There was shopping to do, and my wife, Lilly, and I had heard about a weekly market in a nearby village where people from the smaller surrounding villages converged to do their shopping. We were living in a small remote village in Orissa, away from electricity, running water, buses—from civilization, as we know it. Eager to look out for the needy and hurting, whenever and wherever we could, the weekly market was the best place to find such, in addition to getting the shopping done. So I gathered my family, and we walked to the market.
Teeming masses of people jostled us from every side. The sights, sounds, and smells overwhelmed our senses. Men carrying bows and arrows were trying to sell their hunt or harvest. Women, half naked, sitting on the ground with vegetable, earthen pots and even round, pale white ant eggs for sale. Men in loin clothes, women in half-saris, children with barely anything on them filled the tree shades in these dense woods. Sheep, goats, and various animals wandered aimlessly among the crowd, their bleating cries adding to the cacophony of this Indian summer day.
Clambering onto a large rock, I looked around to get my bearings. As I looked out at the throng, something caught my heart. I called to my wife and pulled her up beside me.
“Lilly, how many people do you see?” I asked.
“Who can count them all?” she answered rhetorically.
“Lilly,” I pressed, “How many people are wearing anything on top?”
“I see only three,” she responded.
The magnitude of such poverty overwhelmed me, and I silently wept bitter tears. The vast majority of the people scurrying below me conducted all of their social and business activities in nothing more than a loincloth. How can we empower such a large number?
As I surveyed the river of people below me, I spotted a young girl—a tribal, maybe twenty years old—sitting with a basket between her legs so that no one could snatch it. Her eyes were glazed over as if she were looking but not seeing.
Moved with compassion, I pointed out the girl to Lilly. Then I slid from the rock and turned to help Lilly down, explaining, “I want to take a picture of her.”
As I made my way over to where the poor girl was sitting, it became increasingly clear that she had been horribly abused. There was no life in her eyes, just a dull, vacant stare. I could tell that she wasn’t married because she didn’t wear a nose ring, the sign of a married woman. Her demeanor made it obvious that she had been abused by many men. My local friends, who lived with me, confirmed it. As an Indian, I also knew that she did not give her body to them for pleasure but for money—not for herself, but for a younger brother or sister or perhaps for a sick mother. Deeply touched by her haunting stare, I silently wondered, How many more like her? How many millions are dying without help, without hearing the gospel, without hope? How long do they have to wait?
As I turned and walked away, I was overwhelmed with a deep burden and awareness of the great need for someone to help these precious people and their children be strong—obtain education, health care, sustainable farming technology, and, above all, be valued. How many others who simply existed from day to day, with no hope?
“Did you get a picture?” Lilly asked when I returned.
As I choked back my tears, I said, “Yes, I got the picture—but not with the camera. Her picture is in my heart.”