residence of deprivation, her loveliness amidst the stench of sewage and sights of scarcity, were so out of place. This woman, now recognized in her community as a leader, is a woman who helps brings change. This was not always her story.
Unable to read or perform basic math, Sunita had been trapped in poverty. Sunita is a part of a social class that for centuries told those in it that they are worth less than nothing. Hundreds of millions of Indians have been trapped in poverty, simply because of the origin of their birth.
Her culture told her of another strike against her: she is a woman. She has no value; she is an untouchable.
Then several years ago, Sunita was invited to an Adult Literacy Class by Mission India, where she would be given the one thing she had never experienced: opportunity. She took it.
In this Adult Literacy Class, Sunita gained the power to read and calculate, and she met Jesus. Her life was transformed.
Through the Adult Literacy Class, the lies spoken over her and to her were slowly stripped away. Sunita began to see just how the One True God saw her, as His precious daughter, His bride, the one He was compelled by love to come for.
This was what I saw beaming through Sunita’s smile and the joy radiating from her eyes. Eyes that before would have only looked at the ground now could look me eye-to-eye.
Through our translator, we began to hear her story. With this new and powerful knowledge of Christ, she became an informal teacher, bringing her newfound hope to the poor in her slum. When five families in her community came to know Christ, she was inspired to become a project manager, overseeing five Adult Literacy Classes.
The confidence Sunita found in Christ was contagious. Sitting in the classroom that afternoon, I could see the same sparkle on the faces of the beautiful Indian students in that room. They had gained knowledge; they could read to their children and calculate their costs at the market. But they were obtaining so very much more: confidence in their newfound identity as the bride of Christ.
What changed Sunita was truth. Truth changed the way she thought about herself and when her thinking changed, she changed.
On September 8th, we celebrate International Literacy Day, commemorating those in India who have gained this same confidence through becoming literate. There still are many Indians to yet experience this opportunity though. In fact, 273 million adults in India remain illiterate.
What if, next year on International Literacy Day, one more adult in India could read and write because of you? Click here to give the gift of Bible-based education.