Never in my life had my hands held such a large stack of money …
As I looked around the busy terminal, shocked by the pile of cash just handed me, I’m quite sure in bold letters ‘inexperienced’ was written all over my face. Embarrassed to even try to count it, I quickly broke the pile into several smaller stacks and began stuffing it wherever I could find a spot. As I left the currency exchange counter and made my way toward my beautiful yet very tired wife, the reality of where we were began to hit me.
The year was nineteen ninety-eight and it was our first time ever in Bombay, India. Still recovering from the amount of Indian rupee’s I had just received, and feeling a bit uncomfortable with pockets so full of their money, my wife and I stepped outside into the night air of what I was sure was another planet.
There, held back by a steel barrier were hundreds upon hundreds of India’s greatest treasures…. its people. With signs waving and voices crying out the names of those being picked up, we waded through the masses of all those wanting to help us with our luggage.
It was then, just before a measure of anxiety set in, we found the cab driver sent to pick us up and give us our first real experience of driving through India’s busiest city; a city that never goes to sleep. Even though it was only three a.m. in the morning, our cab driver never stopped using his horn.
I must admit darting around cars and cows made for an interesting early morning ride through a metropolis that houses one of the largest slums in all of Asia. With shacks and shanties stacked and squeezed together, it’s estimated that as many as eighteen thousand people are living on just one acre of its land. That’s right, eighteen thousand people living on just one acre of land!
Now to make that hit home a little more, for those of you who live on a half- acre lot, that’s the equivalent of having nine thousand people living in your yard. Sound impossible? I thought so too, but if you don’t believe me check it out for yourself, it’s really true.
Though the Dharavi slum is by no means a picture of all of Bombay, its story is a fascinating one. Sitting on just one square mile of prime real estate, the slum is home to an estimated one million people. Disillusioned by the hopes of moving to the city and finding work, many of them spent what little they had just to get there, and now are stuck with seemingly no way out.
As my wife and I traveled throughout the city of Bombay and ministered to the poor and not quite so poor alike, I couldn’t help but see in their faces people I knew from here in the States. I’m not sure if it was their facial expressions or a certain look in their eyes, but somehow I knew we were all one family.
Acts 17:26-27 drives the point home really well: God has made from one blood all the nations (or ethnic groups) of the world. Simply put, if you trace it back far enough, we all have the same blood running in our veins. I know that stands in the face of all our prejudices, but it is what it is.
As we enjoy the many blessings of our Judeo-Christian culture may we not forget the rest of our family and our responsibility to share with them the things God has shared with us.