By Joanna Delalande
Shanti enables India’s forgotten lowest castes “dalits” to reject abuse
An abusive childhood led Shanti to a life of addiction as she searched for something that would dull her pain.
The Australian mother of two had been physically and mentally tormented by her abusive father until the age of nine, when her brother called the police on him.
"The effect of this abuse was traumatic to say the least," Shanti says. "An addictive personality disorder formed quickly."
Shanti became addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex and food as an escape method from the fear and anger caused by her father's physical and sexual violence. She went into foster care but ran away at 14, hitch-hiking around Australia.
"My view of the world was growing more and more distorted," she says.
Shanti first heard about God at 15 years old from a young Christian Jewish girl who brought her to church. She wanted to give her life to Jesus right then and there.
"My understanding and knowledge of God's word was minimal, however," Shanti admits. "Due to the abuse, I felt unable to trust any man, let alone Father God. Pain was deep inside me and it had not come out, and so I slipped back into the world and forgot about God."
By 18 Shanti was married and six months later she was divorced, getting back into drugs and befriending the wrong crowd.
Her marriage to a miner at age 23 saw a change in her; she was drawn back to God and became involved with the children's ministry at a local Christian church.
“[The] abuse was traumatic... I felt unable to trust any man”"This was a time of spiritual formation and some grounding in God's Word started to occur," she says.
"After having two kids it seemed I was leading the white picket fence life," Shanti adds. "I got nominated as Australia Day Citizens Award for my children's work in the town and everything seemed rosy."
But her white picket fence life took a turn for the worse over the next few years as she suffered a mental breakdown and grieved the deaths of both her parents, then her husband in a mining accident.
"I turned my back on God during my darkest hour. I hated Him. I shut down emotionally and was in the deepest pit of depression and grief."
Once again Shanti returned to drugs and started running with bikers, soaking in the feeling of love and protection she felt her "surrogate family" gave her.
God reached out to her a third time when she visited a small church.
The pastor's message from Ephesians chapter 4, verses 22-24, spoke to Shanti directly: "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
Shanti gave her life to Jesus Christ, only this time she meant to truly give God control and turn her life around. She clearly felt God sending her to Bible College, and as she obeyed, Shanti says God helped her shed her old habits in pursuit of that goal. When Shanti started Bible college she weighed 190kg; over the years she has lost over 100kgs.
Shortly after starting Bible college the head of the biker gang offered her drugs and money to return to them, but she refused, choosing God instead.
After seven years of Bible College training Shanti felt called to go on a mission trip to India. She shared about Jesus to prostitutes who felt trapped in Calcutta brothels and later worked in the region of Bihar in a village filled with poverty.
Shanti shares that "missions helped me on my path to healing. It's been a long journey. I still have struggles but I know that I'm a work in progress".
Over the past 13 years Shanti has divided her time equally between Australia and India, which she says is her "second home". She has also worked in Bangladesh, Dubai, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan and Thailand.
In her relationship with Jesus, Shanti says she came to recognise a worth she never knew she had.
"If anyone is an example of God being able to use the most broken to shine His glory in, it is me.
"I still feel the least equipped and the most unworthy. Yet He chooses to use me all the same. He can use you too!"