Former CHA Student: Indian Missionary

Meredith Mayeaux graduated from CHA in 2008 and is currently a sophomore at ULL. Below is her description of the month she spent in India this summer, 2013.

What initially made me want to go on mission to India was the admiration I had for Mother Teresa. I have grown up hearing about the amazing things Mother Teresa has done and I found myself constantly inspired by her amazing love of the poor. The fact that she is an incredible and holy woman that was alive during my life made her even more intriguing. Even reading some of her little quotes and words of wisdom about her immense love for the poor, God and humanity drew me more and more to India. I also really wanted to go to India because it has a culture so very different from American culture ranging from the languages spoken, to the food and the way people look, dress and act.

Because India has a time difference from Louisiana of about 10 and a half hours, the first day we got there we were extremely tired and jet lagged from our travels. We spent most of that day resting and letting our bodies acclimate to the serious time change. The next day was our true first day and we had to jump right in to work. We started out days in Kolkata with 6am mass with the Missionaries of Charity, followed by the volunteers’ breakfast consisting of bread, bananas, and chai. After breakfast we would have a quick prayer then head off to our work assignments. I was working at, Shanti Dan, which is basically a women’s shelter in Kolkata. The particular part of Shanti Dan I was working in was for physically and mentally handicapped women. I was blessed to be working in the physical therapy room which was awesome because physical therapy and occupational therapy are things that I am contemplating studying. I worked with women that were so small and frail that most of them looked as though they couldn’t be more than 13 years old. Many of them could hardly speak and sat crumpled in a little ball in wheelchairs for most of the day. By the time they would come into therapy, our main goal was just to get their bodies moving by stretching each muscle.

On the first day I found many of the tasks that were set before me very difficult physically, emotionally, and spiritually. From the very beginning of the trip I prayed that I would learn to love those around me as Mother Teresa loved the poor. I prayed that I would be able to totally step outside of my own comfort zone so that I could love more selflessly. When I found myself uncomfortable and way out of my comfort zone on the first day, I was reminded of a small piece of something Mother Teresa said, “do small things with great love”. Those few words became a driving force for me the rest of the trip. Whenever I found myself uncomfortable or just not wanting to do something, those words would pop into my head pushing me to do even the most humbling thing as changing a woman’s diaper with great love not because my actions were so grand or really making a big difference, but because I was doing it out of love for another person. In Matthew 25:35-36 it says “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Then it continues a few verses down, in Matthew 25:40, to say “Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” The Missionaries of Charity have 6pm Adoration every night. After spending our time volunteering in Kolkata I understand why starting their day with mass and ending it with Adoration is so necessary. The kind of service they devote themselves to everyday is so physically, emotionally and spiritually taxing that without the incredible graces received in mass and adoration I don’t think it would be possible to have the incredible love that they do. By the end of our time in Kolkata, many of the tasks that were most uncomfortable for me, like changing these women’s diapers, became my favorite, not because they were things I enjoyed doing, but because of the joy and love I was privileged to see in the faces of each of these women.

A couple of evenings while we were in Kolkata we would hand out despensas. Despensas are bags that we put together made up of everyday staple items like rice, lentils, crackers, and soaps. After assembling the despensas, we would take to the streets and try to connect with the poorest of the poor while giving despensas away. Kolkata is a very crowded city and we didn’t have to walk more than a few feet out of our door to find poverty in the streets. It was a very eye opening experience, not so much because of the poverty, which sadly I have become fairly used to and am no longer extremely shocked by, but because for the first time in my life I was a true minority. I was a white, American woman, with blonde hair and blue eyes, and I didn’t speak the language. It really opened my eyes to how immigrants and foreigners in our own country must feel. Being in a place so different occasionally left me feeling nervous and a little on edge in this country where I didn’t understand the culture and language, the security of familiarity was not there for me and I had never really felt that way before.

On July 17th, we said goodbye to Kolkata and took a 33 hour train ride across the country to Pune, India. Taking the train was awesome because it let us see the beautiful Indian country side. We got to see tiny, cute, rural villages and huge fields being worked by women wearing brightly colored saris. The Pune part of the trip dealt much more with evangelism whereas Kolkata dealt much more with physical service. In India, Catholicism is still a very new religion. I was surprised by how little even the Catholics and Christians knew about their own faith. I had never really thought about how privileged I had been to grow up with a Catholic education and to be extremely involved with youth group and Catholic leadership groups. One night we went to a prayer meeting in a slum and I was blown away by how little these people knew about their own faith and religion, and how hungry they were to know more about Christ. While in Pune we were also blessed to visit a nursing home and orphanage. While at the nursing home, everyone I visited with kept telling me how nice it was to have someone simply sit, visit, and pray with them. Then the orphanage was very challenging because all the kids were so cute, and for a little while I contemplated how I could sneak some of them home with me. The time I spent in Pune was very blessed because not only were we working with the physical need of the people, but we were also focusing on the great spiritual poverty.

A lot of the time when people go on mission it is because they want to make a difference in other people’s lives. They see the poverty in these poor countries around the world, and they want to help. Every time I go on missions, although my intention is to help others, I feel like I am the one that ends up truly blessed. The contagious love and joy of the poor is infectious, and their devotion to their faith is inspiring. Each time I go on mission I scold myself for being away so long from something I love so much. I’m not sure what God has planned for my life yet, but I know that in the next couple of years I hope to go on many more mission trips serving and loving the poor. Thank you to everyone who supported me and made this amazing trip and experience possible for me.

Click here to see pictures from Meredith's missionary trip.