Namaste! It is so very good to be here in India spending time with the Missionaries of Charity, serving the poor, praying, and so much more. Every Thursday the MCs have a day of prayer, so we do not serve at the volunteer sights. Fortunately, we had a unique day ahead of us. After Mass, we hopped on a bus and took a ride to a school called Jan Seva. This school for children ranging from 2.5-6 years old was started a little over five years ago by a program called Pathways to Children. The founder for Pathways, Grace Strangis, calls Minnesota her home and is a big reason why we are here in Kolkata. She has helped SJV seminarians to make this trip for the last four years. Grace has a big heart and is continually looking for new opportunities to make the world a better place. For example, many of the children that attend Jan Seva do not receive meals at their own homes because their families are so poor. Grace has made it so the children get two meals every day because she knows that these kids will not have the energy to focus and learn if they are starving and wondering when they will eat next. So, we are all very thankful for Grace. She is a faithful and courageous woman who sees with the eyes of Christ and acts as His hands.
When we first got to the school, we entered a small assembly hall where we were welcomed with a traditional Indian greeting, we sang our national anthem, they sang theirs, and then we were off touring the facility. I have never seen so many smiling faces in such a short period of time. The children were so happy and joyful, and it was clear to see why. They have a safe place to learn, they have teachers that care about them, and there is a real sense of community. After the tour, we were free to enter the classrooms to help teach English or whatever was needed to attend to the kids. I spent the morning with a girl named Teeptay. She had cerebral palsy, but she was no less a beloved daughter of the Father because of her handicap. After placing a marker in her shriveled hand, we colored pictures together. She would look up at me, color a small section, look back up at me to make sure I was still watching her, and we continued this process. Occasionally she would reach out her hand to signify she wanted a new color. Though she managed to color her desk, hands, and my sweatshirt sleeve, she eventually finished coloring the sheet in front of her. Through much effort, she was able to pick up the picture and hold it up for all in the classroom to see. It was such a beautiful sight, and it filled me with the desire to have the heart of a child. Similar to Teeptay, I make a complete mess of myself on a daily basis. I am not always able to love as I ought, but at the end of the day I hold up my work for the Father to see. It is precisely in my imperfections that the Father delights.
After an insane recess with laughing, running, jumping, and absolute chaos, we met back in the assembly hall to sing songs. I did not know that the kids were Tom Petty fans! Overall it was a blessed day at the school. It was a beautiful way to learn from these little professors of love.
In the afternoon, we were fortunate enough to take a boat ride on the Ganges river. This river is one of the most important sites for Hindu worship. Along the banks of the river are temples to various gods with steps that lead down into the water. It is customary for men and women to bathe in it to pay homage to their ancestors and to the gods. It was a neat way to relax in the afternoon while getting the chance to better understand Indian culture.
God is so good. He has been with us every step of the way. Just when you think things can’t get any better, God throws you a new surprise. That was definitely the case today. I was not entirely sure what to expect, but the Lord provided me with new opportunities to learn and grow. God is so good. Thank you all for accompanying us during our time here, and thank you all for your prayers.