[ Divine Signs ]
God Sends a Shout-out
God sends a shout-out
I have been a city dweller all of my adult life, although my growing-up years included many visits to my grandparents’ home in small-town Mississippi. The presence of chickens and cows on their property, I suppose, is as good explanation as any for the book of photographs of exotic chickens on my coffee table. That and the fact that the book is a great conversation starter -- during which I invariably reveal my desire to have a few hens of my own. And a goat, which I would name Annabelle.
In the movie that plays in my mind, the adorable Annabelle wears a tinkling bell around her neck and munches weeds in the yard while the chickens cluck and peck about, presenting me each morning with big, brown eggs. Also in my movie, I never have to clean up behind the animals.
But I’m a realist. Even if I owned the requisite acre to raise livestock in the city, I know I’m not going to raise chickens or goats any more than I am going to grow my own basil and Roma tomatoes and make spaghetti sauce from scratch. There are just too many other things already on my To Do List.
One thing I do manage to check off the list without fail is make a small monthly payment to World Vision -- thanks to electronic autopay at my bank. World Vision is a faith-based relief and development organization that helps the world’s poor children and their communities address the causes of their poverty. It uses a hands-on, long-term approach to educate and equip the families to live self-sufficient, healthier lives.
For many years, until she grew up, I sponsored a girl who lives in a remote village deep in the Maharashtra region of India. Her name is Ranjita Kantya Gavit.
The people in the Navapur area, where Ranjita’s village is located, are very poor. Until World Vision started a long-term community improvement project there, the village did not even have running water. Conditions were terribly primitive, the farming subsistence-level and many families had to walk into the closest town to find day labor or beg.
The staff of World Vision’s group in India deeply impressed me with their dedication and tireless work to spread the message of God’s love while raising the standard of living for the villagers. In early 2004, God led me to make an extra donation to World Vision for general use by Ranjita’s village.
The process of communicating with a World Vision team so far away and remotely located is a slow one. So many months passed after I mailed the donation that I forgot about it.
Then one day a fat, frayed envelope arrived from India in my mail. I opened up the thick sheaf of papers inside and found sheet after sheet of one-page letters, each handwritten in the native language of the region and followed by a translation page.
Also included were a couple of snapshots. One was of a now teenaged Ranjita, posing with her mother and father in front of their three-sided shelter made of wood and roofed in red clay tiles.
The other snapshot was something I’d never received in my annual updates: a group shot of maybe 25 villagers, standing next to each other in front of a larger shelter. It was then that I realized that the letters in the envelope had been written by some of the people in the photo. One translation read:
Loving greetings to you.
I am writing this letter on behalf of one of the beneficiary, Bula. Bula and his family are grateful to you for your kind support for them.
Bula has got four goats from the special gift amount you have sent for their community. He didn’t have any source of income earlier. Therefore he needed to go for laboring in another towns. His whole family was moving with him to work and therefore his children’s education was getting affected. Now they have got small source income in their village and will not need to go for laboring in another places with his family.
On behalf of Bula,
Goats? And four of them? Cool! I paged through the stack more carefully. In addition to Bula, there was a letter written for Ramesh, whose family had also gotten four goats. And there was a letter written for Kashiram... Isa... Komji... Govind... and Dashya. Seven letters... each giving thanks for four goats. Goats that would provide much-needed milk for their families... would make baby goats... and offer protein sources for the family -- ad infinitum.
I took a closer look at the group photo. I saw that the villagers were proudly standing beside their new livestock -- in all, twenty-eight goats.
Goats galore! It was a sight to behold.
I lay down the picture and thanked God for putting my little gift to such productive use on the other side of the world.
I thought of all the ways my donation could have possibly been spent, and I had to grin with glee. God had made sure I’d gotten my goat -- and 27 more.
I am sure it was no coincidence. And it beat my own little movie by a mile.
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