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I was about six years old (or so I’m told) when my dad signed me up to sing in front of a sea of brown people at a local Indian Christian conference. Unsure about the experience, I, a young Indian girl, stood before the mic. I looked at the mic with both eyes and felt dizzy. I stepped closer and said, “Dad, can you come stand by me?”. Dad smiled and walked over, the crowd sympathized, and the show started. My mum was in the audience, seated in the middle to get the perfect view of her daughter. I don’t remember what happened after, but I’m sure it went well because I started singing at every stage possible after that. Oddly enough, I never felt stage fright

After every set, I’d look for my mum in the audience, signaling to her with my eyes to give me her on-the-spot review. Am I good? I moved to a different continent when I got older, but no matter what stage I stepped on, in my mind’s eye, I’d always look for my mum’s approval. 

“She’s our P.T. Usha,” my dad said when I won multiple gold medals for running track in school. P.T. Usha, one of India’s greatest athletes, was elected president of the Indian Olympic Association in 2022. Running track made me feel alive. As an adult, incorporating daily movement is a vital part of my leadership trellis, and I believe it came out of this experience. 

“You should be ashamed of yourself!” My mum said, reading the ten-point rebuttal I wrote for the grave injustice of not being allowed to watch more than 3 hours of television during summer vacation. I remember writing this rebuttal and feeling like a huge weight was off my shoulders. How could writing be so healing for me?  

The formation of a leader happens throughout the course of one’s life. Our God actively invests in our formation. He sheds light on our strength, allows tragedy to create new values and pathways for us, and molds our vision throughout our lifetime. But the Indian culture often does not allow for an in-depth, healthy analysis of the lives that we have lived. The shame of what we might name keeps our curiosity at bay. Ignoring our story is especially harmful for the emerging Indian leader because the key to knowing who we are has a “do not trespass” sign on it. How can we uncover who God has called us to be if we aren’t allowed to return to the path we have walked on? 

During my first semester as a seminary student, I sat in class as the only person of color and Christian Indian American female. Our professor asked how much choice we had in the way God created us– choice in the gifts he deposited into our make-up, the events we’ve had to go through, and how we show up in this world. All of us looked at each other and replied, “Zero.” This realization was hinting at my core pain and my community’s pain. During the class period, each one of us took turns to share our reflections about this new revelation. When it came to me to articulate some deep reflection, I looked at the professor and cried. 

I cried, thinking about the stage fright and anxiety I now wrestled with. 

I cried, thinking about how I was terrified of disappointing my parents.

I cried, thinking about how I’d been stifling my voice by choosing never to write again. 

I cried thinking about emerging Indian leaders who had experienced unspeakable pain and yet were trying to live in this curated, disjointed world. 

I believe the voice of the emerging Indian leader is critical to the Christian world. The lack of representation of Asian leaders and stories is painful. We have stories to offer to this world that have the potential to change how the world views the field of healthcare, technology, leadership, politics, social injustices, spirituality, and more. But we need to feel safe first and know that our real-life stories give us information to propel us forward, not to hold us back. 

Three years ago, I started dreaming of a safe space for the emerging Indian leader. Se.cure is a place for emerging Indian leaders to receive from Indian and non-Indian leaders and know they are loved before they do anything significant for the world—a place to learn that God’s character is steady, reliable, and receptive to their questions. A Se.cure leader is secure in the character of God, courageous enough to ask the hard questions, and slowly see cure in their own life story. Dr. Dan Allender, a leading therapist, taught in a lecture I attended that we must have access to our life story. We may not always share every part, but having access allows God to use any part for His glory. In short, the work of Se.cure is helping emerging Indian leaders have access to their story.

For the Christian leader to have longevity, they need to feel safe, be seen by their community, and know they are valued beyond their contributions to the world. I hope Se.cure can set an example for different leadership communities to establish safe spaces for their leaders and help redeem the view of Christian leadership in the world. 

Se.cure launched as a social media platform, communicating the big idea of “your story matters” three months ago. We hope to have our first Se.cure retreat in August 2024 and offer personalized coaching sessions for groups and individuals. The development of a leader must include an intentional exploration of their life stories. Humans always tell stories; we need stories and operate within God’s story. 

If you are an emerging Indian leader, I invite you to join our community. We’d love to be a space for you to uncover your life story. Your story has the potential to bring much beauty, healing, and transformation to the world we currently live in. 

If you are a non-Indian leader and an expert in a particular field. Our community needs mentors willing to hear and pour into their stories in specific ways. There is a place for everyone at Se.cure. Contact us at [email protected], and we’d love to welcome you into the Se.cure community. 

Check out the Se.cure website and Instagram page for regular content.

Sabina Pappu is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a master's in Christian Leadership. She is passionate about seeing the next generation of emerging Indian leaders confidently step into what God has for them. She was born in the US and raised in North India. She is the only girl among three brothers and is more introverted than people are led to believe. She loves cooking, spending time with her friends, writing, and leading worship at her church in Atlanta, GA. Sabina works for DTS in Atlanta and recently founded Se.cure, a retreat-based leadership development program for emerging Indian leaders.

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