Calling to missions came as a whisper: 'India'

May 14, 2004
By Ken Camp
Copyright 2004 Baptist Standard

WACO When Heather Herschap became convinced last year her prayer life was too focused on her own needs, she asked God for direction.

"God whispered into my ear: 'India.'" she said. "I wasn't sure what to do with that."

Understandably, since she's not a typical missionary candidate. Herschap, a student at Baylor University's Truett Theological Seminary, has cerebral palsy that confines her to a wheelchair and allows her only the partial use of one arm.

"I immediately started praying for the people there" in India, she said.

As she prayed, she recalled a dream from more than a year earlier. The dream had inspired her to write a poem, and she re-read its description of a dark dungeon filled with physically disabled people lying helplessly on the floor. In her dream, she stood and walked over to a window, opening it to let in the sunlight and fresh air.

"That's when I sensed I need to be in India," she said, adding she was convinced God was calling her to bring the light of his love to helpless people living in darkness. "But I didn't know who to contact."

Herschap discussed the matter with her roommate, a missions student at Truett Seminary, who advised her to contact the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

"The people at the BGCT put me in touch with WorldconneX, and from then on, it all came together," she said.

Herschap's call became the first test of the fledgling mission network's ability to fulfill its promise of "connecting God's people for God's vision," said WorldconneX leader Bill Tinsley.

About that same time, Tinsley's associate Carol Childress met Chip Kingery, founding director of proVision Asia, a nongovernmental organization based in Bangalore, India.

One key component of Kingery's organization is helping physically challenged people in India secure medical help and gain the skills they need to become self-supporting.

"Carol asked if we would be able to use anyone like Heather. And I told her if anybody will do it, we will," said Kingery, who launched the humanitarian ministry more than 15 years ago as a Texas Baptist Mission Service Corps volunteer.

Tinsley and Kingery each met Herschap, who confirmed for them she had a clear sense of calling into short-term missions in India.

Kingery particularly was pleased to discover she had an undergraduate degree in psychology from Baylor and a desire to become a Christian counselor.

"I knew we definitely would use Heather and let her utilize her skills in counseling," he said. "We have 40 Indians who work with us, and half of our staff are physically challenged.

"She should be able to counsel them, sharing the testimony of her life and offering the encouragement of just being there."

Herschap will serve one month this summer as a volunteer with proVision Asia.

In addition to bringing Herschap and Kingery together, WorldconneX also contacted Greater Good Global Support Systems, to help secure logistical and technical support for her.

"It's a real team effort. That's the beauty of WorldconneX," Kingery said.

"They have resources we don't and vice versa. Their approach opens the door for people, offering them ministry opportunities and connecting them so they can serve where they are called--including people who otherwise might not be able to serve."

Admittedly, Herschap "never in a million years" thought she would be able to serve as a missions volunteer with a ministry to disabled people in India.

"Five or six years ago, if you had told me I'd be in seminary, much less going to India, I'd have laughed in your face," she said.

"That wasn't in my plans. But God had a much better plan than anything I could ever come up with."

Although she attended several different churches growing up in Laredo, Herschap did not make a personal faith commitment to Christ until she came to Baylor.

She was baptized at Seventh and James Baptist Church during the spring semester of her freshman year.

A few months before she graduated, she came to the conclusion that instead of pursuing graduate studies in psychology and counseling, she needed a seminary education.

"Truett was the first and only seminary I applied to. I was pretty sure this was where God was leading me, so I didn't have a back-up plan," she said.

Even though she admits to being "slightly worried" and fearful about aspects of her upcoming summer missions experience in India--"like how to get from point A to point B"--Herschap said she has been encouraged by her fellow students at Truett and by members of Seventh and James Church.

Her parents initially opposed the idea of her trip to India, but they eventually offered their blessings and their financial support for the venture.

"They're still cautious, but they are open, and they know that it is what God has called me to do, at least for now. They know it will be a good experience and I'll learn a lot from it," she said.

After she completes her seminary degree, Herschap hopes to become a biblically based counselor, working both with physically disabled and nondisabled people.

And while she hasn't "heard the call" to long-term international missions, she said it would be "exciting and fun, and I'm definitely open to it."

For now, she's focusing on the upcoming trip to India. Herschap has no desire to "shove Christianity in anybody's face," but she hopes her time in Bangalore will offer opportunities for her to share her faith both in word and deed.

And she hopes her presence will be an inspiration to the disabled people with whom she will work.

"I want to use what God has shown me to help them see anything is possible with God--including going to India," she said.