“I’m not sure any other nation is quite like India. You never get away from its suffering. Pains follows you down the streets in the form of orphaned,filthy beggars. It penetrates your hotel room with the eerie sound of Hindu music played to appease at least 300 million gods. Agony stings your eyes as you stare at the sea of poverty. It wretches in your throat when you smell the rotting flesh blocks away from the leper colony. When I returned, people asked me if I had a good time. No. Actually, I didn’t have a good time. I had a profound time. I will never be the same. I can’t forget what I saw.
What kind of fast did God require of me as He sent me to minister one on one to the oppressed? A fast from comfort!! A fast from my pretty world. A fast from rose-colored glasses. The fast I enjoy in Houston, as freeways loop around the inner city to keep me from facing the poor. I can live days on end here, stay in my very own neighborhood, and choose to deal only with pretty problems that smell better. I can choose to fast from poverty and oppression. But if I do, I’ll never have a heart like God’s.
One fo the purposes of a fast is for the emptiness to prompt us to a spirtual response. The emptiness in the people of India brought back vivid memories of my own at one time. So many things tore at my heart. The faces most engraved on my heart are those of the women. Heads covered. Meek. Many to the point of seeming shamed.I stood in a village with raw sewage running only a few feet from me and spoke to four women through an interpreter. I wasn’t planning to. I told them that God saw them with great dignity and honor. Like princesses. Within a few moments four women turned into many. I still can’t think about it without crying. They wept, held on to me, and were willing to do anything to receive such a Savior. They knew their circumstances might never change, but one day they would lay down this life and wake up in the splendor of God’s presence. Do you know what God used to provoke a bond between those women and me? A very acute memory of my own former emptiness and oppression.
We don’t have to go to the other side of the world to reach out to the oppressed. Captives truly set free are the most compassionate people in the world. They don’t see others as less than themselves, because they’ve lived a little of their own lives in the gutter, too.
We need to ask ourselfs, are we ministering out of my need or out of the overflow of my own relationship with God?
A ministry to the oppressed helps purify our serving motives. You see, they don’t have much to give back. The satisfied sour is never a more beautiful display of God’s splendor than when willing to empty self for the lives of others.
My Aunt sent thisduring the low of the journey in Kolkata. Reading it again after the return to the states, I couldn’t agree more. Maybe had I stayed there only a few weeks, sheltered to the exposure of corruption and injustice in the culture, I would be able to say that the trip was amazingly beautiful. Rather, I get nervous of what to say.
A challenge. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. It continues even after hearing “Welcome home” as I stepped off the plane in Chicago. Some people start crying when they see the multitude of cereal choices… I smiled in glee with being able to choose my favorite granola. For some it is turning on music in their car… I danced along to some sweet oldies but goodies. So, what got me?
Hearing a group of high schoolers sing worship songs with a crowd of junior high campers in front of them. Hearing them sing songs about God being all they want, through rich or poor, and I don’t even know what all the other lyrics were. I do know that if you listen to the lyrics and actually think about the meaning behind the words that you are singing something deep. In America, we think we are poor when we are on government welfare. In the majority of the world, you are poor when a tarp from a wall is slanted down so you don’t get poured on during monsoon.
Yes, we have poverty here and it sucks to see it, but it isn’t until you go somewhere like Kolkata and have children surround you asking for food or money. The dirt from their hand mixes with the sweat on your arm and your heart breaks as you look down to see the brown marks left from their fingers while walking away.
We can say all we want is Jesus, but also on the top of the priority list is a new cell phone with a sweet camera, curly hair when we have straight hair, for the guy we’ve had a crush on for years to someday notice us, the job promotion, or who knows. As a country, we are way too self centered to really just want Jesus. That would mean sacrificing a little of our comfort and actually live out the Bible that everyone assumes we read but don’t. I’m not saying that we have to do something drastic like sell everything we own and go to a foreign country, but come on people. At least treat people with the dignity, respect, and love others deserve rather than pushing others down to make yourself seem better. Side note- stop making fun of people. Those little comments we make that are half humorous and half truth that make a person feel like an idiot but everyone else gets a laugh at gets old. It gets old and people can only put up with oh so much until they break and plain don’t want to be around that anymore.
Being in Kolkata wasn’t easy. The poverty, corruption, twisted sexuality, and any other sad or depressing thing was right in your face. The thing is, that we have these same issues here, just different. We hide them. Granted, not always are they hidden, but we sure know the alternative route to keep them out of our site.
Am I glad that I chose the route where I couldn’t get around it? Yes. Has it changed my viewpoint of the world? Yes. I will keep putting myself in situations where my ideas are challenged. It was once said that I am a person who yearns for knowledge as though I am starving. The world is a complex place and I’m not satisfied living in a comfortable little box. Although, I think sometimes that it would be much easier and not that bad, it isn’t the life I have chosen.
As I reflect on the journey in Kolkata and process whatever it is I am supposed to be processing, I’ll type it up. Can’t promise that it will be pretty. Nothing glamorous. Just the random thoughts of a simple girl named Sandi….