Nalla Sundarajan is living a transformed life.
Once a nominal Christian, she is now a deeply committed follower of Christ living in India seven months a year – a place she had no desire to return to after settling in Silicon Valley and serving as an adjunct professor at Mission College for a decade.
Sundarajan runs a nonprofit organization that cares for imprisoned prostitutes.
“Never in a million years had I thought about working with prostitutes,” she said.
But God changed her life.
Sundarajan opened Lighthouse for Women in Chennai, India, with a vision to transform the lives of oppressed and abused women and their children, break generational poverty and provide life-changing opportunities. Lighthouse serves women and children by providing temporary safe homes, empowering them through literacy and vocational programs and helping them gain financial independence.
Coming to faith
Raised in a Christian home in India, Sundarajan’s family attended church, but she said she had “no real understanding of who God was.” As she got older, she stopped going to church.
That changed when she was 30 after she read the book “Glory: Experiencing the Atmosphere of Heaven” (McDougal, 1996) by Ruth Heflin. Sundarajan was impressed with Heflin’s experience walking with God.
“He’s so real to her,” Sundarajan said. “I said, ‘Lord, how wonderful it would be if I could get just a small, little piece of it.’”
Sundarajan attended a women’s conference where Heflin was speaking. While at the conference, Sundarajan felt the presence of God.
“During the praise and worship, I sensed a strong presence of God,” she said. “I was just shaking, crying uncontrollably. The reality was like God was saying, ‘I don’t want you to deny me again.’”
The next two nights, Sundarajan had profound dreams about the people she was traveling with. On the plane home, she said, God “dropped” the name of the passenger sitting beside her in her heart.
“How weird is that?” Sundarajan said. “I said, ‘Excuse me, is your name so and so?’ She replied, ‘Yes, how do you know?’ Then I began to share with her what had happened to me two days before. For whatever reason, God was also confirming to me that what I had experienced was real. I realized that it wasn’t just my emotions that swept me away at the moment.”
After her experience, Sundarajan began to notice changes in her life and behavior. She began to take on and complete new projects, asking God to guide her through the process.
A beacon for women
God continued to prove Himself to Sundarajan and gradually prepared her for bigger steps of faith. In 2000, He gave her the vision to start Lighthouse for Women. She didn’t know what the ministry would entail or how it would come together, but she registered the name and began setting aside money. A few years later, while watching a documentary about prostitution, God spoke to her and encouraged her to minister to prostitutes.
In 2008, Sundarajan felt a call from God to go to India. She had not been in India for seven years, but with God’s prompting, she made the trip.
“I had no idea how everything would come together, but God said, ‘Just trust me,’” Sundarajan said.
While in India, Sundarajan used her connections to meet with pastors and others willing to help. She held meetings with victims of prostitution and spoke of God’s love. The women responded and the ministry began to come together. A year later, she moved to India to continue the ministry.
Currently, the bulk of her work takes place in a low-security prison where 50-60 prostitutes are incarcerated for a few months at a time. She and her team visit the prison three days a week for three hours. They work on projects with the imprisoned women to teach life skills such as parenting, HIV prevention, nutrition, personal hygiene and budgeting. Lighthouse for Women also engages a tailor who teaches the women tailoring skills.
On Sundays, they pray with the women and discuss God’s love.
“We confront their beliefs: Who said this is your destiny? Can God change lives? We make the women think for themselves and sow life-giving seeds in their hearts,” Sundarajan said. “Most of all, we give them hope.”
For more information, visit lighthouseforwomen.org.
Skip Vaccarello is a longtime Los Altos resident and founder of the website Finding God in Silicon Valley. For more information, visit findinggodinsiliconvalley.com.