Jerusha Shalini

Founding Member and Principal Architect at Capstone, Chennai




In this encouraging talk, join Architect Jerusha Shalini as she shares her remarkable journey of faith and resilience. From her humble childhood to becoming an award-winning architect and entrepreneur, Jerusha opens up about the transformative power of her deep faith in God and the profound impact it has had on her life.

Jerusha Shalini is the Founding Member and Principal Architect at Capstone, Chennai, with over 18 years of professional experience. Her project, the Christwood School Project, was declared "Chennai’s #1 School in Campus Architecture and Design" in the Education World Grand Jury Award 2020–2021.


Divine Design: Architect Jerusha Shalini’s Empowering Story

Divine Design: Architect Jerusha Shalini’s Empowering Story


The Psalmist says, “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. Things you have planned for us, no one can recount to you. Were I to speak and tell them, there would be too many to declare.” The Lord is so good, His love endures forever. May the name of the Lord alone be praised today. I am praying that God would hide me behind the cross and He alone would be lifted and glorified. I stand here just because of God’s amazing grace and unending, unmerited favour upon my life.

The story that I share is what the Master Architect has been writing through my life. I am so glad God chose me to be His child very early in life, a masterpiece suitable for His use, broken that I might be blessed. Being an architect, it is quite natural for me to relate everything in life to a building. So here goes my interpretation of “The PIE Principle.”: knowing the Lord and having Him as my strong foundation has helped me to have a grip on understanding His divine Purposes for my life.

Integrity and Excellence, I would say, are the pillars that help you fulfil your Purpose. - Jerusha Shalini Click To Tweet

On Christ, the solid rock I stand, no other ground I know is good for me to stand. All other ground is sinking sand. With this image, I would like to share how God set the foundation for my life. Well, there is a call for each one of us to be salt and light in the marketplace. He wants us to be a lighthouse or a signpost. I go back to the architectural relationship. A skyscraper has very deep foundations, which no one sees. People who see the skyscraper for the first time only see what is above the ground. They don’t get to see what goes below the ground. But only if the foundations are strong enough can this ever be built. Our relationship with God matures each and every time we walk closely, hand-in-hand with Him. When you experience Him every day of your life, where He makes you stronger to withstand the winds and the earthquakes, that’s the preparation He does and that’s the foundation He lays for our lives. He’s laid it for my life. I come from a Christ-centred home. My dad was a practising architect and a church planter, and my mom was a creative homemaker involved in various women-empowering ministries and in nurturing five of us. That’s the picture you will see.

So growing up in a family where I had four brothers was a preparation ground for what was to come. As a child, I could have been kidnapped from preschool. Another instance, when I was probably six or seven, I was about to get drowned in a pool. In all this, I realised God kept me for a purpose, because He had a divine working in my life. I wanted to do something great, and I saw His divine protection in every area. I encountered my first failure in fifth standard, and that was really a heartbreaking moment. I really didn’t know how to face it, but my parents saw the situation through and looked at a change in school. The first day I walked into Doveton Corrie School, I walked in with wide-open arms of my teachers to welcome me, and I knew that this was a place God had for me. Failures do have a place in your life for turning things upside down. Ever since I have been seeing God’s favour in the school I studied. My teachers have been showing extra care and concern in my development. I accepted the Lord in my school days, having completed my tenth, and was looking at the group choices that I needed to make. I think that was the first point when I was so confused and really didn’t know what I had to do. I wanted the first group because I was very clear what I wanted to do in life. I either wanted Architecture or Home Science. Dad was an Architect, and my mom had done Home Science. You give me either this or that. So I needed the first group and the school said I didn’t have enough marks for the first group. So right in the dining room, I’m sitting there that morning. There was a song that was playing at home, and it said, “I cast all my cares upon you. I lay all of my burdens down at your feet. And anytime I don’t know what to do, I will cast all my cares upon you.” That song meant so much to me, and I think that was the first time I had an encounter with God’s divine leading in my life. I just cast it upon him. I walk up to school, and they give me the first group in a divine way which was not possible.

After that, as I moved on choosing college, the day to pay the fees in WCC came up. I had only applied to two colleges. It was Anna University and WCC. Anna University for Architecture and WCC for Home Science, and nothing else. My dad pulls me aside on that morning and says, “We will not pay the fees today for WCC. You will get into Anna University.” I was anxious. How on earth can we just stick with one college? Because I don’t want to miss another year. There are so many friends of mine who have applied for five, six colleges, and here I am, so anxious and walking up to my room and saying, “Lord, I want you to speak to me.” I open up my bible, and He says, “O ye of little faith.” And I just said, “Lord, you are in control.” And I walked up, and God just opened up Architecture for me in Anna University. These are some minor instances, but it’s God’s way of impressing His imprint in my heart ensuring that He directs our paths.

Right from childhood, I have seen my Dad practising as an Architect. Those days, only drawing boards were there, huge drawing boards. He had amazing three-dimensional perspective skills, and I kept watching that. I helped him out with the rendering. I used to go in the night, sit with him, watch the paint brushes, and do the pen and ink rendering. He taught me how to hold the pen and do it right in my childhood days. That’s when passion grew. I finished Architecture from Anna University and immediately joined Dad’s firm. Those were the years of mentoring, moulding that my Dad did to me, to understand every aspect and facet of Architecture. I was under his wings for five years. And when I was to move to my next phase of choosing my life partner, here comes my “Prince”. God brought a perfect fit into my life, which I’m so grateful to God for. If not for that, I don’t know where I would be. I think it was a perfect fit. I became a “princess” to my Prince and moved to Bangalore, so joyful that I was leaving Chennai.

When I left Chennai, I said, “No more practice of Architecture.” Five years under that, seeing him, all that he was doing, and it was too much for me to take. And I left Chennai in that aspect. I went to Bangalore. I was there for six months, and then I took up a job under an Architect there. Three months I worked, and then I got an increment, and there were so many heads turned around. Everything was so perfect in our lives at Bangalore. We were enjoying each other so much, our home, the place, the fellowship, the Church, God’s abundant provisions. What more did we need? Everything was perfect. We were enjoying our lives there, but there was some restlessness within us. And that’s when we had to sit at His feet and ask God, “What is it that we are missing out? What is it that you want us to do?” We both were so passionate about buildings. Every trip that we went and came back, we would only just take photos of buildings, details, and everything.

So we based our decision on God and asked Him for clear guidance. We felt in our hearts that God was telling us to move back to entrepreneurship and build lives through a profession, but I didn’t want it. When I left Chennai, I said I didn’t want to practise architecture because I had seen my Dad go through everything, and I was very comfortable with what I was doing in Bangalore. I said, “Lord, without Your Word I will not move an inch.” God had a divine intervention in my quiet time. He spoke so powerfully to us, and he said, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.” That was the promise that made us move forward. It was a paradigm shift for us. With that confidence, and with that Word in our hands, we just stepped out in faith.

This was the turnaround. When God pours out His plans, it is too much for us. We had to take a step in faith, one step at a time. I first had to quit my job and move to Chennai. Capstone was founded in 2010. When we were looking for a space for Capstone, Prince’s parents opened up their terrace space for us. We moved in 2012, and we built up three seats there. That was our faith. We only designed the space for 13 seats, but soon in 2017 we had to expand. In 2022 we had to expand again. This is nothing but when God says, “By My Spirit,” He does it. When I say this, we know we are so weak, so fragile, so incapable. But when we just surrender ourselves totally to His lordship, He enters so much beyond our capacities. It’s quite overwhelming.

Through this journey of 12 years, we have had deep mourning moments. We’ve had crushing times. We’ve had pain that was groaning, and we’ve had sleepless nights as well. There was a time when I wanted to quit Architecture. In all of this, I have seen God’s abundant grace and strength, just sufficient for that particular day to press on and move. And when you just rely on God and just do what He calls you to do, it’s such an amazing walk that you experience. It just cannot be expressed in words, but it can be felt.

I really salute the women who work in the construction industry. This is an industry where it’s not easy for a woman. As an Architecture student, when I was studying, it was about 40-60%girls in the college, but on the ground, the reality is so different, so far from what you actually perceive. There are loads of men. Sometimes I’m on the site, and there’s so many men around me, and I’m just the one woman out there. And some of the times we have to climb, taking so much risk. The ladder that is there would not be really safe enough, but you have to do it. You’ll have to walk on the reinforcements. You’ll have to stand on slopes. You’ll have to just do whatever it calls you to do. You see God’s protection, and He gives you the courage. And I think that’s amazing.

When God calls you to do something, He is there in it. - Jerusha Shalini Click To Tweet

I will be missing out if I don’t recognise the role of my four brothers who prepared me well to stand my ground in a male-dominated industry. They really prepared me during my childhood. In this journey, I have realised and been able to get a glimpse of God being the Master Architect of our lives. Each time you get a master plan to be put for a few acres of site, I’d put up the drawing sheet and then try to visualise how things can be done. Look at what is the functionality, what are the requirements, how does the whole circulation happen, how can the scale and proportion of the whole space be done, and look at the side dimensions and look at how details can be drawn up. That’s how God works. We actually don’t see it, but He works. And that’s the connection. So much of the drawing we do, and until it all comes onto the site, the reality you get to see only once it comes onto the site, and the end users have to just wait to see it. So many times I see so many things in the drawings of the clients, and they really don’t understand until it comes up on the site.

So in our lives, there are so many twists, there are so many turns, there are so many blocks, the bruises along the way, but at the end of it, we have to be assured that He is at work. Have you found your purpose, your call? If not, start having the conversations with God, asking Him to reveal, abide in Him. What you think God can accomplish with your strength. Write down and pray about it, and ask for His Word to be a strong foundation, because that is your anchor. When the storm hits you, when doubts, fears, and questions arise, turning back to that promise, that verse, that song, is what helps you press on.

Are you sure of your calling? And having found your purpose, you’re wondering, “Am I in the right place?” Or are you waiting to take a step in faith? Are you in fear, not taking that step in faith? I am here to say, go ahead, take that step, and God takes 10 steps ahead of you. I encourage those of you who are going through difficult moments, just ensure that you are in His tight grip. He is holding your hand, and keep running towards God. What He has entrusted in your hands, He will give you the strength, and with His might, you will be able to do great and mighty things.

With the foundation firmly established in God, your purpose is clear. The two important aspects are the pillars of integrity and excellence. Zig Ziglar says, “Integrity gives you real freedom because you have nothing to fear since you have nothing to hide.” If we do not set value boundaries for ourselves in the marketplace, the temptations are heavy to fall. It comes right to the place you’re sitting. Commissions are some things that have become a norm. There are plenty of compromises that happen at site. To instil the importance of integrity in execution at site, as business owners, integrity is something that we display in the way we treat our employees as stakeholders, and this is a non-negotiable right from our inception.

Perry Sexton says, “Excellence is in the details. Give attention to all the details.” I remember Mom setting up at the table for the guests. She used to do particular things about the details, likewise packing gifts and everything. And I’ve learned so much right from my childhood. In essence, in doing all this, if we do everything as we do unto the Lord, I think the first picture which comes to mind is about a bamboo table. A table can be just done with plywood, but when you just clad it with the bamboo, that’s the rustic theme and the excellence that it brings out. The second is a school that we designed with the restrooms, making it colourful and making it a little lively place, comfortable for the school children.

I’d like to leave you with some impact stories. Recently, I went to Mumbai, and I met a small girl in the church we attended. The girl gushed with joy, and I was introduced to her as the Architect of Christwood School. The memories and the blessed time she had in school was so vibrant through her smile, and then I knew I was a tool in God’s mission. What more? Aren’t we able to see the change in the lives of people?

The next was God asking me to move to Jharkhand. Sometimes the place that you go is really a super risky path. This is the darkness in which you have to travel, and there are a lot of attacks happening on the road, and I’m travelling here all alone, not knowing the language, no cell phone connections, but God alone is my strength. And I think this is a centre where the transformation happens to equip the Santhal tribes, and they empower them with various skills, and that is a mission field. I realise God is using me there. The call to press on is so much there with us. I think God has called each one of us to run the race faithfully. To live the mandate that God has laid in our lives is so important.

We are the Bibles in our workplace. We are the ambassadors for Christ. - Jerusha Shalini Click To Tweet

We need to rise to be powerful influences, and shake nations. As Architects, we place a lot of value in building sustainably, creating built environments which are naturally lit and ventilated. The thought and effort we put into this results in better buildings, which in turn transforms the lives of the people who use the buildings. We have a big role to play in being environmental stewards, steering families, communities, cities, and India at large, to create a sustainable and responsibly built environment. Going back to our basics of being in tune with Him, sensitive to the Spirit’s leading at all times, being aware of the supernatural working of the Lord, claim it over your workplaces with His grace, favour, and strength. May we run the race faithfully. He who called us is faithful. He will never ever leave us nor forsake us.

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