Slowly the train came to a halting stop in the gray fog of the early morning. With a yawn, I heaved my pack on my back and joined the cue of people waiting to disembark at Gaya Junction, but before my feet reached the platform I was pulled into Murari-ji’s bear-hug embrace. “Maria-ji!” He proclaimed with enthusiasm beyond the early hour.
The next 48 hours continued in the same manner – with shouts of joy and loving embraces of return – and each and every day of the week I remained in Bodh Gaya was filled with love in every sense.
Being back in Bodh Gaya, being back at A Bowl of Compassion (BOC), was like returning to a home. As I wrote before I left, BOC was a huge part of my initial study abroad experience and what nudged me to move in the direction of mission and justice. Returning to the school after three years, I was amazed at the change and growth! It’s the same place, but very different with new buildings added, walls painted, and a larger student body.
Kathie and I entered the week with ideas but no expectations, praying, “use us how you will, God!” And we were used, in many ways!
Our main focus was to lead some mini teacher trainings with the goal to introduce additional resources and teaching methods that the teachers could use in the classroom. We emphasized creativity – taking material the students must learn and making it more interactive or tangible to inspire creative and critical thinking. We also helped organize the new library and led a discussion with the teachers on how they want to incorporate the library in the weekly routine.
We helped distribute new jackets and shoes for the students – funding thanks to First Presbyterian of Sioux Falls, SD!
The students were begging for activities – Kathie and I were happy to lead songs and art projects!
And, of course, we spend lots of time in the kitchen! One day we served a special treat – puri and halwa – a labor intensive meal that was attainable with so many helping hands!
In the meantime, the Singh family embraced Kathie and I like one of their own. We spent our evenings dancing to Bollywood tunes with the cousins, chatting over chai, and eating the most delicious homemade food. Kathie and I came to serve and share compassion, but the hospitality and compassion we experienced was equally as strong.
It is hard to describe the power of this place. It is hard to describe the joy I feel here. I guess when you combine amazing people with an incredible vision, the result is joyously lethal! 🙂
Needless to say, it was hard to leave BOC. I could see myself there for the entire month, or for many months in the future, but that is not my call right now. I pray that the Lord will show me how to continue to work alongside BOC, but for now, I will share my story! So here is my call to action. If you feel inspired by the vision of A Bowl of Compassion, here is how you can make a difference:
- Support a child! Only $60 a year will support one child in Bodh Gaya to go to school at BOC, feed them, and provide a school uniform. Contact me if you wish to be a ‘godmother’ or ‘godfather’ to a child on the waiting list!
- Donate! BOC is always in construction to improve their spaces or provide materials for the kids. Right now, BOC is in the middle of constructing a new classroom and a larger meeting hall, both of which are not fully paid for or finished (see pictures below). Online you can make a one time, monthly, or yearly monetary donation or visit the Donation Shop to provide a specific item!
- Pray! BOC is made up of students and teachers from all religious backgrounds. No matter who you pray to- pray for the longevity of the school, the support of the community, and that the leaders may continue to be guided in making decisions and practicing compassion daily.
- Travel! For any of you fellow wanderers out there who may be in India or planning to go, make a stop at BOC. Stay at their Charity Backpackers hostel, meet the children, and experience the vision.