Dedicating her life to God by ministering to the masses in the slums of Calcutta, Mother Teresa was apparently known to have gnarled feet. Ever the generous servant, She always took the last, and thereby the worst, of the shoes which had been donated. Over time this took quite a toll on her feet.
A similar figure, Jackie Pullinger ministered to gang members, heroin addicts and other undesirables in the walled city of Old Hong Kong. She said that “Christians are called to have soft hearts and hard feet. Yet the trouble is, too often we have soft feet and hard hearts when it comes to mission work.”
Among many meaningful things, I saw in our Indian brothers and sisters soft hearts and hard feet. (literally!) Most walk everywhere and are barefooted. Crackled, callous and filthy, it would be easy to think these feet belonged to cold, hard people. Yet the feet that belonged to those who likely hadn’t eaten that day or bathed in many, who were either chronically underemployed or dangerously over-worked in manual labor … those same bare feet carried bright eyes, warm smiles, receptive attitudes to the Gospel — soft hearts indeed.
Personally, I experienced the softening of my own heart toward the masses formerly and so callously characterized as “untouchables” as well as the hardening of my feet towards mission abroad. For the moment, the myriad reasons may best be summarized as listed here.
- The Indian people are hungry for attention, love, ultimately for Jesus. Evangelism isn’t fighting an uphill battle against such widespread indifference or rejection.
- Willingness to work/make effort for God. They will walk for miles from their village to come to the church service we put on. I saw a child leading his grandfather (I assume) into the tent. I’d watched them come from across the field. The old man was blind and brittle and the child had to be about 5.
- Faith doesn’t have so much competition in India. They don’t have televisions, iPads, Rolexes or BMWs. There is no going to the mall, cruising in a boat, hunting or hiking for sport. They “enjoy” none of the distractions which we so often claim as excuses for being too busy to need or deal with God.
- Candidly, white missionaries are a draw, an attraction by themselves. We can make an impact simply by being what we already are and showing up.
- Lasting impact. The seed of the Word is being sown on good soil.
- Mission/evangelism is free to be simple, straightforward. Not requiring big budget, elaborate production.
- So very grateful. Even for simple ball, piece of candy.
- Fruitful multiplication – they are now equipped to begin to minister to and take care of each other.
- 18 year old girl, Pianca, is now a black belt in Tae Kwan Do so she can protect herself and her girlfriends.
- Efficiency. We are beyond blessed to have such an established and trusted partner as Bishop Dutta and the Diocese of Durgapur (DoD)
- Returns: Bp. Dutta and others from the Third World are now ministering to the West and helping to bolster Orthodox Christianity in this era of attack and internal strife.
- Highest stakes: This isn’t just some “feel good” work. We’re talking about slavery.
- Children being sold as sexual objects, forced slave labor or for organ-harvesting. We met children who had been sold and recovered as well as those the DoD had plucked from the grip of slavers.
- Our money goes farther. They built a home to house 10 girls for $15,000 and protect them against being sold again as slaves. They’re doing a second floor for another $15,000 which will house an additional 20 of God’s children. How many of us have spent $15,000 on a child’s first car or a vacation?
Candidly, there is so much to tell, too much to cover, I don’t yet have the words to put it all together. I’m still processing everything I experienced. Therefore, This report may be better expressed as a request.
How can we — as a congregation and a community of believers — be shield-bearers for our brothers and sisters fighting on the front lines in India? How can we leverage our relatively unlimited wealth of not-only-financial resources, but those of creativity, connectedness, technology, and time? Even if there were no future mission trips to India, I’d find a way to support the DoD financially, as an advocate and otherwise.