The Tunnel Beggar
Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada and welcome to "Joni and Friends." I’d like to tell you about a friend of mine named Muni; he has the brightest, most contagious smile I’ve ever seen. Muni lives in India and his joy is a stark contrast to his circumstances. You see, Muni contracted polio at three years of age and has been crawling through the dirt ever since. Muni is the Client Services Director for ProVision Asia, a Joni and Friends partner in Bangalore, India. He met Jesus years ago and now he dedicates his life to securing housing, food and medication – even adapted 3-wheeled motorcycles—for his disabled clients.
Now let me tell you how Muni finds his clients. He crawls up onto his three-wheeled motorcycle three times a week and goes out into the smog-infested streets of Bangalore, looking for the poor and destitute, the discarded and disabled. These are the people no one else is reaching; the people no one wants to reach. And recently, Muni came across a disabled beggar on the verge of death.
His name was Mahesh, and he lived inside a dark, wet tunnel that links two highways. Mahesh's filthy bed of rags and towels, a bed he has not left in months, perhaps years, is his only comfort. Nobody stops to wish him well; no one cares. He is a low-life, a non-issue, on the bottom of the cast, and to others, he is a non-person, invisible and abandoned. But as Muni was driving through that tunnel, he spotted Mahesh; he stopped his motorcycle, crawled off of it and proceeded to make his way across the dirty, oil-stained asphalt pavement to reach this beggar. Mahesh was surprised to see someone care, and he greeted Muni as this caring individual approached him. Muni, on the other hand, was a little stunned when he heard Mahesh’s greeting—Mahesh spoke in beautiful English with a British accent. It revealed that this beggar had an educated background. It seemed incomprehensible that such a well-spoken man could live in such filth and starvation, among thousands who pass him every day.
Mahesh told us that five years ago, he fell from the balcony of his home, breaking both his legs. Then he added, “My disability has disgraced my family and they have put me out. I have lost respect, they fear the same. It is the tradition of India.” But as Muni told this dear beggar, it’s not the tradition of our Lord Jesus. And it wasn’t the tradition of Christ’s representative, Muni. Grabbing Mahesh’s hand, completely blind to his filthy condition or the smell coming from his unwashed body, Muni began to share the beautiful Gospel of Jesus Christ. As he shared, tears fell down Mahesh’s face as the words of truth washed over the broken soul of his. Outcast no longer, Mahesh joined Muni in prayer. At that point, Mahesh beckoned Muni closer and said, “Your Jesus is Light and the Light is now within me, just as it is within you.”
The next day, our Wheels for the World team member went with Muni to give Mahesh a new wheelchair. We worked hard to custom-fit the chair for Mahesh right there on the sidewalk; then he was taken back to the clinic for health care and to begin the process of restoring him to life, to society, to wholeness in Jesus’ name. It’s what happens all the time on a Wheels for the World trip. The least and the last are found. They are given dignity as they are lifted from the dirt and seated alongside others. It’s what happens when you touch the untouchable in Jesus’ name!
By: Joni Eareckson Tada
© Joni and Friends