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Sarah Singh

In conversation with Joanna Sugden

Sarah Singh’s move to Britain two years ago was her first experience of the world outside of the Indian continent. She now lives in Oxford with her husband David and daughter Namu.

“This story I have shared with many people because I want them to know that God doesn’t just bring us big things but he brings us small things too, he cares about them:

I remember, when I was a six year old, - and at that time we were under some financial constraints- and one day  I asked my mum,

“Mum I want to have some mangoes”. That was in the night, and mum used to put me to bed mum used to say that I was to pray and sleep so, she used to pray and I used to pray and then I would go to sleep.  So this time she said,

“Why don’t you pray about it and if God wants he’ll definitely provide, through any one, either through us or through anyone.”

So I just prayed and said

“Lord I want some mangoes”

and then slept, and believe it or not at one o’clock in the night, a knock came at the door and my elder brother, who was doing medicine and studying late,  opened the door and he saw that a man had come with a big sack full of mangoes, ripe mangoes- honestly. He said that he was a bus driver and that he knew my brother who was in the same ministry of my father after my dad passed away. My brother was in one of those remote villages and those village people had so much of mangoes that they wanted to give him a sack full of mangoes and so he thought he would send it to my mum and sisters and brothers. So he sent it by this bus, at that time of night.  So my mum woke me up just to show me that God answers prayer. And so that had a big impact on my life, from then on I knew how to have faith in the Lord and though I hadn’t made a commitment to the Lord yet, but I started loving God and depending on Him, this is how my upbringing was and I’m grateful to God for that. I believe that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed and you say to these mountains to move they will move, because I feel that it’s very easy to lose faith; you know when you go through tragic situations, so this has had a big impact on my life.

I was the youngest child of nine children, but I didn’t get special treatment because of this, we all knew we were loved. Our basic foundation was love of God, and dependence on him, given by our parents, they, taught us how to depend on God like a child. My father used to work with loads of tribal people in India and his love of God really impacted them. He used to work among the villagers and used to mingle with them and be like them so they would accept him. What he used to do, basically, was to teach us to be close to the Lord first and then help others, he used to say that God should be given the first priority. Through his ministry many people came to the Lord, many missionaries used to respect him. He was a man of faith, though he was a man of little money but we never lacked anything, though he used to go with a very less amount of money, he used to come back with lots of stuff and we were always wondering. After he left we found out, many people wrote to my mother and said how much he had helped them. financially, spiritually and physically, my mum never knew who he helped financially because he always did it quietly and the Bible says that your right hand shouldn’t know what your left is doing. So he used to practise the word of God very faithfully, he tried doing that and so even after my dad’s death my mum carried on the same kind of thing that my dad did. She brought us up so well, she became a widow at forty two which was quite young. But both of them were so composed that they never let the children feel the stress they were going through and you know that is because they were always in tune with the  Lord, that’s why they were really relaxed because of Him.

“If you have love there is nothing you lack”

If I was brought up in a very conservative family then I would have felt limited, because I remember I was the only sister among all four sisters who was allowed to talk to my husband before marriage, spend time with him. My sisters were all arranged marriages and didn’t want to talk to their future husbands before the marriage, so met their husbands for the first time on the wedding day. Being the youngest I came across families, where many husbands and wives had relationship problems because they never knew each other, at least they didn’t talk to each other. So I had told my mum that

“Mum whomever I marry, even if you choose then no problem, but then even if I fall in love, I need to talk to the person to know him well in a sense, he should know my weaknesses and merit points and I should know his shortcomings also, if not we can just pray for each other.”

So that really helped. The beauty of my mum was that she was such a calm and wonderful person, she was very  humorous. I’ve never seen tears in her eyes, though she went through difficult times. I was very possessive of her and I would not allow anyone to hurt her because she was everything to me, she was like my, how do you say, big pillar. So my mum, the way she brought us up and the way she allowed us to have a say in three major decisions in our life, that is: Baptism, she never forced us, she said if you feel like, because it’s between you and God. Then marriage, she said, if you’re going to be happy, I’m going to be happy, and the third thing is she never interfered in my family life, she used to say now it’s your life. Usually families do interfere, if the couples allow them, but in our family mum never wanted to, she wanted to be available but then she wanted us to work out our own problems. She always used to say that a problem should stay within the four walls, no one should know what is between you and your husband, you don’t need to go around telling every one. And yes another decision was when we couldn’t have a baby, and we wanted to adopt.  At that time she asked me a few questions which really were such wonderful questions; she asked me,  “if you give birth to a child in the future, will you be partial to it?” first question, second was that I must never never make her feel that adoption is second best. She was always full of advice to us,  I was surprised at the way she brought us up, I don’t know maybe it was God in her, I’m not idolizing her, I never try to idolize anyone except Christ but you know I could see Jesus in her in many ways. Because the way she dealt with us, the way she handled situations was beyond my words and imagination. I think basically because she used to pray for us every morning and night before going to bed and on waking up in the morning she used to be on the bed and pray. I think that has actually made us what we are today I never feel that I lack anything in this world because I  have everything, main thing is knowing Christ and the love that is the main hub of my life.

If you have love there is nothing you lack so my mother  has been really something so great and this has helped me. It’s not that I feel proud about it but my heart goes out to young people who feel lost, who go the wrong track, who are feeling despondent. I do share my life with them knowingly because I want them to come closer to me and share out with me and find a friend in me. If they can confide in me and come out with their problems, I mean I tell them that I am not a perfect sample but I try my best and I always tell them that I rely on God’s help. My students, I was teaching in a school which was basically a Muslim school in India and they responded so so positively. I mean about three and a half years I taught in that school but the time just flew off, I never knew how the three and a half years went, because my relationship with my students was so good I never bothered if my colleagues liked me or not I was just fond of my students. It was so satisfying it was so rewarding, both ways, I gained from them, they gained from me and it was mutual and I dealt with always secondary levels because I teach secondary level, and I think in Birmingham also I did share with a lot of my students and as a result I had a very sad farewell from them, I was there for a year, and now I am with a teaching agency and I just pray that that works out because I want to invest in the lives of children because children are the tomorrows citizens so I need to invest in them, that’s what I feel is my calling.

In the future I would like to be a counsellor  if God wants me too. Because I feel there is a dire need, people need to be counselled, they need help. I feel at large that the churches are not really catering to this area of need especially most of the churches throughout the world do not actually teach what needs to be taught, especially to the young people, they like to go to small group fellowship where they feel wanted, where they get recognition. So my future dream is to be investing more in the lives of people, not only young people but anybody, it can be any one an elderly person also, so maybe in the future along with my teaching profession I would like to be involved in counselling.

Love is something that is, it’s a very abstract word actually, but then one thing which I’ve been able to make out, is that some people view love as a very selfish thing that will just satisfy their desires. Some people like to keep their love to themselves when they love somebody, but I think love is something which should be felt and expressed so love is not just an abstract word in a sense it is a doing word, it is a word which needs to be acted upon. It is a feeling that you need to carry out, you need to show it out, that is what I feel very strongly. One particular way of doing this is appreciating anyone for even a small little thing. So in one way you are channelling your love to a person otherwise if you just bottle it up no one will come to know it. Love has to be expressed many times. For instance if I love my daughter I need to show it to her just by kissing her or sitting with her or understanding her more, I need to show it to her. When you start loving anyone, you don’t have any kind of inhibitions. One thing which I always tell my students is that there are two kinds of love, there is God’s love which is a very permanent one, so genuine, we don’t have to make an effort to show God’s love to others it just flows out. But the love which is just feeling is in a sense just temporary it goes up to, its very carnal, its very fleshly, it is lust, it is to do with the eyes and you have to make a distinction between the two. This only caters to your physical satisfaction , it doesn’t have a lasting effect, whereas the genuine love, it can even have a physical satisfaction , but it doesn’t stop it carries on outside of itself. So we need to exercise that kind of love, we need to show out that difference to people, because we know what God’s love is, because human love is always selfish, it cannot dissociate from the self, it is selfish because  you just go up to the point where you think ok that is enough now we can stop, I’m satisfied, so that is enough, and that is not real love. Whereas God’s love goes beyond selfishness it sees beyond. And that way you don’t have any different feeling when you come across a black, white, yellow, green person any person because you see that person with a new perspective and you overcome the small difficulties in each relationship.

This has been a very good aid to me, it has helped me as a supply teacher because initially I was so shocked because the whole thing is different in the schools here, the mannerisms are so different. Whereas in India teachers get respect from their students. Here the students can swear at the teacher and they can do nothing about it, but then I realized that some way or other these children lacked something, and I started looking at them with an eye that they needed to be helped and I always wanted to be, not just a teacher teaching them, but to help them too. I’m not just a figure standing in for their normal teacher. I want to understand why they are the way they are, so that helped me to remain positive and it gave me satisfaction and I’m not stressed any more. I tried to be like a mother figure to them to some extent. In fact my agent when I got to Oxford said

“Sarah we miss you, you were such a good ambassador for us, the school wanted to have you back.” But everything has worked out well.

“If you are able to understand each other, nothing like it”

The most satisfying thing is when I am able to communicate my feelings to my family members and when we have a mutual understanding, because if you are able to understand each other, nothing like it, because that will be able to stop all kinds of family conflicts and I’m actually a very peace loving person, I’m not confrontational in fact when I was a small girl, I remember, one of my brothers he wanted to marry someone and he was a little boisterous and quite arrogant and so my eldest brother was trying to help him out and there was some kind of misunderstanding with both of them and a big row between them and they raised their voices, and I was so scared and I cried so much that I developed a temperature. I never liked fights, I hate shouting and always prefer people who talk softly, that is why I always make an effort to make sure there is always peace in the family.

“From then on I thought ‘no I shouldn’t just stick to a person let me expand my friendship’”

Right from the childhood the most important thing in my life was making new friends, friendship was very important to me, not that I was dependent on it, but I like coming in contact with new people. Sometimes by being positive in childhood, especially in relationships, helped me overcome the negatives. I remember when I was quite young, still in school, my very best friend left me and she shifted to some other friend and that really broke my heart and that was a big turning point for me because I knew that life doesn’t come to an end because you’d lost a friend. That really jolted me and put me to thinking, I thought about it quite a lot, though it hurt, which is quite natural. From then on I thought ‘no I shouldn’t just stick to a person let me expand my friendship’, so I have many friends rather than one particular friend because sometimes, you know you don’t know what may go wrong. It’s better to make many friends. It is no problem for me to make friends, even if people come from a different culture, cast, race or background it doesn’t bother me, I don’t feel threatened by any difference. In fact when I came to UK in 2001, I felt that I was not in a new country, honestly speaking, and I was surprised by my own behaviour and my own, feeling, but I was happy because it was good, that was the first time out of my own country. Basically, right from childhood I never went into any complex feeling, that any one was higher than me or lower than me because I knew that everyone was equal, in God’s eye. All these,  I would again go back to my childhood and my parental upbringing as well as my brothers and sisters, all of them had a big impact. Losing  my father physically  didn’t effect me much because it was all replaced. my eldest brother was 23 so he was like a father to me and so spiritually he guided me a lot. He was my spiritual mentor and two of my sisters, one of them inparticular provided good spiritual guidance.

“Loneliness, I really don’t feel lonely as such it’s just that home sick feeling”

All my family’s still in India, that is quite hard especially at the time of death, you know I had two deaths when I came to UK, my nephew died and one of my sisters she died, she was a heart patient. So when death takes place I feel quite homesick, I went back for two months to India just with my family and that helped me to get out of my feeling of loneliness or missing them. Loneliness, I really don’t feel lonely as such it’s just that home sick feeling, in my immediate family, my husband and my daughter, I don’t feel lonely because we are together so I don’t feel lonely. I am quite expressive of my feelings, I can’t keep them to myself so I always share out if I don’t feel well, today I’m feeling this or that and the same happens with my daughter, we both share anything and everything with each other. Loneliness even if it comes, it just stays for a very short while, because I know who to call back to, I just say a word of prayer and I think God really helps. That is the time when you really feel that God is around you and also when your own family is with you, and even if your family isn’t there, I even look to friends, I really see to it that I contact someone so that when I talk to a person then I overcome my loneliness very quickly I don’t allow it to hang over me. I see to it that I share it with someone. In the process of counselling others that is a tip that I give to the people I counsel, not to suppress  feelings because suppression can lead to many things, it can lead to sickness and more horrible situations. So instead of allowing that to permeate within you, it’s a very vicious thing, you know you should speak it out. When we have families and friends we must make the best use of it rather than keeping it to oneself.

“Honestly speaking with my own people, with Indian people I feel more at ease”

Within India we had a nomadic life, we were not fixed to one place, we were in North, South, East so we got a taste of different cultures. Because India is a big country having small countries within, so because we were on the move all the time, I think I feel comfortable everywhere. But honestly speaking with my own people, with Indian people I feel more at ease, which is because I have not been exposed to the outer world much. Maybe if I was born and brought up here or had lived here for five or ten years then my whole perspective would have changed, but till now I feel that I am most comfortable with my family because with my family I can just be my normal self. You know, I don’t have to have a façade or anything, I can be bubbly I can be anything I can just be myself, we are very expressive brothers and sisters we hug and kiss, it is part of us to be very close. But other than that I have no problem outside, I won’t say that I’m not relaxed or myself in others company, because we have always been on the move seeing different cultures, different food habits everything so that has actually added. Initially I was a bit upset you know why are we always moving, but I feel that through the school of training that we have gone through we didn’t have problems, because we knew that as Christians we don’t have a permanent home here on earth. Because I love every person irrespective of what they are so it doesn’t make any difference to me what kind of people I am with.

“I think priorities are never fixed, they are always changing and shifting”

I think priorities, as pertaining to the family life, when I got married definitely my priorities changed.  I focused my whole attention on my husband and his family also, so it sort of changed, not changed actually, sort of shifted a little bit. In fact it was my mum who showed me that it was different, my priorities towards my husband and my in-laws were different, I can’t say to what degree they were but it was different. I think as the situations change in a person’s life, priorities also change. Whatever situation you are thrown into you adapt and get used to surroundings. One priority which I don’t change, and I don’t want to change actually,  is my commitment to God which I don’t want to change at all and that’s my prayer, not only my prayer for myself but for my immediate family and my family at large, that they will all know the love of God and that’s what my prayer is; I just want to be committed to God first.

Other than that, yes as the time demands, my priorities change because if I fix on something then I can’t be flexible, I like to keep myself flexible, because if I’m not flexible then I might end up feeling guilty, or miss out on something.

I am more a flexible person rather than rigid about things.

“I realized I shouldn’t actually open up my heart to everyone”

There are things I would never do again, Oh yes! Being the youngest I thought that the whole world was good and when I was younger I used to open my heart to everyone and that was a mistake I have made many times, maybe even when I grew up  before marriage. My mum was very worried for me because she thought that I was such a simple hearted person, that I would trust everyone, and she used to say you know

“the world is not as you think they are, you have to be more discerning”

so then after committing one particular mistake, sharing out my life with someone and that person  spread it round so then I realized that no I shouldn’t actually open my heart to everyone, I need to be more discerning and careful. But that is one mistake which I made, the biggest mistake I’ve made. I used to trust everyone, not that you can trust people who make it obvious that they are not to be trusted, but in general life I thought everyone was good, neighbours were good. But the world was not like that, you know, things were different. Not only that but small little mistakes you learn from. I think we keep committing mistakes everyday in small little ways and then you realize oh I’ve made this little mistake, one thing that has helped me, not that I am a good person, but I feel guilty. If I do something wrong it is not long before I have to rectify it or share it out and that helps. I think it is God in me. If God wasn’t in me I don’t know what I would be. That’s what I tell my students because most of my students in India were atheists and they didn’t believe in God. And slowly  I took time to tell them my own life, I don’t like to preach but I like to tell my life, today what I am is all because of Him. If He wasn’t in my life then my true nature would have come out but because I made a conscious decision to have Christ within, I am a different person.