Slum Kids and House-churches
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.
Slum Projects and Ministry to Muslims
Joy and Tabitha have been apart of the Saturation Church Planting India team since its inception. This Godly couple has faithfully modeled the values of SCP in the way they have creatively and intentionally addressed the needs in their community and used that as a platform for their witness. They took me to the neighborhood where they pastor a church. Many in their congregation are from the impoverish community around them. Homes are dilapidated. Families are broken. Alcoholism is rampant. Abuse occurs frequently.
We were guests in the home of one of their church members Antoinette who has been a believer for 20 years now. In addition to raising three children of her own, she opens the doors of her tiny home every evening for 30+ young children to come for tutoring. The home is a modest 12×8 foot room that she tutors in, a tiny kitchen, and a rusty ladder that leads up to a loft where the family bunks together. Because many of the parents in the neighborhood are illiterate, Antoinette has the sole responsibility of helping them complete homework tasks.
Joy and Tabitha stopped in her tiny home to encourage her and pray for her and for her alcoholic husband who often beats her and recently caused her a traumatic brain bleed. And still, she smiles and serves and exudes the joy of the Lord.
Antoinette graciously offered us cold juice as we sat cross legged on the floor in her home, door open inviting a breeze to keep the stifling heat at bay. Neighbor children peeked around the door frame giggling at the white woman in the neighborhood. Antoinette kindly introduced her neighbors. Privacy is a commodity that no one can afford with paper thin walls and no locks and bolts. Her life is an open book and her home has an open door. And the presence of Christ is evident to all who are graced with her smile that shows contentment in the Lord even in the midst of such a troubled life! God is taking the broken pieces of her life and using her as a vessel to minister to those around her.
Joy and Tabitha also took me to a facility they have acquired to offer sewing/tailoring classes for young girls in the surrounding predominantly Muslim community. 30+ school drop-outs between the ages of 13 and 20 come to learn a trade that will be marketable and potentially provide them an alternative to working in beer bars or prostituting themselves. In a society that devalues women, it is imperative they have means for helping support the family. A woman from Joy and Tabitha’s church trains the girls and equips them with the skill and knowledge to begin a business of tailoring on their own. A current need is for sewing machines to provide girls with whats needed to branch out on their own and begin a business. Machines are $100.
In addition to setting them up to be contributing members for their families, these girls are also being mentored and witnessed to. Their day opens with prayer before sewing classes start and some of these girls have begun coming to the church and taking the truth back to their own homes. Meeting this need for young girls has opened the door to be a witness to the Muslim community.
Tabitha and Joy have a vision to do much more among the people they have been called to share Christ with. Tabitha is a doctor with a vision to open a dental clinic which would operate on a sliding scale. Orthodontic care is not readily available and is generally too pricy for those less affluent. Under her vision, she would be able to charge fair prices to the wealthy and then offer dental care to those who cant afford it at a steeply discounted rate.
Additionally, they are in the beginning stages of opening a micro business. Scripture embroidered on pillow cases, pouches and T-shirts will be a way to send the Word into homes and to generate employment opportunities for even more in the impoverished community. Meeting these basic needs opens the door to relate to needy people and to develop relationships that set the stage for them to encounter Christ.