In February this year, I went to Kolkata (Calcutta) to trace the footsteps of Mother Teresa. A close friend of mine from Malaysia joined me and together we volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity for several days.
Mother Teresa established the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 to care for the most marginalised people in the society. They have 19 hospices in Kolkata which include the homes for orphans, widows, mentally-ill, AIDS victims, lepers and the dying destitute. The services are provided free of charge to people regardless of their religion or social caste.
At the volunteer orientation, I was surprised to see so many people from all over the world. Whether they are simply intrigued or truly inspired by Mother Teresa's work, it was clear that many visitors to Kolkata wanted to volunteer and find out more.
My friend and I were assigned to work at Prem Dan, a home of the sick, mentally-ill and handicapped men. Initially I felt uneasy to even go near these patients. How can I love and care for these people like Jesus would? It seemed like an impossible task.
But the day before I started working at Prem Dan (means "a gift of love" in Hindi), one South African volunteer reminded me of his experience. "At first, I was uncomfortable. But after caring for these people for a while, an indescribable sense of love enveloped my heart. It was unlike anything I have ever felt before." What he felt was God's heart.
Some of the patients were playing a simple game with the volunteers in the courtyard. I gently threw a tennis ball back and forth with one mentally-ill person and one boy with no fingers. Even though both were struggling to even catch the tennis ball, their faces lit up brightly with smile. Never before have I seen such a simple game bringing so much joy to anyone. Mother Teresa once said, "Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing." Their smile was truly a gift to my heart. It was humbling.
My heart was quickly filled up with affection for them. It was no longer some superficial feeling of sympathy for the unfortunate. Jesus loves them just as much as He loves us. And it doesn't have to be so difficult or awkward for us to love them as we should. James 2:26 reminds us that "faith without deeds is dead".
One afternoon my friend and I visited a family home. The mother invited us to sit on a bed. After I sat down, I noticed that she was still standing with her two daughters by her side. Looking around the house, I quickly realised that the simple bed I sat on was the only piece of furniture in that one-room house. There was no chair. She offered the very best to her guests.
I also learned that her husband had abandoned the family, leaving two daughters behind. The lack of education meant that she could only work as a lowly-paid maid. She was struggling to pay the monthly rent of 600 rupees ($12) for the house. I could see that she was very burdened.
Through the help of an interpreter, I asked what her prayer request was so I could at least pray for her there. She said "I pray that one day my husband returns home, and that the leak in the roof can be fixed so the rainwater do not cause flooding on the floor where one of my daughters sleeps on."
I then started praying for this family in English as I could not speak their local language, Bengali. As soon as I prayed, the mother firmly held hands with her daughters and started to weep. How could this be? I was praying in a foreign language that she could not understand, and I barely spoke a few words of it. Her daughters soon wept. At that moment, any words of blessing I could muster mattered no more. Our hearts were joined together in a spirit-led prayer. It was no longer I who was praying for this family, it was the Holy Spirit who was interceding for both me and them. That moment of prayer touched the depth of my heart. By the time we finished praying, we were all in tears. Miraculously, God even provided something unique to give to this family that day. But this will be another story.
Mother Teresa was right when she said: "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." Let's thank God today that we can be His channel of love to others.
Daniel Jang from Newcastle, New South Wales is serving with (Operation Mobilisation) OM's ship - Logos Hope. For more information, visit www.gbaships.org