As I slipped off my shoes and walked into the room, I imagined that this must be what heaven looks like. It was a simple room in a simple building, but the excitement and joy filled it with riches.
The only thing brighter than the colors that filled the room were the smiles on the children’s faces.
It was our third day in India, and my first visit to a Compassion child development center. As our group entered the church we began to take our places in the chairs, which were placed neatly around the sides of the church sanctuary.
As I began to sit my heart was pulled by the gazes of the brightly dressed children sitting on the floor in the center of the room.
I decided to follow my heart, and with quick permission from our group leader, I found an open spot on the floor next to a group of wide-eyed girls. Throughout the welcoming ceremony one of these sweet girls, in an especially bright pink salwar kameez, shyly touched my arm and smoothed my hair.
Each time I would look at her and smile she would quickly put her hands in her lap and look at the ground, until finally I grabbed her hand and held it in mine. Soon she was leaning against me and smiling back, and just like that she had my heart.
After the ceremony we were given time to interact with the children. Although she refused to say a word, the sweet girl in the bright pink outfit did not leave my side. We had a connection that was strong although unspoken.
After some play time we served the children lunch, and then most of them returned to their homes. Our group was given time to have lunch and fellowship with the center’s staff before we would head out on home visits.
During home visits our large group split up into smaller “family” groups of six or seven people. Home visits are a time for sponsors to have a more personal view into the lives of children served by Compassion.
As my family group reached our first home, I had a mixture of laughter and tears when my sweet little girl in bright pink ran outside, took me by the hand, and led me into her one-room home.
Inside we met her mother, brother, sister and neighbor. As we talked and prayed the room felt tense. When our translator began speaking rapidly to the mother without stopping to translate, we knew there were deeper issues going on than we were being told.
As they talked, we all prayed silently, until finally the mother began to weep and her story unfolded. This mom shared with us that in her desperation just months earlier, she had doused herself in gasoline and was trying to light a match when God sent her neighbor to intervene.
Although he was not present that day, there was a father living in this household who was an abusive drunk. Before this family found Compassion, the only hope the mother could find was the escape of death.
Suddenly I realized this silent connection that I had with the girl in pink went deeper than holding hands and shy smiles. In a way I had walked in this girl’s shoes, as I too had lived in fear in my own home when I was her age.
The greatest difference is that my mother, sister, and I were able to escape. I was born in a country where women are valued, respected, and can make the choice to leave. And when we made that choice we were offered protection.
This family was born in a place where women are not given the choice to leave, and if they do there is no protection, only condemnation.
As the mom opened up, we were able to cry with her and pray with her about her family’s specific needs. She told us that Compassion has given them a better life, as her children are now able to attend school. She had begun to attend classes and services at Compassion’s partner church, and there she found hope.
At the Compassion center they had also learned about Jesus. Although her home displayed shrines for the Hindu gods, the religion of her husband, she and her children carried Jesus in their hearts.
Their greatest prayer was that her husband, the children’s father, would begin attending the substance abuse classes that they offered at the church, and that he too would welcome Jesus into his heart and into their home.
I do not know the ending to this story. I often think about the girl in bright pink, and I pray for her and her family. I thank God that because of Compassion she knows the love and the embrace of her heavenly Father, and I pray that someday she will also be able to experience the love of her earthly father.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Allen is a Compassion sponsor who is passionate about all children having the opportunity to live out their dreams. She shares her thoughts and stories of the great pursuit for “more of Him and less of me” at shebecomes.blogspot.com .