Prisha stepped out of the rickshaw only to be greeted by a crowd of dirty, half-naked children running around. One woman stood nearby barely clothed—much to Prisha’s embarrassment. Animal carcasses and burning waste littered the village, creating a stench so bad passersby would speed recklessly through the village to escape it.
Prisha had heard about this village before. Punya Basti’s residents lived in squalor with no electricity, running water or toilets. Most of the villagers left for months at a time to find low-paying work and beg in other areas, but they still couldn’t afford to feed their children three meals a day—much less provide for them to go to school. Alcohol and drug abuse ran rampant, even among children, and fights commonly broke out. On top of all this, outsiders despised the villagers for their low caste and lack of hygiene and education.
Going Where Others Wouldn't
Prisha had come to Punya Basti to serve as a Sister of Compassion, a woman missionary committed to sharing Christ’s love in practical ways, specifically among poor and marginalized people groups.
GFA pastor Hoob Kumar, who served in the village, was having difficulty ministering to the women.
“The ladies didn’t know how to wear clothes properly,” Pastor Hoob recalls, “and the mothers weren’t bothered that the vessels they cooked with and ate food from were not clean.”
Moreover, the women couldn’t open up to Pastor Hoob because he was a man. He knew they needed someone to come alongside them, educate them and listen to their struggles, so he asked his leaders to send Sisters of Compassion to Punya Basti.
Knowing she was called to go where others wouldn’t, Prisha agreed to go. Out of consideration for her safety, her leader said she could commute there each day from a nearby village that would have safer, more comfortable accommodations, but Prisha wanted to live with the villagers.
“I don’t want to stay in a different place,” she told him. “I want to stay in the midst of them, in the village, so I can understand their feelings . . . and they can understand the love that we want to show them.”
An Uncomfortable Yet Fruitful Lifestyle
At first, Punya Basti’s dirtiness made Prisha wonder if she would ever feel comfortable eating in the villagers’ homes. But she, and the seven Sisters of Compassion who eventually joined her, made a decision to embrace the villagers and share in their lives.
“Slowly we understood that if we don’t get to know them closely, we won’t be able to have relationships with them,” Prisha explains.
The Sisters of Compassion helped the local women with their chores, took care of their babies and ate the food they cooked—food most outsiders would have refused because it consisted of game like tortoise and mongoose.
By identifying with the villagers, the Sisters of Compassion eventually earned their trust, and the villagers began listening to their advice. People stopped drinking and fighting. Women started dressing modestly and cooking in a healthier, cleaner way. Children started going to school, and the Sisters of Compassion taught them how to bathe, brush their teeth, comb their hair and dress neatly. The villagers even began seeing the missionaries as their own family.
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Originally published: November 2014