India Photo Essay: Untouched by Time
By Kayla Mendez
This video features scenes from our day spent with Gideon in the village as well as scenes from Haridwar. There, thousands of Hindus gathered to worship the Ganges River, in a traditional Hindu ceremony called a Ganga Aarti.
Tucked away among the foothills of the Himalayas, a new world opened around us. As we hiked up the hillside, we saw men and women working the soil alongside cattle and a wide expansion of wheat fields. What we saw was a tribe untouched by time, clothed in rich colors that stood out against the earth as if in a scene from the Old Testament. It felt sacred. The Jaunpur tribe lives in the hillsides of Uttarakhand, India. There is very little written about these people online, if at all. The tribe is largely unreached with only two Christians living in their community and very little foreigner interaction.
We were led by our translator and guide, Gideon, who has worked in the village for nearly three years. Gideon built a local school that currently educates fifty children, mainly boys (the village does not educate girls), as well as holds vitamin distribution clinics to prevent malnutrition in children ages five and under. Gideon’s vision for the village is to build a community transformed by faith, “that they may know the Creator, Sustainer, and Upholder of the universe and the center of history through holistic development, of all age groups.”
India ranks ten on the World Watch List of countries with the highest Christian persecution. According to Open Doors, “Converts to Christianity from Hinduism bear the brunt of the Christian persecution in India and are constantly under pressure by the state, their community and their families to return to Hinduism.” When asked how he persists in his ministry despite hostility from the state and his community, Gideon points to 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “For the love of Christ controls and compels us, because we have concluded this, that One died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that all those who live would no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and was raised for their sake” (AMP).
As you view the images below, please pray for Gideon, his ministry in the village, and for the growth of his school to empower more children in the Jaunpur tribe.
Since the village is agriculturally-based, the Jaunpur people spend most of the day working in the fields.
As we hiked to the top of the village, we began to meet faces along the way. These women greeted us with shy smiles and fruit.
Children from the school Gideon started. After teaching them English songs, we hiked together to their hilltop village to meet their families and distribute vitamins. These students hike between one and two hours each day to get to school.
One of the families invited us for chai and we sat with them outside their home. As we drank chai I watched these children play together.
Gideon sets up the vitamin clinic and prepares a distribution system. He keeps close record of every child who receives vitamins. The children were eager with curiosity.
A boy taking his vitamin A, which prevents malnutrition and other preventable diseases. After each child has a turn, they are marked with a pen to prevent the kids getting the vitamins more than once.
Kayla Mendez is an editorial, travel, and portrait photographer based in West Palm Beach, Florida. A daydreamer, lightchaser, and visionary, Kayla weaves her passion for people and artful imagery together to create a visual narrative filled with emotion and intention. Her art is an extension of her life, love of travel, and heart for people. She traveled to India, Ethiopia and beyond for her photographic work and hopes to continue traveling and pursuing both fashion and documentary work.
View more of her work at kaylamendez.co/.