Giving Thanks for Nirmal Hriday

Mother Theresa at Nirmal Hriday - Kaligat
Mother Theresa had made an impression on me based on her work with the poor and I had always wanted to see it first hand.  What was the work that gave this humble woman, ultimately an international platform, as God lifted her up for the world to see and bring attention to those that were near and dear to his heart?  Those who were cast out, dying, destitute.  Matthew 25:35-36 tells us, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you wgave me drink, xI was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 vI was naked and you clothed me, yI was sick and you zvisited me, aI was in prison and you came to me."  Jesus goes on to say, "In as much as you have done to the least of these my brothers you have done unto me."   Such a powerful statement when you stand in the presence of many who most people would walk past on the street without doing anything.  But Jesus tells us, it is if we are doing it to him.  That is hard to wrap your head around.  Perhaps because we feel nervous -- we don't know what we would do or could do?  We think, how would you even start?   Mother Theresa received a vision where she saw many children and people reaching out to her with outstretched hands saying, "come and help us, bring us to Jesus."   She was obedient to that vision and dedicated her heart to taking care of the lowly no matter what the cost.  That initial obedience is still being blessed today even after she is gone -- God is still providing workers from all over the world to take care of these individuals.  In fact that day I went for my first day of volunteering I met folks from everywhere.   Yesterday I met mostly young men and women from Latvia, Scotland, Ireland, Japan, China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand.  The feeling in the room is one of Joy -- pretty amazing.  After you eat breakfast -- one of the nuns -- a little teenie lady starts to ring a bell (she comes up to the elbow of most in the room) and the whole room of about 75 volunteers gets quite and she leads us and we pray together and then you get in your groups to go to specific houses you will work at -- there are about 6 or 7 of them in Kolkata and about 800 of them around the world.

Nirmal Hriday is the name given to the first house where Mother Theresa launched her work to the destitute in Kolkata which means, pure in heart.  It is located in the area called Kaligat which is named after the Hindu god Kali.  In fact the building where Nirmal Hriday is located used to be a temple itself but was abandoned when Mother Theresa spoke with the Indian officials to let her use it as a place to take care of the dying and destitute.  She named it Nirmal Hriday, which means, "pure heart" and was very fond of this place and even said that this was her first love.  It was where the work began for her.  I had heard that within the last couple years this former Hindu temple had been given to the work on a 99-year lease for one rupee which is about a penny.  Amazing that even the Hindu's gave over valuable real estate in support of this Jesus honoring work!  It takes great commitment to step into the lives of those who are so broken and be willing to take on that responsibility -- most of us shrink back in fear. 



In fact, just a couple days earlier, I found myself walking down the street towards the main "Mother House" where Mother Theresa lived (More in another post) and saw a man crawling on his legs -- he could not stand up.  I thought, what could I do for this man -- carry him?  To where?  feed him?  To step into this situation would take a huge commitment -- for the average person -- we think, what could we do?  Pray for him?  I walked past him and then noticed three of the nuns come out from the Mother House and walk past me and I stopped and turned around to see what they would do.  They got up to the men and bent down and started talking to him -- as if he was the only person on the street.  I watched for a couple minutes as they engaged him and he was explaining something to them.  They were not afraid, or avoiding -- because this is the very thing that Mother Theresa had done for them.  Taught them to treat each person as if it was Jesus and to give them your undivided attention until they are taken care of -- which brings me back to Nirmal Hriday.  The whole place, which is four stories, is filled with men and women -- just like that man on the street.  If they can walk, they walk on their own -- if they can't they crawl, or use crutches or are in chairs or are carried.  They are mentally, physically challenged -- some are dying.  Some have club feet, no feet, no hand, no arms.  Or the hands and feet they have are turned the wrong direction - or seriously deformed . . .some drool, stare into space - moan -- others smile when you walk into the room and throw up their broken limbs in joy that they have company.  Others lay on their cots and stare into space.  But they get taken care of -- all 85 of them.  The men are on one side and the women are on other.  I am not sure how many full time staff there are -- but there are regular staff and then a large component of the work is maintained by volunteers.   The other homes are dedicated to just children or just women, etc.  Some which are schools as well you need to make at least a month commitment.  Because I only had a week -- I chose Nirmal Hriday.

Volunteers lining up outside the Mother House


At the "Mother House," for volunteers, after you pray, people break up into groups and you organize based on what house you are going to and then you line up behind your leader which directs you to the proper bus stop.  I can't describe how absolutely crazy it is to get on the buses with the normal commuters -- there is yelling, pushing, you are being flung all over the place and people go through this every day -- all day -- I laughed the entire time . .. that's just how they roll.


Walking to the Bus!

When we get to the stop -- everyone jumps off -- there was about 15 in our group at this house -- we walk through the streets of this town being approached by beggers the entire time -- some more persistent than others -  for a bout 5 minutes to the Nirmal Hriday house.  You walk inside, pray again and then step up stairs and put on aprons and get busy!

It is a bit overwhelming with 85 destitute people -- wheel chair bound -- some can walk, some are shy -- some are cantankerous -- and even funny.  First there is washing of clothes by hand (very hard) -- three different bins each time wringing out and put in the next -- big blankets and clothes, etc., and then after final bin -- they are put in baskets and carried up four flights of stairs and hung out to dry on the roof and then you go back downstairs and start to feed the folks lunch -- some you have to spoon feed.  I had to spoon feed this very old man -- he started to cough at one point and I was freaked because he was paralyzed and I though he would choke to death.  He settled down when I rubbed his chest.  At one point I was feeding someone else and he coughed and the smell almost made me pass out or throw up -- it is humbling  . .. after you sit with them -- give them back rubs -- listen -- they speak their own language -- you don't even have to understand -- just nod and smile.  Then there is a tea break at around 10:00am for 15 min.  Then back down to wash the dishes.  Once all the dishes are dry - you help them get to their cots for a nap -- and then you got get the laundry up on the roof and pull it off the line as most of it is dry by then and down the four flights to give to their regular staff folks and help them fold it.   It is about 4 hours of nonstop heavy work -- carry baskets of laundry up four flights of stairs is tough but good for the lungs and legs.

After you have finished with the laundry, you can go down and be with the men again and the women with the women -- sit next to them on the benches or beside a chair or next to them in their cots.  Give them shoulder rubs or just put your hand on their shoulders or hands  -- many of them have only that physical touch -- some just stare off into space -- others are engaged and smiling.  I found myself, just engaging with those I could -- praying for them -- laughing with others - I have done 3 days, today is a day off as the nuns pray all day Thursdays -- I am back on Friday for my last day.  I would come here for a month for sure . . .I'm blessed.  The presence of the Lord is strong everywhere -- His joy is present -- unmistakeably present.

You can only take pictures on your last day of the inside -- but I don't want to -- I feel I want to protect those inside -- those treasures need to be guarded!

I sat with an Indian woman who had worked there for 25 years and knew Mother Theresa -- asking her questions was really fun for me.  I asked her what it was like to be in her presence and she said, she made you feel like you were the only one in the world when she spoke with you.  That she was incredibly strong woman with an amazing constitution.  She lived on about 3 hours sleep a night.  That her life got very hard for her as she got older and was traveling so much and had so many demands on her.  She would come into one of the homes and would have like 20 minutes and would gather everyone and try and give each person something of herself. -- she poured into everyone.   She was a servant leader, loved.  

I am asking the Lord to show me to how to incorporate what I am seeing here in my own life back home -- what does this look like in our country?  I am really challenged and blessed.  Seems appropriate since today is Thanksgiving - I am blessed and have so much for which I am grateful.

Comments

Cindy Palin said…
Yes, Lord show us what we need to do here at home. Thank you for telling us all about this John. Perhaps I'll see it first hand one day, or perhaps the Lord will show me how to give more right here in my neighborhood. More of others, less of me.....
Thanks for going and painting us a picture of love.

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