This article was originally published in the June 2023 edition of ITMI Monthly.
“The whole slum is built with asbestos sheets and poor living conditions...”
It was a warm spring morning.
The small collection of rooms that houses Deepam Primary School was full.
Tucked into the area of Bangalore, India, known as Modi Road, the school serves the impoverished population of mostly Muslim families.
Families that live in Modi Road typically live in crowded rows of tiny shanties and lean-tos with dirt for floors.
“The whole slum is built with asbestos sheets and poor living conditions,” David describes, “Once, this land was a government wasteland through which sewage waters would flow, and pigs would run around in thorny bushes, but as poor people came in search of a place to live, they cleared the area and built small huts to live in, and the area became a huge slum.”
As a minority population practicing a religion that isn’t welcome in their own country, they are afforded very few opportunities or services.
Many of the children do not have the opportunity to be prepared for elementary school and are denied entry if they are deemed not ready.
By adulthood, life as a marginalized and outcast member of a low caste takes its toll, and familial relationships often reflect a harsh tone. Few men think they should be responsible for providing for their wives and children. Instead, they often spend any income they have on coping with their own trauma through alcohol and other addictions.
Girls can be pushed or forced to marry while still young. They are considered property, and their husbands often forbid them to leave the slum, limiting their income options.
In need of income to eat and provide for their children, some women peel garlic for 8 hours, earning less than a dollar a day.
The children often do not eat at home. Their fathers insist that the food be cooked to their liking, but it is often so spicy that the children can’t or don’t want to eat it.
But this is nothing compared to what some children endure. It is a common occurrence for a child to come to school with burn marks inflicted by a parent.
On that spring morning, twenty excited Deepam students had risen above the odds and passed the necessary exams - thanks to the Kumars’ intervention and your support of their ministry.
That morning, the Kumars would celebrate the graduates’ accomplishments with a “send-off” ceremony.
The students had a few things to say about their time at Deepam.
"I like my school because of the discipline."
"I like my school because they tell us stories and teach us how to pray."
"I like my school because I like good food."
"I like my school because I have many friends."
Deepam has 4 staff members that help David and Taru bring all of these blessings into the lives of these children.
Tarulata Kumar (or Taru as she is most well-known) the ITMI partner who founded Deepam with her husband, David, was raised in a mission orphanage. As a child, she did not know how she came to be at the orphanage, but later found out that her parents were Muslims and she has 7 siblings. She still has no idea how or where they are.
As a child, Taru loved attending church but had no real connection with Jesus Christ. During one revival meeting, she was touched by the Lord and she prayed “Lord Jesus, if you are the true God, I want to see you.”
That night, she saw a bright light in the pitch-dark room. In the middle of the light, she saw two pierced hands and heard a voice saying “I am Jesus.” From that very moment, she surrendered her life to Jesus.
After attending bible college in 1989, she joined Operation Mobilization, India in Uttar Pradesh, and worked in an evangelistic team across North India. Meanwhile, she had a strong calling to work among her people (Muslims). In 1992, she joined the department that ministered among Muslims, and OM’s first ministry to Muslim women in Lucknow City was started.
David and Taru met in 1993. After praying for one year, Taru and David got married on 13th May 1994. God has blessed them with two sons Samuel Raj Kumar and Simeon Raj Kumar.
David Raj Kumar was born in a Dalit (lowest caste) Christian family in a remote village in the state of Andhra Pradesh. At age 6, he was sent to a children’s home in Bellary city in the state of Karnataka. While growing up in the home, he loved Sunday School and the Bible stories that were told there.
At age 9, he gave his life to Jesus and pleaded with Jesus that he would be used in the ministry. Three years after completing 10th grade, in January of 1984, he joined OM India in Bangalore, in the state of Karnataka.
After serving for an initial two years in Karnataka, David moved to North India and for the next 21 years, he served as a cross-cultural missionary there. In 1988 he felt God was calling him to work among Muslims. In 1991 he joined the Muslim ministry department and worked in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh until 2007 when he moved with his family to Bangalore.
In 2008, the Lord led the Kumars to the Modi Road slum.
“As we walked around the slum we noticed a number of overwhelming needs like food, clean drinking water, health, hygiene, and education. We were led to start a nutrition program.” With meager finances, David and Taru’s nutrition program provided 60 children with nutritious meals.
They called the program “Deepam” which means “the lamp.”
Gradually, the Lord allowed them to increase their activities in Modi Road to include a children’s education primary school, a computer course for young adults, and a tailoring course for women.
These outreaches feed into their prayer and counseling ministry, which consists of visiting the program participants' homes, listening to their tearful stories, praying with them, and taking opportunities to bring the Bible into these discussions.
In 2014, David resigned from OM to pursue the vision the Lord gave him to train rural pastors to share the gospel with Muslims. Since 2015 David has been extensively traveling to villages across Karnataka state and bordering villages and towns of Andhra Pradesh to train pastors.
David teaches about the Contemporary Muslim World, Islam, the Life of Muhammad, the Qur’an, Beliefs and Practices in Islam, Women in Islam and the Role of Christian Women in Muslim ministry, Jesus in Qur’an, and the Difference between Jesus and Muhammad.
In 2017, David and Taru became ITMI partners.
Since 2015, David and his ministry partner, Pastor Walter, have blessed and equipped 2,330 rural pastors and leaders in 53 towns or villages to share Jesus with their Muslim friends and neighbors.
She was happily married to Raja, and they were raising two children. In their 9th year of marriage, 2013, Raja was served a poisoned soda. He passed away quickly before telling anyone what had happened to him.
Suddenly widowed with 2 children to provide and care for, Vanitha relied heavily on her father and grandfather for support. Vanitha was born and raised in a Christian family.
Her father was a carpenter by profession, but he also served the Lord as a pastor, ministering to village Christians. Vanitha studied until 10th grade before poverty forced her to drop out. She obtained training in tailoring and worked in a garment factory for five years.
Vanitha’s father died of Covid in 2020, shortly after her grandfather had passed away. Without their help, she struggled to make ends meet and provide education for her children. In her free time, she stitches for customers to earn extra income for her family.
Since starting at Deepam, Vanitha has faithfully served the Lord. Her son, Sherwin, is 14, and Sandrine Miriam is 12.
Though she was born and raised in a Christian family, attended Sunday School and church regularly, and was even baptized, she never had a personal relationship with the Lord and never read the Bible with an earnest desire and intent to know the Lord.
“After joining Deepam, the requirement to read the Bible, pray every day, regularly participate in Bible studies, and Deepam’s emphasis on personal witnessing about Jesus to students and neighbors has helped me develop my relationship with Jesus. Now I am serious about my spiritual life and my walk with the Lord,” says Vanitha.
Her mother and the four younger children found a place to squat under a tree. Mary’s two eldest brothers, only 10 and 12 at the time, worked at construction sites during the days and begged at night, sleeping on roadsides.
Their mother worked as a domestic helper, and Mary and her sister went to a nearby government-run school. The school was really just a makeshift shelter made of tin with no concrete walls.
At 15, Mary completed 10th grade and wanted to escape her situation. She fell in love with and married a young Roman Catholic man named Sebastian and quickly became the young mother of 4 children.
She suffered under the hands of the man she loved, and today Sebastian lives with another woman while Mary and the children live on their own in a slum not far from Modi Road.
Mary joined a Christian organization where she met the Lord, and later she joined Deepam, where she began to grow spiritually.
Today Mary is happy and serving the Lord at Deepam. She often shares her testimony with others in the slum where she lives and with the Deepam families when the staff visits their homes. Apart from her ministry at Deepam, Mary works as a domestic helper in three houses so her children can get an education.
David says, “We at Deepam are delighted and blessed to have Mary a part of us. We thank God for her and her life.”
Kokila (30) grew up in a Hindu family. Her father was a daily wage worker, and her mother was a domestic helper. They had come to Bangalore in search of work. Kokila attended Vacation Bible School at a nearby Catholic church as a child.
She enjoyed the environment and came to Sunday School weekly afterward. She was even baptized. Her parents saw the change in her and began to attend church with her. Eventually, they converted to Catholicism. Kokila studied through 10th grade.
She completed a tailoring course and worked as a patient care staff member in a renowned hospital in Bangalore before coming to Deepam.
Kokila found Deepam while looking for the opportunity to do some good work. She enjoys the devotions they have every day at Deepam and loves how they pray. Though she has never had a salvation experience, she is hungry to know Jesus more, learn the Bible and serve the poor.
Kokila is married to Suresh, and they are blessed with a son and a daughter.
Pray for the Deepam Staff as they minister to the Modi Road community. Pray for the children who attend Deepam and their families that the light of Christ will infect their entire lives as they learn about Him from the Kumars and their staff.
More from this edition of In Touch Mission International Monthly
While visiting Pakistan, ITMI Director, Steve Evers, visited groups of believers who are in slavery and required to work seven days a week. Many are illiterate. But they are hungry for God's Word and the encouragement and hope it provides. That is what an audio Bible provides for these impoverished brothers and sisters in Christ.