Just as I was finally drifting into a deep sleep, the plane unevenly touched to the ground.It freakishly wobbled to readjust itself. The whole trip had been beyond difficult. The eastern seaboard of India was not an easy place to get to. After three days, 6 different plane transfers and a faint story of a bomb going off nearby, we had survived the flight portion of our latest family adventure. The last plane ride from New Delhi to Vishakhapatnam was by far the most interesting. The plane was a claustrophobically small and extremely unstable piece of riveted plane materials. It unexpectedly shook, bounced, dipped and careened throughout the entire flight.
The only blessing about the riveted, and riveting, plane ride was the food. The exotic attendants served the most scrumptious Indian rice and curry every 30 minutes! Good thing, because we were certainly a hungry team of 12 missionaries traveling from comfortable homes in California to a remote orphanage in India.
We landed to heat and humidity, chaos and confusion, disaster and delectation. Some of us had lost our bags.All of us were hot and sweaty.We were running off of pure adrenalin. Yet, the gracious founders of the Two Worlds Children Orphanage were there to meet us with warm and comforting smiles.
Dressed in their traditional garb, Pastors “Daddy” and “Mommy” Mekela, and their extended family hugged us and then escorted us to their old yellow school bus. The hour ride was extremely thrilling.I watched my life be compromised by the crazy driving behavior of India that was so dangerous and foreign to my 13 year old eyes. In the middle of the streets were huge, skinny cows, scrawny children, scary looking homeless people, and flea bitten dogs running, sitting, standing, and walking without concern as to the horrendous traffic around them.I immediately noticed the filth all around me. People were urinating randomly in the street. All this created a weird haze and smell around us.The muggy air was hot and choking. It reeked of rotten food and cultural sewage.
As we pulled up to the orphanage, 200 orphans, dressed in their one school uniform, were neatly lined up; girls on the left, boys on the right. Their smiles were as large as India itself.Fascinated we shook each child’s hand,looking into their bright eyes.
At the end, a cavorting group of little girls came forth singing and dancing.It was a precious sight for our weary group of travelers.We fell respectfully silent for this oasis of beauty and innocence in this AIDS stricken, filthy, poverty strip of land. My family and I were completely humbled. We had come to brighten the days of these children and here they were brightening ours!
After the welcome, we were escorted to our sleeping quarters.Like the children, we were to sleep on the concrete floor of the school.Unlike them, we had cushioned mats with fresh sheets and a pillow.The children have no pillows and share blankets. Those not potty trained sleep alone on the concrete floor closest to the door as to not soil the few available mats.Every now and then they crawl close to each other for comfort.It broke my heart. Yet…all this also made it new.They were grateful for a safe place to sleep with caretakers who wanted them. Though we came to bring hope, medicine and laughter, we were not the great givers. The children gave us far more than we could have ever anticipated: their contagious love and joy simply by being alive.
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