One of my first impressions of India was feeling overwhelmed by the chaos that filled every inch of the city: vehicles honking horns, masses of people randomly crossing intersections, and beggars consistently placing their hands in front of you in hope for rupees. What began as chaos, turned into a soothing sense of belonging and comfort. By the end of my five week journey, I felt comforted by the non-stop activity that surrounded me; the city was so full of life! Now when I think about heading back to the USA, I become apprehensive. How will I respond to the quiet life of Visalia, CA? I will be returning to a place full of order: speed limits, suburban homes, and isolated “quiet time”. Before leaving the USA last month, I was worried I would not adapt to life in India. Now that I have tasted the thrill of India, I pray the Lord will give me grace to accept the stillness and independence of America.
Spending part of my summer in India taught me the value of genuine community. During a normal summer in CA, I would have filled my agenda with earning money at a minimum wage job, reading books at local parks, and riding my bike throughout the town; my time would have been centered on my personal schedule. Yet in India, I learned that life is so much sweeter spent in community. I observed men sitting under a shade tree singing along to the beat of a single drum, a kitchen full of women cooking chipatti and dahl, and children gathered on a dirt field playing a game of cricket. People in India always worked together to achieve goals and carry out daily duties—they cooked together, laughed together, and depended on each other. Although many people I observed had a Hindu faith, they showed me how to practically live out one of our greatest commandments as Christians: to love our brothers and sisters. God taught me that love cannot be effective unless it is enacted through community. I could store up the love of Christ in my heart and focus on my own agenda, or I could pour out His love to my community by extending a hand to help cook for a family in need, or sit and laugh with people God places in front of me as I walk throughout town.
The two most important things I learned about India can be summed up in the words beautiful and broken. God revealed to me that He views India as a beautiful nation, full of devotion and culture. He created every person in India; He beautifully crafted each pair of brown eyes and dark hair to add unique beauty to the master tapestry of His Kingdom. He acknowledges their devotion to pagan gods and He longs for the day India will offer devotion to His son, Jesus Christ. He also aches for the brokenness of India. His heart breaks for the lame men that walk with burnt bodies or amputations, for infants that walk the streets shirtless, exposing their rib cages and stick-sized legs, and the unheard cry of a baby-girl being murdered inside her mother’s womb. Not only does He hurt for these broken people, but also He calls me to carry their burdens and extend His love to the hopeless.
As I head back to California, I leave a part of my heart in India. When I close my eyes, I see the beauty and brokenness inside the solemn eyes of a young boy walking the streets alone in a school uniform and in the eyes of a young mom begging for money to feed her child milk. My prayer is that these images forever be bound to my heart—so I may answer the call to love as He loved, with selfless abandon.