By Brooke Luby
Well, I am home. It’s been a journey, to say the least.
India for me has been a love-hate relationship. I didn’t think I could cope at first. It was an odd feeling, me being the adventurous world traveler. It felt like too much-too many old women with hands left as stubs from leprosy, too many five year old girls with tangled hair and dirty faces, looking at me with pleading eyes.
Too many sad stories. How do you reconcile your life after something like that?
How do you live “normally,” pretending to care about all the things that used to mean so much?
I didn’t think it would be that big of a culture shock-but it was. I didn’t think I could be as calloused as I was at times, only to break open in a frenzy of tears. There were times when the faces and stories would build up in my mind until I finally just had to grieve.
Yet those breaking moments were necessary and made it all worthwhile. It was only after breaking that I could see the light shine through. The joy and hope I experienced seemed to transcend the most difficult of realities.
The other week we took a group of eight girls from the red light district to a water park. The morning our contact went to pick them up, there was a police raid. The girls scattered. Some were caught, beaten, and thrown into inhumane prisons. The newspaper headlines boasted of “underage girls being rescued,” but we knew it wasn’t a rescue for those who were over 18. Even if they had been sold into the chains of the brothel at a young age, if they were an adult, it was their fault-and they would be punished.
Those eight girls had wide smiles, despite their narrow escape and their bone deep tiredness after working all night. Days were usually meant for sleeping. That day, it was fun in the sun and water. We rushed down the water slide, racing, piling on mats to go faster. We splashed and knocked each other off of tubes, allowing laughter to be our common language.
There was no separation between us- we were women, allowed to be girls for an afternoon, smiling, waking up, enjoying the feeling of water on our skin in a land so hot and dusty. I watched the girls, brown eyes sparkling, their childhood returning, and I knew we were the same.
The joy and innocence of the day was soon broken with the knowing stares of a few men. I saw those looks and it turned my stomach. A fierce feeling that I needed to protect them came over me and I glared at them with a look of authority. They turned away, temporarily. Next came an ego-filled jock college guy who felt like it was his civic duty to inform us tourists just who the girls we were hanging out with were. “They must have tricked you! They are not who you think they are! Tourists are like gods in our country; you should not be mixing with such people!”
We calmly informed him that we knew exactly who they were, and they were our friends.
He got more and more riled up, yelling about how tourists were gods and they were polluting us. A righteous anger rose up inside of me. I marched over to the group of guys with more courage than I knew I had. I told them that we were not gods, actually we serve the real God, and He made everyone equal, including those precious girls. He wouldn’t have it.
Things escalated. Our contact, Joy, finally came out and began talking sternly to the group in the local language. While this was happening, the guy I had told off stormed off to the garden where Charlotte was standing with one of the girls. This girl was sweet, yet not mentally all there. She had propositioned the guy earlier, which was why he was so mad (we didn’t find this out until later). The guy yelled in her face. Charlotte tried to block him, but he pushed her aside, pushing the girl to the ground, punching her, kicking her.
We saw first hand the hate and prejudice created by a society where a person’s value is determined by what they are born or forced into.
I kept waiting for Jesus to walk into the scene, draw a line in the sand and say, “Whoever has no sin among you throw the first stone.” Afterward, I realized, in our own way, we were doing just that.
In choosing to simply give of our day to people the rest of the world deems as garbage, we were drawing a line in the sand. To claim a person is valuable just because they are alive, because they were created by God, is a bold declaration. Every injustice in the world is rooted in the idea that some people are more important than others. In India, we were given the chance to reverse that.
I don’t think I will ever forget the people I met, the 8 prostitutes we saw as girls for one afternoon, the 34 kids who invaded my heart in a deeper way than I thought possible. I know without a doubt, I will continue to write their stories.
“Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” -Mother Teresa
Brooke is in the middle of a two month trip to India, visiting orphanages and capturing stories for Streams of Mercy, a ministry helping support children all over the world. Visit www.streamsofmercy.org for more info.