- Tuesday, March 02, 1999
Crosswalk.com is pleased to be able to bring you the exclusive online journal of Janet's trip to Calcutta -- directly from her computer in India...to yours..
"The needs of these children goes far beyond hunger. They need to be hugged, talked to and made to laugh," Janet relates. "I used to wonder what would compel a person to leave the comforts and opportunities of our country to go to a land of disease and hopelessness. Now I know, and I pray I'll never forget."
I depart Nashville for Chicago where I'll meet my sister, Kay, who is returning to Calcutta with me. We have a five-hour layover here -- plenty of time for lunch and 'catching up.'
Our flight to Frankfurt was 8 hours, and we've a 4 hour layover here. We'll be meeting the Mission of Mercy representative on our upcoming flight to Delhi. This flight is 7 hours -- time to review and fine tune our itinerary.
We meet Ian McCabe at the gate in Frankfurt. Ian was born in India of missionary parents and is fluent in the language as well as the customs. His parents have served as directors of the Boy's Home in Nawabganj. Ian shares with Kay and me his good news -- he and wife, Wendy, are expecting their first child in July.
We arrive Delhi at 1:30 AM and head for the airport hotel for hot showers and a good night's sleep. It's been a 31-hour trip so far with one more night and an hour flight still to go.
We depart the hotel at 7:30 AM for the flight to Lucknow. There we are met by Ian's dad, Andrew McCabe, who has brought a vehicle for our trip to the first project, The Ray of Hope School.
The school is approximately an hour outside of Lucknow. Joseph, a Georgia-born missionary, volunteers to drive us to the site. I am reminded of the haphazard transportation system in India.
There are few traffic laws, if any, so speed is governed only by your ability to weave in and out of grain-laden pedestrians, bicyclists, dogs, goats, and an occasional monkey -- all on what amounts to a one-lane road. Whatever fatigue we feel is quickly replaced by a paralytic fear as Joseph maneuvers his way to the project in our little jeep.
Joseph tells us there is a medical team visiting the school that day -- an eye doctor and a general practitioner. The children have received physicals and eye exams, complete with medication and eye glasses, when necessary.
We drive along the wide expanse of mustard and wheat fields finally arriving at a narrow, rutted driveway leading to the little village where the school is located. We pass mud huts and open fires, and villagers, young and old, working the stubborn land. Their faces belie the hardship and oppression of their day to day existence.
The project is announced by a handmade banner identifying 'The Ray of Hope School.' That translates to a ramshackle hut divided into 2 sections and an open area under weighty trees. Here sat 221 beautiful Indian boys and girls, ages 5 - 8, wearing blue uniforms and sweaters bearing the familiar logo of Mission of Mercy. We kneel down and speak to them, signaling our greetings, and touching their arms and hands. They cower in their timidity. The Director leads them in songs and, introducing us, asks "What do we do for our sponsors every day?" Without hesitation, their voices join to declare in Hindu, "Pray for them!"
God always finds a way to live and move in obscure corners of the world. The school actually started when a group of local villagers went to the Mission of Mercy school in Lucknow and offered to donate this piece of land to them if they would drive away the perceived evil spirits which inhabited it. Now, two years later, we share a sacred moment as 221 Hindu voices sing, "Jesus Gives Us Salvation...."
God always finds a way.
We depart Lucknow at 5 AM for the 4-hour drive to Rupaidiha. We've secured a more comfortable vehicle -- a small car -- and Ian has decided to drive (sorry, Joseph!)
Early in the trip, the road becomes wider and surprisingly smooth -- something we all appreciate. Ian explains that the Japanese government built the new road, believing Buddha is buried approximately an hour away. They sent their own engineers and crews, hoping to make the journey more palatable for Japanese and other tourists. While we don't share the Japanese passion for Buddha, we're sure glad for the road that resulted!
We arrive Rupaidiha at 9 AM and breakfast with the project directors in their home. Ray and Jenny have been with the school for 13 years -- she the principal and he the administrator. They have two beautiful children of their own, as well as some visiting missions volunteers from Germany and the United States. Their small house is bustling with activity but crowned with an indescribable serenity. Good combination.
There are 571 children here -- some of them abandoned, some born of parents with leprosy, some, simply, impoverished -- all of them, today, gathered on the grounds for a special presentation. They welcome us, each one bringing handmade cards and pictures, and an occasional sweet-smelling flower. They sing familiar praise songs in English, then Hindu, incorporating dance and songs from neighboring Nepal.
Soon we begin taking individual photographs with each child. While it is a slow process, it is the most rewarding moment for me as this has been my dream and our reason for this trip at all. They are timid but warm and so glad we have come. I can't help but dwell on the marked difference in their childhood and that of other children I know. God is the great equalizer. I'm sure He makes it all make sense somehow.
During our 5-hour stay the electricity fails on several occasions, as their generator is insufficient to adequately provide for the demands of the school, office, and house. Jenny said this was their greatest need at present. Ian said it would cost about $5,000. We'll start praying about that right away.
I know I'll be thinking of Ray and Jenny long after we depart Rupaidiha. I'll recall their humble house, their warm, well-planned welcome, and their quiet apologies each time the electricity failed. I'll be reminded of how the things that really matter have nothing to do with the total square footage of the house you live in or the quality of the clothes you wear, but everything to do with the causes you embrace and the things that impassion you. It matters more what things you count as loss than what things you gain. It has much more to do with Him than with us.
We leave Rupaidiha for the 100-mile, 4-hour journey to Nawabganj. Our journey takes longer than expected because of all the pedestrians on the road. We arrive approximately 8 PM, have dinner with the director, and collapse into our beds. For the first time in my life, I sleep under a mosquito net and make impish faces at the rejected mosquitoes. A lizard we christened 'Louie' silently clings to the bathroom wall waiting to devour a careless mosquito or roach. Two large wooden sticks in the corner are used to kill snakes who venture past the threshold. Fortunately they are still in hibernation. We'd preceded their annual outing by about 2 weeks.
Thank the Lord for small favors.
Nawabganj is a school of about 400 boys, some of whom, abandoned by their families, live at the adjoining Boy's Home.
The project is located on a sizable piece of property located in a remote area outside the village of Nawabganj. A few years ago Andrew McCabe and his wife had a vision for housing the growing number of boys they encountered who'd been deserted by their families. The Boy's Home was the result of that vision and now, years later, we walked around the grounds where they are housed, educated, and taught the gospel of Christ.
The Home is a simple concrete structure with single cots lined side by side in all available space. The beds were tidily made with new blankets from a donor we'd met on this visit. There were no TV's, VCR's, Nintendo's -- the only thing that distinguished one bed from another were the tattered shoes slid under them. These children are blessed to be in the school and the home. They are so grateful. But compared to children I know, they have nothing. Their greatest source of pride are the blue Mission of Mercy shirts and sweaters they possess.
This day, after they shared a delightful program with us, they were each presented a new shirt from Mission of Mercy. They were so eager to wear them that most changed immediately, but not before sheepishly saying to my sister, "T[h]ank you."
We take pictures with each boy, take a final walk around the school and grounds, have a quick lunch, then back on the road for the 4-hour journey to Lucknow where we'll catch a flight to Delhi, spend the night, and depart for Frankfurt tomorrow morning.
This has been, possibly, the most tiring trip of my life. The challenges presented by the distances and the remoteness of the areas were, at times, overwhelming. But the payoff was the opportunity to place an arm around every boy and girl in the two villages; the reward was the soft "T[h]ank you" and shy look of gratitude; the prize will be to know that each one of them is sponsored -- and prayed for -- by someone halfway around the world who has a heart big enough to reach that far. It's worth every mile, every bump, every greedy-eyed mosquito in the entire country. Makes me want to look each sponsor in the eye, smile sheepishly, and whisper, 'T[h]ank you.'
Mission of Mercy was organized over 40 years ago when a young missionary couple set up a tent revival and began to change the lives of children who literally had no hope for a future. Over the past four decades this non-profit Christian relief and development agency has changed the lives of thousands. Mission of Mercy is dedicated to meeting physical and spiritual needs of hurting people all over the world.
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