City of Joy

Branden, Odua and I had just spent the morning getting familiar with the City of Joy. Kolkata is a city full of intriguing scenary, relentless noise and overwhelming scents. You can easily notice piles of decaying trash littering the side of the road, the endless horns of cars stuck in traffic, and the nauseating smell of diesel, food and raw sewage. But what's even easier to notice is the number of people begging on the streets. Beggers will throw themselves in your path, groups of children trail you, tugging your hand for money, and some beggars will even shove you begging for some rupees. Its impossible to ignore and even harder to know what to do.

We had no idea what to do one afternoon. Our directors had left Branden, Odua and me to exchange our money for rupees. I was sharing a lunch of rice and curry with the rest of the team. While I was eating, I noticed a woman outside the restaurant staring at me. I thought it was nothing at first (staring for extended periods of time is culturally normal in India). But I soon realized she was begging. She had a look of hunger and pleading on her face as she lifted her hand to her mouth. The woman was asking to eat with us. I sat there frozen, not knowing what to do. I kept going back and forth in my mind. Should I invite her in? This isn't even my food to give away. What can I say? I don't even speak Bengali. Will what I give help? Its just a handful of rice. I sat there, looking at my food to avoid her pleading expression.

She left.

I didn't know what to do. I felt a mixture of guilt, sadness and failure. I've replayed what I should have done multiple times. “I should have just invited her in.” “I should have given her a couple of rupees.” “I should have said 'hello.'” I was paralyzed as to what to do.

That was about a week ago. As I'm adjusting to Kolkata I realize I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time. I've processed this moment, and I still have no idea as to what I should have done. The easy answer would have been to just give her something to eat and move on. But I believe God is chiseling something deeper into my heart with this encounter. I think He's asking me to listen, to listen to the hungry begging for food. And even more important, to ask and listen to His Holy Spirit as what to do.

It's been a constant temptation for me to think that I have the knowledge to do justice and to push my concept of justice on Kolkata.

But in that encounter, I think God is reminding me that I have my limitations and fears. I believe he's asking me to admit my pride and to ask and listen to Him for what to do. Proclaiming the Gospel and His Kingdom goes beyond my understanding. As this summer is progressing, I'm realizing God's movement can only be sensed by a humble heart, one that asks and listens.

Matthew 6:10...Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

- Wesley Chow