We spent our first week in India with a team from an amazing organization called The Hope Venture. After praying for and supporting The Hope Venture’s humanitarian work for years, it was amazing to be able to see several projects up close and personal.
We got to meet kids who are able to go to school because of the supplies they receive through the Back Pack Program: It is AMAZING to see what a difference this program makes, especially knowing it is entirely funded by $10 dollar donations!
We visited a vocational training center, where precious women come daily for courses teaching them to sew. This allows them to sew for their children (fabric is much more affordable than finished clothing), as well as eventually sewing for others and helping to provide for and support their families.
A highlight of our time was visiting a feeding center at a rock quarry. This was one of the bleakest places I have ever been, I can not imagine having a quarry be my workplace and home.
When the Hope Venture partners who run the feeding center arrived, we saw children, faces lit with joy, streaming in from every direction. We participated in the program for the evening (character-based stories and singing), helped to feed the children, and every one of us left a large chunk of our hearts.
But the memory I’ll carry with me from my time in India until I die was at the Home of Hope. Here’s how The Hope Venture describes this beautiful, heart wrenching place:
Imagine walking or driving through the streets of your neighborhood and seeing hundreds of destitute people abandoned on the streets left to die. Raja, a rickshaw driver, decided that he could no longer sit by and watch these people suffer. He had to do something to help them. He began bringing them into his home. He started to mend their wounds, clean their forsaken bodies, and give them their dignity and hope back.
But he needed a place for those he was rescuing and so he began the Home of Hope in Bangaluru, India. The Hope Venture is proud to partner with this trusted man in any way we can. We want to help those that are suffering reclaim dignity and honor. (www.thehopeventure.org/project/home-of-hope)
Of all the things we expected to do and see in India, the Home of Hope made me the most nervous. I am not afraid of much, I can talk to anyone, and I have seen darkness and poverty, but y’all? There is a reason I am not a doctor or nurse. Just being a mom comes with more physical wounds and body fluids than I can handle sometimes. And I have a front row seat to lots of mental health issues, but I have no experience at all with the kind of mental illness that lands people vulnerable and alone on the streets. I’d been asking God to really let me see people, to not turn away, to break my heart for what breaks His. But I was SCARED.
We entered, met Raja, and watched a video chronicling the types of health issues that land people on the streets of Bangaluru, sharing some beautiful healing stories, but also the reality that 4-5 deaths a week happen at the Home of Hope. I tried not to look away, but fully half of that video was more than I could take.
Then we headed out into the women’s center to meet and talk to people. Many of the residents at the Home of Hope spent years on the streets, begging for survival. Even after being brought to a safe refuge, they remain marked by begging behaviors. I felt overwhelmed, surrounded, completely unsure of what we were supposed to be doing. The stark vulnerability everywhere my eyes landed was almost too much for me, knowing what probably happened to these women on the streets with no protection, no defense.
And then the music started.
They’ve introduced music therapy at the Home of Hope, and I wish you could have seen it. Faces lit up, crushed and broken bodies began to move, and there it was: Hope. Beauty. A little taste of joy and life and heaven.
As my American friends danced all around me, one resident insisted on my attention. She wanted something from me, but I could not understand what. She kept gesturing at me and putting her hands on her head. She was persistent, not letting me drift away to anyone else, asking, asking. Finally, she made the sign of the cross and again put her hands on her head.
“You want me to pray for you??”
Her face lit up with happiness and relief. So I asked her name, put my hands on her head, and prayed for her. I prayed that God would bless her and keep her and make His face shine upon her. I prayed that she would know His love and healing, and that she would be safe. Moved beyond words at the privilege of praying for this sister, I said Amen.
And then she dragged me over toward another woman, immobile and bound to her mat. Many other women flocked to me, hands on their head. I prayed for each of them, but my first friend was insistent that I make it around to all of the ladies who could not come to me.
I don’t know how many women I prayed for that morning, by names I could not pronounce and cannot remember. But it felt like the holiest thing I have done in my entire life.
After each “amen”, I met Jesus Himself in the thankful eyes of each of those women. I was asked to bless, but I was blessed nearly beyond what I have the words to express.
I have never been more sure than in those moments that there is a God. That He knows each of those women by name. That He sees them.
If you’re looking to give toward real physical needs in some of the darkest, hungriest places on earth, I hope you’ll click through and consider supporting The Hope Venture. 100% of what you give to each project goes to that project, and I saw with my own eyes the actual hope and help Hope Venture brings.
Photo Credits: The first few pictures are mine, but my phone was far from my thoughts at the Home of Hope. Thankfully I had the lovely and talented Michaela Reddel/True Beauty Photography with me, all of the pictures from the Home of Hope are hers.