“I saw our Lord Jesus Christ.”Subbarao Yarlagadda
This story is about a humble, kind, generous, and a simple man named Yacobu. This name Yacobu is a Telugu (language spoken in the village) version of Jacob. He always had a smile on his face. He never blamed anybody for his poverty or the social status that he was born into. The people that are involved with Menno Clinic celebrate his life and his death.
Yacobu belonged to what was called as “The Untouchable Caste”. An understanding of what an untouchable caste means is crucial to go forward with this story. Dalits, also known as “Untouchables,” are members of the lowest social group in the Hindu caste system.
Privileges were reserved for the upper castes and denied the lower ones. The lowliest in this pecking order were the Dalits, once called “untouchables” as they were consigned by the Hindu hierarchy to the dirtiest occupations. Since they do the dirtiest work, upper castes did not touch them as they feel defiled and segregated them into one side of the village.
Mahatma Gandhi was a champion of human rights for “Untouchables”. He abolished the term untouchable and replaced it with “Harijans” meaning “Children of God”. Changing names is more symbolic. It’s like blacks being called African Americans. Slogans and name changes do not change the basic and fundamental issues and do not alleviate the root cause of the societal problems.
While caste-based discrimination was prohibited and untouchability abolished by the Constitution of India, such practices still exist to a certain degree. “Governments cannot legislate what’s in your heart. Prejudice is in the heart. Hatred starts in the heart. Discrimination happens in the heart. Wars take root in the heart.”
Yacobu was born into this “Untouchable Caste.” Growing up he saw and felt so much discrimination against him personally and against his community. Communist slogan is “Equality and Justice by the barrel of a gun.” This attracts so many young people to communism. Yacobu was a follower of Karl Marx in his earlier years. I was a Marxist at one time and I can relate to his story. The saying goes “He who is not a communist at 19, has no heart. He who is still a communist at 30, has no brain”. Yacobu became a devout Christian later in his life.
Yacobu’s acquaintance with us is what I call the Devine Providence. In those early days of Menno Clinic in Chiluvuru, John Murray and I were walking in this so called “untouchable” neighborhood. John Murray stepped into human feces along the roadside. I saw this little man come running and grabbed John’s hands and walked him to the water pump, and washed John’s feet with bare hands. At that time I didn’t realize, but that was a great foot washing ceremony Anabaptist style. I saw different though. I saw Jesus Christ washing John Murray’s sins off and Jesus Christ washing the sins of each one of us that’s involved in this project. In this humble, generous, kind, and so called untouchable Christian, I saw our Lord Jesus Christ.
The story doesn’t end there. During our opening ceremony of Menno Clinic, John Murray washed this Dalit’s feet in front of hundreds of villagers and most of them from the upper caste. I didn’t see reciprocity there. I saw simple servanthood that Christ taught us by example. It was bold and it was daring that a white man washes the feet of a Dalit. John boldly made a statement to the upper caste community that Yacobu was not Dalit, he was “Harijan”.
From Karl Marx to Christ Jesus.
From Communism to Christianity.
From “Equality and Justice by the barrel of a gun” to “Peace, Equality, and Justice”
From death to eternal life.
While every life is a story, Yacobu’s life was glory to God in the highest.