India gets under your skin slowly. It begins to settle on your exterior like sweat, then permeates into your blood stream, your bones.
Partaking in the madness of traffic is like jumping into the middle of a great choreographed dance, everyone knows their parts and places, but you feel so lost. Buses like galloping pink elephants bombard the spaces of dusty cars, people stacked on mopeds, and bright yellow motor rickshaws. Horns blare in every sort of pitch and tone, a symphony of chaos.
The heavy of smells fill your nostrils- chocking exhaust, sharp curry, pungent sweat, something sour and nauseating. In the midst of the confusion of scents, comes a sweet explosion of Jasmine- an other worldly break from the harsh, burning air. Fresh beauty in the midst of stale filth.
There’s nothing to cover up here. You’ve got to take it or leave it. India lays exposed as a unwanted baby laying on the streets.
Every harsh reality of fallen humanity hits all your senses with full force. The dirt we all come from is not wiped away or sanitized. Every issues is rampant- poverty, disease, abuse, neglect- all the reasons people stop believing in God. But sometimes God has a kid’s face.
The eyes of the street kids speak more then all the sensory details I am attempting to capture here.
Yesterday we visited a slum that is the home of 6,000 people. Ironically, it used to be a zoo. A thin pathway littered in colorful garbage runs parallel to a pond filled with lily pads and trash. A yearly monsoon will overflow the stagnant water into the cramped grass huts people call home. During the flooding, poisonous snakes and disease is inevitable. The people are grateful for the unbearable summer time heat because it means less sickness.
We visited a daycare on the edge of the slum. About ten kids packed into a sweaty concrete room greeted us with songs and some smiles. Some just blankly stared. We learned these kids roam the slum if they aren’t in school. I watched a boy who couldn’t be older then five, pray over his plate of rice with an intensity I haven’t seen in most charismatic preachers. For some, the simple lunch was the only meal they would get that day.
We met a family who showed off their grinning bright eyed baby girl Gracie. The sister asked in broken English for us to pray a blessing over Gracie and for her grandmother’s diabetes. A wrinkled lady beckoned me into her hut. I had to duck inside the midget-sized doorway. Inside various pots and pans covered the dirt floor. She tried to gesture something to me, but I couldn’t figure out what she wanted.
We’ve been here three days. Three days it took Jesus to conquer the grave, what will we do as people who carry his spirit within us? I am realizing, being overwhelmed is never an excuse. It is the greatest cop out. It can never be “Oh, that’s just the way things are.” Who are we if we are not carriers of the kingdom of heaven to earth?
We sat for 2 hours today, listening to the stories of Freddy and Daisy, the couple who runs the orphanage, the daycare, the feeding program. Eighteen years they have been giving to the people of this city, they have offered grace time and time again when kids come into their home only to run away, so many prodigal children. They have fought for their own family as they battle sickness and lack of finances. But God always comes through.
At first, I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me, because I am so used to falling in love with a place instantly. I have felt more reserved here, like I don’t want to fully open my heart to this place because I know it’s going to get ripped to shreds.
I don’t know exactly what will come out of this. But I do know, these stories, they get under your skin slowly. But once they are inside, everything will change.