Poverty has infected India like a vicious flu, spreading to every part of the body. It’s everywhere.
It’s outside our window, it’s on our walk to the train, it’s on the train, it’s in the streets, it’s at ministry, it’s outside the mall- it’s in the people.
On our way to ministry we walk through the smoking piles of burning trash trying to not to step on the sick, skinny dogs sleeping on the path. Small dirty children holding infants grab our hands begging for money. The jangles of tin cups saturate the air as people with terrible deformities stare at us. Haggard women bend low to touch our feet and then touch their heads in an effort to get food. Children are using the restroom in patches of dirt. You can’t escape it.
If you give money it goes to a pimp, so we pray for those who come to us, but it is literally seconds before another child is tugging on your hand asking for money.
Then when we got to ministry we spend all day praying for the women who sell their bodies, many of them depressed and desperate for a way out. Dhwani* has scars on her wrists from where she has cut herself, desperate for escape. Sapan’s* father is passed out cold in the doorway, as his mother tries to conceal him and support the family. Padma* cries in pain as she dies of HIV and tuberculosis. Jobada* has marks on her face, necks and hands from where her husband who forced her into prostitution has beaten her. Men with lifeless eyes follow desperate women in effort to find some sort of fulfillment.
These situations play out before me everyday and I feel so helpless. All I can do is pray for them and hold their hand as they cry, hoping that their children’s lives will be different.
The devil has gotten his hands in here deep and no one has escaped. Men, women and children have been robbed of their dignity. Even the rich have been robbed of their compassion.
Poverty, disease and anger are everywhere. It all just seems so hopeless.
But as I recall the best stories are always the stories about a small good overcoming a vast evil. It’s the stories like David and Goliath, Jesus and death and Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort that we remember. They are the stories where all hope seems lost and then at the perfect time, goodness, peace and laughter are restored.
They are stories of redemption because that is what God is all about. And while poverty prowls the street so does something even stronger, love.
God is in the brothels, in the alleyways where humans are sold. God is in the cries of the children who wander the streets. God is in the heart of the broken woman who has been infected with a disease that will end her life.
“Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me.” psalm 139: 7-10
Yes, God is even there.
He’s in us and in people like Abhay, Roger and Raj. People who wake up every morning, thank God for a beautiful day and head into the darkest corners of this Earth so that they may love on the widows, the broken and the orphan.
He’s in our smiles, our hugs and our prayers.
And He was in my hands today as I washed a 6-year-old girl. Her name is Kama*, she and her older sister are incredibly sweet little girls that come everyday. They always sit in front of me when I eat so that I can sneak my extra food on their plate when no one is looking, they gobble it up and then go for seconds.
Today as I was holding Kama I noticed that she had a huge scrape on her forehead, it was covered in dirt, so I began to wash her. I got a rag and scrubbed her whole body, she was laughing the whole time because it tickled her. As I washed I wondered if this is the first time she has ever been given a bath until I was brought back to reality by her sharp cry. What I thought had been another grievous patch of dirt on her ankle was a severely infected cut, forgotten under the weeks and maybe even months of dirt. I gently washed the cut trying to get it clean enough for it to heal, as I did it she looked at me like I was some kind of angel. As I poured water on the cut, it was washing away the dirt, but also the neglect.
Before I knew what was happening I was crying. God overcame me with His love for this girl. And while her mother may have forgotten her, God never did, not once. He loved her so much that he sent me, this broken human being, to give her love.
It’s changing me, this place, slowly chipping away at who I thought I was. I am coming to realize that I have more love in my heart than I ever thought possible.
The last time I checked, love is the only thing that has overcome death. And I am out to prove it.