By Ericka Bennett
From my journal during my time in India. Note: Asha is Hindi for “hope.”
I found Hope today. There, in the middle of the leper colony. It was the most unexpected discovery
I knew when I looked into her big brown eyes, innocent and inviting, full of joy despite her circumstances, and sparkling with laughter. Pigtails and giggles – I watched as she danced in her little white dress and I knew something was special about this little girl. I bent down to ask her name.
“Asha”, she said. Hope.
“Yes Lord,” I thought, “that’s just like You to show me Hope in a place I felt sure would be hopeless.”
I couldn’t help but smile.
We started our walk through the colony to meet the lepers and their families with a group of children following all around us. I felt a little hand in mine and looked down. There she was, wanting to be held.
I picked up Hope and carried her through the leper colony as she whispered, “I love Jesus” in my ear.
We greeted men, women, and children – the lepers and their families. We shook hands and gave hugs. Despite the filth and stench, we smiled and prayed and tried as best we could to bless the people. All the while, Hope held on
I turned the corner to find a wooden shack – up on legs with a small door. It was maybe 3 by 5 feet – a type of hutch you might keep rabbits or chickens in back in the US. Two of our girls were sitting in the doorway, so I stopped to say hello.
Inside, I found the man they were comforting. A sweet old man, about the age of my own grandfather lay inside, pitifully sick. He couldn’t speak. His tear-filled eyes struggled to see. When he reached out his hand to shake mine, I saw how badly the leprosy had affected him he had no fingers left, only white spots on his hands and black nubs where his fingers had fallen away.
The leprosy was killing him slowly.
It was almost more than I could bear. Here was this precious man who deserved SO much more – He deserved medicine and proper care! And yet here he was, dying of a curable disease, and living out his days in a dark wooden box while the world passed by.
I wanted so badly to comfort him, so I did all I knew to do. With Hope in my arms, I began to sing over him. Sarah, Laura, and I sang “It Is Well”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Jesus Paid It All”, desperately wishing he could understand the words we were singing. And then, it was time to go…
Hope and I sat down in the doorway and he reached for my hand. I wanted to hug him but could barely reach, so I shook his hand and then kissed my fingers and touched them to his cheek.
With Hope still in my arms I said my goodbyes to the other lepers and their families. And then, it was time to say goodbye to Hope.
Her sweet eyes didn’t understand at first, and she clung to my hands even after I put her down. As I turned to leave she kissed me goodbye, her rosebud lips against my cheek and mine against her dusty face.
We drove away with her waving until the car was out of sight while I prayed: “God make her HOPE. Hope to the lepers, Hope to the village, Hope to India. Raise her up as a great woman of God. But God, don’t stop there make her generation HOPE for the future!”
Though her name was Hope, I knew she was not the only one. That day, and everyday here, I see Hope in the eyes of the children. Hope for their future, Hope for their dreams to be fulfilled, Hope for India – for light to fill the darkness and for a lost nation to know the Lord!
Ericka Bennett , a graduate from Auburn University, is from Alabama and recently moved to Georgia to work with Adventures in Missions after the orphans in Africa broke her heart.