by Marcie York

You might ask why I dropped all my plans for February, flew for 16 hours straight through 14 time zones, drove 500 miles through northern India daily embraced the exhilarating, jaw-dropping driving that characterizes that country, and was content with only one very quick, very cold shower in 7 days.

 Nothing could stop me from revisiting the precious people of the Exodus Presbyterian Church of India, to reconnect with their congregations and their schools. It has been my privilege to serve this tenacious, joy-filled people as they push through the glass ceiling of their position as Dalits, “untouchables”, in the culture of India.

Thirty-five years ago, with a two-pronged emphasis on faith and education, former First Presbyterian Church member Philip Prasad returned to India to call his people to hope through faith in Jesus Christ, and to a way up and out of their oppression through education.

I was swept up into Witnessing Ministries of Christ six years ago, after retiring from my years as Director of Children’s Ministry at FPC. Today, three trips to India later, I have the joy of meeting monthly, via Skype, with staff and pastor’s wives, teachers and other women of the church for Bible study, spiritual formation and leadership development.

On our recent trip, we spent two nights at the spiritual center of the ministry, which includes the seminary and living quarters for future pastors and their families. This center is the heart of the church, where small congregations gather together for worship, fellowship, and training. The Skype sessions that Pastor Roy Pope and I lead are part of regular staff-led trainings for those in church and school leadership. During our stay, Roy and I had the joy of joining them in their regular training and giving our sessions live!

 Three years ago, when I began to Skype with the women, they were silent, stiff and uncertain. Women had never before met together to study the Bible. Today they are 

relaxed and relational, joyous and talkative, eager to grow in their faith! As I visited with many of them on our travels, I saw they are taking what we are learning together from God’s Word and discipling their children at home, evangelizing and discipling the women in the villages that they visit, and the students in the schools where they teach. We also traveled to four of the school centers, each with classes for elementary through high school students. Three of these centers have facilities for residential students, teenagers who live too far away to come and go daily. Each school center serves up to 46 villages, and buses go out daily, bringing children in, turning around and going back out for more.

  I had the joy of visiting the school center where “our” shiny new bus, donated by FPC, makes these daily trips. The power of this simple ministry cannot be overestimated. It is at school that a Dalit child first experiences the shame and degradation of being untouchable. Because of the safe, Christ-centered environment in which they learn, these students are thriving, vibrant with hope and the prospect of a bright future. Dedicated staff teach and disciple diligently the next generation of “salt and light” to their downtrodden people. Fun fact... included in the staff “job description” at this center is to daily drive out the monkey population that invades the school each night!