My journey for the mission to Assam and Bengal started on 27 May 2019 via the School of Discipleship in Bangalore. I was part of the summer mission crew to work on household servants training programmes for seven villages. I had little to give except for my experiences, action songs, and prayers – all in Hindi – a language that’s not my forte but I learnt it so that I could partake in the mission activities. I had a lot to gather – what to expect, to be careful about, how to go about our programmes, and what to eat, etc. There was a sense of excitement yet lots of doubts and concerns. I had over-packed and carried more than the essentials. But the Lord definitely led me to see the other side.
North-East is indeed poverty-stricken and their basic amenities are far from luxury. What amazed me, however, is the generosity of the Adivasi community. For me, generosity involves giving from what I have in over-abundance, like maybe my percentage of my salary after all my needs are met first. But in Assam, the Adivasi’s give forgoing their own needs – Dwijya skipped her day’s work and wages to make us meals, some girls walked a few kilometres for internet range to download a YouTube video then learnt it and performed for the congregation; after we prayed for her ailing husband the lady plucked and shared with us the first ripe litchis, a village elder without bothering about his vision disability accompanied us at the Church hall all night to ensure our safety, and Ruba with a heavy battery cycled miles away to charge it under the solar panels so that a bulb gets lit up in the evening.
As a city dweller, I realized that we had a lot to learn from the simplicity, generosity and love of the Adivasi’s. Love which was expressed in the form of simple home-cooked meals they prepared for our journey by waking up at 4 am, the village elder with family and child slept on the floor in someone else’s room while they gave us their only bedroom to rest, and when Prakash took us to the river despite heavy rains to give us a fishing experience and some crab meat at breakfast as a memory of his village.
We travelled at a time when the elections were going on. There was hatred barbed on the internet with the fight of religions and communities and political battles. But we saw during our mission people who have never seen their political leaders. The Adivasi families are busy in picking leaves in the tea estates, working to make a living and yet they give of their time, treasure, money, resources – spices, cereal, blankets, beds, poultry animals and fuel to host us missionaries from Goa, Bangalore, Mangalore and other areas only so that we can inspire their children to a better future. And they have no time to doubt God’s love and protection.
It is an experience etched in my heart and reminds me of the Psalms which tell us that our names are carved on His palms – their steadfast love for Jesus, their yearning to hear the Good News, their generosity to give all and serve the missionaries and learn from them, and their zeal to show you their lands, their tea estates, their beautiful rivers, their neighbouring boroughs like Bhutan and other beautiful regions. But my souvenir from this mission is the love and the giving of the Adivasi’s.