Students from Taylor University recently did their one-month practicums in India, working alongside The Boaz Project. They were all part of the univeristy’s new living and learning community which focuses on orphans and vulnerable children.
From interviewing orphanage house parents to combing out lice, the team’s varied experiences gave them a broader understanding of the fatherless and their countless hardships.
The following article was written by one of these students, Taylor Hughes, as a reflection on the first half of this experience.
How do you summarize an ancient people? How do you convey the experience of brushing fingertips across the surface of another culture? With what words can you encapsulate a new friendship?
Here in India, everything is different, but most is the same. This culture is old; its infancy precedes Christ by hundreds of years. This place, these people are, in a word, beautiful, and in the fullest sense, it is good here.
There are markets with carts full of fresh vegetables. People sweep by gallantly on motorbikes, flowing like water around the bigger cars and busses, wasting no road space at all, practicing admirable asphalt stewardship. Men hold hands or throw an arm around their friends’ shoulders, unashamed to display their camaraderie.
Vibrant patterns and colors swish gracefully by, women’s saris and camises a worn art form. The towns and cities move in a sure-footed, dizzyingly paced dance, leaving me short of breath, wide-eyed, eager for more.
It is tragic here. Trash lays in piles anywhere, left for the poorest to come collect, reselling paper and plastic to recycling plants. Children without parents or a place to stay do what they must to get by, reenacting their last memories of their parents in their own alcohol or tobacco dependencies.
The caste system is real; it is present. Outlawing it only made it a silent power, one not to be spoken of. Crimes against women, also an unspoken reality, hold women and girls in fear.
Here too, people are born and grow, learn, are pained, endeavor to cope. They laugh together and eat in shops on street corners. They see the quiet miracles, the subtle brilliance all around them and see also the grief that holds beauty’s hand.
And they live, just like we do at home.
We have been blessed to live here these last two weeks.
No culture gets it all right, and no culture gets it all wrong. But to be human is to stumble beautifully. And the people who have hosted us, who have shared their lives with us, are some of the most beautiful souls I have known.
This last week we visited the Bethany Blessing orphanage, run by Pastor James and his family. We opened the Scriptures with the children, played games innumerable, stumbled over American attempts at Kannada (the local language), laughed until our faces hurt, and when it came time to leave at the end of the week, the children and all of us cried.
It is holy, it is sacred, and it is a gift to share moments and days with other people, other image bearers of Christ. In the end, what we are called to give is ourselves.
“The poor will always be among you,” says Christ in Matthew 26:11. Perhaps instead of dooming us to despair and abandonment of efforts to alleviate poverty, this verse could focus our attention on the process of service and less on the results.
We will not eradicate human suffering, but we can choose to see any suffering as the suffering of a brother or sister. We will not end pain, but we can choose to give ourselves, to sit with those who suffer, giving the most honest and simple aid we can: our presence.
The people of India are teaching this to me. And it is as true at home as in India. We are called to incarnation, to community. And all this follows the footsteps of Jesus.