By Amy Morsch as told to Dean Nelson at: www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/
Amy Morsch is a senior at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas.
There’s no way you can properly prepare for Calcutta. Even the billboard on the highway going into the city makes you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. It says, “Welcome to Calcutta—a City of Filth, Hunger, Warmth, Smiles and Joy!”
I thought I was ready when I left for India. I was a college student traveling with a group of volunteers as part of a $12 million airlift organized by Heart to Heart International, a Christian ministry founded by my dad.
But when we got to Calcutta, I was immediately overwhelmed. I felt a sense of hopelessness as I looked at the skin-and-bones children, the human waste in the streets, the flies, the women sitting in front of mounds of animal waste, making patties with their bare hands and baking them over open fires to sell as fuel. And the sights were nothing compared to the smell of the city—a mixture of death, feces and rotten food.
During our time in Calcutta, we talked with people on the streets and visited orphanages and hospitals. But my most meaningful experience happened at a place called the Home for Dying Destitutes—a place for dying people who have nowhere else to go.
One of the workers in the Home suggested that I help feed the lady in cot 17—a lady who was too weak to feed herself. She weighed about 70 pounds, had three teeth and paper-thin skin. The diaper she wore needed changing and she babbled constantly in a language I couldn’t understand. I would like to tell you that my first thought was, Of course I’ll help her—she’s one of God’s children just like I am. But it wasn’t. My first response was that this work was too far below me, too gross. But there was a sign on the wall that said, “Do small things with great love.” It seemed to say to me, “It’s not what you do, or how much you do; what matters is the love you put in the doing.”
So I went to the woman in cot 17 and fed her small bites of rice, curry and fish. She ate a little, but what she wanted most was for me to sit so close to her that we were touching, as if she craved the touch of another human being more than she craved even food. The longer I looked at her, the more I realized this wasn’t just a meal that was happening. Finally, as I held a cup of water to her lips, she pointed at her heart, then pointed at me.
In that very moment I experienced a whole new kind of love, the kind I think God must feel for us. I knew I would do anything for this woman. I said, “I love you” to her and as soon as I did, tears came pouring out of my eyes. When the words left my mouth, I felt that I experienced God’s love for me, too. I have done nothing to deserve his love, and yet it overwhelms me. As he showed in the life of Jesus, God has said “I will do anything for you.”
I left the Home thinking, God chooses to come at the weirdest moments. Later I realized that it wasn’t such a weird moment. It was the Thursday before Easter—the night Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.
A few weeks later, when I got back to my comfortable room in my comfortable house in Kansas, I realized my experience in Calcutta wasn’t one of those emotional highs that goes away after a few weeks. The lady in cot 17—I never did get her name—is like an anchor in my mind. Experiencing God’s love through her has changed the way I work as a resident assistant in my college dormitory. Sometimes, as I am dealing with a situation in the dorm and I really want to be doing something else, I realize that in those moments, the girls in my dorm are the “least of these” Jesus talks about in Matthew 25:40. I need to treat them the way I would treat Jesus if he were right in front of me. My experience in Calcutta sits at the front of my brain and affects virtually every decision I make.
Going to Calcutta showed me that my whole life boils down to Jesus’ words, “Love one another.” We are on this earth to show God’s love. And we don’t have to go to Calcutta to do it. As the sign in the Home for the Dying Destitutes showed me, it’s not how much you do, it’s how much love you put into what you do.
Matthew 25:40 — (Jesus said), “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
John 13:34-35 — (Jesus said), “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:5 — After that, Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.
–St. Ignatius of Loyola