Today we met the children. All 850 of them. They greeted us at their morning assembly with a reading of a Bible verse, their pledge of allegiance, a song, a prayer, and a current reading of the top news and then Elton gave a quick introduction of our team. We then got the chance to visit their classrooms. Some of the kids were extremely shy while a couple others sang “Bah-Bah Black Sheep” at the top of their lungs. We also visited the highest grade level (equivalent to 10thgrade). To get the conversation going by asking them who their favorite movie stars were. And of course..Brangelina was mentioned. What was even more striking however was when we asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. We got the following 5 answers: doctor, engineer (software specifically!), lawyer, teacher and pastor. Through my own personal lens I was somewhat disappointed with the lack of originality, but what makes their answers significant is that they are children of the Dalit caste of India.
The Dalit caste are also called the untouchables or the no-caste. The other 4 castes of India don’t even acknowledge them as a caste because their “duties” in society are to be the sewer cleaners, garbage sweepers, and laborers. Many Dalits are uneducated and don’t have the money to attend a school and if they do, they are undermined by their teachers and classmates. Their plight is very much equivalent to the plight of the Black Slaves in our American history. The hope here in this school is that by giving them an education, they can move past the societal stigmas of uneducated Dalits and be major influencers in the world. We’ve celebrated the first African American doctor, lawyer, engineer and teacher in our own country. Martin Luther King himself was a pastor. The hope is that one day in India these Dalit children will also be celebrated for their achievements.
The other highlight of our day was seeing the children off. All 850 of them piled into 9 school buses (you do the math.) We were again greeted by big smiles and ‘hellos’. I had my camera in hand and that was an automatic hit with the little ones. They all crowded around to see photos of themselves on the preview finder.
The rest of the day consisted of prepping for our upcoming children’s camp and the medical clinic that we are going to host for the staff of the mission. Dr. Lauren (DL as I so aptly like to call her) gave us all a crash course on prostate and lice detection. I kid. But in all seriousness, we realized that we have a possibility of seeing at least 60 staff members and their families in one day. To give you a current idea, American doctors usually only see 40 patients at best in their practices per day. So we will see what is to come and we are praying that our Father will give us the divine intervention and the healing powers to heal the sick.
We finished off our supper with Bishop telling us his conversion of how he became a believer which is a medical miracle in itself. But the even bigger back story is the story of the founder of this mission. The founder of this mission was originally from the highest caste, Brahmin, (Hindu priest caste) but became a believer. His story is that one day he and a gang of people were ready to persecute a bunch of Dalit pastors in a church and he was appointed to murder the pastor of the church. As he was about to step foot into the church he was immediately hit by the Spirit of God and God said to him, “He is my servant, do not harm him.” He was stuck paralyzed on the ground for a whole hour and was not able to move. After that experience he came to know Christ and repented of his sin.
However because his family was Hindu they disowned him and took away his wife and he was left homeless until a missionary took him in to share God’s love for him. As he was being taken care of by these believers he realized the need to love and educate these Dalit people and so the beginning of this mission was planted.
What really amazes me about these stories is that Bishop Moses has reiterated again and again, God has a sovereign plan. Sometimes we may not know what he’s doing in the midst of serious pain and trial, but God knows what he’s doing.
I’ve been wrestling a lot with how do I reconcile with injustices like these in the world; enslaved people unable to get education, own land and have personal dignity just because of skin color and caste. I realize that I myself have been born into a privileged “caste” even though we may not call it that. I have the ability to get an education, I’ve been blessed by the financial stability to own my own property, and be a free person. I can choose to keep on living this way and not acknowledge the brothers and sisters around me that don’t have these privileges, or I can do something about it. We don’t live for ourselves in this world, our God has put us here for the world.