I traveled home from India by myself, needing a few extra days before the boys started school.
I have always loved traveling by myself, finding that I hear from the Lord and am able to process in a deeper way while traveling. Also, I love airports. And as any parent knows, after traveling with kids flying solo feels like a dang vacation.
My flight was at 3:30 AM on a Friday morning. I spent Thursday saying goodbye to dear friends in India, giving and receiving gifts, and having last sweet moments with our group of college students. I thought when they left our hotel room at 11 that I was seeing them for the last time. But as I arrived downstairs, I saw big grins on the faces of all the hotel staff and found our whole team waiting to sing me a song and say one last goodbye.
Matt and our friend Abhik dropped me off at the airport at 1AM. I breezed through check in and security, since hardly anyone else was there besides a sweet family who were also traveling through Qatar to Chicago (on their way to Seattle, so they had a longer trip ahead of them: small children.)
That left me with a couple of hours to kill in the Kolkata airport. Knowing I needed to stay awake, and wanting to take the time to think and process over the past 3 weeks, I opened my journal and thought through all that I’d learned and seen in the 3 cities I’d visited. The universities, slums, gardens, rock quarries, malls, the wide variety of places we visited. I wrote about the friends I made, the welcome I received, the things I’d learned. I wrote about the weather and the food and the beautiful people of Kolkata, where we spent the bulk of our time.
Then I thought back to our first days, with the Hope Venture. I thought about what it meant to me, returning to a place of privilege and comfort, after seeing such sorrow and hardship, but also hope and help. I thought about the precious Indian friends I made who do not turn their eyes away from the hurting and broken in their neighborhoods and city. And I asked myself what I could do in my own neighborhood and city for the hurting and broken.
Here is the prayer I wrote that morning.
Thank You Lord for every day in this beautiful country. For the gift of India, so abundant and overflowing.
Thank you for our time in Mumbai. Thank you for eyes to see the slums, the laundry, the darkness and terrible living conditions that are an every day reality for millions. Thank You for returned smiles, eyes to SEE people, and to recognize our shared humanity. How does one stay human in such poverty? This is what “the working poor” means in India.
How do you feel about that, Jesus? And what do you want to do, what are you doing in Mumbai?
Thank You Lord for Bagaluru. Thank You for the Backpack project, for every pastor we met who serves and loves their villages and seeks to meet physical and spiritual needs. Thank You for this lesson in small things: $10 for a backpack and school supplies can open so many doors and provide so much and build bridges and give hope. Thank You that You know each child who receives a backpack by name, and now I know some of their names too. Hanumanthi. Akshey. Abishek. Sagar.
What do you think of this Lord? What is small to You, and what is Big?
Thank You for the Rock Quarry and Feeding Center. For joy in dark places, for the way the kids responded to the Hope Venture staff, so sure they are loved, and loving in return. Thank You for the joy and laughter, the stories, games, beautiful pictures so we can remember those smiles forever. Thank You for the delight of each child to be seen, touched, called by name. Thank You that You know them each by name. Thank You for eyes to see, hands to serve.
What do You think of that place, Lord? Of children, parents, made in Your image, living in that place, surviving on backbreaking work, living with what looks to me like little to know comfort at all. How do You feel about that? And what are You doing there?
Thank you Lord for the Home of Hope. Thank you for Auto Raja. For every soul there, known by you, even if they hardly know themselves. Thank you for safety. For freedom from begging. For kind hands and I hope a clean place to live and be, for food for every stomach there. Thank you that You know every person by name. You know each story. They are YOUR children. I have no idea why they asked me particularly to pray, but thank you SO MUCH for the privilege, the incredible blessing it was to pray for them each by name. To touch them, to speak your love and goodness over them. To bless, is such a blessing.
What do you think about that place, Lord Jesus? Those people, created in Your image, loved by You as Your own. How do You feel about what has happened to them? And how do you feel about where there are and how they are cared for now?
I want to be a good steward of the things I experienced and saw and learned. Thank You for letting us continue to participate in what Hope Venture is doing in India (and Africa). Thank You for letting me see India, and for letting me see YOU in India. Now will you give me eyes to see Lincoln, to see You at home. Amen.