I returned to the United States with India temporarily tattooed on my hand, but permanently ingrained on my heart.
Meeting up with my brothers in Mumbai was definitely a highlight of my trip, but the real miracle happened when our team left the city. After spending a few days amidst the poverty and pain of Mumbai, the lush, green haven called Ashagram washed over me. I sensed immediately what one of the former street boys confirmed only a few hours later: “This is a healing place.”
I know that it’s a healing place for those who were rescued from the darkness of the streets of Mumbai, but I also believe that each one of my team members experienced that healing in one way or another.
The term “beauty from ashes” has never meant so much to me. The hungry street boys I saw in Mumbai… I met them at Ashagram. Their eyes were aglow with the saving power of Jesus’ love. The prostitutes I saw lingering outside the brothels… I met them too. They smiled, they laughed, they praised the God who rescued them from darkness. And as I entered into a beautiful night of worship while a young man named Sunil played his guitar, I discovered the true meaning of the word redemption. How was it possible that this extravagant worshiper could be the drug addict he claimed he once was?
Just when I was wondering if the hand of God was so clearly seen in my own life, one of the boys slipped me a note that read:
Do you know that you are my very close friend i ever have. Friendship is like love. and love never end. an love not take record of rong. you are love.
Though I wished I could have stayed much longer, I’m content to leave on that note. I figure that if that was the conclusion Santosh came to after my nine-day stay at Ashagram, I did what I went there to do. And I experienced the beauty of redemption in a way I never knew that I could.
Three weeks from today, I’ll be boarding a plane to India where I’ll visit a ministry that works in the world’s largest red light district. Their vision: to see an end to sex slavery. Their mantra: Set Beautiful Free.
In light of this upcoming trip, I was delighted to find that the new sermon series at my church is on beauty. It’s like God’s four week training session on what it truly means to set beautiful free. Though I feel like lavishing love upon the women of Kamathipura’s red light district is a great place to start, I’ve become increasingly aware of the beauty that needs to be released right here in my own hometown.
We’re not living up to our full potential. We’re not truly letting beauty run free in our lives. Many of us don’t even see the beauty of our lives because we’re so concerned with the pain of the ugly. But beauty is there.
Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Did you hear that? That’s beautiful. God delights over you. He finds joy in you. The very thought of you is enough to put a song in His heart. He finds you breathtakingly beautiful and absolutely amazing. Trust me, He would have made you a different way if He thought something about you wasn’t perfect.
Like a butterfly emerging from his cocoon, God yearns to draw beauty out of our lives. He longs to call forth the lovely creation He fashioned in each of our souls. But only when we embrace the beauty – when we are able to see what God sees in us – will we be able to spread our wings and float on the gentle melody of His love.
As I walk among the people who have dedicated their lives to setting beautiful free in the city of Mumbai, I pray that you too will set beautiful free. May your heart be filled with the passion of your Father’s love, and may you truly be freed to fly in the fullness of His grace.
Dream big dreams. And set beautiful free.