Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Population Two

It's hard to begin to put into words the things I've seen and the emotions I've felt after today. I mean, you expect to have life altering experiences on a trip to India, and in that sense, I'm certainly a changed man. Yesterday I was worried about my income going down by $1800 or so per month. Now I'm just thankful I'm not living in the slums. But surprisingly, the people I met today who live in abject poverty seem to be much more satisfied with life and happy than I feel day to day. Something's wrong with that. 

This is the outside of the school we visited today. It's located in the heart of the slums and is pale in comparison to what we as Americans expect a school to be.

We were welcomed warmly with big full malas or traditional Indian flower necklaces as they are called. 

This particular school prepares the poorest of children for the test they must pass if they want to go to a public government school. The truth is however, most of these kids are stuck and have no hope of escaping the poverty they were born into. In fact, some of the kids at this school attended a public school but for one reason or another had problems keeping up with the other students. The public schools response was to daily whip or beat them until they stop just coming. This school however has a different approach, educating kids in a Christian environment.

I was lucky enough to get to take pictures of each class and immediately print up photographs for them to have. What a cool feeling it was to do that! I'm serious. The teachers were so grateful and all of life's problems seem to melt away when you see that you are truly bringing joy to another human being. I just really got a kick out of doing that and tomorrow were going to another school where I'll get to do more photographing and printing. I can't wait. 

The people who live in these slums, rummage through trash looking for recyclables to sell for money... money they use for rent. Yes, they have to pay rent for the privilege to live in conditions like this.

Many of the huts people live in have tarps for roofs. It's so hard to see this, to walk on mud and ground covered in feces, and wonder how I got so lucky, or how these people were so unlucky. I mean, who chooses to be born into poverty like this? In America, we say the rich worked hard for the money they have, and the poor are simply lazy, or have done something to deserve being poor. Indians have a similar but thought process. They believe that if they are born in extreme poverty, it's because they did something in a previous life to deserve it. And those born in to wealth and privilege did something in a previous life to warrant their position (just like the rich worked hard for their money and deserve it). Everything is destined, and this justifies the disparity in wealth, which seems to me much worse than in America. But after the mission trip to West Virginia, I'd have to say not by much. For this reason, the belief that higher cast people some how deserve what they were born into, and those in the slums equally deserve to be there, is a major reason why Indians are not inclined to give to the poor, or have any compassion what so ever. It breaks my heart. 
Before we went to the school, the mission guide made it clear we were not to leave the school grounds, that no westerners were to be roaming. It wasn't safe and they didn't want any problems with authorities as "conversion" by Westerners is totally illegal in India. But they wanted me to go out with the tour guide to get pictures and video which I was very happy to do. So SJ and I headed for the villages within the slums. SJ asked me to stay in the car while he made sure it was okay for me to come and take pictures. When I got the all clear and got out of the car, all these kids ran up and swarmed around me. They were not clean, some were without clothes, but all of them were thrilled and happy and so excited. I took their picture and showed them what I had taken on the LCD screen and I could tell it was magic to them.

Many people asked me to take their picture, and I feel like I got some of the most amazing portraits I've ever taken.  As I said before, it's really hard to describe in words all the emotions I was feeling... honored to be among people who thought so highly of me, horrified to see the conditions my fellow human beings were living in, guilty that I'm American and live a life of privilege. 

I had to opportunity to speak to them through the interpreter and I told them all that where I come from, we don't have areas like this and many people have no idea what these people have to deal with on a daily basis. I wanted so badly to fix this terrible situation. I mean, what can I do really? What can I say? So I said the only thing I could think of and I was shocked by a young girl's response. 

I told them all for the rest of my life, I'd be praying for them. That's all I could think of. And the young girl spoke up. While I waited for the SJ to interpret, I noticed the girls body language. To me it looked like she was saying don't pray for me, I don't believe the same as you. But what she really said was that they don't want to leave this place, they just want to government to take care of them... provide education, running water and that kind of thing.

In the United States so many people want to government to not take care of people. The poor are poor because they are lazy. This attitude absolutely disgusts me. We are all humans and we all deserve clean water, food, shelter and medical care. 

As I was making my way back to the car, SJ told me that there was a woman who couldn't walk, that wanted her picture taken. I'm so used to people not wanting their picture taken (in real life situations), it's still a little weird to me, but I was all too happy to oblige her. So I walked up to her hut and this is what I go. 

I feel as if her face tells such an amazing story. When I showed her the picture on the camera, she melted, and so did I. How can doing something so simple as taking someones picture, even when all they get is to see the thumbnail, bring such happiness to someone? I can tell you the joy and happiness was 100% mutual. 

Yesterday the ladies had the opportunity to go to the Pricilla Vocational Institute. The men had to stay behind because I guess they would have felt uncomfortable with guys being there but here are some of the pictures the ladies were able to snap.

This is skin bleaching. Women do it because it's supposed to remove facial hair, but also because lighter skin is considered more attractive than darker skin. Typically those in a higher cast have lighter skin. I know this is also an issue sometimes with African American's in the States. It's too bad we live in a world where people are considered beautiful because of the person they are on the inside rather than their skin color, cast, or socioeconomic status. I guess that's asking too much.

But they learn other skills too, like hair, massage and eyebrow threading (something I'm particularly interested in as my eyebrows are on a mission to take over the world... but I digress).

Stay tuned for more updates. I was able to charge my computer in someone else's room today but tomorrow we're moving to a new hotel so we'll just have to see what happens. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

We made it!

Originally I wanted to do daily video updates. But I'm not sure that will be possible unless I'm able to get an adapter that works with my lap top. In fact, I've got 8% batter power left right now so I'm going to be very brief.

First let me give you the back story behind these pictures...

This is the team right after hopping the pond. We were lucky enough to have a 12 hour layover in London. Bloody hell people! Look at those blokes:)
 This was the school we went to today. I'll write more about how this school works, but in a nut shell they basically train people on how to effectively minister to people. The thing that most impressed me was that they follow a model of pray, serve, then share. Pray for the person, help them out in some way, and share the Gospel when they ask, why are you doing this? It's how Jesus ministered and I never really realized that until I heard how they operate today

This is a picture of the students taking a break in the court yard. Everyone was so hospitable. They offered us chi tea, which was not like the chi I'm used to but still good none the less.

I really have so much more to share. I've been shooting video and taking pictures like crazy. But alas, my battery is down to 4% now and if I don't post soon, it wont get posted. So... keep coming back. I'll try and add more as I'm able.

Please keep our team in your prayers.