It was in the mountains of Colorado the Lord began speaking to me about India. Nope. Not gonna do it. Don’t want to do it. That’s the thing isn’t it. Usually the places in our lives we experience the most internal resistance, are the things we’re most meant to do.
Eventually I caved. Whatever. Fine! I’ll go. Maybe I should have told Jesus I never wanted to go to Fiji growing up. That’s dumb though. Wouldn’t have ever worked. He’s God. Surely He’s heard of reverse psychology.
So in 2008, I went abroad for the first time. To India.
Quite simply, India is a paradox.
Natural beauty, vibrant colors abounding everywhere; contrasted with filth, pollution, corruption, and poverty. Plus caste system, that yes, it still alive and well. I went with an organization that works amongst and alongside the Dalits (the untouchables).
I came across a huge billboard directly overhead a gypsy slum reading, “Luxury Villas for the Accomplished.” I could not help but wonder what it meant to be accomplished and where these accomplished people were so they could come and pick up their fellow human beings.
India Journal Entry – Day 3
Woke up at 5:30 a.m.
Out on the streets with my doctor roommate buddy by 6.
Saw a dead: donkey, dog, bird, and rats; plus an emaciated horse this morning. Human excrement riddled the streets. Stepped in some. Nothing says lack of dignity to the poor like having to poop in public while people walk by.
I met poverty today.
But before I go painting a picture or category of the poor, it’s important to note how the poor see poverty.
“While poor mention having a lack of material things, they tend to describe their condition in far more psychological and social terms that our North American audience. Poor people typically talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness.” – When Helping Hurts
The next part of the day started our first medical camp. We arrived at the school to a shower of flower petals. Some kids had only a hole filled shirt on. An immediate feeling of not being worthy of such a gift was on my mind. I felt…um…very white, and very privileged. There was nothing I did to deserve this honor.
Our team consisted of one doctor, two nurse practitioners, four nurses, one nutritionist, and one person with an honorary degree of sorts in the inner workings of the hospital setting. That would be me.
I was indeed anxious and nervous of what my role might be as the only non-medically trained person of our group. Turns out all that training the Lord gave me through Drugs 101, via childhood cancer, turned out useful when they decided to make me the team pharmacist.
That Time(s) I Had Cancer
Sidenote: Did I mention I had cancer when I was 11?
Oh yeah. Sorry. That happened. Acute Myeloid Leukemia to be exact. Twice. She was a real doozy. 18 months of chemo and radiation the first time, followed by 6 months of remission, followed by a relapse.
Oh no… please don’t pity me! Much like the poor I don’t need your pity, I desire your understanding.
Having cancer when you’re young was like having an extended birthday party. Every week you got a present from someone. Plus, I wasn’t allowed to have videos games pre-cancer. Now I have both a Sega Genesis and Playstation. Booya! Bring it on Mega Bomberman!
The way I looked at it, I didn’t have to do my homework, I got tons of attention from girls at school, and there were pretty nurses giving shooting morphine directly into my veins. Aside from barfing my guts out, and spending nearly a year of my life at different time as an inpatient in a cancer ward, it wasn’t thaaaat bad.
Make A Wish
I like to tell people I learned faith the first time, and patience the second time – although I still totally suck at patience.
I’m 13 at this point. My first question to the doc after being re-diagnosed was…
“So does this mean I get another Make A Wish trip!?”
“No. Sorry. You only get one Make A Wish.”
“What’s the point of getting cancer twice if you can’t get another Make A Wish? It’s someone else’s turn in the family to get cancer if we’re going on another family vacation. That’s bushleague.
AML round two involved more of the same.
More radiation, chemo, hospital time, and missing school. And some on and off years of picking up weird illnesses along the way. But, I got this time I got a new cord blood stem cell transplant. My blood type even changed from type A- to A+. I’m sure there’s some prophetic word to be had in all that negative to a positive jazz. But I digress.
We’ll get back to the cancer stuff in another post. Back to the journal for now.
India Journal Entry – Day 14
I don’t know if it’s possible to go on such a trip and not be changed or transformed in some way. I do know that one trip will not be a quick fix for learning to love or act in the world the way we are called to; that the Indian people worked on my heart; that Christianity should be a verb and not a noun.
Nouns are static and unmoving. Verbs are active and changing.
I’m learning that faith and deed cannot be separated from how you live. So if your job finds you in an office serving your co-workers, or in India handing out drugs with far too many syllables in the name, Jesus is and will be ready for you to love and be loved.
The Indian people had an impact on me through the way they viewed faith.
From the teacher I met that was forced to run and hide in the woods for his life, while upper caste members burned down their Dalit school; to watching a girl sing “God is so Good” for us – even though she lives in 6’ by 10’ cement pipe behind an abandoned factory.
Faith is something real in India.
There is no plan A, or B, or C. It’s all plan A. Jesus. No back up. No savings accounts. Simply Jesus.
I learned aspects of love, compassion, and mercy I didn’t know before. I learned true religion in India is embracing the Dalits who have remained untouchable for centuries. And I learned Jesus actually does live in India, and is very much alive and well in the eyes of Indian children.
The Lord has used adventures like India to woo me into my identity. And in the near future – I hope to publish a book sharing some of those same stories. And to invite you, the reader, into your own identity, empowerment, and calling.
What travel stories do you have that started a journey you’ll never forget? I’d love to hear. Share in the comments section below.