“My heart was beating fast, I felt confused and lonely,” said Anu. “I felt deep pain in my heart. I was with Silas (my husband) as I prayed out loud. ‘Jesus, you know the best and may you be glorified.' I had all the faith to believe God could heal Silas, yet I wanted to submit my will unto His. I felt Jesus was holding my hand.” After suffering a stroke, Silas Don went to be with the Lord at 8:15pm on May 10, 2001. Silas and Anu had been married for eight years and had two daughters, Ailsha and Sunayana.
Four months earlier, on January 10, 2001, Silas and Anu Don had pioneered the work Vanitashray, based in Pune, India. The name comes from Vanita, meaning woman and Ashray, meaning shelter. This work cares for destitute widows and orphans/abandoned children. As they began, Anu did not know that she herself would soon identify with the widows heart and grief. She says, “I was devastated when Silas died, but God told me three things. He will be with us and never leave us nor forsake us. All that matters to Him is my relationship with Him and He will lead me in the calling He placed over my life.” Lastly, God told Anu, “Take one day at a time.”
Having grown up an orphan, Anu knew firsthand the rejection a child experiences. She shares how they welcomed the first of many children into their home when Vanitashray began. “Nikita was three years old, and the first girl brought into our small rented apartment in 2001. It was the neighbors who rescued her from her father, who wanted to sell Nikita for 2000 Indian Rupee ($40). Her father was an alcoholic and sexually abusing Nikita. It scared me as I looked at this little child who was so traumatized. It took her first year with us to learn to walk, talk, smile and sleep as a child. Today, eight years later, Nikita is a bright, fun loving and beautiful young girl. She says, ‘I want to be a teacher when I grow up.’"
Vanitashray has continued ever since then to care for the widows and orphans of Pune. Currently based in two rented apartments, they are generally required to relocate every eleven months. An immediate need is for a permanent location. The long-term vision of Vanitashray is to provide a home for at least 50 destitute women and 100 orphans/abandoned children. Anu has always desired Vanitashray to be a home rather than an institution. Now remarried, she and her husband John Baker consider the people of Vanitashray to be family.
Many would not have blamed Anu if she had given up when Silas died just a few months after they began Vanitashray. But instead, she chose to pursue the ministry God had entrusted to her. Through her courage and faith in God she has ministered out of her personal experience to those who needed it most.