by Carolyn, DTS student
It was one of our first trips into the surrounding villages and towns of Gaya. We were on our way to a leper colony to see how we could show them the love of Jesus. The air was cool and I was glad I thought to bring my warm coat. A local man showed us the way to the colony, translating various phrases for us and pointing out local landmarks.
We finally arrived at the leper colony. I was confronted with the profound emotional heaviness of the place. It felt destitute. Hopeless.
And that’s when our translator stopped translating. He refused to acknowledge the people we were there to help. This was my introduction to the harsh reality of the caste system.
My friends and I kept walking, following the translator through the gravely roads. We walked past an elderly man dressed in thin rags and sitting in the dirt. Wherever I am, I try to give a kind smile to people I encounter, to show them even with a glance that they’re special – not just to me, but to Jesus. When I saw this man on the street, I noticed that his eyes looked empty of anything but lonely sorrow.
We couldn’t stop, but this precious man’s eyes would not leave my heart. Finally, I knew I had to go back and say something to him. I didn’t know if the man would speak any English; I only knew that God loved him vey much and that I had to tell him. The man listened, smiling. For a moment, the heavy feeling of the place lifted.
The local guide made his way back to me, followed by several other Indians. I guess I was causing a scene by talking to this man. I was a woman and he was an untouchable.
“The lepers are often cold,” the translator remarked. “They have a hard time getting warm.”
I thought about how cold I had been in my room the night before – I could actually see my breath. I considered the man Dustin and I were trying to talk to. He was shivering.
Would you give this man your coat? The thought came to my heart with such a deep feeling of compassion, I knew I had to act.
“Here,” I said, handing him my thick coat. “God loves you. God loves you. He wants you to be warm.”
The man’s eyes brightened and his whole expression softened. The growing crowd around us seemed collectively shocked. Not only had I talked to an “untouchable,” something that would surely hurt my chances at a better reincarnation, but I had actually given him something valuable that I, myself, needed.
Giving that man my jacket seemed like an obvious and simple thing to do. But now I realize that such a simple act is what it means to live the gospel, to share the Good News. Jesus told us to pray that God’s kingdom would come—and I think this is one way we can be part of seeing God’s kingdom here on earth. I pray that the man understands the jacket wasn’t really from me, but it was a gift from a God who loves him.