Mother Teresa is an iconic figure of what sacrificial, servanthood looks like. Even she recognized that it was not her love and her service but God’s through her. At first, I assumed God would give me strength and that his love would show through me automatically, and that I wouldn’t need to seek Him.
While reading Finding Calcutta by Mary Poplin, I became excited for this awe-inspiring rush of God’s love to fill me and pour out of my work. Did you catch that? My work. This things I was going to do. The diapers I would change. The mouths I would feed. The good deeds I would do. It was going to be about what I would bring to offer.
On my first day of serving, I was handed a baby boy, who was about a year old. He was unresponsive to words or touch, but his eyes scanned the roof and never made eye contact. After prayer, the volunteers sang Jesus Loves You to the children and listened to worship music. I rocked the little boy I was holding and I prayed that God would help me love this boy. I prayed that God would be the one serving, not I.
After 45 minutes his hands began to reach for mine and squeeze them slightly.
I had prayed that God would show this little boy how much he was loved. And I believe God did. It was amazing to see God’s love everywhere I looked. I completely believe that it is because the sisters are continually in prayer with each child or person they serve. They ask God how he wants to love the person they are focused on.
God worked through my disobedience, He worked through my wandering heart. But it does not give me the right to justify walking away from His presence and expecting God to still work.
India can be a very overwhelming place. The noises, smells, sights, crowds, and even the flavors of food are very vivid and unique, and sometimes you just don’t quite know what to make of it. Trent and Josh go for a stroll on Park Street and describe what they see on the team’s first day in India.
I stuck my arm underneath the right arm of the Indian man and lifted. My friend Jim did the same on his other side. The man let out a loud scream and dug his nails into my arm then bit me. I grimaced, but continued to tug and pull on the man, all while he kicked and yelled. Our objective was to move this man from where he was sitting, the laundry area, into the restroom/shower area. I was serving at Kalighat, a home of Mother Theresa’s, where the destitute and dying lay. This man, who had just arrived an hour ago, was neither dead nor dying. In fact, this man was very active as he continued yelling and grabbing hold of various objects to further prevent my friend and me from getting him to his destination. We finally got him into the restroom and pushed him to the floor.
Sister Florentine arrived. She reached down and grabbed the man’s shirt collar. She then tore the shirt right down the middle; a button flew off and hit me in the chest. He tried to crawl away but this only worked as a disadvantage as she used the momentum to help pull off his pants and undergarments. She took a bottle of soap and poured it over top his head, immediately followed by a bucket of water. There he sat, naked and wet, his ripped clothes on either side. She then began her work on his wrapped foot. She began unwinding the layers of the bandage. I finally understood why we were so intent on getting him care. His foot fully exposed, revealed a gruesome sight. She took a bar of soap and began scrubbing directly onto the bone. I was frozen as I watched what appeared to be a nun torturing a naked Indian man.
After an eternity the sister finished cleaning his wound and stood up quietly. She adjusted her sari and began to walk out of the room. She turned to me and laughed telling me to go home, but not before saying, “love isn’t easy. Love is a battle.”
I can’t recall the last time I missed an entire football season. Traveling on the Around-the-World Semester® II means that there will be one less Steeler fan watching this winter. Ever since I was a little girl, I grew up in Steeler country watching football with my dad, uncles, and brother every Sunday. Not to mention, every summer the Steelers bombard our little town of Latrobe, PA and host their training camp at St. Vincent College right near my house. It’s a Pittsburgh tradition that anytime you travel internationally, you take a picture with your terrible towel. This tradition is a reminder that even though you are far away from home, Steeler nation is represented wherever you go. Traveling with my terrible towel in my daypack, I am constantly reminded of my home culture, memories, and where I come from. Being a Steelers fan is a part of me that cannot be removed and I am proud to carry the towel on this trip.
So far, the towel has been hoisted above a ger in Mongolia, above the Great Wall of China, on top a boat in Ha Long Bay Vietnam, on the beach in Thailand, in the slums of India, in front of an obelisk Ethiopia, at a palace in Slovakia, and many more to come. God has blessed me with this trip in serving him, and I am forever grateful to be trekking around the world with this community, towel in hand.
Before serving alongside the Missionaries of Charity at Mother Theresa’s House in Kolkata, India, I did not fully understand what the meaning of service was. If someone were to ask me what it means to serve I would say it is a selfless act of love shown to others, but I did not fully understand this concept until now. I had the opportunity to serve at Prem Dan, which is the home of the disabled, handicapped, and mentally ill elderly women. I was finally able to understand what service really meant through this experience.
While we were in India we read “Finding Calcutta” by Mary Poplin for our Service Learning Practicum class. I found a lot of correlation with the book and my time of service in the home. Poplin, says, “It is a very different task to bathe a soiled adult when you see him as Christ than if you are simply cleaning someone for your job.” This was something that I constantly reminded myself of when I was serving at Prem Dan. God was standing right next to me the entire time. It was more than just washing clothes, feeding someone, or helping them go to the bathroom. I would look at them and see Jesus, and that is something that I had never done before. Looking into the eyes of the women, I realized that God sent us to simply care for them and show them His love. Ephesians 6:7 says, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men” This is commanded to us by God and was lived out by Mother Theresa. What great examples for us to look to for our own lives.
I will be forever grateful and blessed to have been able to serve at Prem Dan. I am not proud to say that it took something like this to make me realize this and open up my eyes. God sent me to Kolkata to strengthen my abilities and knowledge in how to love and serve others. I realize now that true service is displaying the love of Christ that he shows to us every day and letting that resonate through our being. Prem Dan tore down every wall of pride that I entered with, which is completely and radically different from my day-to-day life. “The more we empty our focus on ourselves, the more he can fill us.” – Mother Theresa. I experienced what it was like to be totally emptied and filled up with Christ.