India’s Missing Girls – An Artistic Grandmother Speaks

A grandmother paints in expectation of the arrival of her baby girl grandchildren.

As a women from a country that values my gender, I am captivated by this image.

A grandmother from India lifts her paintbrush in honor of her daughters.  Shakuntala Patade
shows her desire to change the culture’s values and the way they see girls.

The painting speaks of her support; as her daughters prepare to bring life to two baby girls. Through art, Shakuntala Patade has challenged the common view that girls have less value than boys.

For more art that reflects the changing values of India, visit the website of Reflection Art Gallery.

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I am a #woman; this crime… punishable by

I am a #woman; this crime… punishable by death http://ow.ly/5vtoN

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Artistic Expressions

One of my favorite experiences while in India was a visit to the Reflection Art Gallery.   It was refreshing to my artistic soul to learn that creating beauty through multiple forms of art mediums can have meaning and purpose beyond what our eyes can see.  Art has the power to help in the healing process.  It is a way of discovery that opens your mind.  It has a major effect on the way a society thinks.  And it can be a means to begin a relationship with the loving Creator of the universe.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2: 10.  Imagine how this scripture speaks to the soul of an artist.  Workmanship in the original Greek text is written poiema meaning “that which is made.”  He has made us in His image and we were made to create!  So, for those of you who are artists; feel validated to be who God created you to be.  For those of us who don’t feel like we are artists, we could be believing a lie.  Every child at the age of 5 believes he is an artist.  What happened?

My Personal Story

In high school I loved to paint, draw and sculpt and I think I may have even been good at it.  I loved creating works of art and expressing myself in different ways!  Somewhere along the way I thought it was selfish to create art.  I thought the only one who would enjoy my creation was me.  In my mind that made art a selfish activity.  Besides, you can’t make money from it, right?  So, if you have a family, isn’t art just a self absorbed activity?  Or, so I thought.   All this self criticism led me to believe that the things I created were ugly and it just wasn’t worth my time.   I stopped creating.  Nothing good would come from this useless waist of time.

Now, here I am in India 25 years later, and God has given me the opportunity to express what He is saying to me through paint.   What a gift it was to learn how God uses art to communicate with people for healing, discovery, positive change, life, and and yes, even about Himself!

Art for Healing – Our Visit to a Girls Home

I don’t know that much about art therapy but, I’m learning that when used as a means to express the pain you can’t put words to, it can restore your soul.

On this trip we had the wonderful opportunity to visit a girls home where rehabilitation and restoration is happening!  Girls ranging in age from 12 – 17 have been rescued from the streets, saved from a life of prostitution, and are in the process of healing.  They are learning to express themselves and recover their worth in Christ.  Jesus values these young ladies; He has a plan and a purpose for their lives.  They are His poiema; His workmanship, created for the good works that God has planned for them!

We were there for about an hour as they showed us their art work.  They shared with us the plans they had for the future, through the skills training they are receiving, and they even sang us a song to show the joy they have in Jesus!  “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it,” echoed through the hallways of the concrete building where they live in a home hidden safe from harm.  We ended our time in prayer and tears!

Art for Social Change – Can Art Really Change the way a Society Thinks? 

Have you ever heard the statement, “Ideas have consequences?”  What consequence do you think would play out in a society that believes that girls have less worth?  Another question you might ask is, “What potential does art have to shape a society, and what do we believe about what it means to be human?”

Plato is claimed to have said: ‘Give me the songs of the nation, and it matters not who writes the laws.’  We heard about how Plato understood the power of art to shape and nurture society, and about how “Art comes at truth from an oblique angle, asking us to see things as if we had never seen them before” (quoting Steve Turner in his book “Imagine”).

During our visit to the Reflection Art Gallery we learn how ideas spread through a culture.  You may think that laws change a society, but change doesn’t begin there.  The transformation of a nation begins with its “intellectuals” through its priests, philosophers, and professors.  Ideas spread through a nation first through intellectuals and disseminates out to the culture through popular music and arts.   When the “Professionals” of a society grab hold of the idea then laws, politics and economics are influenced and then the idea takes hold of the common people; the public.

When the ideas of a culture (ideas that have negative consequences like, “girls have less worth”) take hold of a society, art, through films, songs, poems, and paintings, can be a strong medium to transform the mindsets of the people in a powerful but indirect way.  Beliefs change, behaviors change and people turn their nation back to justice and a concern for humanity.

‘Creative Conscience’ is a community of friends consisting of both amateur and professional artists who wrestle with issues that affect both them and society at large. What brings them together is their friendship and a shared love of art and the dignity and sanctity of human life. Once a year they pick an issue they struggle to understand, spend a week in intense community, reflection, and creativity, sharing the outcome with a larger audience through an exhibition. Past workshops have dealt with such issues as religious violence, female foeticide, and economic disparity.

Enter in to the gallery for a closer look! 

Art – Creative Engagement with the Good News

I live with a Christian world-view.  As such I believe in God’s perfect plan for creation, the fall of mankind that created a broken relationship with God and others, and for the restoration of everything through a Savior.  A Savior who gave His life to set in motion God’s plan of redemption.

I believe the Good News begins with the beautiful mind of a Creator who imagined all of creation and spoke it into existence.  Like art on a blank canvas, He created the moon and the stars, the birds and the trees, the mountains and the oceans and the pinnacle of His creation; mankind.
He created man and woman in His own image, in His image He created us!   “We were made to create, just like our Creator,” said the gallery director.  “Can you imagine how creative Adam had to be to name all the animals, each and everyone of them?”

Each of us has the ability to imagine and create. Through the ministry of art, the Good News is communicated to those who create and for those who enjoy it.   One example of an exhibit that depicts one man’s journey to discovery is found on the Reflection Art Gallery’s website.  I welcome you to take a look!

Before the Womb – Beyond the Tomb by Joshua Koodathinal John, “is a search to make sense of that little dash in the middle of the title; that bit we call ‘life’. The tendency is to stare at the ‘dash’ because to look before and beyond means awakening our inner self to infinity and eternity and towards the One who inhabits it.”

Joshua explains, “Once you’re born the busyness of life seems to make it irrelevant to ask the question: Am I more than a biological phenomena? Or, did my prototype exist in some cosmic sketchbook before I got woven together in my mother’s womb? Could a fearful and wonderful artist have done the impossible and make me out of thin air? Could He have then hidden away answers for me to discover through the course of my life?

Similarly, once someone dies it seems irreverent to question where our near and dear ones have gone. Surely they are somewhere nice, upgraded to the next level without lack? Our answers, however, not only reveal where we place our hope but they also determine our day-to-day decisions. ”

Art can lead us to know the One ingenious Creator, who created us, and into a deep relationship of love and interaction with Him!

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Salt of the Earth: A Call for the Local Church

As Jesus sat down with his disciples to teach them on the mountainside he said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13

There are 14,000 uses for salt!  Did you know that?  As I’ve reflected on this scripture in the past, it has always been my impression that Jesus was referring to the “flavor” his followers should add to the culture and community that surrounded them.  But salt goes so much deeper than just adding flavor to our food; it has Kingdom principles that can be associated with many of it’s practical uses too.

Salt and Old Testament Covenant

I’ve recently learned of the “Salt Covenant” in the Old Testament (Leviticus 2:13, Numbers 18:19 & 2 Chronicles 13:5.)  The covenant of salt had several aspects;

1. It makes that which is of bad taste or no taste palatable.
2. It binds people together or people to God.
3. It speaks of preservation.
4. It speaks of healing.
5. It speaks of purifying.
6. It speaks of its continuance.
7. It speaks of loyalty.

(http://www.wholeperson-counseling.org/grace/salt_covenant.html)

More Salt for thought: 

  • Salt was once so valuable it was used as money. The word salary comes from the salt used to pay soldiers who were “worth their salt.” Soldier comes from the French word solde, meaning to pay, which was derived from the Latin word for salt sal.
  • The adult humans have about three or four saltshakers’ worth of sodium chloride in their bodies. “Chloride is essential for digestion and in respiration. Without sodium, which the body cannot manufacture, the body would be unable to transport nutrients or oxygen, transmit nerve impulses, or move muscles, including the heart.
  • To the Egyptians, salt was not only necessary for life, but for life after death. Mummies were kept because eternal life could be maintained best with a preserved body. Packed in salt for 70 days, the Egyptian dead would dry out and be preserved for the next life.
  • On Friday nights, Jews dip the Sabbath bread in salt. In Judaism, bread is a symbol of food, which is a gift from God, and dipping the bread in salt preserves it—keeps the agreement between God and his people. Loyalty and friendship are sealed with salt because its essence does not change.
  • The Quest Study Bible explains that salt typifies the allegiance to Jesus required to be a disciple. But another understanding might be that Christians are the evidence, the proof, of God’s continuing care for humanity. If through Jesus, God provided salvation for the world, then the church might be the visible seal of that offer for eternal life.

( Excerpts taken from Christianity Today review of the book “Salt : A world history” by Mark Kurlansky, published by Penguin books.)

Being Salt of the earth

So what did Jesus mean when he told his disciples (and us!) to be the “salt of the earth”? Did he mean for us to add flavor to the community and world that surround us?  I do believe that is part of it…but it doesn’t end there.   The church, where ever she is, should be a source of hope to all nations.  She should be the transforming agent of change that purifies, preserves, provides healing and proves loyal, through God’s grace, to those she serves in Jesus’ name.   She is also called to connect people and bind them to God.

The Good News doesn’t stop with a message of salvation.  The Gospel is meant to be good news for all aspects of life; spiritual, physical, social, emotional and intellectual.  The Gospel is meant to be good news for the “whole” person; all people, all nations (tribes and tongues).  Jesus came to reconcile all of creation to a healthy, connected, right relationship with God as He had originally intended life to be.

Being Salt for all aspects of life

As a religion, Christianity often deals only with the spiritual aspect of our being.  As a “relationship”, our beliefs ought to impact all of who we are and extend to the societies that surround us.

In India, in a region where they give the most towards evangelical missions, dowry is still practiced; even within the church.  The practice of dowry puts a price tag on the boy and a heavy financial burden on the girl’s family; de-valuing them both and creating a practice that causes harm to girls.  (There are many manifestations of “harm” caused by this practice, as shared with me by local nationals, but that will be saved for another article.)  Is the good news only for my personal salvation?  Or, is the Gospel message “good news” for the girl child child that lives in a Christian home too?  What does it mean for the church to be “salt” in a community where dowry is a an age old cultural practice?

What impact could working with local churches, transforming mindsets and ideas,  have on a nation?  In one city in India, I found a group who is seeking restoration in their local community to change the way society thinks about girls.  One of their goals is to see a society in which there is no discrimination against the girl child and where all children are able to live and achieve their God given potential.  It starts with changing mindsets that cause and perpetuate “gendercide” in Northern India.  It begins with the local church.  An estimated 10 million girls were aborted in the nation of India over the last two decades, creating a gender imbalance of nearly 10% less women then men.  But more than mere statistics is the harm it causes the unborn baby girls and their mothers.

This is just one of their many passions for India.  This group seeks to impact the local church; equipping and empowering them with a vision for the “whole” Gospel.  Their vision is to transform world views with an end goal to transform their nation.  They live this out by serving the local church and society; offering reflection and application of love and truth in all areas of life.

They truly are “salt” and light to their community!

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Beauty in the Differently Abled

The Ashish Center seeks to work towards a society that views each person as a being of value and importance.  They work hard to make a difference in the lives of children with disabilities as well as their families. Through an integral approach of intervention, they work for the learning and growth of each child towards their God-given potential and assist their families to be effective facilitators in this process. The school helps to provide admission to all sections of society regardless of caste, creed, race, religion, economic and gender barriers, and provide up to 97% scholarship to needy students.

As a primary focus of our time in India, we had the opportunity to serve in the Ashish Center for the Differently Abled.   I love the statement, “differently abled,” because it says something profound about children born with a condition like autism.  It says they have different gifts, talents and abilities.  It says they have a God-given potential; fully valued and fully loved by their Father in heaven.   After spending a week at the center, I am convinced these children have, and can see, their own angels watching over them.

My time was spent primarily focused on Ansh.  I just fell in love with him from the moment I saw him.  Maybe it’s because he reminded me of a little Indian-version of my son when he was six.  His little glasses are what did me in!  His buck teeth only add to his charm with his endearing gentle nature and delightful presence.  Last week he attended summer camp at the Ashish Center, and he was priceless to watch.

His first activity was a cooking class. If he was older than six, he would have the opportunity to actually make his own sandwich, but for now he waits for his sandwich to be made. As he waits, he seems lost in his own world, shaking his hands in front of his face as a form of self-stimulation. Every now and then, he leans into the boy next to him, gets nose to nose, and makes eye contact with his neighbor.

Dancing hand in hand with team member, Natalie Gammill, Ansh moves into the second session of summer camp.  He stares out the window, lost in his own little world.  He seems to enjoy the dancing, and he loves to sing!  He has never been able to talk, but he sings like a bird and knows almost all the words to every song played.

His time in water play was the most fun to watch!  As he sits on plastic, being sprayed by a hose of water, Ansh continues with the self-stimulating activity of moving his hand rapidly in front of his face.  His left hand jumps in on the action and makes a motion that looks like he is trying to play air guitar.  His tongue hanging out of his mouth is what really tells me he’s enjoying the water play and it almost looks like he’s breaking into a smile.

Physical activity for the day includes roller skating.  Ansh is not too good at it.  He clings desperately to a stationary object as the other children go racing by.  But he still seems to be having fun!   He ends the day with arts and crafts where his teacher runs his thumb through finger paint and then rolls it onto paper in the shape of a caterpillar and a few flowers.  It’s been a good day for Ansh at camp!  It was sad to say goodbye, I sure hope I can see him again one day.

I recently learned that Ansh’s mother chose to give life to his sibling, a girl, who died after one day. His mother was worried about having another child since Ansh had autism.  But she chose life, however, short. She has recovered from her loss with the help of the Ashish Center, who provided her with counsel and stood with her in support.

To read more about Ashish (the name means “blessing”), please visit their website: www.ashishindia.org or you can “like” and follow them on Facebook.

We welcome a gift of any amount to go to support this worthy cause.   Please join us in the effort to promote education for the “differently abled” in India through the Ashish Center by giving a one-time donation here.

 

 

 

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“Technological advancement ensures that

“Technological advancement ensures that thousands of girls are denied their right to be born,” Gul Afroz Jan (#India) http://bbc.in/k23o0Q

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#India: girls seen as bad investments. H

#India: girls seen as bad investments. Having a girl is costly; high dowry & then leave with husband’s family. http://bbc.in/kFx95N

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