There are some places and moments that start to fade away almost instantly, their memory becoming faint all too quickly. There are other places and moments that stick, as if they have found a home in the deepest parts of you, and they wouldn’t leave even if you tried forcing them out. India held both for me. As I have spent the last two months reflecting, I realize that India left me with more of the deep, weighty memories than it did fleeting, fading ones. This was a surprise to me, but I can confidently say that India and her people will be with me forever.
The woman in the picture at the top of this post is one of the women who can never be erased from my heart and will keep me conscious of my purpose and intent in all that I do.
She lives in a slum on the side of a beautiful mountain in a city of northern India. To say that her life is rough, or that we would struggle to empathize with her history, is minor in priority of all the things that I could tell you about her. Even a moving description of her daily routine would leave you unaware of the pain and hurt that marred her soul and left her gasping for the air of freedom. She is a small woman, significantly small in comparison to the tall, strong, powerful women that live near her. Her obvious lack of stature leaves her assumed to be weak and worthless, useful only in the demeaning service of others. Her small worth is directly hinged upon her ability to reproduce, which she is unable to do. Shame is clearly written in the lines of her face when even the children curse her for her barren body. She hides in the corners, rushes to clear and clean, and at all costs remains silent. Some of this is habit, some self-preservation, but brimming within her is something she wishes to tell the world but does not know how quite yet.
The noteworthy, priority-taking fact about this woman is that she is a warrior, that she is a survivor, that she worships Jesus despite the maddening and dark aspects of her life. My friend, this woman has been told since she was young that she will never amount to anything, that the pursuit of her destiny will bring failure, and that she is small in the eyes of men. Her dignity and honor has been attacked time and time again, leaving her swallowed by the belief that she is nothing and deserves less than nothing. She was intimidated by the darkness around her and the people that lurked within it. Her only hope, the saving she needed, would only come through the light of Christ.
Today, she is a believer; she has turned to face the darkness and yell into its depth the name of Christ. Though the world around her still tells her the lies that are all too familiar to her, she is, for the first time, standing against them. She is allowing herself to be saturated by the truth. Along with her relationship with Christ have come strong friendships, relationships that stand with her and not against her, relationships that protect her in the name of who God has created her to be… protect her out of knowing who God is!
In my humanity, I look at her and struggle to fully relay the empathy she deserves. I want to scream of the horrors of her life. I want to force you to understand how rough her life is, that the word ‘rough’ doesn’t even begin to describe the vacuum that sucks out hope when I sit with her in her tent and simply observe. But as I dive into, bury myself, and walk in the knowledge of who God is, then and only then is my hope strengthened, and I understand that all is not lost. She is redeemed. She is a daughter of God. I know Christ has done the saving, and I can tackle the possible, the little things that will bring change to her circumstances, to her physical well-being. I can link arms with her, united in hope that is not ours alone, and smile for we have both been saved. And neither will rest until all have heard!
(Based in Merritt Island, Florida, Jen Dorrough recruits, trains, sends, and sustains workers among the world’s least-reached peoples.)