ISRAEL - ONE STORY, ONE LIFE
I was born in India to a family at Wadalla Station. I was the 2nd of 3 sons. My memories of my father were that he loved me very much. He was a hard worker, but he also had a problem with alcohol and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. When I was just 5 years old, my father died of tuberculosis and alcoholism. After he died, that moment and that time in my home things were very hard for my family because there was no food, and no money. The feeling was very desperate in my home and I decided to run away from my home.
I ran away and went to the VT train station (a very big train station in Mumbai), and I made some bad friends and they taught me how to use drugs, and about stealing and begging. I did all kinds of bad things. I used to sleep in the street, and the begging money I used for drugs. I ate food that was thrown in the garbage.
During those years on the street, it was not easy to live. There were many days that I was so hungry that I did not think I was going to make it. There were times living in the street that young street boys would eat something similar to what you call white out. It helped make your stomach not hurt so much from hunger and you would feel full, but it was not good for my body. One time, I fell off of the top of a building running from someone, and broke my arm. Although I went to a free clinic, my arm did not heal properly and I still have trouble to this day with being able to lift things, and it causes me pain at different times throughout the year. I lived this way, just trying to survive, for 8 years on the streets of Mumbai.
One day, I met someone from the Bombay Teen Challenge staff. They operated a feeding van, and they asked me to come to their center. I said no, because many centers in India do bad things to children, both physical beating and sexual abuse and drugs. The staff was aware of these problems and they told me their center was very different; that they would give me love, shelter, and a good education. They asked me many times, and one day I said yes, I will try. I went to Bombay Teen Challenge and stayed a year. I ran away again from that center, and went back on the streets. Then God gave me a second chance. Bombay Teen Challenge asked me to try again, and at fourteen, I came back and tried again. They kept their promises to me and I went to church, and I decided I am going to give my life to God. I felt God’s healing and His love, and I decided I am going to follow God. I had lived on the streets for 8 years, and it was a very hard life. God gave me a new life. He healed me.
I never dreamed I would come to the US. But in 2010, God chose me to come to the US with a group from Bombay Teen Challenge. I also never dreamed that God had a family waiting for me in Virginia. I was totally surprised to be coming to the US, and one of His great blessings for me was putting me in the Walden family. When I went back to India, my American mom and I stayed in contact and Mom promised that when I finished my final exams, they would fly me back to the US to celebrate. I worked very hard for that. Mom came to visit me in India in late 2010.
In the summer of 2012, I began the work on my passport and visa to be able to come back to the US after my exams in October. My visa/passport work was very hard work. Traveling back and forth on the train, with the trains so crowded and hot was very difficult. I also faced so many struggles with police officers regarding my passport, because of my background, and because of the various verifications needed to establish my identity. I was able to do it because God was with me. Nothing is impossible in front of God. I got my passport in October, and my visa on November 7, and flew to my Virginia home on November 8, 2012. My exams were a big miracle for me. All the passport traveling left me little time to study. The marks I received were a big accomplishment for me. It was the best I have ever done. God did this because it was the first time in my whole life I got such marks.
I want to preach in my life. Preaching for me is not worrying about what someone might say about me, behind me, or even in front of me. I just preach what God wants me to say. Preaching for me is a very strong calling, and is about faith, love and passion. I am very passionate about preaching. I am going to preach like that from my heart. How can I preach? All I want in my life is to preach. It is not about saying good words as much as it is about your heart being clean. If you are going to be preaching, you need to be sure your heart is clean. Jesus died for us. That is what we preach. Same God, same words, no matter if it is for Indian or for American. What God asks you to preach, forget everything thing else and just do what He says. He is always there.
I talked about God giving me a new family in 2010, the Walden’s. They are why I have this opportunity to try to go University. I am just thankful that God has given me a new family. In my whole life, I never knew what a mother’s love is. I lived on the streets for 8 years, so long, and I never knew a mother's love. Now I know what it is like to be loved by a mother. I was not with any parents during those growing up years, and I never knew a parent's love. So God chose for me a new family. God wanted to show me what is a family love, a mother's love, a father's love and brother love. He put me in the Walden family. My mother's name is Susie, my father's name is Andy. My brothers are Drew and Matt, and they have beautiful wives, Becca and Jessie. My grandparents are Pop and Nini. I have a wonderful, big family and I am very thankful. They give me everything I need and want. They give me love like a CRAZY LOVE. The same way that God loves us, like a crazy man. He died for us because He loved us. It is very powerful for me the way my parents love me. That is the second miracle that God showed me; that He is faithful and true. He is showing His power to me by what he has done for me by giving me a family that is bigger than my dreams.
India may be a poor country, but it is not poor in front of God. I love India, it is my home country. I plan to live my life in India after college. I love my home country. Outside of India, the only places I want to visit are Israel (the country of my name) and Virginia, because my family is there. One of the most amazing things that has happened with my family is that in 2013, my mom and dad flew back to India with me, and they visited all the places with me that were the story of my life in India. One of the places I used to beg all of the time was at the McDonald’s nearby the VT station. Mom and Dad went with me there and, for the first time, I went inside and bought a meal for everyone.
My dream for my future is that I want to complete my biblical studies degree to become a pastor in India, and I want to work with children on the street helping them to find hope and a future for their lives. I thank Bombay Teen Challenge for saving my life and for keeping their promises to me about giving me love, shelter and a good education.
This is my story, Mom. Love you.
A Note from Susie about the intersection of Israel through Bombay Teen Challenge in my life…
In 2010, I headed up the 2nd XChange4Life visit from Bombay Teen Challenge to our church and placed each of the 12 boys in individual homes with families in our church. As I got the profiles and stories of each young man coming, I prayed about who would be God’s choice for placement in our home. As I looked at Israel’s picture, I found myself drawn to the kindness in his eyes and smile. And so, the journey of a lifetime began. Israel spent 4 weeks in our home for the first part of their trip, and then another week at the end of their trip. In that time, the only way to describe it is that we became family. Israel’s English speaking was not strong that first trip, but God was greater. We were able to communicate our hearts to one another, and by the time he left Virginia for India, we had a quiet understanding of hearts as mother and son. I knew he had some work to do when he got back to India, finishing up his high school education. My husband and I told him that when he passed his exams, we would fly him here for a celebration with his American family. That process took 2 years. In the meantime, I flew to India for the Bombay Teen Challenge 20th Anniversary Celebration in 2010, and was able to spend some time with Israel again, and then it would be from November, 2010, until November, 2012, before I saw him face to face again.
In those two years, Israel was faithful to reach out every 2 weeks by phone, by facebook, by skype occasionally to us here in Virginia. He never missed our birthdays, and was always praying for us. We also tried to be as faithful as possible to his special days, and birthdays and events in his life. It is very difficult to be family from India to America, but we did our best. Israel says I was his English teacher, and it is true that his English dramatically improved by 2012!
When Israel’s visa came through in 2012, and he arrived in November, we were absolutely thrilled. We have since discovered that Israel and I are so much alike in every way. We think and react almost the same way to most any situation. It is as if he was born to me, rather than an adoption of the heart. We both talk very fast, we are not morning people, we love a party for any reason, we share a love for God that has allowed us to wait until God opened the doors for Israel to live with us. Israel understands my heart for people and for ministry, and once he was in America, he very easily took his place in our family, as another son in our family.
He continued the work Sanjay started at Journey to Hope, and prayed with almost every single client that came to Journey to Hope between November, 2012, and February, 2013. He continues to pray for those clients to this very day. He participated in our small group and we had him preach every week, so he could practice his English and share his heart and love for Christ. He also served with us every month at the New Generation Homeless Shelter, and even preached there before we served the meal.
Israel had a desire to have us walk the story of his life with him back in India, so it was a great privilege to return to India with him in February, 2013, and visit the places along the way of his growing up years, and years on the streets and at the different centers in Bombay Teen Challenge. We even served with him at the very same feeding van where Bombay Teen Challenge reached out to him as a 13 year old boy on the street. We will never again be the same after walking this walk with him.
Since we have returned from India in 2013, we have been steadily working toward Israel’s future at University. As far as we are concerned, our commitment to Israel will stand for a lifetime. We have bright hopes for his future and pray for God to use him to turn India upside down for Christ. Blessings, Susie
For more information about Bombay Teen Challenge and all their ministries, please visit www.bombayteenchallenge.org