Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 MSG
What does it mean to shine? I think about so many women I’ve met around the world who believe restoration is a reality on this earth, and I’ve witnessed the power of that restoration in the kindness lavished on the disregarded and the shattered. There are fleeting moments when I think I, too, can be unafraid to boldly shine like them. Most of those moments come in dreams of rescue, where bravery is worn like armor and action-movie scenes play out setting souls free. The latest dream came in the wee hours of the morning. In it, the leaders of a remote village were determined to destroy the future of a group of young girls. Careful plans were made for their escape – and I chose to stay back, to take the blows on their behalf.
I believe the dream was inspired by Siba.
Her family started Blue Heaven Academy decades ago, as a way to honor the Lord with all He had given them. It is perched on a hill in far northeast India, in a town considered one of the most peaceful places in the country.
For years, the school was renowned for its academic excellence. Parents longed to have their children attend. The classrooms were filled to overflowing. The time came for Siba to take over as director, and she loved to watch the kids enter the gates, dressed in their uniforms and carrying backpacks laden with books.
But a quiet discontent was growing within her.
Siba knew a woman named Lucy—a tenacious former nun who had founded a ministry for children infected and affected by HIV. In the peaceful community, the stigma of HIV was a specter that haunted hearts and minds. Siba watched as Lucy’s kids were declared unwelcome, and she knew something had to change.
“I couldn’t stand and do nothing. So, I welcomed Lucy and the children of Gan Sabra HIV Home into our school.”
Siba stood on the hillside and struck the match.
And then, storms threatened to extinguish the flame.
Terrified families pulled their children out of the school. Finances dwindled, and Sibo struggled to pay her staff. The academic accolades faded.
And yet, Siba was resolute.
She opened up the doors of the school to other children who had been rejected—kids whose parents chipped rocks all day, kids who had never known the beauty of education. She became counselor, encourager, pastor, and dreamer. She fought on behalf of every student. Blue Heaven became more than an academy. It became hope.
I met Siba on a muggy summer morning and listened to her pour out her heart for the children in her care. A generous gift from an Orphan Outreach donor had provided the school with computers and some science equipment, and the students were proud to show off what they had been learning. An impromptu dance party created a commotion in the courtyard, as curious bystanders peeked through the gate to watch the students and staff laughing and twirling. Siba took it all in, and then her eyes sparkled as she described her next dream.
“I want to decorate the walls of the classrooms with colors and shapes so that the children will be more excited to sit and learn. And there is a room that I know will make a perfect library. We’ll begin with a few books—whatever we can afford. But it will be something the children have never had access to before. It will help our families, and it will bring more families.”
Now, slowly but surely, attendance is increasing at the school. And while Siba would love to say it’s because of the academics, she knows it’s due to something far more powerful.
Hope is a good teacher at Blue Heaven.
“We’re having a tea party, Aunty! Come dance with us!”
The girls giggled and posed in their Disney princess dresses as the music started upstairs on the front lawn at Gan Sabra. It was the beginning of a school break, and Lucy and her team decided it was a fitting time for celebrations for her kids. I walked up the steps of the home, and my heart caught in my throat.
The lawn was filled with girls from the school, dancing and singing and doing their best to keep hula hoops spinning. One of the older girls smiled and winked at me, then grabbed the hand of one of the Disney princesses and began twirling her. There was no fear.
The hearts of the students are changing, because of Siba. And those hearts are holding out a welcome sign.
So, what does it mean to shine? For years, I thought it meant being the flame that burned the hottest and brightest. Now, I see more power in the flame that burns slow and steady, giving life and sending sparks for future fires. Siba carries that flame.
Her life has set ablaze the lives of the children at Blue Heaven. And her life is sparking mine.