USA / India 2009-2011
When I was over in India, I was thrust into the role of performing at GFA’s TV studio, in order to produce worship songs for their new TV channel in India. The other American staff member I was over there with was very talented musically and vocally, and thrived on this new responsibility. I, on the other hand, have had hardly any vocal training and get incredibly nervous when performing in front of others. I love to sing and play the piano, but I’m just not the “performer type” and felt really out of my element when thrust into this new responsibility.
I brought up my fear and nervousness several times to both Danny and Dr. Daniel, while over in India, but was basically told I needed to “suck it up” and that they needed me to do this because they needed “blonde, white girls” to attract the Indian viewers to watch the TV station and then hear the Gospel as a result. At the time, I told myself that if this was getting the Gospel out, then I should put aside my fears and anxiety and get out there and do this.
Over the course of several months, my American friend and I made numerous trips to the TV studio and recorded many different songs in both Hindi and English with an Indian band playing the music for us.
But my anxiety didn’t go away. I started getting panicked and edgy the night before we would go to record. I couldn’t eat or sleep and I would come back to the campus after a day of recording and be crying and exhausted. A few times I even called my parents on the phone, having a melt down and saying how I couldn’t keep doing this any longer. (We had an IP phone in our room that used internet to make international phone calls, and we were encouraged to use it to call our family members whenever we wanted to.)
I again tried talking to Danny and Dr. Daniel about how I really just didn’t feel comfortable doing this and asked if my friend (who was very talented in these areas) could do it without me. She was loving it and thriving on the performing aspect and quickly learning the music to the Hindi songs.
Again, I was told that I shouldn’t be so nervous and that this was important to do because it was a way of getting the Gospel into people’s homes through their TVs. My skin and hair color were a huge attraction and would get us many more viewers than if we just had Indian singers.
Eventually, after several more weeks of anxiety and panic over each recording session, I’d had enough. I sent an email to Dr. Daniel, who was the person we were supposed to interface with while over in India, about how much this was taxing my emotional – and physical health. I was losing weight rapidly, not getting sleep, and always on edge that we’d be called to record at the TV studio the next day. In my email to Dr. Daniel, I told him about these things and graciously but firmly stated that I needed to step down from this role, as it was never supposed to be part of my role when I took on this assignment in the first place, and I was having severe health concerns as a result of the anxiety it was causing me. I mentioned that I had called my parents a couple times when I felt overwhelmed by everything and needed some encouragement, and they had suggested I send an email to Dr. Daniel to lay out my concerns in a more clear manner since asking in person hadn’t seemed to work.
Well, within an hour, I got a phone call from KP’s “right hand man” in India (who is actually a woman – “Sister Sinny”) who said that KP wanted to meet with me right away. For some reason, my American friend was also asked to attend the meeting, so the two of us walked over to KP’s villa on the seminary campus, where he and Sister Sinny were waiting for us.
KP started by saying that Dr. Daniel had forwarded him my email and that he was outraged that I had talked to my parents about this situation. He said that I should have come to him about it. I reminded him that he had told us several times that Dr. Daniel was the person we were supposed to interface with about anything regarding our living situation, work roles, etc. while in India, and explained that I had asked several times to be relieved of this TV performance.
KP proceeded to yell at me (I’m not exaggerating, he was literally yelling) about how inappropriate it was for me to ever talk to my parents about anything that I was unhappy with at GFA. (My parents were very generous ministry partners to GFA at the time, and had taken a Vision Tour with GFA several years before I even joined the School of Discipleship). KP was enraged at me and started hurling accusations at me about how if I couldn’t handle the missionary lifestyle then I should just “go back to where you came from” (the States). He said if I couldn’t deal with mosquitos and no A/C and being far away from family, then I wasn’t mature enough to be here.
Through my tears, I gently told him that my issue was not with the mosquitos or the heat, and that I had never once complained about either of those things the entire time I’d been in India. I told him that I was dealing with severe anxiety and unable to eat because of this role that had been thrust upon me and that even when I’d asked several times to be relieved of it, I was denied permission for that.
I sat there on KP’s front porch for over 20 minutes, being yelled at and insulted and told that I wasn’t a “good enough Christian” to be over there and why had I even come? My American friend was sitting there next to me the entire time, and KP even mentioned at one point how she didn’t have a problem with anything and how wonderful of a job she had done with everything. Sister Sinny was sitting there the entire time as well, and it was so awkward and embarrassing to be humiliated like this for my “weakness” as a missionary.
Finally, near the end of our conversation, after KP had said his piece, he told me, “We’re not keeping you here. You’ve always had the freedom to go back home. If you want to pack up tomorrow and leave you can. In fact, I think you need some time to go home and pray over whether or not you’re really able to handle this responsibility.”
Our conversation ended the way it always did over in India, with me giving a small bow of my head and saying, “Thank you, Metropolitan,” which is how we were always told to address KP in India. (Metropolitan was short for Metropolitan Bishop.)
I went back to my room, utterly humiliated and devastated, and took a few hours to pray about what to do next. By the next day, I’d decided to take KP up on his offer and fly home to St. Louis to have some time to pray about my next step. I was on a plane within 3 days, and even though I’d asked for a month to “pray about my choice,” I knew that I would be leaving GFA.
I’ve heard several leaders respond to our group as saying that each of us was given an “exit interview” but that was definitely not true for me. The last conversation I had with any leader at GFA was one that I’ll never forget… sitting on the porch of KP’s villa and being yelled at and told that I wasn’t cut out for the life of a missionary.