This home was established out of a need to provide a safe place for orphans and children suffering neglect and abuse. This is not government supported, but is the church acknowledging the needs around them and providing care, school, medical, food and clothing for these children. Saturation Church Planting emphasizes the importance of the church taking responsibility for the social needs around them. Here are stories of lives that have been effected by the ministry of Place of Refuge.
Last year, Myuri who is 15 (on right) began being pressured sexually by her boyfriend. When she refused him, he persisted saying that “we will get married soon so it doesn’t matter”. When she continued to resist his advances, he became violent. Dousing himself in kerosene, he vowed to harm himself if she wouldn’t consent to have sex with him. When he lit a match to dramatize his bluff, the wind sparked a flame which engulfed him. By the time he managed to extinguish the fire, much of his body had suffered severe 3rd degree burns and shortly after, he tragically died. The surrounding community came after Myuri to beat her up because they blamed her for his death. She’s now in a safe place where she can finish school and learn a trade.
Dipali is a shy 9 year old. When she was only a year, her father died and her mom remarried an abusive, alcoholic man who would regularly beat her up. After her mom conceived another baby, her husband left. Because mom couldn’t financially support two children, she sent Dipali away to the Place of Refuge where she can receive education and good care. The mom has come to know the Lord through the Bandra church.
Suyesh is 8. He has no known father and his working mom cant protect him from the mistreatment he was receiving at the hand of his grandparents. Digestive problems require medical care that she cannot support. She has sent her son to House of Refuge which provides him the medical oversight and spiritual/emotional healing that he needs.
Amit (4) and Yesh (2) have encountered inconceivable terror in their young lives. Their father travels from village to village working the sugar cane harvest so cannot care for the boys. A while back, their mother, suffering from depression, committed suicide by setting herself on fire. The boys watched her burned alive. So traumatized by what they witnessed, the 4 year old has not spoken since.
4 year old Arman’s mother lives in Mumbai and was rescued from prostitution. The church helped her get a paying job at a beauty parlor where she is allowed to stay at night, but there is no room for Arman. He was received at Place of Refuge where they are working to rehabilitate him.
Rayka is in the 10th grade. She has two brothers who live in Mumbai with her parent, and yet she, the daughter has been sent away. The marriage is bad. Years ago, Raykas 5 year old brother saved her mom’s life when she tried to commit suicide. Rayka has grown up with severe abuse at the hand of her father who doesn’t love his daughter. The neighbors reported to Aun about the mistreatment of Rayka. Gia and Aun removed Rayka from the abusive situation and have placed her in the safety of Place of Refuge.
The movie Slumdog Millionaire produced a few years back gives an accurate portrayal of the devastation and hopelessness that characterizes the lives of children raised in Indian slums. Joining Gia in her work among the 10,000 Hindu people in the Bandra slums in Mumbai gave me a perspective that haunts me as I imagine the mothers of these children who are not born to privilege and opportunity. For them, life is survival……and only the strong survive.
Aun and Gia have devoted themselves to seeing this slum evangelized for Christ through the Saturation Church Planting material that they have been able to implement. They have trained house group leaders and are mentoring women through a Bible Study Group investigation of the women of the bible – emphasizing to these women their value and helping them realize their gifting. In addition to rescuing children and rehabilitating them at the House of Refuge, they are offering summer camps and medical clinics in the slum to meet the needs in the community around them.
Esther, a bright eyed 5 year old is left to her own devices every day while her mom works earning pennies. Her dad has long been out of the picture. When a 13 year old neighbor boy tried to sexually molest her, Esther escaped and ran to tell her mom. The teenager got scared of implications and ran away from home. His mother called the cops blaming Esther and her mom for threatening him and terrorizing him to run away. Esther now spends the school year out at the Place of Refuge but for the summer is again home in the slums under the care of her cousin.
10 year old Rahul also spends the school year at Place of Refuge, but is at risk during the summers of falling back into his old lifestyle when he returns to the Bandra slum to stay with his mom. At 6 years old, he was stealing from his mom and involved in organized gambling. Tough, street smart and bound for trouble, his mom sent him to Place of Refuge where he is improving.
Saroach is a pillar in the church. She blesses the congregation with her beautiful voice when she leads worship for the Sunday gathering. She has been trained in the Bible Study Groups (material supplied through Saturation Church Planting) and has planted a church in her home (a tiny one room makeshift shack). Her gracious smile disguises all the heartache she has endured but is part of the testimony God is using to offer hope to others. She and her 3 daughters used to be abused by her alcoholic husband. She had to sleep with a stick beside her bed to ward him off when he came home in a drunken rage to beat her. She used to go collect him from the gutters when he’d had too much to drink and pass out.
Now she and her 3 daughters are walking with the Lord and seeing healings and salvations around them. Unbelievers are coming to hear the Bible Study Group material taught in their home.
This little guy’s story struck a tender chord. Gia told me that his 5 year old sister had a heart defect. Because of the value placed on boys over girls in this culture, his parents viewed her condition as a problem they couldn’t be bothered with. Medical expenses would be more than they could handle and because she was sick, they knew this could cause potential problems for her to marry which would mean she would continue to burden the family financially even in her adult years. She was withdrawn from school and sent to the village to die. She passed away shortly after. My heart absolutely aches that parents don’t even have the option to care for and fight for their children’s lives. A luxury we take for granted.
He sat on the doorstep of the church just peering in and listening…..my heart holds him in prayer hoping he will come to know the hope that is in Christ.
We visited the home of a young widow in the slums who has the care of 3 children and a niece. All of her children suffered from demon possession and atrocious manifestations in their family. The mom and subsequently the children came to know the Lord and were delivered of the strongholds that terrorized their life. They are now growing in the Lord and a beacon in the darkness of the slum.
Sarah was offered to a pagan god at a young age as a sacrifice…..her life devoted to Hindu. She was consumed with witchcraft and demonic strongholds and as a result, suffered much physically and sickness was rampant in her home. Sarah was diagnosed with TB and was very ill. When Sarah heard about the church and expressed interest, her mother forbid her to go. However, when Sarah began going and was healed completely of the TB, her mom began going to church as well. Sarah now works for the church and her mom uses her home for ministry….caring for neighbors and children.
The faces and stories of these precious ladies and helpless children have left an indelible mark on my heart. But for Christ, their lives are bound for hopelessness. Such a joy to see the transforming power and hope of Christ through the ministry of the church that is invading this dark place and changing lives.
Smita was brought up in the Roman Catholic church with her understanding of religion being very ritualistically based…rosaries, prayers….no concept of a personal relationship with Christ. When a pastor came to her remote village, she and her family were introduced to the person of Christ and their lives were forever changed. Almost all of her family came to know the Lord. Smita graduated, married young and moved to Shevgaon with her husband who was a pastor in ministry. A few years after the birth of their son, her husband grew ill, became bedridden and eventually died.
Smita describes the subsequent months as unbearable and the biggest test in her life. Hopelessness struck her. To be a widow in this society is a sentence to a very difficult life! Faced with the decision to go back to a secular job to earn a living to provide for herself and her son, God met her in a unique way and reassured her of His plan for her life and that she had not been abandoned. She took comfort in the promise in Proverbs that “I will guide your way.” She made up her mind to remain in ministry and carry on her husbands legacy even as a single, widowed female.
When asked at school “where is your dad”, her young 7 year old son Jacob would reply “The Lord in my Father”. Smita can see that even in such devastation, God has used this loss to strengthen her son’s faith and dependance on God. Her testimony of strength and calling also ministered to so many other widows and victims of loss in her community.
Smita explains that her concept of church has evolved as a result of SCP influencing her life. “Before, it was go to a building and attend a service….intimacy with God was a new concept introduced through SCP” she tells me. As a result of the SCP values being implemented in her church, they have seen 24 leaders raised up who have planted house churches and taken Christ into their 4 villages and evangelized them.