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Impact India 360
Harassed and Helpless

Over the past decade of making trips to India, one of the real joys is to share this adventure with people that I didn’t really know very well prior to the trip. Looking back, some special and permanent friendships began in this place. It is awesome to see people who, in spite of the intensity of this place, the harshness of the environment and the sensory assault that hits so hard, find a way to stay positive and focused and to invest in the people we are with for this week. The team this yea is no exception- in fact, they are exceptional. The difference is that when we make it to Amsterdam, they will get on one plane to detroit, while I will head off to NYC. Still, I expect that a bond of friendship has been formed that will continue in some form.

The title of this blog entry, harassed and helpless, however, is not how I feel being with this team. I wrote tis blog earlier in the week and posted it on our church’s website (www.communitasnyc.org), but wanted to share with the readers following this blog. So here goes:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Harassed and helpless…that pretty much describes how I think about many of the people living in Dowlasiwaram, India, a place that has become a regular destination for me over the past 10 years. I find myself here for the 13th time in a decade, going back to my very first visit in December 2000. Little did I know at that time that India would grab my heart and draw me into an unexpected and challenging adventure.

At that time, I had never been to what is called a “third world” place. I was devastated- by the poverty, the chaos, and a sense of overwhelming hopelessness. People died for lack of nutrition, or simple medicine available at every US drug store. I saw homeless children, as young as 2 or 3 wandering the crowded streets. I met families with 8-10 people trying to survive on $2 a day. And these were not the exceptions. This was life for hundreds of millions of people in India.

After that first trip, I was haunted by the images burned into my mind. I wept a lot. I was angry, confused, doubted my faith (God, how could you…?). But eventually, my faith took on much more activism. When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion, and he did something. I could do something. I could take action. That began a decade of learning for me.

I stand today where I stood 10 years ago- vacant property now housing 200 children who have been rescued. I walked with them 1 ½ miles to school this morning, holding hands with a boy and a girl, letting them teach me that “kuka” is the word in Telugu for “dog”. As I write this, 20+ women are next door to me learning to sew. When they graduate from this free sewing school, they will receive a sewing machine and will be on their way to being able to help support themselves and their families. On the other side of me, young men and women are being trained in the Bible so that they can start new churches and bring a message of hope to villages throughout this region. I hear Lakshmi outside my door talking with her 1½ year old adopted daughter- one of four children abandoned by their mothers in our free medical clinic in the last 3 years, and all now brought into the home of Jaya and Lakshmi. All 4 children would have likely died.

On the last leg of my flight here a couple of days ago, I sat next to an Indian man who is Muslim. He asked me why I was in India, and I explained what we were doing. As a national, he was very thankful and supportive of what we were doing. But he raised a question- one asked of Mother Teresa years ago. “What you are doing is great, but isn’t it just a drop of water in the ocean?” I answered Amir the way Mother Teresa answered the reporter. “Yes, but if I don’t put my drop in, the ocean will be one drop less. So I begin, with one, then another…”. Amir seemed to like that answer.

So here I am in India again, just trying to add my drop of water. Although, in this case I think we are poised to add a bit more than a drop. Matthew recorded that Jesus’ compassion moved him to heal every sickness and disease he encountered. Jesus could heal with a word, and we do pray for healing here on a regular basis and have seen Jesus heal at times. But since we began the free medical clinic about 7 years ago, we have been praying and planning for a fully functioning hospital to serve the needs of the poor. What is happening now is nothing short of miraculous. These two pictures show a 4 story 28,000 square foot hospital that is only months away from opening.


I had the privilege of participating in a dedication service yesterday. As the service held in the hospital lobby concluded, I asked the couple hundred present to look at the front entrance and imagine the people who would walk in through those doors in the months and years ahead. The harassed and helpless would come, and in this place find compassion, healing, love. They would find Jesus here.