Every Sunday, in our neighbourhood, there is a large plant and animal market. There are a couple of hundred of sellers who line either side of a long road, showing off all the plants they have for sale, and the vast selection of goldfish, rabbits, birds, puppies and associated trappings which are all available for the discerning purchaser. The road, which is usually only busy with some traffic, becomes a chaotic mayhem of hawkers and customers, all vying for elbow room and the best bargain. Boys with plastic bags of goldfish accost potential customers who are just walking past; men with selections of plants patiently sit in the shade of larger permanent trees on the pavement, waiting for their saplings, cuttings or flowering plants to be noticed and haggled over. To add to the chaos, there are van-cycles which weave their way through the crowds. These are modified bicycles with flatbed trailers on the back of them - a bit smaller than the footprint of a small car, but very useful for loading all kinds of things onto, and transporting by way of man-power. Not enclosed, they are perfect for customers to load up with their many purchases from consecutive vendors. Plants small and large, leafy and green, crowd onto the back of a van cycle, often accompanied by terracotta or clay or plastic pots for the hessian-wrapped plants to be transferred into later, and a bag of compost and soil for good measure. The plant market is a crazy place, especially in the morning time when it is a little cooler and the best bargains are to be had.
Some of our friends live along this road. Some of them have houses that are set back from the road, and are not directly affected by the market. But some of them have houses that are right on the road, with no fence or barrier between the front door and the chaos outside. These houses don't have their own bathrooms, as is extremely normal. Instead, they share a public washing tap with many neighbours, bathing and washing clothes on the road side in water piped in from the nearby river. Toilets are separate again, and sometimes are shacks that perch precariously in the river water; others are more open spaces, shielded by a flimsy screen. Ablutions can be a time-consuming, and sometimes risky, business.
Our friends who live right on the main road where the plant market happens, have one daughter in her early twenties, and a neighbour's daughter who virtually lives with them, who is about 12 years old. These two lovely young ladies will come to our house every Sunday morning to put on a load of family washing, and have a shower in the extreme safety and security of the bathroom in our house. I often watch them come in, or say hello when I pop downstairs, and think about how amazing it must be for them to have the freedom to come and spend time in our relatively quiet house, in a big space without lots of people jostling and talking, and to have the time to bathe in peace and privacy without being hurried by anyone. How much we take this very normal part of our own lives for granted, without a second thought. And how much it must mean for them to have this luxury. These two young women who live in houses that might be called shacks, whom live their lives somewhat exposed and vulnerable, whom are not able to often darken the doorway of a mall, whom we hope will have careers and reach their hopes and dreams but are equally as likely not to; these young women have an open invitation to make themselves at home in the kind of house they would not normally be invited into. Our simple invitation is one that we hope speaks volumes to them. Others may pass them by, but we choose to recognise them as individuals, we choose to invite them in. In our lives, we try to take the time to notice the least, the last and the lost, following in the steps of Jesus
Written by Jo & Charlie serving in South Asia
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