When I was 22, the future that I had envisioned for myself came tumbling down around me.
I was standing in the backyard of my grandparents’ house, on a beautiful fall day. The sun was shining and the sky was an amazing Carolina blue. As I hung up the phone, ending an engagement with the man I intended to marry, I was in shock and yet, supernaturally covered with peace. I felt like I was getting a hug from the sun that shone down on me. It was so real.
It was the first time I experienced the Holy Spirit so tangibly. And the first to help me understand the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
I often go back to that moment – despite it being a heartbreaking situation – because it reminds me that He’s here with me at every moment. Sometimes He’s an incredibly strong presence, as He was for me that day, and other days He’s a softer presence, nagging at me to follow Him.
Leena knows that nagging. She sees those bananas that are planted by the Holy Spirit. And she follows.
In India, people living with HIV and AIDS are extremely stigmatized and discriminated against. Over time – and through the nagging (leading) of the Holy Spirit – Leena has built several ministries for people living with HIV and other infectious diseases (TB, leprosy). She built – and maintains – a housing complex so that adults and children living with HIV who were abandoned by their families would have a place to live and thrive; she supports education and stipends for children living with HIV at a public hospital; and, she supports education and stipends for children living with HIV who go to a public school. Many times these children are orphaned, malnourished, and ostracized by their communities.
We met Angeline at one of those schools. She was skin and bones. Maybe 60 pounds soaking wet. Incredibly sick with HIV, that had likely progressed to AIDS. After our visit with the school children, Leena approached Angeline and her grandmother to inquire about her health. Leena asked question after question and persisted until finally, the grandmother agreed to bring Angeline (and herself) to live on the Serve Trust complex so that they could be taken care of and loved.
Leena follows the Holy Spirit’s nagging. She doesn’t give up. Grandma did not want to leave her community and the job that she had, despite not being able to care for Angeline’s needs. But the Holy Spirit gave Leena the words that Angeline and her grandmother needed to hear….and the persistence to not give up on either of them.
When I thought my life was crumbling around me, what I couldn’t see is that my Father in heaven was setting me on a course that would forever change my life to glorify Him. After a time of mourning, I decided that I needed to continue healing and do so away from home. So I took what I thought would be a three month internship in Mexico City. Little did I know that the Lord had different plans for me….I didn’t make my way back to living in Charlotte again for more than a decade. I ended up staying in Mexico City for nearly two years. During that time, I was mentored by one of the foremost experts on the stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV as I helped build a business council that was aimed to eradicate HIV-related stigma and discrimination in the workplace.
Knowing and having experienced the Holy Spirit makes me want to to continually keep in step with the Spirit, as we are called to do in Galatians 5:25. I am forever grateful for the example and mentoring of Leena in how to let the Holy Spirit lead, as I follow Him. And for the many mentors He has provided along the way that have prepared me to respond to that nagging of the Holy Spirit.