The Sundarbans en route to Kolkata, India | 23 July 2013
Early this morning, our team of Kingsland students boarded our boat to leave the Sundarbans near the Bay of Bengal to begin the journey back to the mainland. While the Sundarban Islands are beautiful, life for those who call these islands home is tough. The people contend with weather-related challenges, the threat of crocodiles and tigers, mud that never dries, unbelievable heat and humidity, and more. At best, many of the islanders experience subsistence living. Life for them is a struggle in the midst of beauty.
Once we reached the mainland, we loaded our gear onto our vehicles and headed towards Kolkata. Our plan for today was to stop at a school for the children of brick-makers and to spend a couple of hours with them, sharing Bible stories. The families of these children are unskilled migrant laborers from the Sundarbans. They bring their entire families to work at the brick kilns only to make barely-livable wages. Because payment is made to the head of each family based on the number of bricks they make, they need to involve their children in the work in order to maximize their earnings.
The work at the brick kilns is seasonal because of the rains. And because we are here during the monsoon season, there are only a few workers present to keep watch over inventory sitting amidst puddles of water. We had an opportunity to see the places where these families live and to learn about how easily they are exploited. The only bright spot was learning about a woman who ministers to the children of the brick laborers. She has started a little school to help educate these children in the hope of giving them a way out of the misery they live every day.
As with other children we have served on this trip, the kids in the school here are beautiful. They absolutely loved learning new songs and sat in rapt attention as we acted our Bible stories and continued to teach them through our craft projects. The lady who cares for and teaches these kids is amazing. She has found the greatest significance in her life in serving these children who are brimming with potential. She sees in them what others do not see and knows that God values each of them.
I never cease to be amazed at the people I meet as I lead teams to serve in so many places on the planet — people who serve God’s purposes in obscurity, not concerned about fame or riches or comforts. Because of the investment of one woman who saw a need and decided to do what Jesus would do, the future is brighter for the children of men and women who are doing all that they can to provide for their families, even working under extreme conditions for little pay in order to buy their next sack of rice. Because she is here, there is hope for those who live among the brick kilns of West Bengal.