(I don’t have any pictures of the leper colony cause it wasn’t allowed.)
We walked into the barren clinic on the edge of the leprosy colony. A familiar face hung on both sides of the wall, Mother Teresa, a picture of loving the “least of these” we were about to meet. I made my way along the bench in the waiting room, shaking hands and introducing myself to each person waiting for their weekly care. Some hands couldn’t make a grip, as the disease had eaten away at their appendages. A thin man slumped on the floor by the door, the ends of his legs stubs wrapped in thick white bandages. One lady with coarse graying hair and toothy grin motioned for me to pray for her. She said her name was Sandra Mary, like Mary, she pointed out the glassed-in shrine of Jesus sitting on the shelf across from us. Her brown eyes were starting to cloud over blue-gray with cataracts. I didn’t know how much she could see. Maggie and I prayed for her. I felt humbled and outside myself, like I had nothing to give this woman, I was simply a small character in a much bigger story. I also felt a connection in my spirit, and as if my heart were opening really for the first time since I have been in this mad country.
Sandra wanted to try on my sunglasses so I ended up giving them to her. She made the whole clinic laugh, this wrinkled Indian woman, no longer just a leper, but a celebrity with her “movie star” shades covering half her face. It made my day.
It’s funny, I have heard horror stories about leper colonies, or people romanticizing the idea of touching outcasts. Not to downplay it, but It felt a lot more normal then that. Yes, I can’t imagine that being my life day in and day out- going from clinic to clinic, cleaning out wounds, washing feet, cutting away infected and filthy skin, but to the medical team, it was life. It was what they knew they had to do and so they did it- I am sure with days of frustration, apathy, love and everything in between.
The other day we were at a children’s home. The couple that runs the home, the people who we have been staying with, won’t call it an orphanage because once a child is there, they are adopted into a big family. It was so evident visiting these kids are well-loved and not lacking attention. They weren’t waiting for a missions team to come and entertain them to validate their existence- they entertained us. I wandered into the kitchen and met a teenage boy roasting peanuts on a cast iron skillet. He told me he was 15 and had lived in the home since he was five. I asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. He told me he wanted to be in ministry as he cautiously stirred the peanuts. “Like, you want to be a pastor, or a missionary?” I asked, somewhat naively. He looked slightly confused, “No…here.” I watched as he poured the slightly blackened nuts into a dish and offered me some, white teeth flashing. Here.
It’s a strange and humbling thing, when God takes you half way around the world, to a place famous for being this exotic, “dark” missions field in need of Him, and all you can see is how much they get it and you don’t.
We went the top of a mountain and worship with a church where most of it’s attendees still live on the streets. They fed us heaps of rice under the shade of a tree in the hot of the day.
We are not the celebrities here. People care less about our skin color. They are not dying to be our friend or to take what we have. And it’s the best thing that could happen.
Last night at church I met a woman who had tried to sell her kidney after her husband left her with a debt and she had no other way to take care of her three kids. When someone had told her that was a good idea, she thought maybe it would be better to kill herself because there is no other way out. The debt is only about $500 US. Charlotte and I got to pray over her and encourage her and we could tell something was really breaking through.
I’ve been thinking of this Sara Groves song since I have been here. It runs as a soundtrack in my head often,
“Something on the road
Cut me to the soul.
Your pain has changed me
Your dream inspires
Your face a memory
Your hope a fire
Your courage asks me what I’m afraid of
And what I know of love.”
I need India more then India needs me.