I’m sitting at a coffee shop in the Calcutta airport, drinking a cup of tea and feeling all kinds of drained. I spent my last day in India sick and in bed at the hotel, so I’m wiped physically. Some kind of food poisoning, I think.
But it’s probably more than that. Calcutta is an exhausting place. It’s huge – the world’s 8th largest urban agglomeration. It’s busy – traffic here makes Phnom Penh look like Warsaw, Indiana. It’s also desperately poor. Sure, there are people in Cambodia who are absolutely destitute. But in Calcutta, the sheer scope of the poverty is unbelievable.
The city itself seems stuck in the 1950s. The ancient infrastructure groans and sags under the weight of millions and millions of people driving, cooking and living on the gritty, grimy streets.
I took very few pictures in Calcutta. I think I used my big camera maybe once. The streets are so crowded, there’s no place to stand back and discreetly shoot photos. Plus, I don’t feel like I’ve earned the right to take photos of the families living under tarps, the urchins begging for food, the small children defecating on the curb. It all feels too invasive, at least for now. I settled for offering quiet blessings: “May God bless that child…may God give us the wisdom and the resources we need to help change this place.”
And that’s what really made the last couple of weeks in India so tiring. We spent lots of time brainstorming about future plans. We had a ton of meetings. Lawyers, pastors, potential ministry partners, board members… but we didn’t really have any of our kids to hug and play with. That makes a huge difference. In Cambodia and Thailand, we often have busy schedules filled with stressful conversations and hard work. But we also have the kids. One embrace from a child that we rescued erases an hour’s worth of stress. One song at an Asia’s Hope children’s home can compensate for a whole afternoon of traffic and travel. (Have you visited one of our homes? If so, am I right? Testify!)
We did have some great times here. Praying with our brothers and sisters in tiny churches tucked into the sides of mountains was an honor par excellence. Playing Karem with the kids from the Grace Children’s Home in Kalimpong was almost as great as playing Takraw with our kids at Asia’s Hope Hot Springs Home in Thailand. Visiting the Assemblies of God church in Calcutta was a huge encouragement – wow, what God is doing to bless the city through that congregation! But it’s not quite the same. Maybe next time. Maybe after we’ve actually done something in India, we’ll feel the joy and encouragement we feel in Cambodia and Thaialnd.
But for now, I’m just plain tired. And I’m ready to get back to Cambodia. I can’t wait to hear the kids squeal in delight as my car approaches the gate at the Asia’s Hope Christian School. I need a few more of those hugs – hugs that have been, well, I guess they’ve been earned.
And then I’m ready to be home. Back with my wife, my kids, my church, my office, my grocery store, my grill, my bed, my blue jeans and my cup of coffee. But first, I have to grit through the next 14 hours of flights and layovers, and then the 30 hours to get home on the 8th.
Thank you, God for your world. God bless India.
I'll post more about our future in India later -- right now, there are many things I can't yet discuss publicly. Keep praying. God is on the move.