As I climbed the rickety stairs, I looked carefully at the sagging steps, rickety posts and rusty, bent nails. If these steps gave way, I guessed I could either fall into the mud and manure below or flop onto the floor of the small balcony just outside the drooping door to the second-story room. But overall, this cow shed was sturdy with brick walls and 4×4 support posts under the balcony. We were exploring the option of transforming this eight-by-nine-foot storage room into a suitable place for Radika and her new baby to live. There was a rough wood floor with cracks that let in the all-pervasive odor from the cows in the stall below. However, it’s hard to escape this smell anywhere you go in India. I was surprised to see three windows with actual glass whose dirt- and paint-covered surface allowed some light into the room. The plastered walls had been painted a dark green many years earlier, and the ceiling was covered with some dark splintered paneling that sagged in places with dirt from the loft above. A particular bonus was an electrical outlet in one corner supplied by two wires that snaked in through the corner of one of the windows.
“Well, what do you think?” asked Alexa Sharma, our host along with Christian for our two-week stay.
“Hmm. The floor and walls seem solid. We can tear the paneling off the ceiling, paint the walls, and replace the hinges and broken glass on this window. The outside steps will need a lot of reinforcement. We can put some insulating foam on the floor and cover it with a carpet. There is a hole in the ceiling to accommodate the chimney of a tandoor stove so Radika can heat this room in the winter. We can seal the small holes in the metal roofing with silicone. Yes, we think it could work. How does Radika feel about it?”
“Oh, she lived in this very room several years back when she was working as a servant for the owners of this property. The challenge will be a bathroom for her and the baby, but they can come across the yard to use the bathroom in our house.”
We set to work, and over the next eight days this dark, dingy room was transformed. We washed the walls and covered them with four coats of paint. We tore out the old ceiling panels and replaced them with new panels edged by trim. We repaired the steps with solid, level treads. Christian sealed the holes in the roof. Alexa found a beautiful covering for the floor and some curtains to decorate the windows. Radika was delighted to move in. For the first time in a number of years she has her own place.
How do we adjust our expectations of what is needed to the realities of life in rural India? Little or nothing in this environment fits our standards of comfort and convenience. Yes, life is different here, but the people have the same basic needs as people anywhere in the world. They need hope and assurance. This is not the assurance of physical comfort and convenience but the assurance of a future free of pain, trauma, hunger, disease and death. We live with that hope, and it gives our lives meaning and purpose. This hope allows us to deal with the trauma of living in a world filled with sin and suffering. The good news of this hope is to be preached to all the world. Are you willing to be involved in sharing hope? Radika radiates hope and joy since she learned two years ago of the transforming power of Jesus. Though she lives in a cow shed, she looks forward in faith to a new heaven and a new earth.