Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Keeping the Change..."

The concept of "Change" is something that i hear a lot about in my job.  People look at what it costs to actually do Community Development, Church Planting, long-term relationship building and progressive impact in a given community and they ask questions like, "How do you know it even works?" and "How can you really measure the impact or change that you think you're having when you do those things?"  I totally understand the drivers behind those questions, but i also have the privilege of seeing more of the answers to those questions than many people do, and i wanted to give you a quick glimpse into one of them.

This is my friend Rajasuri.  She's not sure how old she is, but we think she's probably about 14.  She is one of the children in the little village of Kalavai, South India, where we have been working for about 4 years doing intensive, local-church based community development.  When i first met Rajasuri, she was a little waif of a thing.  Big tears welled up in my eyes when i greeted her because she reminded me a lot of my daughter Peri, and something of Peri's sweetness was evident in her expressions even before i got to know her.  After first meeting her, i learned that she often goes days between meals (she lives in a single parent home with five other siblings where her mother is often ill and is poorly equipped to provide), that she owns only one outfit (it was ragged and filthy), had never been to school, had little hope for a future, did not have any sense that she matters or that there is a God who loves her, that her orange hair and sunken little features were evident of chronic malnutrition, and honestly, she said little and smiled less.  Over the last four years, however, Rajasuri and i have become buddies.  When i'm in the village, she usually sidles up alongside me, quietly slips her little hand into mine, and follows me around wherever i go.  She still doesn't say much, but her smile (amazing, isn't it?  It's like someone dropped a star onto her little face!) is overwhelming, and i've had the privilege to see her eat better, attend school for the first time in her life, have clean water in her village, proudly show off how she can now count, read her native language and even speak a little English.  Rajasuri is growing in every possible way, and so is her mother (Maliga) who now works more often, is sick less, and has greater support from the community.

In the midst of it all, Rajasuri now knows Jesus and can be found every day huddled alongside the other village kids offering prayers for her family and friends before heading to school.  She eats two to three meals a day, attends church in the little community and not only is mentored by our friends Jeyan and Jency (the local pastors), but is even mentoring children younger than she is in memorizing Scripture and helping them to follow Jesus.   She is shown here alongside the other kids in the village who are attending school for the first time.

If you ever want to know what Change looks like, you can always ask her.  She can tell you that it's not in hidden statistics and faceless data, but in the very smile on her face, the joy in her heart and the faith in her soul.  Rajasuri is now different.  If you know her or meet her, you will be too.  When you ask what it costs to do the kinds of things we have the privilege to do, it's easy for me to just look at this little girl and say, "whatever it takes to keep this kind of Change going is worth it".  

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