Biola University President Dr. Barry Corey:
Melissa, Brady, Brad, Karena, Joy, Ashleymae, Austin, and Kristen arrived New Year’s Day in India, representing not just SMU, not just Biola, but representing the love of Jesus. The commitment of these young student leaders was captured in their vision: “We are Team India and we strive to spread a passion for Christ through calloused knees and calloused hands.”
Those nineteen words speak volumes about these eight students. They went to India with the unity of a team and not with different agendas. They went to India with a vision to make contagious their passion for Jesus to anyone they encountered. They went to India desiring to serve because the Spirit of God had moved their hearts. Calloused hands would be their joy because calloused knees had been their posture.
This is the heart of Biola, serving the world out of obedience and going in the spirit of the One who calls us “disciples,” to a world that needs us, the love we embody, the convictions we bear, the courage we possess, the wisdom and knowledge we’ve gained. This was the heart of SMU Team India. This was the heart of Hasiet “Joy” Negash, one of the eight members of Team India.
Three weeks ago while in India, deep sadness came to this team. Joy, a communications studies major and sociology minor from Seattle, succumbed to an asthma attack. Joy was nineteen. The team was serving that week at a children’s home in northern India. They were doing as they said, striving “to spread a passion for Christ through calloused knees and calloused hands.” While Joy was serving the least of these, while she was living out the heart of Christ, while she was bringing joy to the marginalized, Joy passed away.
In Joy’s final days, she lived among and played with children who had been disregarded by their families. In her final days she washed the feet of women and those of the lower caste. In her final days, she gave the Gospel message in a town where a Member of Parliament and the mayor and hundreds of teachers were present. In her final days, Joy was living out her dream of touching the outcast, empowering women and proclaiming the Good News.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:34-36)
A cloud of heavy sorrow has fallen on Joy’s family, on Team India, on SMU and on Biola University. This young leader and exemplary student passionate for Jesus, a teenager whose name embodied her spirit, will not be returning to Biola as we begin this semester. Our hearts are wrenched, our grief is deep, our community is mourning.
So I ask you to pray. Pray for Joy’s parents and her family as they grieve deeply over the loss of this precious daughter. Pray for Team India leaders as well as Joy’s teammates who returned early from India shaken deeply by her passing away. Pray for the SMU leadership as they bear the grief of this loss and prepare for our Missions Conference in March. Pray that the Spirit of God would help us see the way forward, renew hearts, and that the seeds of Joy’s life would bear fruit immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Pray that many from the Biola will step into her shoes and walk the next leg of the journey, carrying on the high calling of Christ she lived so fearlessly. The glory of the Lord will be seen through the life and death of Hasiet Joy Negash. Of this I am sure.
Not only pray, but I ask you to pick up the baton from Joy, committing to go into the world and be a voice of hope and reconciliation. Let’s never forget Joy’s life and passion and carry on her legacy to love lavishly and serve selflessly in Jesus’ name. This is the Biola way.
Now, may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)