Earlier this year, I made my second journey to India as part of the Hillside 2019 team. My first trip was as part of the 2017 team, and I got to see firsthand what Harvest India is doing and how God is using their organization to lead people to Him.
This time around, I knew ahead of time what it was going to be like and what we were going to do. One of the activities we had planned was to feed and spend time with lepers, and if I’m being completely honest, this was not something I was looking forward to.On my 2017 trip, the need of these people just seemed so great and the despair of their situation really hit me hard. I had never seen people this hungry or thirsty before. All I was able to see was the hopelessness, despair and lack of dignity that surrounded them.
I missed out on seeing what God was doing because I could not get past the fact that their need was too big and I would not be able to meet it. I served them that day to the best of my ability, but even still, I came home with an unresolved heart for them and their place in life.
In India, lepers are considered outcasts – they are truly the lowest of the low. They are not allowed to live in cities or villages, and the government displaces them onto land that is located far away from any town, on land that no one wants. India’s caste system views them as cursed – they believe they must have done something horrible in a past life, and because of that, no one will help them. They have truly been disregarded and deemed untouchable – a heartbreaking reality that was hard for me to comprehend.Jump forward two years and on my second trip to India, the day had finally come for us to serve the lepers. I could feel myself dreading it, the anxiety and anger rising in me.
I remember praying to God and confessing my dread, pleading for Him to help me see where He was amidst their suffering and despair. I lamented to God over the hopelessness I saw on my first trip, and asked that He would prepare my heart for the work we were about to do.
As we started to serve, it was like God had removed a blindfold from my eyes.Here we were – feeding very hungry people that suffered from a terrible disease that affects every aspect of their life – and yet they were SMILING.
It took me a minute to process. I recall saying to God that I did not understand. Their situation was hopeless and no one cared for them – why would they smile?
It was while I was asking this question God showed me that their situation wasn’t hopeless because their hope was in Him. They were not alone because God was with them, He saw them, and was meeting their needs through our team and Harvest India.I was overwhelmed by their hunger, but God had brought us there to feed them. Though they were accustomed to a lack of dignity and disregard, God had brought us there to see them, love them and give them dignity. God was using us even when I could not see it.
When we step outside of ourselves and into His plan for our lives, God can use us in powerful ways to share His love and His mercy with those around us. May we always have eyes to see and an open heart to love like He does!
By Sarah Svoboda
2017 and 2019 India Team
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