A year ago I remember writing about the colors covering up the dirtiness of this bustling city in the heart of this nation that I love. I remember being captivated by them, in fact. I remember the beauty of the women and the promises of God to bring redemption to these people being so near to my heart, an undeniable really.
This time though, I am met with a darkness behind the colors and I feel it lingering tonight, feasting away at the light inside of me.
It’s obvious in the men that gawk and smirk my way, as if a quiet message of my belonging to them or something. Not as evident perhaps, but I see it in the women scampering along the street edges with their eyes down, quiet and out of the way. I recognize it in the little boys on either side of our taxi uttering pleas that transcend language with fingers outstretched.
Sometimes, it’s too much and sometimes I need to remember I cannot save the world—nor is it my job.
We took a walk just several blocks out from our hotel last night. It felt safe and these legs were begging to move, these eyes hungry to see. There are so many people on just this little street in this one small area of this one huge city in this growing nation. We’d made it several blocks before I saw them ahead.
These mammas with babies on their hips. Earlier, they’d stood beside our taxi uttering desperate pleas, fingers pinched together and hands outstretched. Sometimes language is irrelevant. Poverty speaks a language of it’s own, and I am learning I would often prefer to read it through a lens of my own good rather then that of another. So I sat there in the back of that car, fearful even to gaze their direction knowing my own brokenness would overwhelm.
Sometimes helping hurts, and at one point I gazed up and my small understanding of how much I could hurt the impoverished here in India by giving all flew out the cracked window, swallowed up in that humid air humming to the tune of horns. I started digging around in my purse for those little coins like my life depended on it. The taxi thumped to life again as it maneuvered down the road, taking both of us and our American money with it.
Her face continued to haunt me though, well into my nap and afterwards. I wrestled with the helpfulness and hurtfulness for giving or not giving, for both her and myself.
And now here we are walking from our hotel, down this strip besides the three lanes of traffic expanding into five. My eyes lock with hers this time, a few blocks down, no matter how hard I try to point them elsewhere. This time there is no car door between us and suddenly that feeling of safety is gone. She still holds that little baby. Up close, her eyes are sunken in and hollow inside. She has a little girl, who reaches for my skirt as I quicken my stride back towards the hotel. I didn’t know what else to do really.
Settled safely onto the hotel steps a few minutes later beside Syd, all I knew in my head faded as India’s darkness overwhelmed. I remembered classes and seminars and sermons on this stuff. When Helping Hurts was buried in a bag a few stories up in our room and its presence made me angry.
What would a mom so desperate and broken do if her situation demanded more? To what extent would she go? Selling her daughter, for a better life with husband or job, perhaps? Her story is echoing through my research pages and it’s all too common.
Giving money might feed the issues underlying, so I remember the candy upstairs for the kids we’re going to teach, and I think we should go get some and bring it back to this little one, sent out to beg. Somehow I picture the treat a re-claiming of her childlike innocence and I for that I want to fight. I say it aloud and realize how incomplete my supposed solution sounds. My teammate ever so gently reminds me of reasons we just shouldn’t go back there and I nod my head in agreement, though my heart is screaming out to do something, anything.
It’s in this moment I don’t care whether my helping hurts them; I just need to relieve the war waging inside of myself. We sit beside one another and I feel humidity drip down my back. I watch buses and cars and men pour in and out of them. I remember God is here and He’s working and I wish we could just catch a glimpse of it for ourselves.
It’s barely 5am and I sit crouched on this bathroom floor to wrestle with Jesus, I just know it possible, likely even, that that precious little girl, those big brown eyes, she could be sold into sexual slavery and her innocence robbed. In time those precious brown eyes suddenly appear sunken in like her mothers. I want to stop it but I can’t.
Syd reminds me of Jesus sending out the disciples in Luke 10. He tells them to greet no one on the road, to remain in the same house eating and drinking what they provide, but to not go out from house to house. Not long ago, a wise woman walked me through this passage and I see God was already preparing my heart to trust in His words and to rely on them here in India.
He sent them out two by two and it’s no coincidence Syd and I have been sent together into this overwhelming harvest.
As we continue our journey to this house where God has called us to stay, please pray for continual discernment in how to help (or not help) in ways that wont hurt these people. Pray for my heart as it is leaning a bit far into the darkness of human sex-trafficking here in India, and losing sight of the glory of how Christ is being magnified.
As we continue to hear creation groaning and yearning to be set free from the bondage of corruption [Rom 8:18-25], pray that we would seek and trust in Christ’s huge plan of deliverance and promise.
We are thankful to be reminded of the way God hears the desires of the afflicted and strengthens their hearts; how He does justice for the fatherless and oppressed so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. [Ps. 10:17-18] This really gives us perspective that God is ruler over all and He is sovereign. We trust Him to teach us to to do good, seek justice, and plead for the widows cause, but ultimately yielding to His holy spirit at work in and around us. Not of our own strength or merit that we may boast, but completely dependent upon Christ!
In His Grace, Courtney