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Smiling Eyes


We settled in our chairs, sitting in the middle of the rice fields, somewhere in eastern India and the people came. First, the women and children and soon after, the men gathered around the edges.

The smell of something burning overwhelmed our sense of smell. Maybe rice fields were being burned off, but the pungent, stinging air was really uncomfortable to breathe.

Suddenly, the tops of the eucalyptus trees began to sway and I gratefully anticipated a reprieve,   my lungs ready for a change the breeze would bring. Well, the change came but it wasn’t what I expected.  

The new smell was undeniably familiar. Walking through the villages, we always marvel at how clean they are compared to other areas. There is no trash. The dirt and brick paths weave between the houses. In the middle of those paths there is an open trench about eight inches deep and wide. Laid over the open trench are chunks of concrete about twelve by eighteen that are meant to cover the raw sewage beneath. The concrete is designed to be the path but often when stepped on, wobbles treacherously. I get the sensation of walking a tight rope and if I fall, it would be a disaster. Apparently everyone else feels the same way because to either side, the paths are worn smooth from use.

Yes, the new smell was raw sewage. No question about it.

Did you ever think things were bad . . . and then they got worse?

Smiling to myself, my senses moved on to the quiet but excited chatter of everyone coming. But everyone did not come front and center to the twenty foot by thirty foot mat sewed together from empty rice sacks laid on the dirt in front of our chairs.  This mat was the community gathering place. I began to notice the outliers. The people standing on the fringe, in doorways, on roofs and even behind us, there they preferred to observe instead of participate.

The worship service began and the fifty or so men, women and children sitting on the mat joined in. Smiling faces, joy filled the air as the melody of their music filled the air. Tambourines keeping the pace, my mind not understanding the spoken language but my heart connecting to the worship in our presence. God understood.

As the message was being presented, people continually passed by on the path at the back. Some stopped and listened for a while, others never broke stride or looked our way. 

After service ended, we were invited to the church leader’s home for chai and crackers. I hung back with the women following us. 

Eyes. I believe our eyes are the first connection with others. Smiling eyes. I’m not the first to write of them, but I truly believe the smile that begins in the eyes comes from the heart and connects to the hearts of others in ways a smile that never connects to the heart can.

And so. as our morning ended, we headed back to the dirt road that led us to this precious place. We walked with our new friends, we walked holding hands and at one point, I stopped and my heart poured out “oh, how I wish I could just sit and talk to you for hours and we would understand each others words. Oh how I want to know your stories and your names and your women hearts.” And then they all began chattering to me, touching my arms and my hands and pouring out through smiling eyes. They, too, had much to say to me.  And then we all started giggling. 

Women. Are. Amazing.

Bonds connect us in ways that transcend culture, language, location and circumstance.  God created us with such love. He put so much thought into us. We are not by accident. We are by design. 

Even with the challenge of the smell of raw sewage, as we began our day, I no longer noticed it. My senses were overwhelmed and occupied with peace and gratitude for the time spent in community with this small group of believers in a place so far from home.

God is so BIG!






2 Responses to “Smiling Eyes”

  1. Cathe Madden says:

    Reading this brought back memories from 18 years of traveling to Russia to teach the gospel and love those precious souls. The culture is not as radically different from home as India would be, but every visit was full of surprises, as well as some confusion. When you are sharing Jesus in foreign places, you are forced to rely on Him so much more than at home. They understand that, and become His hands and feet in appreciation for the love you bring. When I could no longer go, it was agonizing. But, God showed me a way… Lessons now taught face to face by SKYPE!

    • Janet Reeger says:

      Thanks for sharing this Cathe! I’m so glad you are still able to serve the sweet souls there. I know you bless them so much yet I understand your love for the work and the precious ones there.

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