I finally made it to India on Wednesday evening. It has been difficult to post because of the amount of ministry activity we’ve crammed into my condensed trip. This is the first of a handful of updates to come.
I was obviously less culture-shocked this time around, returning to the country I lived in for three months, than I was on my first visit five years ago. But there have still been some things that were difficult to adjust to.
Probably the main hurdle has been being constantly in the city. Overpopulation, as a global reality, is a myth – from my understanding. The issue isn’t overpopulation but bad stewardship. If everybody consumed natural resources like an American, we’d need five Earths – or so I’ve been told. Another area of bad stewardship is town planning. In this case, India consists of 1/5 of the world’s population, but 80% of those people live in rural areas. Rural India is very pleasant to me. It’s slow, wide-open and beautiful.
The 20% that live in cities often spend their days commuting through destruction-derby like traffic and walking on narrow dirt strips on the side of said chaos. Then add the pollution from all the exhaust and also the hot humidity that finds itself exacerbated by the sprawl of concrete buildings – and going anywhere in a city like Calcutta is an ordeal for a Westerner.
John is the leader of the ministry I’m partnering with and the man of the house in the family I’ve stayed in contact with all these years. So I just went with the flow when he said we should take a day and journey through the city to Mother Theresa’s House of the Dying. I’d been there before – with him – but he forgot. It was five years ago! I think, though, that he wanted to see if some of Mother Theresa’s compassionate heart could be imparted to us by visiting the site of her famous work. A great way to start a trip focused on the possibility of starting a children’s home.
It was, of course, amazing. She lived so simply and possessed miles of insight into the heart of compassion. Most of the public areas were closed the day we visited in 2008. Basically I got to see her tomb and get yelled at by an ornery nun that shouted something in Hindi as she pointed to the sign that said, “No Photographs.” John probably said something like, “Oh she says no snaps,” which is Indian English for, “no photos.”
This time we got to visit Mother’s room and tour the one-room museum dedicated to Theresa. Well, I toured it. John spent a portion of his time trying to find out if it was ok that I took “snaps” of the various Mama T quotes posted around the room. It wasn’t, but I took the snaps, I means photos, any way and then apologized to the first nun I saw. She was very forgiving.
The Mother’s heart was powerful. She keenly saw that nothing mattered more than love – first for Jesus and second for those he loved: the least of these.
By blood I am Albanian. By citizenship I am Indian. By faith I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the heart of Jesus. Mother Theresa
John’s intuition was right, the visit was a good tone to start the trip on.
Unexpectedly, the journey there and back also was also helpful for our planning. Our cab broke down and we had to take a series of auto-rickshaws, weave in and out of traffic by foot and eventually take a second cab just to get there. This experience weighed heavy on me when we began to visit the slums in rural areas later that night. The slums were not pleasant but the trip there was much more so than then that day’s urban trek. I’m praying to see if the Lord likes the idea of the children’s home on the outskirts of the city. It would seem like a more pleasant place to live – at least to my American sensibilities. The property values are lower, as well. But we do need to balance those concerns with accessibility to school bus routes. It’s God’s project, he’ll show us.
The above photo is of the back of one Calcutta auto-rickshaw – if it gives you any idea of the mentality an urban Indian driver must have. Ok, this was probably more of a (crazy) life-motto for a muslim driver, but it felt like a fitting aphorism for any Indian navigator, based on the day’s hostile commute.
After lunch and a long trek back, the youngest daughter, Rebekah, and I, journeyed to a slum where, through her efforts and the efforts of their church, God has brought miraculous transformation to an entire community. I’ll post on that later, as well as the progress toward the children’s-home project. God had much more to reveal about his heart for these kids over the weekend. Stay tuned!