Volunteering in India (platform2) blog1: The slum children who praised the Lord
Note: Bare wth this one for a couple moments. It is about a slum visit so it may seem discouraging for a little bit, but read on and you will rejoice at what comes! Also bare with the presentation and spelling. I only had a little while at a local internet cafe to write this up!
Slum vist, Jaipur
Hello I am Fiona Higgins for those of you who don't normally read my writings. I am currently a volunteer in the fight against poverty in India. I am based in Rajasthan, specifically a small rural area called Dabla. Here I work in a volunteer ran governmant daycare centre teaching pre-school and early years children english, maths and other fundamentals so that they may escape the poverty trap of poor education due to lack of opportunities and the unawareness of it's importance in poverty stricken areas of developing countries.
In this, my first blog entry of my time volunteering here I am going to tell you about the slum myself and the other volunteers visited in Jaipur.
The slum was very small for the amount of people who lived there.It consisted of old ruined buildings. Walls were missing and very few of the homes had roofs. There was dust, rubbish and pieces of glass and plastic everywhere. The insides of the homes could be seen in every building because of the lack of walls and broken walls. The people sat despondant, visibly dirty and in torn clothes on the floors. There were no toliet facilities and it is most likely that the inhabitants dug holes in the gound instead. This would make the spread of desease very likely, which unfortunatey these people lack awareness of, as well as the knowledge that treatment is available to them for such things- paid by the government. The Indian government do not promote health and education services for the lower casts even thought these are available, as such information campaigns are an avoidable expense to them.
The smell of the slum was one of heated up rubbish as it was surrounded by a rubbish tip, which we saw the people scavenging in as we walked through it. There is no telling how many people lived in each builduing, though it is likely around 10 would live in each one which was about 6 metres squared, at most. To put it plainly, each person would have to curl up to sleep at night for all to fit in.
We were surrounded by children wanting to talk to us and to touch us as soon as we were sited by them. Though I think it is safer to say they wanted us to talk to them and to touch them. They were desperate to be ackowledged by us and kept begging us to take their pictures. Many did things to try and get our attention and we realised that these children were completely willing to perform for us and humiliate themselves if only we would look at them. This is understandable in the existence of those who have been forsaken by their own people.
It wasn't long before we saw the desperate behavior of the impverished as the children started begging us for money or sweets, and even trying to steal from us. One child tried to go for my money belt under the guise of asking for a hug.
At this point I was enveloped by round 20 children and literally pressed on all sides. I was becoming a bit frightened and was sure I was going to be robbed. I probably would have been if a group of children hadn't came along. They saw the cross around my neck and asked if I was a Christian. I feared a bit of a backlash as I know in some areas of India there is tension aroud Christainity. However I wanted to shine the light of Christ there and told them I was. To my surprise and sheer joy these 3 children told me they were too and started saying "Praise the Lord", "He is good to us", "He provides". I coldn't believe my eyes or ears. These children had nothing and yet the praised the Lord- with rejoicing! They were so animated and just wanted to tell me all of God's goodness to them. I was amazed and asked if they had Christan parents and they said no, that they go to a local volunteer run Christian school called "The Helping Hands School of Jaipur". It is my joy to ask you to keep this school ad it's evangelistic and educational work amongst the needy in your prayers.
The oldest child (around 11), brought out his school workbook to show me. It was called the Simple english bible lessons workbook, and he rejoiced in sharing these simple bible studies they had learned. They also took out a Bible to show me that too and started teaching me from it. I rejoiced in their zeal for the Lord and His Word, and was more than delighted to pray for them when they asked me to. I really felt the Spirit move when I praised he Lord for their faith and His provision for them. I also asked for the continied strangthening of their faith and for their witness of God's love for them to touch others around them. To my surprise they seemed to understand every word said and were praying "Yes Lord!' along with me. Talkig to them affterwards I realised that their English was very good, and also that they were very clean and immaculate in their uniforms compared to the other slum children who were dirty and wore rags. I praised God for how well the school seemed to be looking after them and knew this work must fill our God with joy. Inded\ed the work of the volunteer Christians in this school are worthy of blessing for they are doing what Jesus would do in serving the oppressed physically and spiritually.
I am so touched by how these impoverished children praised the Lord despite their hardships. They did not flock to the western volunteers out of a zeal for our belongings, but instead treated us like we had as much as they did. They know their treasure is in the Lord and are greatful for the riches of His blessings of Love and Fatherhood. I pray the Lord blesses these children with greater revelation of Himself and that they learn to walk more in His ways everyday.
Finally, I wish to share the moving generosity of the oldest oy there, the onewho was around 11 years old. While showing me his Bible lessin workbook he insisted I have it. He wanted to bless me with the very little he had so I could recieve the joy and knowledge of our loving Father that he had come to know through it. He was just so desperate to give to me. To bless me. I couldn't understand such love, such selfless giving and indeed that will stay with me for the rest of my life. On reflectig upon these things the next day I was reminded poinently of the widow who gave her all:
As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins."I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others.All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4)
Indeed this child gave out of the little he had materially, but he also gave a valuable spiritual resource. I can only imagine the state of mind which believes so much in the riches of God, and not only believes, but holds to them. Such generosity should shame the everyday person, but those who are in Christ can count it a wonderful lesson and encouragement to show generosity to others, despite our means.
I don't think it is at all far fetched to say
What is more, (this child) considered everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus (his)Lord, for whose sake (he) has lost all things. (he) considers them rubbish, that (he) may gain Christ. (Ephesians 3:8).
I hope this young boys faithfull and joyful following of our Lord encourages you. May the Lord our God bless you.
Grace and peace to you all,
More of my India publications including poems
- The weight of materialism
It cut at my hands, The heavy load slicing my flesh, It inflicted its damage on me, pulling me down, my heart would have felt heavy had it not already drowned in my helpless acceptance that it was my own...