2005 was my first trip to India, a place that has completely gripped my heart while spending time in places like Bokaro Steel City, Kolkata, Chennai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Pratappur and Dhamua.
I’ve had the opportunity to come along side of many hurting and desperate people, to live with them and experience the pain and the difficulties of their everyday lives.
It’s all too common that young mothers are abandoned by their abusive husbands leaving them to care for their children on their own, not enough food to feed even one child. Many wives are being tortured by their husbands and pedalled as prostitutes. Husbands are committing suicide because of the utter frustration of corrupt bosses that aren’t paying them what is due, or charging outrageous interest rates on loans. This and the pressure to maintain their responsibilities at home is too much to bear.
Numerous elderly people have no surviving family, they’re all alone in the city calling the streets their home, desperately holding out their hand in hopes that a few rupees will drop. They’re vulnerable, weak and sick.
Sexual perversion has ravaged India like a tsunami, extreme filth in every sense of the word. Life is not revered here!
Crazy numbers of precious children forced into the sex trade; Perpetrators disfiguring children for the purpose of creating an “organized begging racket, slavery and incest, they are abused and destroyed, their innocence ripped away. They are left hopeless.
After some time you begin to understand a little bit more of the tragic mess you’re looking at.
When I’m on the plane, preparing to land …I look out at the vast landscape and think about what will welcome me this time.
I take a deep breath and step off the plane, its late evening in Kolkata. I make my way through customs then whisked away to the end of the parking lot to a cluttered lot of yellow British taxis where their dishevelled drivers wait. The heat of the day and the plethora of combined odours are overwhelming; exhaust from dilapidated cars and motorcycles, billowing smoke from factories and bush fires in open fields, the stench of cooking in rancid oils, the pungent odour of urine, open latrines, and rotting garbage …Kolkata welcomes me once again!
The sounds are equally invasive: as a sea of taxi cabs are honking endlessly while motorcycles weave in and out wherever there is a gap to creep in; emergency vehicles with their whining sirens, packs of barking dogs, street vendors shrieking at the top of their lungs, a combination of Hindi music, chanting and preaching political propaganda from various locations.
You can’t even begin to fathom the unbelievable sites here…
Masses of putrid refuse everywhere, sacred cows tied on short ropes, sleeping bodies of ragged, filthy children are strewn all over the foot path. Mangy street dogs hunting the streets and nosing through the piles of waste. Vendors drape their emaciated, drunken frames over top their business carts.
Their whole life’s possessions are right there in one location. They guard it with fear. Rag sniffers are huddled together, mostly under the age of 20- having sniffed the potent solvents in filthy rags to numb their pain as it releases them from pangs of hunger and they don’t feel cold under its influence.
It hits me hard every time like it’s the first time I’ve experienced it. I’m humbled, broken and deeply torn by their pain of this poverty. It deeply floods my soul.
Yet, I pause and realize that The Lord has brought me here for a very specific purpose. Isaiah 61
A girl named Puja…
I met Puja in the main market place in Kolkata, just around the corner from a famous hotel. I remember how clever she was and how she knew the streets so well. With her outgoing personality she managed to learn six languages from the Hotel guests. She was only 10 years old and had taken on the responsibility of caring for her mother and sister. Everyone around seemed to respect her- she was sharp as a whip. Puja approached me one afternoon while I was shopping in the market. That girl stole my heart. I took her to a nearby KFC, at her request. She knew what she wanted and she learned how to be effective in getting it. I understood very quickly that this girl didn’t want to be helped beyond what only she wanted. No one would control her or put her in a school. She had a job to do, provide for her family that lived on the street adjacent the Hotel. She played the streets very well, but I often wondered how long Puja and many, many others like her would survive on the streets… I learned a lot from her.
After years of travelling to India I have come to understand how desperate the people’s needs are… beyond the obvious.
Every single human being on the earth needs the same things to survive; clean water and food. When we get sick we need medicine, if we want a job we need to learn something to become qualified, if we want to read we need to learn that too. So education in every sense of the word is absolutely a key part of what we need, however the answer is not merely feeding the body and educating the mind.
We need to feed our heart and soul.
They need to know dignity, peace in their hearts and hope, knowing for certain that there is more to life than suffering and worshipping idols that can’t respond to their hearts cry.
1 Kings 18:21-39
There is a God who loves them and is very interested in a personal relationship with each precious one…and He can and will answer their prayers.
I’ve come to understand that one more feeding program, one more empowerment project or education curriculum without knowing Jesus Christ in a real and personal life changing way is meaningless… Ephesians 3:17-19 amp
Receiving Him into our hearts and living by His precepts and truths. Transforming our minds to realize and believe we can have all that God says we can have if we trust Him through His word-the Bible. It was never meant to be complicated or overanalyzed, just simply trusted and applied to our lives. Romans 12:2 amp
Countless tragedies around the planet could have been avoided if only the Holy Spirit dwelt in the hearts of people, changing them to love each other rather than destroy each other. The root cause of a tremendous amount of human suffering is at the hand of human beings that have wicked hearts.
Our hearts need to change and our minds need to be transformed before any lasting, effective and positive change in our lives will materialize.
From the Grand scale of wars and genocides to the personal domestic abuses, God never ever planned for us to live in such horrific conditions! The world needs a saviour, and then Jesus came. Luke 2:1-20.amp. We need to understand that we have a loving God that still has a beautiful plan for our lives Jeremiah 29:11 amp. But we need to turn from our wicked ways and accept this truth 2 Chronicles 7:14 amp. Does this sound too easy? Maybe, but that’s exactly why people doubt it.
As I spend time in India I understand there are so many facets to the needs here. You need to unravel it; spend significant time on the ground with people, like the abandoned and abused mothers, desperate fathers, homeless children, orphaned kids, confused and suicidal people, local and International Ngo workers, political leaders, religious leaders, school teachers, nurses, and preachers; in the slums, inner city streets and villages.
Our compassionate hearts need to “make a move” that will really help them produce a lasting impact.
The more time I have spent building relationships while listening attentively to their hearts, it didn’t take long for me to realize that they really needed love and understanding, an advocate, to be a voice and a barrier of protection. They need mentors to guide them step by step.
Mark 6:34 (amplified version) As Jesus landed, He saw a great crowd waiting, and He was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. –
Boys that can afford to go to school grow up with tremendous pressure to achieve the highest grades in order to get the best paying jobs so they will support the family. They are beaten by the teachers and the fathers if the grades are not up to par. The ones that fall below eventually are ignored and have no hope to pass. The pressure is so intense that many kids commit suicide before they graduate. It’s a very corrupt, anxious and fearful cycle. These boys need solid men to mentor them and show them their value and that there is hope beyond their situations.
Most girls in third world aren’t given the opportunities like boys, so their education is limited to early elementary grades. Many girls end up as teen house wives and mothers, prostitutes and sex slaves. They have no voice to make a decision for their lives, and so there is no hope.
I have developed special relationships with the young girls and women in several places throughout India. Trust grows over time and then they begin to open up in honesty, sharing their dreams of maybe one day having a better life, getting an education and stepping out of their desperate situations.
Two beautiful stories of two young women that arose from the ashes…beauty for ashes!
Rosy lives in a particular slum in Kolkata with her mother, father and brother. She married a man through an arranged marriage for a short time when she realized this was not good. She was terribly depressed and her studies suffered. It became very abusive, physically and emotionally. She was threatened by her husband and bribed by his family. After all they were funding her education. It was her dream to become a teacher. She connected with a lady in the slum church where she was mentored and loved and was encouraged not to commit suicide. Rosy wanted to end her life, she felt hopeless. I met Rosy shortly after this time and she opened up to me about her situation. She really wanted to complete her education. We talked so much and bonded very quickly. It didn’t take much time for me to realize that I needed to provide for her education so she could finish her degree. Rosy was accepted at the school of her dreams. She passed with honours and is teaching near her home and now can help support her family. She now works with young girls in their slum community church to provide guidance, encouragement and friendship.
Molina is another girl who grew up in the slum; very poor with no hope for anything better in her life; however she was fortunate enough to be mentored by a lady in her slum church and was given the chance to teach in their little slum school. Today she is sewing for an organisation and teaching other women to sew so that they can become spiritually mentored, sustainable and independent.
There are so many stories like this, however too many girls have never had a voice, lost their dignity, their dreams and their lives.
Young boys and young girls need mentoring before they reach the potential age of marriage, before they give up on themselves and end their lives. We need to get to these boys and girls and guide them on the right path, teach them life skills, health care and Christ centered sex education. 2 Timothy 2:22 amp.
These girls need to know that they have a voice in the world and they matter! Young single mothers need to realize there is a hopeful and productive life beyond their abandonment and suffering; seasoned mothers need to know that they can stand strong on their own as they learn valuable life skills and how to become sustainable so they can provide for and raise their children with confidence and Godly instruction.
Young boys need to realize they have value; they must learn how to be young men of integrity enjoying healthy male friendships and prepare for their futures as husbands and fathers, they also need to learn how to develop their creative minds which also need guiding in the right direction. The main focus needs to be on how to trust and walk with Jesus in their everyday lives.
What I see is that a safe and clean facility in the midst of their community is needed; whether village, slum or city, to provide them with relevant life skills training and mentoring; solid Biblical teaching that will enlighten them that there is a saviour, Jesus Christ who can infuse them with hope, faith, confidence, love, joy and dreams for their futures. LETS GO!! Jeremiah 29:11 amp