Smita was brought up in the Roman Catholic church with her understanding of religion being very ritualistically based…rosaries, prayers….no concept of a personal relationship with Christ. When a pastor came to her remote village, she and her family were introduced to the person of Christ and their lives were forever changed. Almost all of her family came to know the Lord. Smita graduated, married young and moved to Shevgaon with her husband who was a pastor in ministry. A few years after the birth of their son, her husband grew ill, became bedridden and eventually died.
Smita describes the subsequent months as unbearable and the biggest test in her life. Hopelessness struck her. To be a widow in this society is a sentence to a very difficult life! Faced with the decision to go back to a secular job to earn a living to provide for herself and her son, God met her in a unique way and reassured her of His plan for her life and that she had not been abandoned. She took comfort in the promise in Proverbs that “I will guide your way.” She made up her mind to remain in ministry and carry on her husbands legacy even as a single, widowed female.
When asked at school “where is your dad”, her young 7 year old son Jacob would reply “The Lord in my Father”. Smita can see that even in such devastation, God has used this loss to strengthen her son’s faith and dependance on God. Her testimony of strength and calling also ministered to so many other widows and victims of loss in her community.
Smita explains that her concept of church has evolved as a result of SCP influencing her life. “Before, it was go to a building and attend a service….intimacy with God was a new concept introduced through SCP” she tells me. As a result of the SCP values being implemented in her church, they have seen 24 leaders raised up who have planted house churches and taken Christ into their 4 villages and evangelized them.
Amol has been instrumental in founding the Place of Refuge home for orphaned and abused children. Loosing his own father (an elecrtician) to a fatal shock 14 years ago no doubt has been a compelling thrust for his heart to minister to fatherless children.
Amol comes from a home where his mom was Christian and his dad was Hindu. At one point, Amol began the process of becoming a Roman Catholic priest, but God has had His hand on Amols life and began drawing him to Himself. A visiting pastor to his region shared a bible with Amol who began studying the Word of God and became convinced that Jesus was who He said he was. Amol gave his life to Christ.
4 years ago, Amol was invited to be apart of the SCP work in India. He says that the values emphasized through SCP resonated so deeply with his vision all along which was to take Jesus everywhere. “SCP brought words to what I was already doing…..a true Acts 5 model”.
Her childhood was anything but stable. Gia’s dad came from affluent Bollywood and all that implies. Her parents ran away and had a court marriage when they became pregnant with Gia, considered aborting her. Gia was delivered into a family with intense clashed between her mom’s catholic family and her dad’s muslim background. Neither side of the family accepting of the marriage or welcoming of Gia. Even as a toddler, Gia remembers the carousing, drinking, orgies, gambling and fast living in her home that were the backdrop for her childhood.
From the ripe age of 4, Gia remembers feeling demonic presence in the house. Her fear would intensify whenever the muslim call of prayer would take place. When she was 5 years old, Gia remembers standing at the window when the call for prayer went up. She remembers crying out “I want to know the truth. I want to know the Truth”. At that moment, she had a vision of Jesus standing beside her and the fear was washed away. “I understood immediately that there was power in the name of Jesus. Not in the Koran. Not in Islam. Not in Allah.” For the first time that night, she had no fear of the dark and sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit with her.
And while she carried Truth with her, Gia’s life was about to go from bad to worse. At 6 years old, Gia was thrown out of the house by her father. Her mom, finally tiring of his chasing after other women, walked out on the family. The society places value on boys over girls, so Gia’s dad kept Gia’s little brother and turned her out on the street telling her to go find her mother. “I felt no fear because I knew Jesus was with me. I felt joy and freedom to follow Jesus with no Islam in my life”.
Indian kids grow up with a kind of street-smart that is inconceivable to us in the west. Gia found her mom and lived with her. When her mom got a job teaching at a Christian boarding school, Gia was provided with the opportunity to get a Christian education.
As a young adult, Gia met her future husband Aun. Her dream of a white wedding in a church was not an option. Aun at this time was a Bohra Muslim and it didn’t take long for their unequally yolked religions to wreak havoc on their marriage.
Gia laments that she had two abortions during this time. Not wanting to bring children into the mess of her marriage, she was deceived into thinking that she was protecting her babies by ending their lives. And yet, even with so much devastation, broken relationships and woundedness, God had a plan for redemption and to use Gia’s testimony for good in her life and for Gods glory!
Desiring to honor God with her marriage even as bad as it was, Gia prayed fervently for her husband, fasting and asking God to bring him to Himself. Gia says “I learned to be quiet and just pray”. Humbly and with his permission, Gia would pray for him when he had ulcers and migraines….and immediately he would be healed. In time, Aun committed his life to the Lord and God blessed them with 3 children, Nathaniel, Nathan and Abigail.
Aun and Gia moved 17 times in 25 years of marriage – evangelizing neighborhoods wherever they went. 5 years ago, they were introduced to Saturation Church Planting. Before this time, their frame of reference for church planting was constructing a building….which didn’t resonate with their hearts. With tears in her eyes, Gia shared how influential SCP has been to them to be able to equip their people with the values of intimacy with God and how to use their giftings and grace story. She describes it as transformational.
“SCP brought words to our doings” says Aun.
They elaborated that SCP provided authentic relationships with leadership who offered direction and mentoring and a safe place to grow.
The concept of “church planting” became transformed lives for Christ rather than a constructed buildings to gather people.
Out of this home, God has used these willing vessels as key instruments to see his Church flourish. Aun and Gia, knowing that travel is impossible for the people in the Bandra slums in Mumbai, have positioned themselves among those people. They live on the outskirts of the slums where they can daily interact with these people and minister to them. From their congregation that meets in a shack down a sketchy alleyway, they have raised up women and men who have gone back to their slums and planted churches. Additionally, these passionate believers have taken Christ back to their villages of origin and seen them evangelized for Christ.