- June 5, 2008
The One who made the blind see and the lame walk has been cajoling Heather Herschap of Waco to set her sights on India for his glory, she said.
Herschap, who graduated in December from Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary, has had a heart for the Asian subcontinent for more than four of the 10 years she’s lived in Waco—particularly for the handicapped of Bangalore, third-largest city of the nation of 1.13 billion people.
Herschap understands something about the challenges they face. She has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and has only limited movement in one arm. But her heart soars when she talks about her dream to be a missionary to India’s neglected—even despised— physically disabled population.
Herschap has been on two previous trips to Bangalore as a student. She made month-long excursions in 2005 and 2006 with the help of Truett classmates and WorldconneX, the Baptist General Convention of Texas missions network. She worked with proVision Asia, counseling and ministering to the physically challenged.
“In the past, I sat on the porch with clients, helping them rebuild their self-esteem, talking about the emotional hurts they’re experiencing,” she recalled.
Many tribal cultures in India scorn the disabled as being cursed by the gods and punished for bad karma earned in a previous life.
“They wish they were not disabled. They do everything possible to hide the disability and to become less disabled,” Herschap said.
Indeed, she added, some of her clients in India—especially young women—have questioned why they are alive, and expressed suicidal thoughts.
“I believe that I am called to India to show them that God has a purpose and a plan, but most importantly, that he loves these young women who have no one to love them and who do not even love themselves,” Herschap said.
“The disabled face enormous issues and need so much love. This is a very big problem and deserves the attention of so many others. But all I can offer is myself,” she told members of Seventh & James Baptist Church in Waco.
But for her to make the final leap overseas for duty in Bangalore, Herschap said, she’ll need someone as committed to India and its disabled community as she, as well as committed to being her primary caregiver.
An Indian family could offer personal care, she said, “but I really need an American assistant to give the others a break. That’s a big thing to face for me. But I’m confident such a person exists.”
As she looks for her comissionary/assistant, she is preparing for her upcoming year-long placement in India with proVision Asia by attending school in Colorado Springs, Colo., at Mission Training International. MTI is a 54-year-old organization offering specialized, pre-field cross-cultural education for more than 150 evangelical mission-sending agencies.
At MTI, she said, she will be immersed in what she’ll need to know for her yearlong stay in Bangalore. She’ll return to Waco for weeks of required reading for her next assignment, and then will leave the area in August for her final training sessions at the Seattle, Wash., headquarters of Mission to Unreached Peoples.
MUP is a “broadly interdenominational” 25-year-old organization that mobilizes lay Christians to use their job skills as an entree into sometimes-hostile cultures with the gospel message, she said.
“The whole Heather team thinks this is a much better route,” Herschap said, speaking of her support staff of friends and family. “So, my plan hasn’t changed, just the route I will take to get there.”
She hopes to be in-country by early fall—monsoon season, as it so happens in that part of the globe.
This time around, she said, she will be able to delve more deeply into spreading the gospel and spiritual formation with her Indian clients.
“The first year I went, I met a lot of clients who walked around with crutches or canes or even walkers to get around easier. The second year, I met a lot of clients in wheelchairs and those who physically could not leave the house even if they wanted to,” she added, “They are put in the corner and given basic needs, but no love or affection. That’s why I am going, to tell them their life has a purpose, even if they cannot see it at that moment.”
Meanwhile, Herschap is networking and fund-raising to cover the estimated cost of her year overseas, about $15,000. She has less than $5,000 on hand now.
“When I return to India, I will be working alongside the same organization, but my responsibilities will expand to include ministering specifically to the spiritual needs of their clients. I think this experience expresses my calling as a whole, which is to minister to those who have physical challenges or other difficulties and to be a witness to God’s strength, mercy and grace.”