Yesterday in Part 1 I gave an overview of Chris Heuertz’s (his Facebook and Twitter) new book, Unexpected Gifts. Chris has been kind enough to answer a few questions about some of the key portions (at least in my mind) of his book. Today’s question is about his experience moving to India, having Mother Teresa as a mentor for three years, and starting a home with Mother Teresa for dying children in India.
Andrew: I know a number of really great Christian folks who have gone on mission trips to Kolkata, India and stayed with Mother Teresa for a few days, a week, or a few weeks at most. And they have stories to last a lifetime. You moved to India and over the course of a few years met frequently with Mother Teresa. In fact, I understand you helped start what is known today as the first pediatric HIV/AIDS home in South Asia. Can you explore some of the more prominent themes Mother Teresa left you during your years of direct relationship and discipleship with her in the midst of so much poverty and death?
Chris: “I had the great privilege to sit with Mother Teresa a dozen times or so before she died. In meetings with her, she would frequently remind me, “We need the poor more than the poor need us.” That conviction has shaped the culture of her own community, the Missionaries of Charity, who deliberately create opportunities for every volunteer arriving at the convent to minister alongside those who are poor and dying.
I was a college student when she first explained to me that I needed people who were poor in my life. Only after countless hours of working in the House for the Dying did I begin to understand what Mother Teresa meant. It challenged my assumptions about mission and my assumptions about who were donors and who were recipients.
This has fundamentally shaped how I’ve attempted to live my vocation, focusing this primarily around friendship. Without the prophetic presence of friends who are poor in our serving and worshipping communities, how can we work out our salvation with fear and trembling? Friends are God’s gifts to us, and without them we are incomplete. And I have to say, Mother modeled this for many of us in those early years as we formed our community—however busy she seemed, whenever any of us were in town she would do what she could to make time for a visit.”