This story was written for the October 2017 newsletter of the Diocese of Durgapur, Church of North India.
Arriving in India I did not know what to expect. Everything is so different–different sights, smells, sounds and textures; needless to say that all my senses were working and running at the same time. Coming from the “outside” I did see a lot of garbage in the streets, cows, pigs, goats, dogs and a lot of people and I mean a lot of people. I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed, very overwhelmed.
When we arrived at the Diocese we felt very welcomed, everyone was so nice and welcoming. That night the women had a program and we attended. It was all so BEAUTIFUL. All the girls looked so gorgeous; their clothing, the dances, the performances, they invaded my senses. Even though I was fighting my sleep I was able to stay awake and see them all. It felt like a dream to me because I would never have imagined being in India and seeing this in person.
The next morning we visited the slums, and this was a reality check for me. Even though I knew that people live this way, seeing it in person gives you a whole new perspective. It made me happy to see even though people live in these conditions, of utter poverty, they still carry a warm smile. They have a roof over their head and a place to sleep. The children were my favorite part; at first they looked at us like "Who are these people?", but later on they were playing with us, running thinking we were chasing them and sticking out their tongues; that made me smile, seeing those children being happy in what may seem to an outsider as a "sad" place. What bothered me was that literally right in front of the slums there are wealthier people living there in their huge homes and they do not do anything to help. It's heartbreaking and it makes me feel angry.
Later on that day we headed to Malda, we took the train - which was an exciting adventure for me. The next day we headed to a Safe House. What an experience that was! The way we were received was just so...beautiful. It left me speechless. The girls were lined up ready to dance; everyone else was in line waiting to toss flower petals at us. Then we proceeded and the girls washed our feet, and that was so humbling. I have to admit it was hard to "receive" what they were doing because they are young girls. But it reminded me when Jesus washed the feet of his Disciples, so I received that blessing and sent a blessing of my own.
The program was just so nice, knowing the work that's being done, seeing all the different dances, the beautiful clothing and all the beautiful faces with such warm smiles was just great. It felt unreal. One of the highlights of the day was when we got to dance; dancing is so much fun and liberating. Even though personally I was a little shy, it was still fun. Everyone looked so happy. This spoke to my heart. Even though a lot of these kids, youth, young adults, adults and elders may have had a rough life and unfair things may have happened to them that was not in their control, their bodies radiate beauty and their smiles warmth.
The work being done in the Diocese and the Safe House is admirable. There is HOPE in these places. They themselves have Hope in their hearts, giving out hope to the kids, hope to the families and hope to their cities for a better life.
Joanines Adorno-Diaz serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Diocese of Durgapur, Church of North India. Her appointment is supported by Week of Compassion, Our Church’s Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.