Over the years of mobilizing volunteers to serve God’s purposes around the globe, I have watched God use ordinary people to make a difference. And, I have watched Him make them different by doing things in their lives that can only happen in the context of going beyond their comforts and conveniences. Going beyond opens a whole new world of understanding. St. Augustine said, “The world is a book. He who does not travel reads only a single page.” Those who go beyond read another page, broaden their vocabulary, become better informed, and see the world through new eyes. You don’t have to go far, you just have to go somewhere — perhaps across the room, across the hall, across the street, or across the globe. One of the best things about travel is the insight that is gained by being on site. For example, it’s one thing to read about poverty but quite another to walk through it and to smell it and to get it all over your shoes and clothing.
Our students have seen and experienced things this past week in Kolkata that have caused them to think deeply. They have touched the least of these in Mother Teresa’s homes. They have learned about the plight of those trapped in the unimaginable hell created by those who traffic in people. They have interacted with young girls rescued from brothels and children from the lowest caste. They have met and talked with other young people who have come to serve here from among the nations. They have lost some fears and, in some cases, gained new ones. They have seen how difficult life can be for others and perhaps will become more thankful for every convenience they have taken for granted. Traveling the streets of Kolkata has caused them to look to their right and to their left in order to see life as it happens here and, by so doing, they are learning to develop a sense of peripheral compassion.
Today, our students turned and read more pages in the book that St. Augustine referred to. All of our students served at their respective assignments at Mother Teresa’s homes — something that has become much easier for them on this third day of service. It was great to see them take the initiative to serve and to help new volunteers from other countries to get oriented. This afternoon, our girls once again served girls their age and younger at a Christian aftercare home for those rescued from Kolkata’s brothels. And our guys met with other teens at an after-school ministry. They participated in a cross-cultural panel discussion and led some students to faith in Christ. All of our students also experienced their first cab rides in India with their adult leaders and family groups. Every one of these experiences is a part of the narrative that St. Augustine talked about. Our students have been enriched by what they have read today!