There are many times that stand out during the last few years as “life altering”, or “heart breaking”, or even “you knew God was right there”… . I know I’ve talked before about my inability to produce words worthy of their subject. So often times, they remain unwritten.
Today, I’m going to tackle one of these stories, because I don’t want it to fade away unheard.
April 2012 we took a group of high schoolers with us to India so they could dedicate a well they had spent all year fundraising to build. We were also performing medical camps, and for this reason, were being given a tour of the hospital in Trichy, India. Our last stop was the Leprosy Ward. My husband, children, and I were probably the only American’s in our group having ever seen anyone with leprosy, and I can probably safely say, these three teens remain the only ones from their high school. These kids were awesome, yet cautious. At least, when it came to adults. They were completely immersed when it was with children. Adults on the other hand… hey, I’m not judging. They used to scare me too.
I was bringing up the rear of the line, and Avery, who was the only girl of the three, was ahead of me several feet. I could barely see as she encountered a woman… the last bed by the exit door. The woman was weeping. She was reaching out her arms, and I watched as Avery leaned in, the woman’s arms wrapping around her, pulling her close. It wasn’t long before I saw Avery make a hurried exit, the woman still sitting there saying something we didn’t understand… tears streaming down her face when someone said, “she wants prayer”. It was a fairly smooth transition as I moved in, and placed my hands on her, closed my eyes, my head next to hers, and her hands instantly gripping mine. We prayed together. I in English… she in Tamil, but together. Then I wrapped my arms around her and told her how much I loved her. She’s been with me every day ever since. The rest of the day I stayed close to Avery, neither of us saying much. Just being nearby, hoping maybe she could feel that I understood. That I had been there once, too.
That was April, 2012. November 2012, same hospital, there we were, the Board of Directors for LoveManifest. Same tour, same ending, again with the Leprosy Unit. I never, EVER thought she’d still be there. Yet there she was. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited to see someone. My long lost friend. My dear one. I rushed to her and sat on her bed and we just hugged. We hugged and hugged and hugged for the longest time. She was not weeping. She was positively BEAMING. Her smile couldn’t have been bigger! Together with an interpreter, I asked her if she recognized me, and she did. I asked her if she knew how much I thought about her, and she laughed. I asked her name and she said “Theresa” (pronounced Teressa). Then she turned to face me… her face maybe one inch away from mine, and said, “you came back for me”.
It isn’t often I get to see someone twice. In fact, aside from the kids at the orphanages, this was the first time. It is so different when it’s a relationship, isn’t it? There’s a familiarity and comfortability to laugh and to love all over people that doesn’t always happen the first time you meet.
There are many moments that have had enormous impacts on me, but these are two that stand out on top. My first time in India I was in such emotional upheaval, I could hardly move. Like Avery. I didn’t even know how to function in that place. I remember watching my friend Mike as he prayed for people, and wondering “how does he do that?!” and he witnessed my heart break. I’ll bet he can tell you the moment too, because those are things you don’t forget. We got into the car and I lost it. Uncontrollably. He held my hand, and he prayed for me. Then we drove on in silence. Me and my teacher.
In April, not only was I able to comfort someone I may not have been able to comfort years earlier, out of fear, or raw emotion, but I also witnessed the breaking of a young girls heart for the widow. The leper. Yet out of that heartbreak, she (Avery) wasn’t able to stay for long. But she was forever changed in that moment, and I pray one day she will be back, and maybe she will bring someone with her. Maybe she, witnessing their heart break, will swoop in to comfort the one left waiting for prayer, and then slide in quietly next to her friend to let her know she understands. She’s been there too.
And on it goes.