I sat in the makeshift church and school, little more than two rooms of brick and tin in the middle of a muddy slum in Mumbai, India, a city where half of the twelve million people live in this kind of squalor. Coming into the slum that day, walking through the slush the rain created by this monsoon season, I was greeted with the shouts of children crying, “Namaste, teacher!” Now we all sat cross-legged on the floor, sandals strewn by the door, singing in a language beautiful but foreign to my tongue. The kids adorned their Sunday best, brightly colored second-hand salwars and suits.
I looked around the modest room full of smiling faces, bright with hope and love. I realized at that moment that I believe Christ is the only hope in this hurting world. I had always said I believed this. That is how I ended up in India. I wanted to help others, to bring God’s love to them. But they were the ones that had opened up my eyes and given me new meaning. Six weeks had changed me, made my beliefs no longer simply knowledge in my head but a reality I would live out. From India I would bring home a belief that made its way to my heart and would motivate my life.
That summer I saw hope in places no one would have imagined it could exist, like in one room that housed a family of eight, all happily living with one bed and a hot plate, no running water and sporadic electricity. Suman smiled as she held her baby boy, whose first birthday we would celebrate together. She had only borne girls in a culture where boys were not just desired, but a necessity. She came to the teachers at the little slum school asking them to pray for her to have a boy. She knew there was something different about these teachers and she believed their God answered their prayers. She told me this story as she looked down at Samuel, named after the prophet that God had given the barren Hannah when she prayed for a son. God had given her a little boy and her entire family had turned to Christ, a new hope in their lives.
In one of the last places on earth where you would expect to find faith, the crude homes held families who had learned to trust God when the world around them promised only hunger and sickness. How could these people who had nothing have such joy in their eyes? I understood it was because their belief was made real in the fires of the trials they faced. They had been tried in ways we would never understand and had come out the other side stronger. I took those beliefs as pure as gold, refined in the hell of Asia’s largest slums, made them my own and I will never forget the people who gave them to me.
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