their stories

"We're not like these people. We shouldn't pretend we are. The stories these people have to tell, we're not entitled to them. . ." "You say their stories, it is a gift they give you."

"A gift, yes."

-Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed 


DSC_1590 DSC_1597 DSC_1612 DSC_1628

DSC_1583 DSC_1600 These beautiful young girls have come from unbearably horrific pasts. Some were born into the brothels where their mothers worked, and others were given as sacrifices to the temples for men to use.  They have been rescued from those hopeless situations and are being given a second chance at life.

As you can see, these girls are still very young. They are now living in an all girls home where they go to school, get medical care, and are shown the love and nurturing that they need to grow up feeling valued. They have joyful smiles and were so eager to love us when we went to visit them! They attacked us with hugs and a chorus of "Hello didi! how are you!?"

Each of them have a special story to tell, and it's our prayer that they grow up to become victors of their pasts.  Getting to know these children has been such a gift, and I share their stories in hopes that they will touch the hearts of others in the way that they have touched ours at Ashraya Mission.

If you would like to learn more about these young ladies and how you can help them, read this blog post on Ashraya Mission's site. Their home is currently undergoing some final, but very important stages of construction and you have the opportunity to help their house become a home.


A Valentine's Day post: A Servant’s Love

The following post is one I wrote for the Ashraya Blog today and can also be viewed here. :) It has been a beautiful day here in Northern India.  We woke up to fluffy white snowflakes falling gracefully from the sky that together coated the ground  in the most heavenly of ways.


I slowly hiked the slushy roads to the bazaar, passing no one except the ‘coolies’ transporting groceries and other goods up and down the mountain to the people who ordered them- by foot. I am always impressed by their work. Single men sometimes carrying refrigerators or washing machines strapped to their backs.

As I anxiously watched these dedicated men with calculated steps trudge through the slippery snow, I was reminded of a quote by Mother Teresa:

“Love has a hem to her garment that reaches the very dust. It sweeps the streets and lanes, and because it can, it must.”

These men take on this laborious work many times because they have no other choice. Uneducated and without knowing how to read or write, they set out each day to support their families by carrying heavy loads that leave them hunchbacked and exhausted. Now that’s love.

The love of a devout servant is the most powerful love of all. It’s unrequited and  sacrificial. It doesn’t flash like the commercialized love of Valentine’s Day. It is quiet and unnoticed, but glorified by the One who loves us the most.

We at Ashraya Mission challenge you all (and ourselves!) to fill this Valentine’s Day with quiet acts of love like described by Mother Teresa. Love not because we can, but because we must.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

a return to INDIA, II

We are not called to live comfortable lives.  We are called to "ask justly, love mercy, and walk humbly," Micah 6:8.  In doing so, we can't expect to always have access to the conveniences many of us [westerners] are used to having in our daily lives- cozy homes, hot water, convenient transportation systems, reliable communication and internet, laundry machines and dishwashers, etc.  We are called to live outside of our familiar bubbles and be the light and reflection of Christ, to all nations. As I prepare to head back to India in just over two months I think about how 'uncomfortable' of a culture it can be to live in.  As a white western female, maneuvering the streets of India can always be a bit dodgy.  The locals stare, a lot. Particularly the men. Many of the areas I have spent time in are not accustomed to hosting foreign visitors, it always seems to be a bit of a shock to people to see an American girl with light skin and light hair sharing the same road or occupying space at the same samosa stand as they are.

We took the kiddos to a local park in Delhi one day. You can see a crowd of spectators gathered to watch us hang out. They stood around us in a formed circle, not saying anything, just staring. Photo snapped by KB.

In general, living conditions in India are not as easy as the states. It's hard on the body.  The Indian air is polluted and smoggy.  The humidity in the summer is almost unbearable.  The streets (yes, even in Delhi) are lined with gutters that flow with human waste.  The tap water is undrinkable to us soft-stomached Americans, and the dusty streets make it nearly impossible for you to stay clean.  I have been lucky only to have experienced the infamous 'Delhi belly' to a small degree, and the only other 'illness' I have suffered as a result of my Indian travels has been head lice.  Which is a funny story I will have to tell you at another time, and don't worry- I got rid of it.

To live in India you have to be willing to do unglamorous things. Like sticking your entire arm into a sink filled with curdled milk to unclog a drain, or walking along streets that large mammals use as the toilet, or spending hours at the market trying to track down ingredients to "whatever that dish was we ate the other day", or being looked at like you're an idiot for trying to do business as a female. You have to be willing to give up any and all personal space.  (It's a country with 1.2 billion people. Just think about it.) To live in India you have to throw out every expectation you've ever made about what a toilet should be. Because in India, more often  than not, it's a literal hole in the ground.  You have to be willing to be woken up at night by the sound of trucks, with no suspension, filled with rocks, go hurtling down pot-holed streets outside your window. You basically have to learn how to ignore anything that your senses don't find appealing.

But those are all just little things.

I am more than willing to deal with these little nuances so that I can skip down the smelly, dusty streets and bang on the steel doors of Asha Mission. The sound of dozens of shuffling feet and voices saying "Hannah didi" before they unlock the doors to greet me is enough to fill me with a week's worth of joy.

I am more than willing to step out of my comfortable life in middle Tennessee and into an environment where I am the  foreigner, where I'm the one gawked at like a weirdo so I can help give a voice and a platform to stories that otherwise might not be heard.  I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to continue working with Ashraya Mission. What I learned from my three months working with them in the fall of 2012 is more than I will ever be able to articulate.  To continue on the journey, as the home grows and changes with every season God leads us through, is surely an opportunity I will not take for granted.

So, here's to living outside of our comfort zones. To not knowing what the days or weeks ahead may hold. To acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.


*I am raising funds to make my upcoming trip possible. If you would like to learn more about how you could support me or donate,  head over to the DONATE tab at the top of this page.