Speechless for the first time EVER but compelled to type.

Greetings from Kolkata (Calcutta)!

We finally made it. 

That statement deserved its own line. Seriously. It takes some time to get to the other side of the world.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers.  We have felt them and we have been in need of them. 

As our final flight descended down toward Calcutta, commonly but perhaps slightly unpersuasively called “the City of Joy”, I was shocked by the lush landscape. Calcutta has a tropical climate and is completely covered with Palm trees. Who knew? The sight was totally not what I expected. I couldn’t wait to get outside and see it up close. But, then we walked off the plane.

And. It. Was. 120. Degrees.

Suddenly tropical weather took on an entirely new connotation.

Shortly after checking into our hotel we headed off to visit Mother Teresa’s burial site, a must for anyone and everyone visiting Calcutta regardless of theological or denominational tradition. Mother Teresa’s tomb is on the grounds where the “Missionaries of Charity” order is still alive and well. I fully expected myself to be emotionally moved by this particular moment. But I wasn’t. Let’s just say that my spirit was willing but my flesh was weak. I was hunched over on a bench because I was completely and utterly spent. The twelve and a half hour time difference (ummmm…where does the half come from? anyone?) and the two days of traveling without sleep and eating only a handful of Cliff bars suddenly wasn’t working for me anymore. And wait, did I mention the 120 degree weather? Apparently Calcutta hasn’t had this kind of heat wave in nearly 30 years. Even the locals are impressed (not the good kind) by the intensity of the heat. I was afraid that I would go down in history as the obnoxious American who puked in Mother Teresa’s burial room. Luckily that nightmare did not actualize and I finally gathered myself together enough to walk around the grounds. 

I noticed that the rest of the team had climbed a narrow set of stairs and so I followed them and I could not believe my eyes. There was Mother Teresa’s tiny little bedroom that would make a college dorm room seem opulent. It was in that tiny little room that Mother Teresa had lived for about forty years and it was there where she also died. While her tomb didn’t move me like it did others, her little tiny room did. Not only because the room spoke of a life of simplicity and earthly discomfort but also because it reflected a life of unimaginable dedication in one consistent direction. An entire lifetime devoted to serving the unloved and untouched of our world.

I was struck by a quote of Mother Teresa’s that was posted in the museum area. It said, “Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow-men throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger.” What a simple yet weighty statement. It directly contradicts our entire world system: a system that shows unabashed impartiality to the rich, famous, and the beautiful people. A system that so quickly labels off the poor and diseased as lazy, weak-willed, and unfortunate. I pondered the quote in my heart last night but I experienced the profundity of it today when we entered our first project, one of Compassion’s several child development centers in Calcutta.

I was so not prepared for what went down when we climbed out of the van. The children were lined up in a drum-line in matching uniforms and they proceeded to march us into the project grounds where we were each presented with a beautiful sunflower. My chin was quivering so fast that I could hear my own teeth clattering over all the noise. The spectacle did not end there, however. We continued to watch the children perform demonstration after demonstration for us, dancing and singing songs like:

God’s love is so wonderful
So high you can’t get over it
So deep you can’t get under it

I thought to myself something in the same vein of Mother Teresa’s statement. Just a whole lot less profound sounding. I thought, “Who am I that I would be esteemed by these precious children who have dealt with more in their few years than I probably ever will in my entire lifetime? And for whom I have done so relatively little?” But then in the middle of my self-loathing episode I realized I was giving myself way too much credit. These children weren’t performing for me or even for the ten of us. They were performing for their sponsors. For them, the ten of us are the closest thing they will ever see that resembles and embodies their sponsors. They won’t likely get the opportunity to meet their individual sponsors in this lifetime.

Several of you commented on my last post that you are already sponsors of a Compassion child. Sponsors, let me speak to you in particular for a moment. I want you each to know that today was as much for you as it was for me. I may have gotten to witness it, but those kids weren’t clapping, singing, and celebrating that ten random and goofy looking Americans came to visit them. They identified with us because we represented to them their individual sponsors. Let me tell you, no let me assure you- your sponsor child knows your name. Not just your first name. Your last name, too. They lined up with drums to usher you into the place you’ve financially provided for them. A place of hope. A place where that abstract verb “to dream” becomes something that just might be tangible. A place where they hear for the first time that they have dignity and worth before the Most High God. They treasure the letters that you write to them. They don’t toss them in the trash. No, they store them in a safe place. And this will really get you. If you sponsor a child in India, you’re probably the only one who has ever told your child, “I love you.” Our Compassion India specialist told us that in the Indian culture, particularly among the poor, parents do not express love to their children. She said, “Even though the parents really do love their children, they don’t show it. Rarely does a parent actually come out and express their love for their child.” Can you imagine? Let it sink in. You, even though you might think you’re just a little sponsor person who hastily filled out a form during a concert, are most likely the only adult who has blatantly expressed love for this child. A real living and breathing child.

One of the children presenting us with a sunflower:

The Compassion kids in a drum-line ushering us into the project. Unbelievable. 

All 295 of the children in the project we visited today.  225 have been sponsored.  70 are still waiting for sponsors:

The kids and me playing with bubbles. They LOVE them: 

A family I fell in love with.  The little girl named Susmita is 13 years old and her Father died in an accident and then her Mother walked out on her.  Her uncle and grand-mother, sickly and frail, currently take care of her.  Susmita followed us out of the neighborhood as far as she could because she didn’t want to say good-bye.  It broke my heart. And it made my day:

This picture speaks for itself. Period. The end. 



163 Responses to “Speechless for the first time EVER but compelled to type.”

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  1. 151
    bigdogmom says:

    Your post makes me wonder how long those kids knew you were coming. I can just picture the excitement of planning for your visit…making sure the sunflowers were all ready for you. The drum line practicing. Alas, the day they have been waiting for arrives. Did they sleep the night before or were they too excited knowing that it would be just a few more hours?
    Thank you, Melissa, for sharing these beautiful pictures and your post with us. I am moved beyond words.

  2. 152
    Pastor Sharon says:

    Wow. . . to see those beautiful faces, reflecting the image of our God. What a breath-taking post.

    Jesus said the second highest commandment was to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” What a wonderful gift you all are giving, loving those who need you most.

  3. 153
    Kari says:

    Thanks for sharing Melissa and for going. We sponsor a child in Bolivia. I never know what to write and so don’t as often as I should. Your sharing though made me realize it is important for her and I will definitely tell her I love her too!

  4. 154
    Emmy says:

    Oh I am crying! Beautiful thank you… I sponsor a little girl for Compassion in Haiti… I think I may have to sponsor another one! Precious children… can’t begin to imagine never being told I am loved… Thank you Melissa! Praying for you all! Emmy

  5. 155
    Evangelism Chick says:

    Hey, Melissa! Great to hear from you.

    My sweet husband started when he was 10 or 12 year old to sponsor Compassion kiddos. Pushed a lawn mower to earn the money every month to do it.

    We’ve continued on with it every time a child graduated from it. Have a World Vision cutie from Peru, too.

    Praying you up.

    P.S. You’re the best looking mission trip travelor we’ve ever seen.

    In Him,

  6. 156
    Janet in Amarillo says:

    Melissa, thanks so much for sharing! We sponsor 2 children thru World Vision, I'm trusting that it is much the same worthy ministry as Compassion! Your post has brot home to me the importance of communication between the children and myself. I have chosen 2 children with the same birthday's as 2 of my 3 grandchildren. The boys are 4 years apart (9 & 13 in June) and the girls are exactly the same age (6 in October). Thank you thank you for bringing this home so vividly for us to make us grateful and more sensative to our own children AND our sponsored children around the world!

    Jesus love the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight! Jesus loves the little children of the world! Amen and Amen!

    Blessings to you and the team and the children AND adults you minister to on your trip!

    Love you Siesta!
    Janet in Amarillo

  7. 157
    cheryl says:

    I love this post! It makes me even more excited about my own trip to india in 4 weeks. Im not looking forward to the weather but I cant wait to meet the children and women in the orphanage and villages we will be going to. thank you

  8. 158
    Carolyn F says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing!

  9. 159
    jennyhope says:

    This was so powerful and humbling.

  10. 160
    katiegfromtennessee says:

    Wow, Melissa…It has already been a God adventure for you for sure! The jet lag is craziness!…what you said about labeling people as lazy, weak-willed, and unfortunate is accurate, our culture tends to do that…to invest in others, to love your neighbor as yourself, esp. the ones who never hear “I love you”, that is motivating.


  11. 161
    Alexis says:

    Thanks so much for your wonderful post. I can’t even imagine 120 degrees… lol What a great opportunity. Keep the blogs coming. God Bless you!!!

  12. 162
    Groovewoman ♫ says:

    I am so happy to hear that you all made it safely over there. I know you are exhausted, but the Lord will continue to give you all strength to do what you need to do while there.

    Melissa, thank you for sharing your trip & experiences with us. I am looking forward to reading about your time there.

    The pics of these little ones are just really breaking my heart. I don't know HOW you are doing it in person.

    Much love & prayers being sent your way.

  13. 163
    rdford67 says:

    Wow! I have been sponsoring two children through Compassion Intl for over 7 years. I simply love them and get so excited everytime I receive a letter knowing they are doing well. The photos are beautiful and I am so thankful you are sharing your experience.

    love to you, Renee

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