Sophie Dickinson attended All Souls as a Wheaton College student. Now, she’s preparing to leave for a three year assignment teaching in India with Back2Back ministries. In this post, Sophie shares about her journey to orphan ministry.
When I was about sixteen, I watched the documentary It’s a Girl on a whim, after coming across it through a non-profit’s website and becoming mildly interested.
The documentary shows gender discrimination even before birth, specifically in China and India. This bias is damaging the countries’ economic growth and fueling a host of other human rights violations, such as sex trafficking, female genital mutilation, and poverty. I watched as Indian mothers stoically told stories of abandoning or even killing their infant daughters because of their worth and the lack of future that they had. By the end of the film I was in tears (though that’s not unusual), and I had never felt indignation so deeply.
I had felt a restless lack of direction for most of high school–all I knew for sure about my future plans were a desire to travel and get out of Iowa. Even as I fed my general interests at Wheaton in my English and Anthropology courses, my sensitivity to justice and human suffering sharpened but was still relatively directionless. India–especially the unjust treatment of women and girls and their lack of access to education (and thus sustainability)–had rooted itself deeply in my heart, but any sort of future in that felt like a pipe dream. Moving to India to help provide education and a future for girls who could otherwise end up in the sex industry seemed like an idealistic, naive dream of a twenty-something that was determined to change the world.
And maybe some of it was. But as some of the naive bits were chipped away through several closed doors, the dream job landed in my lap. A college friend had grown up going on missions trips with Back2Back Ministries, an orphan ministry. She had spent one summer as an intern at their India site, and was thrilled to hear about my interest in Indian culture and my desire to help build sustainable futures for vulnerable children. After a conversation with her, I went to the Back2Back website and found that they had recently posted a job description for a teacher at the India site.
That following summer, I went on a short-term trip to visit the India site. It all seemed surreal–I’d had a miserable first overseas flight, and had spent most of the extra layovers trying to tame my excitement with more realistic expectations and possible outcomes. Perhaps, despite all of my reading and learning about India beforehand, the reality of it would be too much and long-term life there would be out of the question. Maybe the idea of spending everyday life on a quiet rural campus would drive me crazy. Maybe I’d idealized my expectations of what it would be like to work with orphans; maybe, ironically, I wouldn’t fit in well with the girls.
And yet here I am–I’m nearly fully-funded for a three-year teaching position with these kids that display an astounding amount of courage and compassion and humility, despite their past. I’m not ignorant of the challenges that I’ll face living overseas. I will still be the same broken, insecure, redeemed Sophie that spent so much time convincing herself that she couldn’t possibly have a place in the healing of things that broke her heart. And yet, despite the challenges I’ve faced thus far, I’ve seen my doubts met with God’s love and faithfulness. It’s been made very clear to me that it isn’t my faith that’s sustained me, it’s God’s. And I don’t think He’s finished teaching me that.
If you would like to get updates from Sophie or just want some more information, feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to support her ministry, you can go to Back2Back.org, select “Donate” and then “Staff Support,” and then find Sophie’s staff page to set up the amount and frequency of your support. Every bit helps and is an important part of the children’s education and development!