I’m writing from the airport lounge in Bangkok on my way home from Nepal. There are a few things I keep thinking about after meeting the “ratcatcher” people. Imagine if it were your own child or grandchild who was dying because the only thing you can give them to drink is polluted water? What would you do?
I encounter a lot of poverty when I travel, and it is easy to become numb to it, but this trip was unique. The “ratcatchers,”, the Musahar people, are the people group in northern India and Nepal who rank the very lowest in the caste system. It is hard for us westerners to understand Hinduism and how cynical it is in its way of looking at people. You are born into a caste and you remain in that group for the rest of your life. The caste is also a vocational group, a socioeconomical class, a grouping that you can’t get out of or get past. Your name tells of your caste. If you are born to be a street sweeper, the only way to become anything else is in your next life! But there is no next life on this earth – that’s a lie from the devil. There are also the casteless, the Dalits, the untouchables. They rank under the castes and they are spiritually dirty, and touching them or even talking to them is not good for your kharma. They are treated in a terrible way. But the group that ranks the lowest of the lowest is the ratcatcher people. Even churches have trouble accepting them.
These are the people that we have now committed to help. They live in small isolated villages and they are counted among the most impoverished groups on earth. One percent of the women can read and none of the children go to school. They are almost considered animals. In the villages we visited ahead of the crusade, there were no wells, only dirty river water.
I thought of two things today. Imagine if it was my own grandchild who didn’t have clean water. What would I do then? Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Do you do unto others what you want them to do to you? I would do anything I could to make sure my grandchild had clean water. In the eyes of Jesus there is no difference between my grandchild and the children of the ratcatchers. Children are children. That’s why we’re going to start by digging 10 wells in 10 villages. We are reaching the lowest of the lowest with both clean water and the water of life.
No one else wants to help this group of people, or even to get close to them. But Jesus is there now, lifting as many of them as possible up and out of the gutter, and you and I are a part of what Jesus is doing there right now.