Sewa Ashram

Posted Aug 16, 2008 by 3 Comments

There are some days here that make me grumble. I meander through the day, wondering what, if anything I accomplished. “What am I even doing here, thousands of miles from home? What’s the point?” Now, this doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I do get a little discouraged. Ah, but then there are days like today…

I spent today at Sewa Ashram, a rehabilitation center for the dying and destitute. The mission of the center is quite a bit like what Mother Teresa was about in Calcutta… giving sick and dying people a chance to become well again, or simply to die with dignity.

If things work out right, I will get the chance to spend a week or two there sometime in September. However, even if today is the only one I will spend at Sewa Ashram, I know that my life and ministry will be richer because of it…

One of the Sewa Ashram puppies.

One of the Sewa Ashram puppies.

Upon arriving at the center, I was struck first of all by how peaceful it is. I honestly expected the place to be rather depressing. Instead, I found it to be an oasis of life in a city filled with death.

Small concrete buildings surround a central vegetable garden, with tree lined paths running through it. By the clinic is a pen full of rabbits, happily munching on veggies. The whole time I was there, a brand new litter of puppies ran around, fighting each other and licking my toes.

Most striking of all, however, were the butterflies. Everywhere I looked, there were butterflies darting in and out of trees, resting on bushes. Too many to count. It was… breathtaking. I realized without hesitation that I was standing on holy ground.

After meeting some of the patients, that feeling only grew deeper. Again, I came in with the expectation that I would see countless grief-stricken faces, twisted with agony and despair. And I did see a few. But most of the faces I saw were lit up with wide smiles and bright eyes. “To us, this place is heaven,” one of the men told me. Heaven indeed, I thought.

One of the many smiles I saw at Sewa Ashram.

One of the many smiles I saw at Sewa Ashram.

But my visit was not without a few glimpses of Hell. Inside the clinic was a man being treated for a dog bite that had somehow become a horrific open wound. I have never seen an injury like it. A shredded heap of bone, muscle and blood where the calf should have been. He was moaning with pain as the clinic’s two nurses cleaned and dressed it.

In the children’s area, I met a boy with spinal TB, who will never be able to use his legs. I talked to another who had childhood arthritis, bent over due to the pain. Some children were mentally disabled, others had HIV.

One of the young men, who everyone calls “Helicopter,” was picked up off the street at a very young age. He practically grew up at Sewa Ashram. While the kids ran around us, he leaned on his crutch and told me, “I am a child of God, and that means I am taken care of. God always takes care of his children!”

This boy will never be able to walk.

This boy will never be able to walk.

“He sure does,” I mumbled, wondering if I truly believed that in the midst of such brokenness.

Later, I talked and prayed with a man who was sick and malnourished. He probably weighed 50 pounds. This was the only time that I truly got emotional. As I held his scrawny hand and closed my fingers around his bony shoulder, I prayed. And barely made it to “Amen.”

It was an intense day, made even more so by the Delhi bus system, which I took alone on the way home. When I had finally found the correct bus, I sat quietly, staring out the window and trying to process all of what I had just seen.

In the end, I came to a very simple conclusion. What I had just witnessed was Truth. Big ‘T’ Truth. The kind of Truth that changes who you are and what you are about. The kind of Truth that gives direction to your life.

The man I prayed with.  The "least of these." (Matthew 25)

The man I prayed with. The "least of these." (Matthew 25)

This Truth, which has been shaping me daily over the past couple of years, is this: The world is a messed up place, and something needs to change.

But I was reminded of another Truth as I rode the bus back into town: There is hope for this world, and it comes through the kingdom of Jesus Christ. I saw this hope lived out in the beautiful men, women and children at Sewa Ashram, who were given a second chance at life, even though forgotten by the world.

I am writing this through tears. This, I believe, is one of those holy moments in which God is reminding me of just who I am and why I exist. I am an instrument of God, here to spread peace, justice and life into this dark and broken world.

I will spend myself on behalf of the poor. I will stand beside the broken. And someday, when I stand at his throne, I will know with all of my heart that I spent my life with Jesus.

Me and Jesus

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About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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  1. Nick Kirongo said... 


    February 24th, 2010 at 12:53 am  

    Inspiring and thought provoking. God bless

  2. Catherine Bell said... 


    October 31st, 2010 at 5:18 pm  

    The visit to Sewa Ashram is one that comes back to me frequently, Barrie. Their spirit is amazing in the face of such challenges… thank you for continuing to keep us aware of the rest of the world. Thankful for the health and protection God gives you in these places.

  3. Breanna Sipple said... 


    February 14th, 2011 at 2:14 am  

    Reading through so many of these articles, I see how even in the hard issues and with your honesty about what things are truly like, you bring to light that there is still grace, hope, beauty…you point to the good things God is doing and to the truth. It really touches my heart.

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