Are the 48 Hours of Travel Worth It?
As a traveler, I have become accustomed to sacrificing comfort for the sake of adventure. Sleeping on the floor of a ferry terminal or in a car parked on the side of the road, running through a train station with your backpack that feels like it weighs 100 lbs - are all just a part of the experience. However, when your travel includes 21 other people and approximately 19 hours of flight time, a 4 hour train ride that actually takes 6 because the track needs to be repaired and a 2.5 hour bus ride through the Himalayas complete with middle of the night passing on blind corners, there are points when you cannot help but wonder if the final destination is worth it. Despite extreme fatigue and the fact that I didn’t get to change my clothes for days, this week I was reminded that the travel and the hard work are ALWAYS worth it.
In a nation that can most aptly be described as chaotic, Shanti Niketan is a place, where upon arrival, one feels absolute peace. It is a peace that can only be explained by the fact that both the staff and children deeply love and diligently serve our King. I think I speak for everyone on the team when I say that hours of breathing in paint fumes or paving in the 30 degree sun are all made worth it by the simple phrase “Didi (big sister), your work is done, come play.” The children and staff of this home love so genuinely. They truly desire to build a relationship with you and immediately welcome you in as family. This means that during your day, they help you. There is nothing like seeing an assembly line of kids racing to move the paving stones as quickly as possible down to the small boys dorm. Or trying to be so precise while “cutting in” the paint along the ceiling in the girls dorm, only to have the girls come in and make a mess of it. It is both a giant test of your patience and the greatest relief, doing things the Indian way would make us all far less stressed in North America!
Being a part of one big family also means that we get to party together. These kids party well. They can dance, they can sing, they can act and they LOVE to perform. There are two medium boys (15 year olds) who I have had the privilege of meeting during my time here. Both of them are musicians and immediately wanted to play for me. We sat in the chapel together and they began to play me some worship songs on the guitar and their brand new drum kit. As they played, I began to sing along. It was amazing to be able to connect with these boys because we had something in common. It sounds cheesy but music truly does break down barriers. After we played together, the boys joked about us making a band .. or at least I thought they were joking. They were serious. They “voluntold” me that I would be singing at their Saturday October birthday celebration, they even chose the song for me. When Saturday night came, I sang “The Stand” by Hillsong while one of the boys played guitar for me. It was great to be able to sing for them but words cannot adequately describe how it felt when I invited the children, staff and team to sing along with me. To hear a room full of kids, many of whom have been abandoned, singing - well more yelling, the lyrics “I’ll stand my soul Lord to you surrendered, all I am is Yours”, was by far one of the most moving experiences I have ever had. I was fighting back tears as I continued to lead them in worship.
Week One is finished. Our bodies are tired. The projects around the home have not been without challenge and there is still a daunting list of tasks to complete in the next seven days. However, God has been so faithful to us and we have certainly felt the prayers of everyone back home. Please continue to pray for safety, unity and that we would truly be able to love the children and staff of this home well. We are all looking forward to telling you many more stories when we are home. See you soon!
— Brittany Judas