This post feels like it’s been a long time in coming. I first went to India in November 2016 and knew within minutes of arriving that I needed to come back again. Fast forward two-and-a-half years and the dusty warmth of the Hyderabad air hit the nostrils once more. This time I was also joined by Michael Percy (part of the Everyday Church Comms team).
For those not in the know, Everyday Church supports a small-but-mighty charity known as ‘Love and Compassion in Action’ (LCA) – a charity founded by members at Everyday Southfields. In a nutshell, the charity seeks to serve underprivileged people in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and does so through prayerfully and financially supporting several ministries at work in those regions. The ministries touch a range of points: medical aid, childcare, education and church planting, being the main subheadings.
To unpack the nutshell a little more – the work being done is transformational. For the poorest of poor being served and for me, the guy from England, mouth-wide in amazement.
Join me on the journey a little longer as I bring some detail to those four subheadings…
The reason for heading to Hyderabad is that it is home to New Life Ministries, led by Sujatha Veta – a diminutive lady in stature, but no doubt a giant in God’s Kingdom. Aside from having planted a flourishing Church family, she and her team provide pre and post-Op care for people living with the effects of Polio. Some are new-born, some are fully-grown adults. We heard stories and met people whose lives have been unbelievably altered for good as a result of this incredible act of service.
Without the combination of finances, expertise and demonstrable love of God required to help these people, their situation would have been completely hopeless. But New Life have intervened with just that combination.
To hold 9-month old Vasumadhi (pictured), whose legs had previously been fused apart from birth, but whose legs are now fully corrected and rehabilitated, is quite special – let me assure you.
Following our time at New Life ministries in Hyderabad, we made our way to Carmel Ministries in Eluru – a ministry that has known the favour of God and the leadership of Pastor Ebenezer Sastry for over 20 years.
In response to the great need on their doorstep and the enormous numbers of small/rural/tribal/Hindu villages close by, Carmel Ministries has reacted with amazing vision.
Upon entering the facility, we were greeted by a procession of small children. 38 to be precise.
These children are all orphans or semi-orphans, who are introduced to food, clothing, education, a safe place to rest their heads and (most importantly) the Gospel, every day. It’s very hard to imagine what might have happened to them, had they not been connected to this place. Here they find some stability and hope and the love of God in their lives.
One peculiar observation: I immediately noticed that many of the kids were very good at throwing (balls and rocks!). I later learnt that some had come from a nearby village, notorious for hunting and eating rats. That would explain the accuracy!
As infectious as their joy and laughter is, it’s a fairly overwhelming sight to take in. I could observe them exchanging clothing; they were constantly acquiring scrap bits of plastic to create a new ‘toy’, and it was impossible not to make comparisons with my own son and daughter – living comparatively comfortable and excessive lives back in the UK. As I muttered prayers under my breath, I was reminded of just how much I could surrender of my own comfort back home to enable blessing, kindness and support to flow back to these children. LCA financially support some of the children (and teaching staff), but more is always needed.
Ebenezer shared that when they planted their first Church in 2005, the village was known as ‘Rat Catcher’ village (see previous rock-throwing reference). As they preached the Gospel for the first time, locals had to swat scorpions from around the preacher’s feet and they had yet to be taught the most basic of hygiene logic.
Despite the very real threat of resistance (both verbal and physical) and despite the enormous personal and social cost at stake, there is an amazing resilience and hunger instilled into the pastors and their commitment to the pursuit of the Gospel is as inspiring as it is convicting.
Another thing I also found so stirring was that the training centre was funded by Ilford Baptist Church many years ago. It’s remarkable to think that a group of believers in Essex, sent £60,000 to ensure that the facility was established to resource future Church planting efforts (especially considering how fruitful it now is!). To see the reality of the multiplication was incredible.