David Raj Kumar turned to look at his wife, Taru, as the video call with ITMI Director, Steve Evers, concluded and his face disappeared from the screen of their phone.
“Are we really going to do this?” her raised eyebrows said.
During the call they’d related to Steve that they had watched in horror as their TV news station broadcasted thousands of angry rioters burning buildings, vehicles and personal property of police personnel.
When they recognized the precinct building in question as the one they pass near each day on their way to minister at Deepam Center, they were shaken. Many of the rioters were from their ministry area, a slum referred to as “Little Pakistan” by the locals because of its 95% Muslim population.
Because of the rising tensions, David and Taru had been prevented from getting to the slum where before the COVID-19 lockdowns, they ministered daily. At their ministry site, Deepam Center, they share Jesus with Muslim families through their primary school and women’s classes.
When Steve heard about the riots, the Lord immediately nudged him to encourage the Kumars to consider reaching out with some sort of demonstration of Jesus’ love for the people who work at the precinct.
In general, we are told and have observed that many Indians are deeply fearful of the police, who are known to maintain control through intimidation and fear of their brutality.
Naturally, David and Taru were fearful of Steve’s idea. Would they get caught in another riot? Would visiting the precinct attract unwanted attention and abuse? Would they be seen by people they know from Modi Road and alienate them?
A Google search performed by their son showed the neighborhood around the precinct building was the darkest possible shade of red, indicating a high concentration of COVID-19.
Would their visit lead to them contracting the infection?
What the Lord led them to do next was something they wouldn’t have anticipated.
“We never would have thought to do this,” David reflected afterward, a statement that was later repeated by Taru. But after praying about it, they felt it was what the Lord wanted them to do. They didn’t wait around hoping He’d change His mind. They went quickly to the precinct - though it was with “trembling hearts.”
“Lord, give me grace to talk with them,” David prayed as they rode public transportation to the precinct. The precinct building was a large, three-story building. It was covered with well-kept, forest-green paint that made the white trim of the many caged windows stand out.
A wide, curved driveway of I-shaped pavers led to a covered main entrance. Across the street, the shell of a bus was blackened by a riot fire. To the side, the impound lot still bore the leftover char marks from the riot.
The parking lot was smeared with the singed carnage of precinct employees’ personal bicycles and motorbikes - their means of transportation to and from work.
David and Taru approached the main entrance with a borrowed boldness - a courage that comes only when you know you are in the will of the Lord - masking their inner impulses to get far away from there.
“Do you have someone inside?” the gate keeper asked them roughly, her face rigid. She was used to being accosted daily by a constant stream of people pleading the innocence of their arrested loved ones, so she assumed this was the reason for their visit.
“No, no, we saw the riot on TV and we want to see if we can honor you in some small way. We want to do something good,” David explained.
That’s when David and Taru witnessed the first of several small miracles surrounding this outreach.
The guard’s face softened. David’s proposition touched a deep need in her to be recognized, and she permitted them to enter. David and Taru were taken to one of the higher-ranking officers. They explained to him what they wanted to do, and asked if they could have a list of everyone working at the precinct.
Miraculously, he printed a docket for them on the spot! David held the list of 92 names as they left the building.
The initial contact had gone better than expected, but a new dilemma had presented itself.
In the brainstorming phase with Steve, David had thought there would be 15-20 people in the precinct - certainly no more than 30.
The funding for a small gift for 20 hadn’t seemed like it would be problematic. But the list he held stated in plain black and white that the original estimate was expanded by almost five times!
“I didn’t know what to do,” David said. Now that they’d approached the officers and taken a list, it was an unspoken cultural requirement. They had to follow through, but they hadn’t planned on this many people.
“Maybe I can take it out of my support,” David told Steve when they called him later on to report on the visit’s success. Steve responded, “We will both do that if we have to, and trust the Lord.”
But the Lord had other plans to accomplish His purpose with this outreach. He had some other people He wanted to get involved. The following day, a retired couple that has volunteered at ITMI for over 25 years felt God’s leading.
They followed obediently and provided funding for all 92 of the precinct members to receive a shawl and a brightly wrapped package with gender-specific cloth they could take to a local tailor to craft into a new outfit! In Indian culture, if you want to honor someone, you publicly place a shawl over their shoulders.
On Saturday, August 29, David and Taru again found themselves striding across the cobblestones that led to the green and white building with 92 shawls and cloth packages in tow.
David and Taru were stunned at what happened next.
They thought they’d only be allowed to leave the gifts with a high ranking officer who would distribute them.
Like most police precincts, the building was humming with activity when they stepped inside. The tension in the air was palpable. Radio messages blared from the hips of officers as they hustled through the building, delivering messages or supporting operations, like the prisoner transport happening that day.
Officers were bringing in a steady stream of arrested perpetrators. The rooms were peppered with the accused, waiting for various steps in the processing of their arrest. The offenders leaned against walls or sat wherever there was space.
To David and Taru’s astonishment, they were led into a long room with white walls and several windows. The room was already occupied by quite a few people awaiting the processing of their arrests.
The officer ranking second-in-command gathered as many of the officers and staff as were available in the long room. He was a distinguished looking man, with an air of authority. On his forehead was a small, red dot or bindi often worn by people of the Hindu faith.
He asked David and Taru to sit, while the rest of the officers stood - a way to show honor in Indian culture. When all who were going to gather, about 46 officers, had quieted, the high-ranking officer raised his voice, “I’ve known these people a long time,” he said, “They do good in the community. They have come here to show Christ's love to us.”
“He’s saying what I’m supposed to say!” David thought to himself in amazement.
“Nobody thinks about the police,” continued the deputy, “but you have honored us.” He said that the shawls were appreciated, but what “goes deep into our hearts” was the expression of honor and kindness from the Kumars.
When he was finished speaking, David noticed several of the listeners had tears in their eyes. The officer asked David to say a few words, then David laid a shawl over the shoulders of the second-in-command officer, and the room was filled with applause.
David draped the brightly colored cloth over the men’s shoulders while Taru graced the women’s shoulders with these symbols of honor.
Later, the second-in-command officer pulled David aside and with deep appreciation in his voice, said, “If you ever have any trouble or need anything, call me directly and I will help.”
Previously, one of the ranking officers had firmly warned David and Taru not to take photos. “If you want photos,” David had been warned, “you can just leave.” David had assured the warning officer that their desire wasn’t to take pictures, or have any media attention of any kind.
They were only there to stand in solidarity with the officers who risk their lives daily to keep the peace.
But the honorees had different ideas. They insisted on having their picture taken with David and Taru. “Madam, you’ll please come with us,” some of the women said to Taru, as they whisked her away for a group photo. Some of the men, seeing this, jumped in, “Is this just for women? We want photos too!”
“By the time we were done, we felt like we’d known them forever!” Taru rejoiced, describing the change in the officers’ attitude and demeanor.
“Now that we know them,” David said, “we are praying for them.”
For David and Taru, that means real chunks of time will be spent on their knees for their new friends. And they’re considering other ways they can be a blessing to this group of people in the future, including ways they can appropriately share the Gospel.
David and Taru’s unwavering obedience, combined with the generosity and faith of Project Joseph donors has built an important bridge and opened another door for Jesus to be shared in India.
Please pray with us, that we are sensitive to what God's next step is in the unique sharing of His love and care.
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.
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