If someone would have told me six months ago that I would find myself in India standing amidst a throng of sweet children making balloon hats, autographing tiny hands and arms, and attempting to speak Hindi, I would never have believed it. But that's exactly where I was yesterday afternoon on the grounds of SNEHA, an amazing school, medical clinic and training program in the town of Dehradun. The children come from the nearby slum community, which has about 20,000 residents. Nearly 14 years ago Dr. Reeta and Hari Rao resigned from their jobs at a hospital in Mussoorie and began their ministry in a tiny mud room. The school now provides a quality education to nearly 800 children. When we first arrived in the morning, fresh-faced children in straight lines welcomed us with songs and strings of marigolds that they placed around our necks.
Even the three and four-year-olds stood patiently at attention - something it would be difficult to imagine seeing at home. In the afternoon the children split into groups and we drew pictures with sidewalk chalk for them to color in, played basketball, jumped rope, made crafts, and enjoyed the Indian version of Duck, Duck, Goose. Which brings me to the balloon hats, while we made strange creations that somewhat resembled intestines, a few of the older boys slipped off and made intricate bouquets of balloon flowers, which they presented back to us, "For you, Ma'am."
We have all been so grateful for the incredible hospitality we've been shown by our hosts. Dr. Reeta gave us a tour of the facilities and we watched as young women worked on embroidery and sewing projects, which will enable them to help support their families. After the children went home, we shared afternoon tea with the teachers of SNEHA - 22 in all. Serving the children here is a true calling. The teachers could easily earn up to four times as much working at one of the local private schools, but instead they spend six days a week encouraging and loving Neha, Arpad, Ashu, Ashok, Rajender...the list goes on. SNEHA means "Love" in Hindi. I am humbled by the love in this place. God's love...changing this community one day at a time. We're headed to the basti this afternoon (slum). It's hard to reconcile the fact that the smart, funny, playful, happy, polite children we've been getting to know live in an atmosphere that most of us can't even fathom. Please pray for them, their families, and for the extraordinary men and women who selflessly serve this community.