Anita Mellott writes to encourage others on their journey of life. With a background in journalism and mass communications, she has worked for more than ten years as a writer/editor in the nonprofit world. She balances homeschooling and the call to write, and blogs at From the Mango Tree (http://amellott.wordpress.com/).
“Come in, Aunty.” She put her hands together in a namaste ,the traditional Indian gesture of welcome, and bowed as I entered the simple, two-room dwelling on the outskirts of a major Indian city.
“Nice to see you again, Lakshmi.” I reciprocated with a namaste and sat in one of the two offered steel chairs that lined the coarsely-painted wall. Across from me, Lakshmi and her children remained standing as a sign of respect. A photo of her deceased husband, with a garland of jasmine flowers hanging around it, softened the stark white walls.
Two years had passed since my first interview with Lakshmi as I reported on Habitat for Humanity’s work in South Asia. In her mid-twenties, her depression and desperation was palpable. When Lakshmi’s husband died several years earlier, Indian cultural norms deprived her of her status in a male-dominated society. Shunned by family, who blamed her for his unexpected death, Lakshmi was left penniless. With no formal education, she worked long hours at a factory, struggling to eke out a meager income. The family’s only hope was the house that Habitat for Humanity had helped build, on a piece of land, which by some miracle had not been taken away from them.
Was this the same person I had met two years ago? Where was the bent-over woman who stuttered and wouldn’t even lift her head to meet my eyes?
Accentuated by her perfect posture, Lakshmi’s sari no longer draped a skeletal frame. Hesitant speech, hindered by wheezing was non-existent. Exuding energy, Lakshmi bustled about a sparse kitchen, as the milk for coffee boiled in a dented pan.
“What has changed you so much?”
Lakshmi met my curious gaze. “Aunty, it’s all because of this.” She ran to a rickety table in what served as a living room by day, and gently picked up a black book with pink edges. I recognized the Bible that Habitat for Humanity used to give homeowners at house dedications. Lakshmi held the Bible close to her cheek, and with both hands, reverently clasped it over her heart.
“My children started reading this book to improve their English. I wanted to learn English too, so I began to listen to them as they read about Jesus. He’s changed my life. Jesus heals, Aunty. I don’t have asthma anymore. I have hope.”
I closed my eyes against the tears that threatened to spill onto my cheeks. I knew the cost she would pay to follow Jesus.
It’s been almost ten years since I interviewed Lakshmi, but I still think of her. She’s a testimony to the transformative power of God’s word, which will never return void. She reminds me that when, under His inspiration, I write words of encouragement and hope, they too may count for eternity. And it humbles me.
“…How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:15; NLT