“When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” –Psalm 94:19
I leave pieces of my heart everywhere I go. My heart may be smaller but my capacity for love is so much greater.
He twists his mouth awkwardly, trying to mimic my American accent as he reads the words I had written on the page. A breeze blows across the porch and he pulls the shawl I let him borrow tighter around his face, making me laugh because he looks like a typical terrorist from an American comic. He catches my eye for a moment. “I change since you come. I feel different,” he tells me before he goes back to reading CAMEL, typed out in large letters across the page. The cool breeze brushes away the thoughts of leaving. I try to forget.
But later, as he waves goodbye to me at the airport, eyes red with tears, I find a quiet corner to sob.
Sister Beatina calls me into the Flower room, into a room full of the girls I have been working with over the last two and a half months. They drape a lei made out of recycled paper around my neck and Gita starts singing into the microphone, belting out some tune the rest of the girls know and join in. They all sing and bring me gifts they have made. We all clap and whistle as Asha, our little girl with Downs Syndrome, dances in the middle of the room. Cecilia sits in her wheelchair, not smiling, not joining in, her eyes watering. I lean into her and make a few jokes, pinching her cheeks. She smiles and joins us for a little bit.
I lift Cecilia out of her wheelchair and into her pink checkered bed, next to Rani and Mangala, her best friends. As I begin to walk away, she reaches out her hand as far as her contorted muscles allow and grabs my arm, pulling me down to her bed. With tears in her eyes she pulls me in and whispers, “Thank you, Auntie, for everything.” We have tickle fest so I don’t start crying in front of her. And I leave her with a smile on her face.
Familiar faces gather around the table, reaching into box after box of cheese pizza. I retreat from the party to start packing. Some of the girls come in, telling me how strange this place will be without me. I was the first person many of them met. I remember when the first people I met at my guesthouse left. When you meet and become family, it feels like you will each be there forever. This is life. But then time passes and suddenly the visa is due to expire and we make our way back to where we came from. Life moves so quickly.
I fell in love again and again in India.
I am afraid to come back to the
US. I am afraid for so many reasons,
but I don’t feel like I can explain without offending someone. I am afraid of
apathy, complacency, political agendas, American Christians who are more
American than Christian. I wish I could go anywhere else but America.
But my heart convicts me as I read:
“The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with Him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” Luke 8:38-39
I will go back to
America, and I will proclaim all
God has done for me. I will look for the log in my own eye before trying to
help my brothers and sisters with their splinters. I will constantly check the
state of my heart, asking myself tough questions about my beliefs and the way I
live them out. But most of all, I will pray constantly and beg God to have
mercy on me, a sinner.
I will be back in
Wednesday night. I will make a short blog and Facebook post to let people know
I have arrived safely, then I will not be turning on my computer to look at
Facebook or the news, nor will I be reading newspapers or watching TV for about
a week. I don’t know how often I will answer phone calls or texts. I need to
ease myself back into American culture slowly, without being bombarded by news
of Israel and Gaza, or what my friends
think of Obama. I will be praying, spending time with my family and close
friends, and trying to sort out everything in my head and heart.
Thank you for all the love, support, and encouragement you have given me on this journey in Kolkata. I pray that you will be strengthened and encouraged through the Holy Spirit to be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever you are to whomever you can.
I think Shane Claiborne summarizes things pretty well in his book The Irresistible Revolution after he had come back from a summer of working with Mother Teresa in Kolkata:
“Mother Teresa always said, ‘Calcuttas are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your
I was ready to come home. I knew that my Calcutta
was the United States,
for I knew that we could not end poverty until we took a careful look at
wealth. I was to battle the beast from within the belly…As I left Calcutta it occurred to
me that I was returning to a land of lepers, a land of people who had forgotten
how to feel, to laugh, to cry, a land haunted by numbness. Could we begin to
And to end, I share my own sentiments through the journal entry of a young adult in the Church in North America in the book Letters to a
Apparently we aren’t supposed to pledge allegiance to anything or anyone other than Him. No stars. No stripes, No treaties. No task forces. Just to a King and a Kingdom.
Are you coming?