India: Part I
Oh where do I begin? India was truly the most difficult and wonderful trip I have ever done. It could very well be because it is the longest trip, at 7 weeks or because India is a country like none other.
Do not get me wrong, I would not trade those weeks for anything in the world. I underwent a sharpening that I have never experienced before. I was in India as a summer intern for a home of women and children rescued from sex trafficking.
Here's how this will go down: I am breaking up my 7 weeks into three posts to give the space that this jam packed India trip deserves.
To start I want to paint the picture of my experience. I was the only intern that summer, meaning my traveling to and from India was done alone and many of my off days were alone as well. In one sense I really didn't mind this, being an introvert as I am. But in a foreign city with over 4.5 million people (yeah I said CITY not country), no working phone, no way to use public transportation (because knowing the language is necessary) and knowing a limited number of people that are insanely busy and were rarely around.
I don't say any of this with bitterness, rather wanting to communicating the reality of what foreign missions can look like. I had an incredible intern director that prepared me for the chaos that is India as much as she could. For which I am so grateful, because while I had difficulty, I never wavered on the sense that this is where God had called me to be.
Vulnerability Alert: I needed to ground myself most days that I would again go home and see my friends and family. So, I crossed off each day in my calendar, I read letters my family had written to me, and savor a small gift from my best friend in these colorful medicine containers whether a note, candy, or a symbol for that day. Let me tell you, I cherished these things. Not more than Jesus, I need Him most. Still, pieces of home to look forward to kept me going.
My purpose there was clear as I spent Monday through Friday at the home for girls. From my first day they embraced me and made me feel welcomed as their own "Dede" or sister in Bengali. I melt at the memories of their excitement to braid my hair, snuggle up for a movie night, and the littles ones sweet embraces.
Something to note about Indian culture is that they are a community culture and not in a casual way. They take care of their people so well. Every room I walked into, someone would respond by offering me a seat, coffee or tea, and then proceed to intently watch me to make sure I was content. The people of India take care of you so much that they can even be aggressive about it. Word to the wise, say yes as much as possible because rejecting that tea is like rejecting the person.
In the times that I wasn't teaching english to the young girls (ages 3-6), teaching art, or teaching guitar to the old girls (ages 15-17) I was just with them. This simple act of being present was their greatest desire of me.
I will be honest my first couple weeks there I wasn't sure I was doing anything of value or effectiveness. I had come all this way to only sit with them as they chatter in a language I can't understand. Somewhere around week 3 I began to realize that I am here temporarily and I don't want to waste any second. My time in this home has an expiration date, the best gift is being fully present where I am, now.
I couldn't be the answer to all the needs of that home. I definitely could not promise to meet any of these needs, but I could be fully there.
At a youth conference our girls had a mehendi (like Henna but the actual proper name) booth. I was so down. I got both sides of my hands done in this beautiful design. Which, mind you, took my friend about 5 minutes to complete. They were pros and loved that I wanted their mehendi.
In the two-ish weeks that followed until the mehendi wore off. Girls in the home would come up grab my hand and say "oooh, Dede it's so pretty, very nice!" I would agree and compliment the artist.
The mehendi was so much more than beautiful stains on my arms, it was a symbol of connection and unity to the girls and their culture. I was honored to wear this symbol and be where I was.
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My name is Marissa Deraya; Global Worker with Project Rescue serving women and children of Spain.
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