[post from my wife, Amanda, reflecting upon her recent trip to India]
Christmas feels a little different for me this year. Before now, I don’t think I fully appreciated Jesus humbling Himself and becoming poor. Last Christmas, I hadn’t really witnessed poverty. God graciously allowed me to see something that changed me forever.
I’m a stay-at-home mom of three little girls. My day usually goes something like this: wake up, get some one-on-one time with God in the Word, get the kids up, feed them and get them off to school, do some housework, start thinking about dinner, pick kids up from school, prepare dinner, get kids to bed, spend some time with my husband, and, lastly, put myself to bed. All simple things, making my world seem rather small.
Up until a few weeks ago, when my world got a whole lot bigger. I had the opportunity to go, almost literally, to the opposite side of the world. I traveled to East India with some pretty amazing people as part of a Compassion International trip. Much was done in the way of preparing: shots were received, checks were written, a 10 page “survival guide” drafted and printed out for my dear husband as he braved life with the Shenanigans (our girls 5, 3, and 2) and then we were boarding a plane for almost a day and half of travel to finally land in Kolkata.
So, it’s obviously very different from my small town in Alabama (or the Atlanta suburb I grew up in ☺). The smell of burning trash, the inability to see the actual sky because of the smog, the garbage everywhere, the horns constantly honking as cars, rickshaws, bicyclists, pedestrians, dogs, and cows all share the same un-laned streets. People selling all types of meat (usually surrounded by swarms of flies), fruits, and wares all over the place. People making their homes out of a lean-to positioned on the sidewalk.
But, honestly, I expected these things. I knew India, and especially Kolkata, was one of the most impoverished places in the world. So, I had an idea of what comes with that. But, I found something unexpected during much of my trip. And it became clear to me what that “something” was during one of the home visits.
During home visits, we traveled with Compassion representatives to the homes of participants in the project – either a mom that was part of the Child Survival Program or a student that was part of the Child Development Sponsorship Program. The first day, walking over a stagnant stream and a mountain of trash, we visited the home of Tumpa. She has a toddler and is a participant in the CSP. We were all sitting there, along with many of her curious neighbors, in her tiny home, trying to make conversation. Tumpa had come to trust in Christ through her participation in the Compassion project and He was so evident in the Hope in her eyes and the smile on her face.
So, I asked a simple question, “Tumpa, can you describe for us your typical day?” Sam, our East India Compassion office rep. translated the question into Bengali and then relayed the answer back to us in English, “she wakes up, reads her bible, feeds her baby and other family members, sees her husband off to work, does some housework, and then starts thinking about what she’s going to cook for dinner.” And that’s when God showed me the sameness that became the common thread for me throughout this trip. Tumpa’s daily routine was strikingly similar to mine. God has the same love for her as He does for me. The difference is in the things we have no control over – the part of the world and the circumstances we were born in.
Before I went to India I knew that Christ commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. I knew that He commanded us to take care of the poor. But, God used a stay-at-home mom in Kolkata to show this stay-at-home mom from Birmingham what it means to love my neighbor and take care of the poor. God made it very easy for me to see my neighbor as myself. And it’s pretty impossible to ignore yourself.
I’ll admit, the needs seem so vast and overwhelming. The temptation to be paralyzed by that thought is very real. But, I’m reminded of a quote that I read while visiting the home of Mother Teresa, just a short walk from the place we stayed in Kolkata… “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
And this is where I find an avenue to do a small thing – to love my neighbor and take care of the poor – Compassion. I went into this trip with great respect for Compassion, but that respect was strengthened even more when I saw the integrity of their ministry and the selflessness of the staff for the purpose of releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. We were able to see the holistic approach taken by Compassion in action during our time in East India. Something that was very profound to me was that several of the staff members at the projects had grown up as participants in the Compassion project and were now serving as teachers. They’re the real deal. Read more here www.compassion.com. And ask me about it. I would love to share more of what God taught me in India.
We also learned that India is a rather under-served area – there were around 300 applicants for the Leadership Development Program last year, but only funding for 80. There are lots of children who need sponsors – sponsors to not only help provide resources, but to love them and maintain a relationship with them. I did not realize until this trip just how much those kids love their sponsors. They all asked us to pray for their sponsors. They all wanted their sponsors to come visit them. And they cherished their letters from their sponsors.
So, this Christmas is different. I got a tiny glimpse into someone else’s world. And I’m praying that God would be glorified in the small things that I can do because of His great love.