Local woman heeds 'great commission' to spread gospel
by Sherrie Norris
Graybeal has returned from her journey to Tikapur, Nepal, which came on the heels of a November trip to India. In June, she was in Tanzania.
Why does she do this, many people ask. "It's like going to see family," Graybeal said. "But more importantly, the first word in the great commission is 'go,' so I do. Some people think I should stay here instead of going overseas, but I don't believe Jesus meant to go just to the United States of America. He said, 'Go into all the world.' I participate in missions here, as well, but I feel called to go there, too."
Alpha International Ministries is dedicated to the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ in Asia, Graybeal said.
She said the ministry has been responsible for helping start and staff numerous churches in those areas, as well as provide for the needs of more than 1,000 of the most needy children in India and Nepal through its Giving Children Hope ministry.
Graybeal uses her professional skills as a means to minister to the needs of the pastors and children served through AIM.
"I help with their dental needs, to begin with," she said. "It's such a great opportunity to just love on them and show them Jesus. For the pastors there to be in good health means that more people are reached and more souls are saved. Healthy children mean healthier workers for God's kingdom."
She has become acquainted with many of the people and their needs.
One of her greatest joys is being able to show the children before and after pictures of their mouths and watch their eyes light up when they see the change, she said.
"Afterward, when I see them, they are constantly smiling and giving me the thumbs up," Graybeal said. "That's more than enough to fuel my desire to return."
Graybeal's involvement with AIM began nearly three years ago, after a visit to Laurel Springs from the ministry's president, Finny Mathews, a native of India, who had earned his master's of divinity degree at Wake Forest's Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"It was on Father's Day 2010," she said. "After hearing him speak and seeing his slideshow, which included pictures of a hygienist at work in the ministry, I prayed about whether or not this was where the Lord wanted me to serve."
One month later, while working on a Bible study at home, Graybeal said, "the Lord made it very clear to me that he wanted me to work with AIM."
Her pastor, Brent Bolick, helped her contact Mathews.
"It just so happened that he had a need for a hygienist on a trip to Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal, India in the coming month," she said. Graybeal applied for a visa, appealed to her dental supply representatives for supplies to take with her, received enough donations through her church family to pay for her trip -- and was on her way.
Returning to the same area each time is like a family reunion for Graybeal.
"The people are always so appreciative when we arrive," she said. "They are so grateful for simple things that we so often take for granted -- like having their teeth cleaned. It means so much to them."
Graybeal is in awe that the people she goes to serve remain faithful, despite their living conditions and the persecution they endure.
"Most of these people live on less than $1 a day and take in multiple children when they cannot afford to feed themselves," she said. "They are hated by their communities, but serve God faithfully despite their hardships. Some pastors have the testimony of being born into wealthy Hindu families, but are banished and disowned when they accept Jesus. They lose wealth and their families, but they remain true to their calling."
Graybeal's most recent journey required her to board five different flights en route to Nepal "and six coming back," she said, for a seven-day stay.
AIM hosted a three-day conference and a two-day medical camp for 200 pastors with unshakable faith, Graybeal said. "We saw around 100 children in the medical clinic, who are sponsored by the ministry. Often, this is the only medical care they receive all year," she said.
Often, too, Graybeal said, AIM pastors often find orphaned children and take them in their homes. Some pastors, with very little money, house as many as 10 children. "They struggle to provide, but cannot bear to turn the children away," she said.
Along with meeting the physical needs of the children, she said, the pastors provide a Christian education and a loving, safe home.
The pastors are dedicated to the children, but also to reaching their communities, she said, with many traveling many miles from their homes -- by foot, bicycle, and a few by motorbike to reach the farthest villages with the gospel.
"Most are met by hostile Hindus," she said. "Some are beaten and even die for their faith. Yet, their faith is unshakable."
Many times, she said, she has lain down at night to the sounds of the people crying out to God and singing his praises. "Such passion inspires me," she said.
During her last visit, a two-night crusade was held in the town of Tikapur.
On a street lined with shops owned by Hindus, Finny and Cherian Matthews, spoke to a crowd of about 8,000 to 10,000 people, many of whom were hearing the gospel for the first time, she said.
While in Tikapur, the AIM team dedicated a new church and well for clean water, both donated by ministry supporters.
"The pastor of the new church stated that he had prayed for five years for a church building and that God provided," she said.
AIM pays for some of the pastors to travel to the ministry-sponsored conferences away from their homes, "even to India, sometimes," Graybeal said. "Last year, I cleaned the teeth of some of the same pastors in Nepal and again in India," she said.
It marked the first time she had seen the same people twice in one year, she said, "which was important to me, to be able to establish some sort of recall with them."
They remembered her name, she said, and told her they had prayed that she would be able to return. "They all enjoy having their teeth cleaned," she said. "And, they need it."
While the ministry team is different for every trip, Graybeal said, she is often able to travel with some of the same people that she has ministered with before.
"Team members also become like family," she said. "I have formed bonds and made friends with many of them, some of whom I drive to visit and spend weekends with when we are stateside."
From working with the people in Tanzania, where she experienced her first safari, to India's city of Anand, where she witnessed a graduation of new pastors at AIM's only campus and Bible college, Graybeal's zeal for mission work just grows stronger each time.
With a goal to continue the trips "three or four times each year," it's easy to see that Graybeal's heart is definitely on the mission field.
Each trip costs more than $3,000 per person, but as long as God provides a way for her to go, Graybeal says she is ready and willing to serve.