Part 2: Couple Finds Mission Work Rewarding
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part story, focusing on Tyler and Dani Jackson’s backpacking trip through Europe and two-month stay at an orphanage in India. Part one appeared in Thursday’s Republican-Times.
by Ronda Lickteig
R-T News Writer
When Galt native Tyler Jackson and his wife Dani decided to use his study-abroad stipend to travel across Europe, they also knew they wanted to spend part of their time working at a Christian mission.
“We had both graduated in May and we knew Dani was going to start nursing school in January, so we would have a few free months. We didn’t have to go directly to work,” Tyler said.
The couple said they really felt led to work in the mission field in some capacity, having a desire to get their “feet wet” and see if that was something God might have in store for them. It took a while for their plans to come into focus, but once they did, the couple was pretty sure God was in it.
Since Dani had already been to Kenya and had a contact there, the couple thought that might be a good destination, but nothing seemed to be working on the timeline in which they needed it to work.
“They kept just asking for more and more paperwork and they would take a long time to reply. We were running out of time and needed to get something in place,” Tyler said.
The couple knew they wanted to go to a less-developed country and work with children, something they both enjoy, but determining the location for that work was becoming a problem.
Then Dani used the internet search engine Google to search for “mission opportunities in India.” An advertisement came up on the right side of the screen and she clicked on it. It ended up actually being a blog about the New Hope Children’s Homes. They read through the information and saw that the home had mission opportunities. They sent an email and got a response a couple of hours later that the pastor, George Fernandes, was out of town, but that they would get in touch with him. It also included information about what to know when visiting India. Pastor George contacted them within a couple of days and in less than it week, the plan was in place!
The children’s homes are part of Helping Hands India, which was started in 2001 by Pastor George and his wife, Jyothi. In addition to offering a seminary school, helping care for widows and the elderly and starting churches, the organization has as it’s main focus the children’s homes. Tyler and Dani were in Bangalore much of the time they were in India and that is where the main home, which serves 52 children, is located (three other homes provide for 134 other children in some capacity). In the beginning, Pastor George and Jyothi began taking children into their own one bedroom home and since then, the couple has made huge sacrifices to be able to care for the children – moving often to provide space for more children, selling their car, sacrificing time with their own children to take care of paperwork and office details.
Most of the children have at least one parent living, with the other one having died or left the family, making it difficult for the other parent to provide for them. The alternative to an orphanage would often be selling the child – either for work or the sex slave industry.
The couple loved spending time with the children and, although they taught English and a first aid class, they often felt like they were the ones who were learning. In particular, they were touched by the Indians’ ability to put aside the distraction of material possessions in favor of what’s really important. Dani wrote of this in her blog:
“We were playing a game called Lock and Key (kind of like freeze tag except you can freeze yourself to be safe from the “it”), and I was it (for the 63rd time). I was chasing a girl named Revathi around, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something fall to the ground. I glanced around and realized one of Revathi’s earrings was missing. I yelled for everyone to stop and began looking, and after about literally 10 seconds of looking for it, Revathi simply said, “Leave it. Come on, leave it.” I was shocked by this proclamation and was determined to find it. When I finally did, I saw that it had somehow been broken. When I showed it to her and told her how sorry I was, she said, ‘‘It really is no matter. Come Aunty, let’s play!’’
This rocked me back on my heels. I don’t wear much jewelry, but I do love earrings and have a pretty impressive collection. Even with my many pairs, I would still be sad if one were lost and would at least try to find it; if one were broken I would definitely be sad and want to try and fix it. Yet here I am in India with 50 children, anywhere from 4 to 18 years old, each whose meager worldly possessions amount to three or four outfits, a backpack and their school books, a comb, a toothbrush, and a random toy or two (and for the girls maybe one pair of earrings), who are not corrupted by the false belief that we must surround ourselves with things to be happy. I know many Christians even who mean well but still try to hold tightly to whatever we own in this world; heck, I’m guilty of it. It is so easy to be enamored with the things of this world: cars, homes, jobs, toys, favorite shirts, movie collections, jewelry, even things like household appliances (have you ever met a woman who doesn’t cherish her KitchenAid?). But in the eyes of the Lord, little is much. The less we have, the less distracted we can be by our possessions. The more focused we are on what’s important, the more we are able to further the kingdom of God.”
The couple came to feel like they were in the right place at the right time. They tell the story of an inspector who threatened to close down the home in Bangalore or at least remove the girls, whose room was too small, and six children who were there from another state. Pastor George was to be at a hearing on Monday to plead their case and ask for additional time to meet the requirements, but they all knew it was possible he would return without the six children and a mandate to vacate the girls who were living in the home. This is how Dani describes that time in her blog:
“All day Sunday we worked and prayed, trying to get files in order and do as much as we could before George’s council meeting on Monday. All we were asking was for 10 days to get any necessary paperwork and make any changes needed to the children’s home itself. But there was a very real possibility that he would return from the hearing without those 6 kids and a mandate to vacate the girls from the home. George actually heard from someone that the woman who had come to inspect them told another children’s home that New Hope was already closed. Staff fasted, prayed, and wept, and we were all so afraid of what might happen. Even the children fasted and prayed and went to school crying on Monday morning for fear of 6 of their brothers not being there when they returned. It was such a stressful time for all of us, but even in this time of darkness and fear, George still remained confident that God’s will would be done, that there was power in our prayers to make the devil flee, and that whatever happened, God would still be on His throne and taking care of them.
Tyler and I finally got a phone call around 3 in the afternoon on Monday. All George said was, “We won the game. We’re coming home.” We all gathered in the office to hear what had happened, and everyone wept tears of joy when George said that the woman who had been there on Saturday, making nasty accusations and aggressively questioning the staff, said very few words, and when she did speak, she was very polite. We praised the Lord when he told us that the man who was overseeing the hearing took one look at the children he had with him and the files he’d brought with him and said, “I don’t need to see any more. These children are obviously cared for, and you may have your 10 days to get everything in order.” It was such a time of joy, but all the attention and praise was immediately pointed away from George and towards the Lord. He made it clear that it was only because of God’s power, love, and grace that the inspectors had mercy and allowed for time to correct the things that needed attention. That evening we had a celebration to thank God and rejoice for His answer to prayer: we prayed, we sang, we laughed, and we all had dinner together.’
“Time after time we had more affirmation that we were here for a purpose and not just for a short-term need,” Dani explained.
And that’s where the couple finds themselves now: wanting to help Pastor George and his team meet the long-term needs of those in India, especially the orphans. When they returned home to the states earlier this month, they arrived with a desire to stay connected to the mission and do work for it in the states.
Tyler said he will be looking for a “real” job but right now he is helping work on the Helping Hands India website and setting up sponsorships for those who wish to help the children, as well as other pastors who are working in India. His primary goal is to help meet with their monthly financial needs. Part of that project will be finding sponsors for a child – or a pastor – for $29 a month. Tyler, who said he doesn’t really like to speak in public, has had many opportunities to share their story and will continue to do so as he is asked.
Dani will begin nursing school at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis in the winter and said she would love to set up a clinic to help the Indians.
Beyond that, the couple is going to wait and see where God leads them.
“I need to get a solid salary until I can figure out what I’m doing,” Tyler said. “I learned a lot from Pastor George and one of those things is that God will provide. There’s a meaning to ‘daily bread’.”
The couple will be sharing about their experience at the Galt Christian Church at 10 a.m. on Sunday, with Tyler providing the morning sermon at 11 a.m. To read Dani’s blog about their entire trip, “Awake My Soul” go to www. jacksonstravels.blogspot.com. For more information on how to sponsor a child or assist the Helping Hands India ministry, contact Tyler at email@example.com or (314) 435-8324.
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