They eat the same curry and rice every day, they own only a handful of possessions, and they sleep on a concrete floor with a thin sheet-like blanket for covers. Many don’t have shoes, and they have only a few clothes. Yet, they are grateful beyond words for having it, and they are some of the most joy-filled people on earth.
I took my 5th trip to India in November to visit several homes for orphans and widows. When we arrived, the warm Indian hospitality was evident immediately in the red-carpet welcome they offered us. They showered us with numerous flower garlands, gave us the VIP treatment, and served us specially prepared dishes.
My first two-week trip to India was in 2011. Since then, I have seen my heart soften toward the poorest of the poor in that country.
In India, a woman is respected only if she is a mother, daughter and wife. Hindu widows are shunned after their husbands die; they are considered back luck, and they cannot remarry. They are no longer welcome in the homes of those who once loved them, and their presence at family functions is forbidden. Millions of widows end up on the streets with no means to support themselves. They aren’t the only ones with a desperate need.
India also has millions of orphaned children. When professional trumpeter, Don Shire, toured the country in 2006, he began working to help pastors in India meet a great need for food and shelter for widows and orphans. Since 2001, when he launched Don Shire Ministries, Shire has ministered in 35 countries, and has partnered with local Christian churches and pastors to establish and maintain homes for widows and orphans in India, Haiti and Honduras.
In 2010, I became acquainted with the ministry through a mission cruise led by Don Shire Ministries. What started with a response to a financial need for providing food for the widows, became so much more. It changed my heart.
At Hay Creek Companies, we manufacture commercial pallets and we recycle scrap pallets into wood fuel pellets, mulch and animal bedding. We decided to become part of meeting a need in India by providing funds toward building a home for women and children, and for daily living needs. We have essentially invited our customers to become part of meeting that need, too. A percentage of every purchase of wood pellets goes to people in India through Don Shire Ministries and we talk about the ministry on our website and social media.
This is about so much more than providing for physical needs. One widow told me that since she has come to the home, she has learned of a God who loves her and cares for her. She said for the first time in her life she is loved and being cared for and is part of a community that cares for each other.
We interacted with hundreds of women and children on our visit in November. We had the opportunity to serve them meals, worship with them, watch the children perform the dramas they had prepared for us, and to play with the kids, too.
God has broken my heart for the people of India. They were once a people I very much disliked. Anyone who goes on a mission trip is changed. You’re living for a greater purpose. You see how little things can make a great difference in other people’s lives and in the kingdom of God. Living the gospel and sharing the gospel changes lives, especially your own.
As I have helped provide for needs of people in India, they have changed my life in ways they will never know—as if they have somehow become part of my DNA. I challenge everyone I meet to consider how they are part of something bigger than themselves.
Whether it’s here or on the other side of the world, there are people who need to know they are loved and valued. The best way to make your life matter is to make sure you make every life matter.
By Tom Gardner, President of Hay Creek Companies