Monday, June 11, 2012

Meeting the Hea{r}t of India

We arrived in Bhubaneswar last night. After a flight which I thought would be the death of me, another drive which I added to my growing list of near death experiences, we arrived at our hotel. For the first time, the fear began to set in as I watch the men follow me with their dark, lifeless eyes. People were everywhere. After sleeping on a quite firm "mattress," I woke up with the sun, the cows, and the constant lull of horns below. The heat woke up this early too.

As I sit in this chair, looking out through the barred windows separating me from the street several stories below, my stomach is rolling around. A possible combination of the new tastes and straight up fear. I look out over this glimpse of the city below me and I pray that this sight, the poverty and darkness, will never become normal to me. My heart hurts today.

I begin to actually laugh (quietly as the others are asleep) out loud a bit. Lack of sleep? Here I am in a foreign land in some ghetto hotel staring out at a cow in the middle of the street eating trash...? Wow, Jesus thank you for grace. I refuse to go back to my easy, comfortable, blessed American life while this sight continues to play out, even upon my return to normal. I do not know my role in all of this, but I have confidence I am not sitting here in this hotel, unable to sleep, captivated by this city for no reason whatsoever.

Oh Jesus, break my heart for what breaks yours.

There is this concrete building in progress next to the hotel. I can see straight down into it from where I sit. Wooden polls are currently all that sustains one story upon the next. Lined across the top are little shirtless figures. Dozens of them. Content to sleep soundly on a little mat, horns blaring, sun blazing, people stirring, completely exposed—they dream away.
The structure with men sleeping is to the left. The cart of bananas coming down the road. The cow eating trash towards the left. The little shack which is one man's shop is directly to the right. This is exactly what I looked out at, taken from my hotel window. The women walking are out of the image at this point. 
Two women walk up and down the streets. One in a rich gold and red sari, the other colored black and green. They are beautiful. They look lost. I wonder—how representative is their physical wondering of their spiritual?

A shirtless figure begins to stir. He disappears deeper into the structure, only to appear down near the street moments later. I watch him intently, as he appears to be gripping a dog bowl filled with water. He places one finger in the bowl and begins to scrub at his teeth. What good will that do? I wonder quietly, what good will that do?

The city is coming to life again. Aside from the two women, the city is dominated by men. Some moseying along, others racing to something more important. I yearn to hear their stories, to know about their lives, their families, their role in this society. I want to know where they have found hope in such a seemingly hopeless place. Some carry backpacks. Several push carts brimming with the most radiant yellow bananas I have ever seen, a literal light in the dirtiness. Others bike along, pulling carts or other civilians. A group far too large pile into a single car.

A man begins the process of opening up his little shanty (a little wood holding up a tarp) of snacks for business just below me. He is another man from the incomplete building. I had been watching him awhile.  He rose up from his sleep with a big stretch, arms extended towards the heavens, heart elsewhere. With great care he began to fold up his little tarp which served as his bed. Perhaps like me, he is a bit OCD? No, he probably doesn't have time to care. He comes down off the top of this building and my gaze follows as he crosses the street, paying no attention to the growing traffic, the dog, or the cow eating trash. He simply walks into his tarp-covered shop and begins his fourteen hour work day after which he will finally get to return to the comfort of his tarp atop the concrete structure.

More bananas pass by. I cannot take my eyes off this place. The palm trees and trash-covered streets, an odd attraction still lingering. Then there's the smothering heat and the luscious colors. The beautiful people in extreme poverty. The captivating peace midst the ceaseless noise. India, you have my heart. Now I will wait and trust the one with the greater plan, the one who created this heart which I continue to give over--again and again. I wonder, in His grace if He will allow my ever-wondering heart to return.

Jesus, bind my wondering heart to thee. I trust you. Yes, even to draw this busy, poverty-striken people back to yourself. Yes, even to remove these 33 million idols from their hearts. Yes, even with my idolatrous heart. I place my ever-wondering, never satisfied, always straying, deceitfully wicked, untrusting, selfish, prideful, burdened heart in your protective arms and I trust you.

Even being home now, I desire continually to give my heart back to this foreign land which I love. Even catching myself thinking (and saying) that I left a piece of my heart there. Jesus, please help me to hold fast to the Truth that you hold this heart of mine and that completely yours is the only place a I truly desire this heart to be--not even a piece of it left anywhere away from you. Only when my heart is fully submitted and surrendered to your perfect will, only in that raw place will I find hope, only there will I serve you.

After this process time in the morning, we went downstairs to walk around We stopped at a stand to get fresh Chai tea. I was the only one too quicken to drink it off of a street vendor—the water they washed the glass ups in was brown! Anyhow, as a result about 30 seconds later I got pooped on by a bird. Sick. After this, we were taken to a "tourist" park of the state several hours away where there is a beach. It was nearing 120 degrees where we were at this day—insanely hot.
Chai tea stand
Yuck!!! Bird poop. New shirt please!

Eating lunch at a fancy hotel on the beach. Very spicy meal!!

My favorite photo of the trip. 


  1. You write beautifully, really have a way of drawing people in to the details of individuals' lives that you encountered while in India!

    1. Thank for your encouragement friend. I do love writing a whole lot. Helps me process the craziness of life!