Friday, January 13, 2017

India Day 7: Dignity

This post is part of a series from a Discovery Trip to visit one of Partners International's partners in Kolkata, India. JKPS works in community development, social justice, adult education and with children at risk. Resources like bikes, clean water wells, monthly partnership with a local pastor go a long way to enabling this vital ministry to the Bengali people.

There are many words you could use to describe India. Dirty, depraved, disgusting. On a surface level, you might not be wrong, but like so many other good things in life, you have to go deeper.

Underneath the thick dusting of dirt you uncover an exotic, exhilarating and nearly extra terrestrial culture. Something so foreign to our Western sensibilities that our brain has to form completely new frameworks to process it.

Every street is bursting with people. Small shops and markets abound. This is a country full of life and exuberance. It would not be hard to go through your entire life and never be truly alone. The friendly shouting of people at work, the percussive meeping of horns, and many other sounds would wrap you like a blanket or a boa constrictor depending on your personality.

Take it another level down and you see immense poverty. Individuals and families living in open garbage dumps, protected from the environment by only a plastic sheet. It becomes easy to see the hundreds of thousands of beggars and poverty stricken individuals as a vermin. A tangible outworking of the failure of a broken system.

Yet you'd be entirely wrong.

Today the team spent the day outside of Kolkata with the young women and staff of the Mahima homes. These young ladies have endured the most heinous, despicable acts that evil has concocted. Stolen and sold from their homes, beaten and both physically and mentally broken down, and then forced to work the brothels at incredibly young ages, they understandably bear the scars of that war.

It is easy to look through the brothels and see prostitutes, pimps and lowlifes. Easy to judge and condemn those people to the depths of hell. Yet these are the people that Jesus spent his time with. He did not liase with princes, but dined with the paupers.

There are few places on earth where the Kingdom of God is as noticable on earth as in the Mahima homes. Despite the deplorable acts these young ladies have been exposed to, there is a trust and joy that is present in this family. This love is not constructed, but earned. Many hard years with tears, psychotic breaks, hugs and tears have earned a deep ocean of relationship to draw from.

Is it any wonder then, that the most common sound today was laughter? The sound of angels communing on earth, celebrating lives redeemed and new opportunities. Without Mahima many of these girls would have no hope, and may not even be alive. Yet here they are alive indeed.

In the past seven years, we've seen over 100 girls come through the homes. This past year we've rejoiced in the baptism of a few, who have experienced the love of the Mahima Staff and the redemption of Christ. We pray fervently for more.

At the heart of any ministry is the restoration of dignity. It would be a simple matter to write off the beggars, the poor, the sick, the needy, the prostitutes, the unwanted as inherently broken, in need of fixing. To look in through a hazy glass and superficially pretend to understand their plight and therefore believe we have risen above.

Yet the heart of the Gospel is in the understanding that we are all poor, all lost. That the simple act of looking a human being in the eye, no matter their social or economic standing and see a brother or sister can change everything. Suddenly it is not the plastic walls and dusting of dirt that distracts me, but my own sin. Rather than reviling a prostitute, I am given an opportunity to love.

Nothing short of the Holy Spirit could have formed a family like Mahima. To restore in the souls of these girls the Image of God and give them a second chance. It started with a staff member looking them in the eye and saying nothing, yet everything. The complete sentences only a hug can convey.

It challenges me deeply to put aside my judgements and make love my default posture.

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