Commission in India … caring for “the least of these”

Our Commission churches in India do some incredible works among the poor. Jo and I were privileged to visit some of these during our recent trip, including two that focus specifically on children.

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The first work we saw was based in a Mumbai slum. The church concerned has been working in this slum for 15 years, running an English Language Preschool and a Day Nursery.

By attending an English Language Preschool the slum children stand a chance of accessing an English Language Primary School. Parents and children are coached for school interviews and told when the dates are. By accessing an English Language Primary School they stand a chance of getting a good education. By getting a good eduction – and learning to speak English – they stand of chance of getting a good job. If they get a good job they stand a chance of leaving the slum and helping their whole family.

This is a project with long term aims, and after 15 years they have seen some results.

The Preschool runs in the mornings only, but the nursery runs all day. It provides safe care for tiny children so that parents can work. These little ones could well be left alone all day unattended without the nursery.

We arrived at lunchtime as Preschool was finishing for the day and met the Preschool staff and children first. Later we saw the nursery, which was then also starting lunch. I was immediately surrounded by three small ones who insisted that I feed them. Jo had a similar experience.

After lunch some of the boys decided I looked like a good climbing frame!

Before we left we prayed for the staff who sacrifice so much to do this work – a work that brings the Kingdom of God to a corner of a Mumbai slum.

Showing love to street children

IMG_6101The second work with children we saw was the Raah street kids work, also in Mumbai (Raah is Hindi for ‘Path’).

When you drive around Mumbai, and many other similar places, you often see temporary shacks thrown up by the road side. Tarpaulins are stretched over sticks and people call it home. The Raah street kids work runs each week under one of these shelters. Space is made for them, between area where people sleep.

IMG_6129On the day we visited the team were engaging the children with songs, stories and prayers – all in Hindi – followed by feeding them. Mothers looked on, and Jo and I were allowed to sit under the tarpaulin and see first hand where they live. These street children were excited and engaged, and clearly they enjoyed this time. The team were amazing: passionate, kind, enthusiastic and radiating the love of Jesus. They are also bringing the Kingdom of God to this place.

At the end I was asked to pray for the children:

“Pray for this one – he is ill” – referring to a little one who had tried to join in but was struggling to stay awake and alert.

“This one wants you to pray for his face to get well” – referring to a young boy with running, weeping sores down his face.

Afterwards came the food, each week provided by a different Life Group from the church.

Whilst watching Jo and I were given wooden stools to sit on. In order to make us more comfortable one of the mothers found a cloth to cover the stool – one is shown in the picture. Do have a good look at it.

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Perspective

Visits like these are helpful to get life into perspective – especially coming from where we do. As we left I was asked a question:

“What are the slums like in England?”

I tried to explain that slums are almost entirely a thing of the past for us. That was a new perspective for my questioner – a city with no slums!

I explained that we still have needy people, homeless people and children in poverty – Foodbanks are alive and well and very much needed, even in Chichester, Bognor and Midhurst – but childhood poverty here and childhood poverty in India are worlds apart.

Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for him.

These projects are the response of local churches to the needs they see. They are not asking for our money, although prayers are appreciated. The question we must keep asking is,

“What should we be doing as a church to serve God in our locality?

Let’s pray, and let’s be open to what God may lead us into. I love our GraceWorks, and I wonder what else God may direct us towards in the future.

Back from India – impacted by mercy

 

IMG_0497I’m pleased to report that Jo and I have returned safely from India this week after a great time with friends from some of our Commission churches. It was a very worthwhile trip and we will tell you more as time goes by. First though, we want to say thank you Grace Church for your prayers. It was a joy to be there and we remained healthy throughout, although it is monsoon season so we got very wet! I am trusting that we have been a blessing to our Indian friends; certainly the trip was a blessing for us.

 

Time with friends

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Sydney and Cheryl at the Gateway of India

Without going into too much detail, the first six days were spent with Sydney and Cheryl, based in Bandra in the south of Mumbai. Sydney is lead elder at Living Word Church, and it was our privilege to meet people from the church, making some new friends, and to spend time with some of the church leaders too. Sydney also invited me to speak at their two Sunday morning meetings. It was such a joy to be with Sydney and Cheryl again – they are great friends to us – and also to revisit this church which I have been to once before in 2014.

 

 

 

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Lunch with Jennifer and Praveen

In the middle of our trip we caught up with our friends Praveen and Jennifer. Praveen leads a church called ‘The Life’ which is also in Mumbai. As a church they do some incredible works among the poor in the slums, one of which we visited.

 

 

 

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Vinu and Julie

The final leg of our trip was spent with Vinu and Julie, based in Borivali in the north of Mumbai. Vinu is lead elder at Living Hope Church, and also leads the Commission churches in India. Once again we were privileged to make new friends, spending time with leaders and being invited to speak in various contexts, including at three different Sunday morning meetings. Vinu and Julie are already good friends, but this was the first time we have had the chance to visit the church.

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A thoroughly Indian experience

In addition to some excellent times with these friends and their churches, Jo and I also enjoyed seeing various tourist spots including the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and the Khaneri Caves in the Sanjay Ghandi National Park. We enjoyed meals out and time with friends old and new, trying new foods and experiencing a different culture … and Jo enjoyed a fair amount of shopping too.

The most impacting thing

The most impacting thing for us though was the opportunity to visit some incredible works among the poor being run by some of these people. These works included:

  • The Krupa project – caring for abandoned elderly women in Nashik
  • The Chaiim project – rehabilitating female victims of human trafficking, rescued from sex work
  • The Raah street kids outreach – an incredible work to teach and feed street children
  • A project in the slums to provide nursery education and day care to slum children

I’ll write bit more about these projects in subsequent blogs, but I do want to write a few words about the Krupa project first.

Krupa

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Jo and Clara – and a Christmas Tree

This amazing work was set up by a woman called Clara, from the church in Nashik, to provide dignity and care for elderly women who have been abandoned by family and friends. This is the church where John and Molly from Grace Church were based for some years; it is a church they helped to plant with Sydney and Cheryl.

On the wall of the Krupa home are photo boards of some of the elderly women who have entered the home, listing their name, their date of arrival, their age and the day they died. These are women who had nothing. They have been rescued from begging, or from extreme poverty. Some have experienced violence or rape. One lady, who is both blind and deaf, had been left to live in a sewer pipe, surviving on food left by strangers.

The Krupa project has taken these women in and given them a bed and food. They are washed and cleaned. They are fed and clothed. Their hair is cleaned and freed from lice. They are loved and prayed for. Birthdays are celebrated. They are given the care and dignity they had been denied. This is God’s church in action!

I was struck by the joy and gratefulness these women showed. Most smiled; one sang for us; one just sat quietly on her bed and wanted to show us the small photo that she treasured of her dear friends from England – can you see who they are?

God’s church in action

It was certainly impactful for Jo and I to visit this project. It was inspiring to see God’s church in action, providing such direct love and care to people, and there may be some things we are able to do to help this project in the future – we will let you know.

One final thing I noted is what Sydney said to us afterwards, “These women are not all what we might call deserving.” Some of their life stories are certainly sad, yet others are somewhat mixed – but all have been abandoned and needed help and grace. In that way they are a just like us: none of us deserve God’s love or favour; all of us need grace.

Here is the church, showing the love of God to those in need. And Krupa is the perfect name for this project.

Krupa is a Hindi word that simply means “Mercy”