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 world traveler, and adventurer. 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, and so 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 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 when I could see the light shine through. That joy, that 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. That morning, our contact went to pick them up, there was a police raid. Girls scattered, some were caught and beaten, thrown in inhumane prisons. The newspaper headlines boasted of underaged 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, allowed 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, childhood returning, and I knew we were the same.
The joy and innocence of the day was broken beginning 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 at authority. They turned away, temporarily. Next came a ego-filled jock collage 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, 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 then 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 had 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 we didn’t find out till later, was why he was so mad. 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 prejudiced 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.
Drawing a line in the sand in choosing to simply give of our day to people the rest of the world may deem as garbage. To claim a person is valuable just because they are alive, because they were created by God, is a bold declaration. Every injustice problem in the world is rooted at the idea that some people are more important than others. In India, we got 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 then I thought possible. I know without a doubt, I will continue to write there stories.
“Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” -Mother Teresa
Promo Video for the Children’s Home we worked on