Monday, August 27, 2007

Scraping the dead skin off my heart

Things I've learned after one week of teaching Indian children:

-The Hokey Pokey is universal.
-The skill of not sharing: also universal.

I just finished my morning teaching at Shisu Bavan. I know all the children's names now. Golapi, Raju, Sangeeta, Ashka, Pural, Anita, Manju, Protima, and Shuily. Nine little squirmy bodies and precious hearts. I am really enjoying my time with them; it's a much different experience that some of my other team members are having at Kalighat, home for the dying. While my patience is being expanded, and I am daily reminded that it is not my strength, but Christ's, I'm not seeing death and sickness. I'm seeing life and hope in these children.

The Lord has been so gracious to give me many pictures of hope these last few days. Thanks to those at home who have been praying for that. Aside from the children, here are a few more proofs:

-Celebrating teammate Hannah's birthday with the blessing of true Indian hospitality. Our Kolkata friend, Upen, opened up his tiny home to us and fed us an awesome meal, complete with a pink iced cake. We crowded into the 5x5 room where he lives with his wife and two children, and as we sang "Happy Birthday," I thought of these words of Jesus: "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Oh yes, Jesus, continue to teach us! Back in the dark corner of a narrow alleyway, there was so much joy.
-Walking to language lessons and seeing a Kodak moment in brief. A man was carrying his small child, and as I passed, I saw him bend his head and kiss her face. It spoke of tenderness and compassion, and I was reminded not to write those things off as exstinct here. If I have eyes to see, I will see.

And another story of hope, although the ending is still being written for this one...
There is an old woman who has been sitting outside our door the past few days. No family to claim. She is sick, and because of her sickness, she lost her job of cleaning houses in our neighborhood. Now she has no home, and the sidewalk has become her bedroom, her bathroom, her living room. She lies in her own urine, and when I pass her, my mind reels. What does radical love look like here? To invite her in? To feed her always? Seeing this woman everyday spins a thousand questions in mind and uncovers another layer of the selfishness and hardness of my heart, because I also ask "What if she becomes dependent on us? What if she takes advantage of us?" But I have a feeling that my boundaried love is not the love of Jesus of Nazareth. Her name is Asha. In Bengali, Asha means hope. What a beautiful promise of what Jesus longs to do with her life and with the lives of thousands of other Kolkata sidewalk dwellers. Pray that we will know how to love this woman.

Which is an excellent seque into another thought that has been heavily pressing on me. Love, when love equals hurt. Do I know how to love like that? I forget that the love of Jesus meant being stretched out across two wooden beams. That love hurt. I read this yesterday from Kahlil Gibran's book The Prophet:

When love beckons to you, follow him,
though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

It's such a paradox, this idea of love and hurt. Pray that I will surrender to love, that I will not fight for my own preservation and protection. Pray that I will continue to understand the mystery of finding life through death. I want to allow the hands of Love to crush me entirely, if that is the way to becoming a sweet smell to this world, a fragrance that will beckon the broken into the Kingdom of light and truth, the Kingdom which will someday conquer all darkness.

Okay. I'm off to the flat, where we're packing up our stuff and getting ready to move in with our Indian host families! Tonight I meet my family for the next four months. :) I've heard my mom is a really good cook. :) I'll let you know for sure when I find out.

hope and love...



  1. Your comment about the Hokey Pokey and not sharing cracked me up. My teaching experience thus far has also taught me that the skill of making up lame excuses is also a universal art.

    Congratulations on learning all those Bengali names! That's something that I'm really struggling with down here: learning names that I'm really not familiar with at all, like Jhara, Anayi, and Arturo.

    As far as loving until it hurts, I know nothing of such love, save that which has been shown to me by others. David and I keep talking about that here. Should we take the whole day and spend it in the poor areas, loving those that have nothing, or do we do our job and teach those that have a lot? Our school is a pretty expensive school, mainly occupied by upper-class kids. What about the thousands that I don't see or touch?

    I've been reading in 2 Corinthians lately, and I came across this verse the other day. Paul is appealing to the wealthy Corinthians to give generously to their brothers that are in need, and he pounds the argument home with this powerful statement: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." (8:9). That's a hard act to follow, except by the grace that he gives us.

    Enjoy your time with your new family! How cool!


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  3. Dearest Lara! That excerpt from The Thanks for that one. It is humbling yet stirring to read your honest accounts of daily life. You said that India wears its brokenness in the open; well, thanks for wearing your hear on your blog-sleeve. It's so neat to hear the reality of those things you were unsure about (host family, teaching, suffering). What a blessing that your home is a refuge from the busyness of the city. We are praying for you each and everyday. Love you, friend. ><>annie<><