It had been 24 hours of constant moving and going. As led, we seemed to race across India, in and out of villages and homes . The cities were packed with busy streets and in the villages, the children were playing along and in the roadways. We heard the sounds of temple worship from local areas all along each location we traversed. Water buffalo, their legs tethered with ropes (official brake checkers), filling the roads and highway in the early hours of the day, to get to the green grass on the other side of the fields. Not one car stayed on the correct side of the road and there was no speed limit. Our necks and backs swayed and twisted and bumped along the pothole-filled roads. And our daring “strength” came when we faced the large lorries coming at us from the all directions. Never mind that they have no lights on, mixed with motorcycles and little yellow 3-wheeled autos filled with the elderly and school aged-children hanging from the open doors and rear gate of the vehicles.
During this one 24-hour time slot, we had finished 4 meetings and 10 slum homes and we were gifted with a late night visit at Krupa bakery, where we met and were graced with a meeting with the gentle evangelist, Judson Abraham! Then early the next day, we were off to the city slums.
I have never witnessed this level of poverty in my life; it’s a place I shall never forget! This slum housed over 2000 who have lived here for over 7 years now. This created area slum came about when workers from various places came to help build the new mass transit across the city. We parked our cars outside the slum area near 6 large green dumpster boxes the size of tractor-trailers. As we left the cars and walked into the open air, masses of flies attended to our bodies. City dogs and city cows were all eating from this great waste. The worst was watching the small children walk by to see if there was anything they could get from the same area to eat. As we entered this place, I don’t know what caught my heart first… masses of small makeshift houses with missing doors and no windows, shelters built with blue torn tarps, or rows and rows of makeshift lean-tos with countless dirt paths, (narrow in some places, and wide in others.) The noise level between the city street sounds, the children, barking dogs and the conversations going along the way were overwhelming to my all my senses. What my ears were hearing, my eyes could not believe. What my eyes were seeing, my ears could not comprehend. A sense of chaos, a spirit had overtaken this place, and I had walked right into it. There were people standing about in the heat, looking and wondering, “What are they doing here?” There were small children- some crying, some playing, some laughing as they ran through the filth in the dirty paths, water and mud, with no shoes or slippers on their feet. The babies who were crying- was it for lack of food, lack of attention, the heat, or maybe a culmination of all?
Then my eyes were caught; sitting alone on a small split-open plastic rice bag was a small child, unattended, alone, and so sick that she was not able to convey her pain. She just sat there staring, when one of the people I was with said, “Don’t look, you can’t stand that sight.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her begin to vomit on the ground. Tears welled up inside me. Where were her parents, could I go to her, and what should I do? The smell caught up with my eyes as I covered my nose and mouth and asked, “Give me strength not to lose what hope I have for her.” Not knowing the conditions of the slum and what permission I had, I began to pray for her and soon her father came to pick her up. He held her and comforted her. With the hope of healing and my tears, I grabbed the hand of the friend I was with, and began to pray. The place was streaming with great noise, mixed sounds, and dogs barking in the distance. There was the shuffle of workers coming home from spending all day in the hot sun, and women carrying water from polluted water cisterns. Then I noticed all were beginning to take their baths in the open air, taking the dirt off from a hard day of labor. I looked around again and yellow and blue tarps dotted my vision for as far as I could see. All pathways were filled with small veins of dirty water rolling through the walkways. Debris and trash covered every area that you could see. As I prayed, I said, “Lord give me your eyes, let me see what you see; what is it that you’re trying to show me here?”
A sudden strength came upon me and I began see through heaven’s eyes. I saw and I noticed something different about this place. Most huts and surrounding areas were swept clean. All their meager belongings were neatly- or is neatly as they could be- gathered near their little homes. Pots, pans and dishes were all neatly washed and stacked as best they could be. I began to watch the mothers in the early evening routines. They were gathering their children and washing and bathing them at the nearest water well. Laughter was coming from many homes, and as I walked by and began to say, “Hello”, many smiled and greeted me back. I began to pray for those who didn’t have shoes, knowing that the area was contaminated and polluted. I began to ask God, “What can I do? How can I help? What is your plan for this people?” As I tried to look for every positive thing I could find there, burn heaps and trash piles were everywhere. Then the strange smells that I was not familiar with overtook my senses, and I would just stop and pray again.
Then children began to run to us, and each one had a beautiful smile, hungry eyes and laughter. The natural part of me wanted to reach out, touch them, hold them, pick them up and just have a joyous moment with them. We gathered them in the small area under a makeshift hut and began to teach them a song from our hearts. They were like little magpies- whatever song I sang, they sang. Whatever praise I gave up, their little voices rang throughout the village singing the songs and praises. Then suddenly I felt like I had made a connection with them and after a time, we began to move through the village singing with them. They followed us everywhere we went, introducing us to their friends and families. My eyes were filled with the daily life that they live and the sacrifices they make just to have that one day to live.
As we left the slum, we attracted the attention of the local man who was selling ice cream in the street from his vendor bike. Amid another chaotic moment, (children pushing and grabbing for their ice cream), just to hear the laughter and the joy of little children eating was so wonderful that I’ll never be able to forget that sound.
It was not their first encounter with Christians or others who had come by to see how they were living. About 20% here attend a local church, or sometimes the local pastors will come and do a service there. My heart broke as I spotted the elderly who struggle to walk, and the babies who are underweight with hollow eyes. The cycle of poverty runs deep here. And now for over year, this picture, this memory, is painted in the back of my mind and I cannot forget it. Oftentimes, because they live such transient lives, the children do not go to school. For generations, the working class moves from place to place and never really has a home to call their own. To get them to school and provide proper food and medical care is a challenge bigger then me.
I don’t know who will ever read this, but Father, you are more precious in this moment in time, to remind me not to forget! Who will ever understand the picture that is running in my head, or the needs that are calling out to me? Who will understand that the tug on my heart is greater today than it was last year? How will you lead me to break into this poverty mentality and help them be set free?
YOU TOOK ME HERE FOR A REASON LORD,
Waiting for His release for provision,