EVERY REFUGEE'S LIFE MATTERS
09.09.15 | NATALIE WILLIAMS |
7th February 2016
Crazy roads, beautiful colours, curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner, overwhelming poverty, and among it all incredibly vibrant churches – these are just a few of the things seven of us experienced on our trip to India last week.
Our church has been connected to The Life Church in Mumbai for over a decade. Some of you will remember when Praveen, who leads the church there, preached here in August 2014. We've been building relationships, looking to support the churches connected to Praveen and their work among the poor for some time.
Paul has visited a few times and last year he went out there will Aled. This year a team of us went – Paul and Aled, Phil and Jo Gobbett, Martin and Sue Clarke, and me. We arrived two Saturdays ago and the first thing we did, after a little sleep, was head out for our first curry breakfast. We had an introductory meeting and lunch with Praveen and his wife Jennifer and then were whisked off to shop for our India Day outfits for church the next morning.
At The Life Church we were welcomed by their congregation of about 200 with garlands and Paul preached in English, translated into Hindi. The rest of the team brought words of knowledge and there was a flood of people to the front for prayer – some responding to the words; others just wanting prayer from us. It was a great privilege to pray for probably well over 100 people, before lots of them wanted pictures taken with us.
Not long after the meeting finished we set off on a bus for the Builders' Camp – a three-day retreat for over 40 leaders in the church. Paul spoke three times and the leaders from Mumbai said that they were particularly blessed by having our team there to pray for people. There was incredibly joyful, exuberant praise – it was a lot of fun as we all worshipped God together.
After the camp, when we were back in Mumbai, we went to visit a hair and beauty salon run by Novella, a woman in the church – she's built up an incredible business that she is using to train others, giving women employment and skills and with a heart to equip many women from the slums. Just down the road there's a cancer hospital and Novella gives free haircuts to women who are losing their hair due to their cancer treatment.
A few of us visited the hospital briefly – I've never seen anything like it. It's the best cancer hospital in India so people travel from all over the country and from other countries too. As we walked towards it, there were dozens of people living and sleeping on the pavement, waiting for an appointment. By the entrance, there were many more waiting. And inside, hundreds more people waiting for their number to be called. Some people wait months, sleeping on the streets. It's hard to imagine this being the best chance they have of beating cancer.
Following on from this we were taken on a train journey, which is quite an experience – again hundreds of people crowd on and you just have to move as quickly as you can to get on because there's no polite waiting while others get off the train!
Later the same day we visited one of the slums. A guy in the church called Paul told us that when he was 10 his dad's business was struggling so he and his family moved into a slum for five years until the business got back on track – it had never occurred to me before that people move into slums. I assumed they were born there and tried to make it out. Paul from Mumbai took us into the slum he lived in, showing us inside the house that was his – it was one small room, no electricity, no water, home to five or six people.
That night, Martin and Phil led a seminar on biblical principles in business. This was one of three specialist meetings we had. Entrepreneurs in the Mumbai church came along to hear from Martin and Phil and learn from their experience, while the following night I spoke at a similar meeting on God’s heart for the poor and Aled spoke to another group of people about worship.
The next day half of us went to the Kendra Project, a nursery in a slum that our church has supported financially and with gifts of books, crayons, etc. The other half went to a similar nursery in Kalyan, 90 minutes away by car. These nurseries are changing the futures of dozens and dozens of children. They’re starting their education and when the kids go home able to speak a little English and having learnt the alphabet and numbers, their parents are amazed and it raises their aspirations for their children to the point where they start to believe it’s worthwhile to send them to school when they’re old enough so they can have the chance at a better future.
We also visited a mobile leprosy clinic that sees 150 patients per week, giving them free treatment and free medicine. They have 976 patients from one leprosy colony alone – there are six colonies in Mumbai. Those with leprosy are completely ostracised from society, often living under the freeway, the lowest of the low. The man who runs the clinic said: “They are rejected by society but loved on this van.”
Next we went to the Purnata project, a rescue centre in the heart of one of the red light districts. On just two streets of 100 metres each, 700-800 prostitutes are based. Each day, 30 of their children come to the rescue centre for schooling and food. This is giving them a chance at a better life – meaning that the girls don’t have to become prostitutes themselves and the boys don’t have to become pimps. The prostitutes themselves are given sewing, jewellery-making and English lessons so that they have alternative ways to make money. One of the most heart-breaking things we heard is that many of the women are trafficked from India, Nepal or Bangladesh, but later go on to run houses of prostitutes themselves. It’s a tragic cycle that the church is trying to break.
We had the great privilege of spending time with different ‘lighthouses’ in the church – mid-week groups in homes – where we had the opportunity to bring a short message and pray for people. We saw some people healed, others clearly encountering God in powerful ways.
And on our final day, Paul preached at two churches and Aled preached at one – Aled and I were in Kalyan at a church of maybe 40 people: after Aled spoke and a guy called Mahesh and I shared very brief testimonies, Aled asked if anyone wanted to become a Christian and seven people responded, four of whom were first time visitors to the church!
It was an incredible trip. We went there to bless and serve Praveen and the churches he oversees, but actually were massively blessed ourselves. I think God did deep stuff in all of us, and we got the privilege of building even deeper relationships between King’s Church Hastings and The Life Church Mumbai. Thank you for praying for us while we were away.
Posted by Natalie Williams