Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.
- Hosea 10:12
I've always felt like I was on the edge of something great, a Grand Canyon of expectation and destiny, but I was always held back, stifled by fear, unwilling to jump into the unknown.
Coming to Kolkata to live and serve for six months was a step toward the edge. I inched my way slowly to the canyon drop, trusting and praying that God would catch me if I decided to jump. If I decided He was trustworthy.
While praying at Shantinagar, having one of those typical conversations with God that I do, I told Him, "If you will just let me know that my house and my siblings will be taken care of if I walk this path You have for me, I will walk it without question." Even as the words formed in my mind, I knew how ridiculous they were. "Show me, so I can have faith," was what I was saying. The answer came clearly: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
I have not seen the future and I don't know exactly what God has in store for me, but I do know He is trustworthy and provides for His children. If He has called me, He will equip me and provide for me. And He has definitely called me.
I made a decision to jump, right then and there. "Ok God. I'm willing to jump. Let's do this." I didn't look any different. I was sitting on the couch in a peaceful home in the village. But when I determined in my heart that I would follow God where He calls, regardless of the obstacles, I was filled with such an electric joy I started laughing.
Shantinagar was the perfect place for this conversation. The mornings opened with either mist or sunshine blanketing the earth around us.
We left our humble home each morning at 6am for mass with the Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity. At 7am the mashis (aunties) brought us breakfast of eggs and chapattis. The three of us (Elena, Steph, and myself) took turns washing the dishes and clearing the table.
Each day brought something new. The first two days at this beautiful Leprosy Rehabilitation Center were spent in rest and quiet for peaceful mediation and prayer.
Another day we moved rocks out of the garden to a pile of rocks ready to be made into useful marble materials.
We also picked green beans and wheat to be used for our own dinner. Working with the very material that will sustain you is a humbling, beautiful experience. I grew closer to God as I moved closer to His creation.
Other days we helped Rita and other ladies in the kitchen make Chapattis and cut vegetables. We watched Rita, our master teacher, mold the Chapatti dough into perfectly flat circles. I watched her hands at work, her hands so scarred by Leprosy that only three fingers remained. Regardless of her lack of fingers, she molded each piece of dough into a perfectly flat circle, showing up the rest of us. She couldn't form words, so she would make noises and point to her chapatti to show us where we went wrong in our own chapatti.
In the evenings, sometimes we would work in the garden. Sometimes we would sit and read. Sometimes we would go on walks to see the sunset or buy detergent from the little store down the street.
Sometimes we would visit the women patients. One of these patients, Poonam, turned up her Hindi music and asked us to dance for her. She had no legs. We each took a turn doing a dance from our respective countries (Mexico, America, China). I did some sort of western jig. I don't really know what it is, but Poonam seemed delighted. Other women sang for us, a beautiful song about Jesus sung in Bengali. While they sang, another women rolled up on a piece of wood to join us. All that remained of her legs was the stumps of her thighs that she drug along the ground beside her as she listened to the three tourists sing, "My God is sop Big," because that's the only song we all knew.
I also worked at the dispensary for a morning, handing out medicines to those with leprosy who could catch it before it had progressed. Leprosy (also known as Hansen's Disease) is a virus that produces sores and lumps on the body. It attacks the sensors that let us experience touch, and that is the reason you will see many patients without limbs. They cannot feel in their fingers, toes, etc, so if they cut, burn, hurt themselves, they go untreated because they cannot feel pain. These limbs usually become infected and must be amputated. Leprosy is curable with the right medication. It also stops the spread of the disease to others. The problem in India is that people are so ashamed to have the disease that they will not seek medical help until they have lost body parts and are in dire need of medicine.
Being at Shantinagar, which means "Peace Settlement," gave me time to listen and reflect on God's creation and His plan for my life. As I picked green beans and made Chapattis from nothing more than the materials in the backyard garden, I was so full of life, remembering that this was the original design. Just God, people, and a garden. There was peace and true community. When we pray the Our Father, "Let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," we are praying for God to bring back the garden, to bring back the community, to bring back the peace that He created everything for. This is what community is: peace with God, one another, and the earth.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.
- Isaiah 2:4
As if this all wasn't clear enough, our loving God decides to dig it in a little deeper by giving me this verse:
So, you, by the help of your God,
hold fast to love and justice,
and wait continually for your God.
- Hosea 12:6
Go back to Phoenix.
Hold on to the lessons you've learned.
Hold tight to love and justice.
Rely on God.
Accept His help.
Wait on Him.
Wait for His Word.
Wait for His timing.
Wait for His providence.
Now, I'm super excited to come home and begin the next steps, but I know there is still another month and a half of work to do in India. So I pray that God will keep me in the moment, not in the past or future, and that He would continue to lead me day by day. Today, I am applying for Mission Year.