It was the same.
In India, much like in Honduras, Ghana, Cameroon, and Haiti – we sought out the poorest areas -- areas where people lived far below the invisible poverty line. Areas where homes were made of whatever materials could be afforded – whether it’d be mud walls and thatched roofs, shelters pieced together with scraps and leftovers, or solid concrete or adobe structures.
In India, much like in Honduras, Ghana, Cameroon and Haiti – roads were congested, garbage strewn around, infrastructure was primitive or absent altogether, education a challenge for those afflicted by extreme poverty, healthcare a rare luxury.
It was the same...
And yet so different…
Robed in splashes of striking, bold colors and regal fabrics, and with fresh flowers in their hair, the girls and women gracefully dotted the scenes before our eyes; bent low over rice fields, heads high carrying baskets or bundles, hands hardworking steadily weaving rope and hauling water, hearts full carrying babies and caring for families.
The beauty before us took our breaths away. It was as though they were in a movie, actors in a Little House On The Prairie scene… everything was so beautiful that it made it all too easy to forget the reality of their poverty, of their situation, of their desperation for a better life.
Desperation for "enough" -- enough food, enough clean water, enough shelter, enough education, enough health care. Enough love and compassion.
And yet we couldn’t forget.
To the depths of our spirit.
The smell of raw sewage… cows clogging the streets… makeshift homes… the homeless… idol worshiping and sacrifices... the poor, the sick, the broken, the lost… everywhere.
It's everywhere back home too. It's everywhere if you look deeply enough, past the surface... but seeing it hurts.
Seeing it can not be undone. Seeing, instead, just might undo us... sometimes, that's what it takes to move our hearts towards His. To put life in perspective. To learn how to love, how to live.
Two years ago, the children began attending a program in a local area church that offered them two meals a day, tutoring, and enabled them to continue their education through financial support from sponsors.
Seven days a week, these children would come for nourishment of every kind… spirit, mind and body. It was so new to them, this idea that they were valued and important, that they were loved and appreciated… that they could be touched and hugged and a gentle kiss could affectionately be placed upon their foreheads as they parted each night and went home… that the words “I love you” could be spoken and meant.
In their previous experiences, they were considered the “least wanted, lowest class, despised and avoided” – their label, “untouchable”, was very literal. For someone of a “higher social class” to touch them meant that the higher class person would then become dirtied, cursed, and lose all their social standing. They too, would become "untouchable".
In the eyes of their culture, these untouchable people were only good for one thing – dirty jobs and hard labor.
In the eyes of God, and ours, these children and these people are precious, treasured, beloved.
As the children were nurtured and loved and saw their needs met, they bloomed.
Once reserved and shy, aloof, withdrawn, skittish and lacking confidence, these children now KNOW
their value and worth, and bask in the glow of His love.
Their eyes are alive, their humble servants’ hearts so pure and beautiful, their smiles light a room.
Barriers are broken down, equality is embraced, love is received and poured out, multiplied.
As each child is sponsored, for only $11 a month, it gives the program the opportunity to reach out to more children and include them in this life changing environment. A dozen new children were enrolled while we were in India, a few of which already have sponsors. As these children grow and develop and are nourished in body, spirit and mind, the cycle of generational poverty is broken.
Their future is different. Very different. And it is good.
The difference is hope.
The difference is love.