What’s My Response?
Before I came to South Asia, I wasn’t too concerned about beggars. In my Texas suburban life, I hardly encountered a beggar, and if I did, I awkwardly passed by, usually doing nothing to help. Every once in a while I would help at a soup kitchen or give my lunch to a homeless man just so I would not feel guilty, but I never let myself wrestle with living a life following Christ’s commands and truth about loving the poor. After being in South Asia for a few weeks, I realized my philosophy and actions were neither correct nor appropriate.
In South Asia, beggars are a common sight. Much of their plight comes from the remains of the caste system as well as Hindu beliefs. Even though the economy is slowly improving and offering more opportunities to the average citizen, many remain in a low caste due to the Hindu belief that it is bad karma to change your societal standing. It is a view that one must endure the life given to him or her. Because of this, many look down on beggars and refuse to help them.
When I arrived in one of the urban areas of South Asia, I was bombarded with the poverty and cultural differences. At every traffic light, beggar children reached into my auto and mumbled phrases I could not understand, attempting to gain a few rupees. I felt slightly compelled to do something but soon became overwhelmed and annoyed with the situation. I wondered how I could help the situation when there were so many beggars. Even if I gave to one, there were still millions of others who needed help. Since I didn’t know what to do, I just prayed. I prayed that God would help me know what to do and that He would in some way show the beggars that He loved them and had eternal life for them.
A couple of weeks later, I was now at my ministry site and spending some time grocery shopping. I walked by an old lady sitting on the steps into the store, weakly holding out her hands to those who passed by. The look in her eyes was dull and of one resigned to her position in life.
As I walked by, I gently smiled at the woman, said a prayer for her and then went into the store, focused on getting my groceries. A few isles into the store, it happened – I was convicted. The Lord softened my heart and I realized that I had just ignored the answer to my prayer for the beggars a couple of weeks ago. I finally realized that the person who is supposed to act and love these people is me.
When I left the store, I intentionally walked right by the beggar woman, but instead of walking away, I stopped and handed her some of the groceries I had purchased. I didn’t speak her language so I could not tell her about Christ’s love for her, but I prayed that she saw Jesus’ love through me.
After that experience, I wish I could tell you that I know how to help every beggar, but I don’t. To be honest, I am still overwhelmed with knowing where to start to help this situation. But what I learned and am attempting to now live out is to be obedient and to listen to the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit compelled me to help the woman I saw that day at the grocery store. My prayer now is that I am sensitive to His leading so that I know how to take action when He lays it on my heart to help a beggar or another person I pass by.
By Annie Rosner*, a Hands-On student serving in South Asia for the 2009 spring semester