Lydia grew up the eldest of three children in a very poor village located in Southeast Asia. She had an extremely difficult childhood because she was from a disenfranchised minority group in Asia and had a drunken father who beat her mother constantly. She also had to walk a long distance to school each day and, as the eldest child in this culture, she was responsible for her brother and sister. While other kids went off to play, Lydia had to wash clothes, go to market, and help her mother, often with her baby brother on her back.
When she was in grade 7, Lydia’s house burned to the ground, in the early hours of the morning. After this happened she was always shunned by her peers because of the bad karma that they believed caused the fire. She became the lowest status in her village, always looked down on, and despised because, according to karmic law, she must have been a bad person in a previous life.
Lydia was destined for a life of misery and desperation. At age 16 most of the girls in the village would be getting married and having children of their own. But Lydia did not want the sort of desperate cycle of life she saw around her. She wanted to be educated and not be married, especially in her teens. So when Lydia was 16 years old her uncle Paul, who was the first Christian among their Shatikha people, had compassion on her and saw her desire to do more with her life. He convinced Lydia’s mother to let her go to the next city to live with his family and get a chance at better education.
After one year, Lydia became a Christian which alienated her even further from her family and people. However, she continued on in her education goals and eventually went to a Bible translation evaluation workshop with missionary, Doug Inglis. There, she tested extremely high on her ability in language.
After being ostracized from her people, Lydia moved to Thailand to learn English, to study more, and to learn about translation and literacy work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. She lived with Doug and Connie’s family for 18 months and liked to call them mom and dad. In turn, they called her Yei, which means ‘eldest daughter’ in her language.
Lydia was very adept at learning English and doing translation and language work. She joined the Shatikha Bible Translation team and began a series of workshops to be able to assist in translating the Bible into her Shatikha language. She was also involved in making an English-Shatikha dictionary. Lydia has now returned to her home country and is continuing her university education, studying more English, and teaching English to others.
The most amazing part of this story is that recently the chief monk of Lydia’s people group asked her to come back to her own village and teach English to the monks. These are the same monks who, in previous years, completely ostracized her and drove her out of the village. Her own people have seen so much growth and happiness in Lydia that they now want her to come share her life with them again. She has become the most famous Shatikha woman among her people. This is an amazing door that God is opening up for Lydia.
Because Lydia loves God so much she has a real heart to help young Shatikha girls who are in the same predicament as she was so many years ago – poor, uneducated, and without hope in village life. She has decided to start out by helping two Shatikha girls leave the village where there is inadequate schools and go to a nearby city to start their own education and personal growth process. Lydia is so excited to finally be able to help others, based on the harsh experiences of her own life.
One day, as Doug was talking with Lydia about her future, she told him that she wanted to give herself into the lives of other people, especially younger girls and boys from her own disadvantaged people group. He told Lydia that the English word for what she desired to do with her life was mentoring. He then told her that his mother, Donna Inglis, and her friend, Ann Griffiths, had an entire ministry devoted to mentoring and a newly written book titled, A Mentor’s Fingerprint, to help people mentor others.
Doug happened to have a copy of the book with him and signed it for Lydia, on behalf of Ann and her Canadian grandmother, Donna. Lydia smiled and tears came to her eyes. They were tears that ran back over all the difficult years in her life; years of struggle against society, and culture, and “karma”. Years that formed the foundation of her future ministry of mentoring others caught in their own struggles.
Lydia wants to introduce her two girls to the most important man in her life, Jesus, and told Doug that she did not desire a big fancy ministry but just wanted to give herself to serving other people. These two girls really look up to Lydia and trust her. She is their mentor.
Thank you to Doug Inglis for sharing this story with us. The names (other than Doug, Connie, Donna, & Ann) are changed for sensitivity. Doug and Connie Inglis have been doing Bible Translation and Literacy work in Asia with Wycliffe Bible Translators since 1991. They are currently project advisors for the Shatikha People Group.