This article was originally published in the June 2017 edition of ITMI Monthly.
He clapped his hands vigorously. His mouth was slightly open in a permanent, enthusiastic smile.
It was devastatingly hot under the large plastic sheets that were once advertisement banners, now strung between two slum structures for shade, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him.
The small Hindu boy’s entire body bounced up and down with enjoyment as he repeated the Bible verses and songs being chanted in the local language, Tamil.
His enjoyment of the organized fun of a summertime VBS was striking.
The children’s appearance reflected the Hindu influence in their homes. Many of the men in this particular slum are heavily engaged in gambling. At school, learning is more militant and harsh than engaging and interesting.
The small Hindu boy’s entire body bounced up and down with enjoyment as he repeated the Bible verses and songs.
Henry's love for Jesus and the children is evident as he leads songs.
Beads of sweat gathered on the balding head of Henry, the middle-aged leader from Paul’s church, as he bounced and chanted scriptures and songs.
His love for Jesus and the children who sat on mats in the dirt in front of him was evident. His arms waved and his whole body worked to engage the cast-off children in front of him.
The large slum in Paul and Molly’s city in India is a monument to a “throw-away” mentality toward life. To leave the slum, residents must cross a double set of train tracks on a busy main line.
Many have died just attempting to return home from getting water, but no safety precautions - not even a simple caution sign - have been enacted. Because those lives “don’t matter.” Slum residents literally live among the trash, as if they’ve accepted that it is what they are.
They were completely forgotten and devalued. Trash.
A scene from the Indian slum.
Crossing the mainline tracks for water is dangerous.
ITMI’s Paul, whose last name we don’t disclose publicly for his protection, refused to sit by and accept his country’s evaluation of people as worthless.
It isn’t like Paul isn’t already doing so much to bring hope and Good News to his people. Paul is the pastor of a 5 year-old church plant full of ex-Hindus and Hindus in search of truth, who look to him for constant encouragement and prayer.
Many face social and physical persecution for their faith. If that weren’t demanding enough, Paul and his wife, Molly are raising 23 children.
But in the midst of the demands of life and ministry, Paul quietly raised funds to dig 7 boreholes throughout the slum, giving the slum residents access to water without crossing the tracks.
Paul and Molly are Mom and Dad to 23 children!
One of the 7 places in this slum that residents can now have access to clean, safe water.
This earned his church enough trust with the people of this Hindu slum that they were allowed to set up a tutoring center in a shack at the end of countless narrow passages, twists and turns through the slum. Kids can come after school for help with homework, prayer and counsel. Because they can, their future will be a little brighter.
“They can have their own relationship with Christ, here,” Paul says with a smile.
"They can have their own relationship with Christ here," Paul says with a smile from inside the one-room tutoring center.
But That’s Not All
The next step was the Vacation Bible School, which the slum kids just ate up. They loved it.
“I was struck by how much they enjoyed VBS,” Steve Evers, ITMI Director reflected, “I think organized fun is really rare for them, and they acted like it was a real treat.”
Slowly and quietly, Paul and his church are earning the trust of this marginalized group of people.
Steadily and surely, they are reaching out to the lowest of the low with the Good News that Jesus’ Kingdom has broken into the sin, death and darkness of this world and it doesn’t bow to the caste system.
The seven boreholes weren’t quite enough to meet the needs of the entire slum. Paul says 10 more would really help improve the water situation.
Drilling each well was just $778. Would you like to partner with us in providing water to some of the most marginalized and forgotten people on earth?
Thanks for helping us help Paul focus on reaching the people of India.
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.