Friday, March 30, 2007

Can You See Me?

When Isaiah spoke to the Lord and said “Here am I. Send me”, the Lord replied, “Go and tell the people, “Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving”. Both Jesus and Paul quoted the verse during their ministry. They spoke truth to their generation and those following warning against the refusal to “hear” and to “see”.

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. Matt 13:16-17

As I travel the globe following the call, I am exposed to a great deal of the poverty and plight of individuals living and struggling to survive in the Third World. I see and hear their experience. It takes an emotional toll. I had been fearful of traveling to India, having read books and seen movies such as City of Joy; hearing of children maimed by adults, to command higher sympathy while begging for money in the streets of Bombay and Calcutta. I thought it would be too much for this already sensitized heart. But when I heard the voice of the Lord calling me to India – I didn’t hesitate. I fully trust Him with the outcome of each and every journey; even those leading into what I fear may be the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

I knew He would be with me in India.

“Perfect love casts out fear” 1 John 4:18

My heart, my eyes, my ears were filled with love for the country, when I left the country. I felt a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment at the harvest. I returned to Bombay to catch my flight home to the states satiated by the experience, but sadness was also packed in my bags. I arrived in the dark, and I would be leaving in the dark. The Pastor arranged for his brother to meet me at the airport and escort me to the international terminal. Once we were in our makeshift cab – the traffic swallowed us. The night closed in around us and the horns were relentless in their constant blaring, warning, signaling for squeezed through passageways. I never cease to be amazed how inches separate life, limb and certain death – but somehow with the aid of beeps and brakes people make their way crossing oncoming traffic, wrong directional, no directional and just plain chaos without being crippled.

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?” Psalm 27:4

We came to a large bridge and stopped at the light just near the underpass. Immediately, we were surrounded by beggars - children holding infants knocking on the window, making gestures of hand to mouth and then pushing the babies forward to further elicit sympathy. In the darkness you could see hundreds of children walking from car to car – negotiating their way through the pile up. Trying to determine which one would likely offer something for their effort and risk. One small girl – seeing a light person in a cab decided patience would pay off. She kept knocking on my window, making noises, calling out “Auntie, Auntie”. She held her face up to the glass – peering inside through cupped hands. Looking, waiting and working the system she has been brought up in. I could not make myself look at her. I could not “see” her.

There was a great deal I did see under that bridge - hundreds of children and dogs, foraging through the garbage, and the fires, built for warmth, or light or food – perhaps. I always take my cue from the nationals and ask about the appropriate response to beggars on the streets. Often it feels heartless and gutless.

One day on the streets of Hubli a child approached the Pastor with an outstretched hand. I watched to see his response. He said a few words and turned her away. I questioned his reaction wanting to know how foreigners, but not just foreigners but Christ followers should act. He explained as long as they can make money begging they have no desire to better themselves. And when they receive response from well-meaning foreigners it makes the process and the pursuing that much greater the next time – a reward for bad behavior is how he put it.

And there’s the rub as they say. “Don’t give a man a fish, teach him to fish”. I always ask –“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, what about THIS?” Where are You?” I often hear His gentle answer to my anxiety “You’re here aren’t you – it means I’m here too.” Christ told His followers, “The poor you will always have with you.” I understand more and more there was NOT enough money in the world then – there is not enough money in the world NOW to solve the problems: children abandoned to the streets, simple medical care not available, lack of clean water and sanitation killing hundreds of thousands each year. He was telling them – AND me – AND you - there is only one solution to the problem “ME”.

“All His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong…” Deut 32:4
Christ explained service, “Whatever you have done to the least of these you have done so unto Me”. He explained religion “pure and undefiled” is to look after widows and orphans. He explained prayer, “If you being evil know how to give good gifts, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask! Pray without ceasing.” He explained what we are to do “Go make disciples of all nations unto the ends of the earth, preach the Gospel.”

In the dark night with a faceless child peering through the window of a dilapidated taxi – I felt her gaze and question “can you see me?”

I prayed to understand. I prayed to see Him for HER answer.
“Young women will dance and be happy, young men and old men will join in. I’ll convert their weeping into laughter, lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy.” Jeremiah 31:13 The Message