Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Taste of India

From May 10th to May 23rd I lived in Kolkata, India, eating rice and curry with my right hand, bonding with students over Mehndi (a traditional temporary tattoo), getting my feet dirty in the streets, dodging taxis, and learning, above all, how to be selfless.

God has put me on a new journey, the beginning of which was my short visit to Kolkata last month. I was going to meet up with a group from a church in Arizona, but there was not enough interest in the mission to Kolkata so they canceled the trip. I knew God wanted me to be in India, so I asked the church for the contact information for the Director of the school they would have been staying at, Hope Academy, a school dedicated to giving kids from the slums a high quality education. I asked the Director, Bonnie, if she would be willing to let me stay with her at the school for two weeks. She agreed. A few weeks later I arrived in India.

Although I had a feeling I was not there to teach, I taught four days of English classes to a great group of 6th-9th graders. You can check out their website to learn more and even sponsor a child so he/she can continue receiving this high education:

Every day I had this gnawing feeling that there was something else I was in India to do, to learn. Wednesday of the week I was scheduled to head back to America, I volunteered at an organization called Freeset that exists solely to take women out of the sex slave trade, teach them skills, and give them a job making amazing t-shirts and bags. I painted stools and hauled boxes from one room to another, but the whole time I felt I was getting closer to what God wanted me to do in India. But I wasn’t there yet. You can check out Freeset’s website to learn more about what they do or to buy some really great items made by amazing women:

Thursday night, the day before my flight home to Arizona, I stayed at a Baptist guest house down the street from the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s Home, loving called “Mother’s.” A girl I met at the guest house invited me to mass at Mother’s at 6am Friday morning and then to volunteer at one of Mother’s houses. I was scheduled to leave at 8pm Friday evening, so I figured I would get all I could out of India before leaving.

6am Friday morning, Elizabeth and I headed to mass. I cannot explain to you the beauty and peace that emanated from these women as they sang hymns to Jesus. At one point it was so quiet I swear every visitor’s heart had stopped. We were all drenched in the peace that flowed from these white Saree clad nuns.

At 7am we had a small breakfast of a banana, piece of bread, and cup of tea while we waited for one of the Sisters to start handing out the assignments for which house we would be volunteering at. Mother Teresa has several homes for the poor and dying in Kolkata: Kalighat Home for the Dying, a free hospice for the poor; Shanti Nagar, for those suffering from Hansen’s disease (Leprosy); Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, for homeless and orphaned youths; and several others.

The Sister placed a card in my hand that said I would be working at Prem Dan, a home for elderly and disabled women who are no longer able to take care of themselves.

We walked as a group for about 30 minutes, passing slums and garbage heaps. A little street girl ran up to me and grabbed my water bottle, wanting a taste of filtered water. I stopped and let her drink. We arrived at Prem Dan, put on aprons, and went to work hand washing bed sheets and clothing. As I pressed the suds out of the clothes, I felt a peace that this is where God wanted me to be.

I then walked into a situation I had never been in before. Women in wheelchairs and plastic chairs lined the room, all needing something different, but all needing something similar. I asked a volunteer who had been there a few weeks what I should be doing. “Just start touching their shoulders,” she said. These women needed touch, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on. I walked up to a dark skinned woman slumped over in a chair and rested my hand on her shoulder. She gently rested her hand on mine and slowly pulled me down to eye level in front of her. Reaching out both her wrinkled hands, she rubbed the sides of my face, then slowly pulled me in close and kissed both my cheeks. For the next ten minutes we sat and held one another’s hands.

I could tell you about the rest of my time there, cleaning out bedpans, taking women to the bathroom, feeding them, changing their clothes. But everything pales in comparison to that woman’s kiss.

I know I am supposed to go back to India and work with these women again. I have been praying and seeking the Lord’s guidance and have decided I will be leaving in June for a six month visit to Kolkata to work with the Missionaries of Charity.

I am grateful for all the prayers I know I was receiving from several of you on my last journey. Because of those prayers, the Lord has made my next steps clear and now all I have to do is jump out in faith. There are several “obstacles” but with God all things are possible. When God brought the Israelites up out of Egypt and showed them the land they were supposed to inherit, the spies who went to check out the land came back and told everyone there were giants living on the land and there was no way to take over. Others knew their God was bigger and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” The people did not take the land because they did not realize God really is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. I’m not about to give up what He has called me to simply because it looks difficult, even in some ways impossible. He is the great I AM and He goes with me, telling me to step outside my comfort zone.

For this next journey, I again ask for your prayers. Please pray for God’s will to be done, for God to carve out the selfishness within me and replace it with sacrificial love and humility, for God to create divine appointments and to soften the hearts of those I meet, and for God to draw near to the broken hearted, breaking my heart for them as well.
Thank you for your love and support.

Please call, email, text, Facebook message me if you would like to hear more about this journey and what God has been doing in it.

Only by God’s Grace,


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