Just a few weeks ago, I was visiting with a GFA-supported worker in Mumbai, India whose work is bringing hope to the hopeless in the slums there. The first time I visited these slums was around 50 years ago. (Can I really be that old?)
I must tell you that the slums in Asia are as far from beautiful as anyone could imagine. You won’t see many travel magazines offering tours to any of them. No one would go. Well, if someone did go, I don’t think they would want to spend a week or even a night.
But I cannot forget these slums. I am compelled by God to do all I can to help the brothers and sisters who live and labor there because they, too, are compelled by same love from God—not for the slums, but for the slum dwellers. I go back to the slums because my heart breaks for these precious people whom the world would rather forget. And the children, they are born innocents but will face great difficulties ahead if someone does not reach them with hope for the future.
Let me tell you what I mean.
This last visit, I was at one of the centers supported by GFA’s Bridge of Hope Program in this slum. Not too long ago, there were just four Bridge of Hope centers in this area. Now there are 32. The one I visited has 128 students. It is amazing what God is doing in these centers.
During my time there, I got to visit the children’s math class and help to serve their lunch.
This one little girl in the fourth grade—I’ll call her Dayita—brought us to visit her home. Both of her parents have died, so she lives alone with her grandmother, who is a widow. It’s just the two of them in a 10’ by 12’ space made of makeshift tin sheets. The living room, the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom are the same room. I cannot tell you how it hurts me to see anyone living like this. We make better houses for our dogs. Yet, would you believe, Dayita’s grandmother must pay rent to live in such a place? Yes, it’s true—1,500 rupees a month (about $23 USD).
That means that she has to work to feed and house the two of them. She told me that she works seven days a week to make ends meet. She makes what little money she can by going from home to home outside the slum, washing clothes and dishes from early in the morning until late in the day. Every day. Just to survive and to provide shelter and food for Dayita.
So, I wonder, what will become of Dayita?
Her grandmother told me, “If the Bridge of Hope center was not here, this, my little girl, may be begging on the streets.” She said Bridge of Hope was the only hope Dayita had to grow up as a human being.
And yet, it’s so hard to predict what will happen to her as she grows up in the slums. Bridge of Hope can provide education, healthcare and nutrition. And we can pray. No, we must pray, because before we know it, Dayita will be a young teenager. This can be a life-changing time for girls in poverty-ravaged communities. It happens across many parts of the world where young girls—13 and 14 years old—are married off or sold into prostitution. Bridge of Hope is helping to rescue many girls from this plight, but the danger doesn’t always disappear immediately.There are so many living in situations like Dayita’s. It is a story repeated over and over.
I remember hearing about a woman living in a slum with her two daughters. When she could not pay her rent, her landlord suggested that she move to the red-light district, where she could make plenty of money. Can you imagine being a young mother and being told such a humiliating thing? But it happens. All the time.
I don’t want it to happen to Dayita. Or any other girls in GFA-supported Bridge of Hope centers. Meeting Dayita and her grandmother reminds me that we cannot predict what lies ahead for any of them. And yet, we must do whatever we can when the Lord gives us the chance. I told Dayita’s grandmother, “Please know, as much as she can study to become a medical doctor, an engineer or whatever, we will be there with you and help.”
What will happen to Dayita five years from now? I do not know. I don’t even know what will happen to me five years from now. Or five minutes from now.
That is why we trust Jesus. Before the world began, the Lord knew this little girl, and He knew we would end up in that slum. And the Lord knew that we would care. He knew about each person who would become part of her journey through prayer and assistance. He has Dayita’s future under control, and He has ours under control, too. His plans for us are good (see Jeremiah 29:11). Knowing that He has our future planned, that it is good, and that He alone is in control—that is our hope. That is why we must not worry, but trust—for our future and for Dayita’s, also.
Oh, I almost forgot to finish telling you about the lady and her two daughters. On the very day her landlord suggested she move to the red-light district, two GFA-supported Sisters of Compassion met her. The Lord used them and their loving service to open the door of hope for the family. Through GFA-workers, she was trained to become a seamstress and got a sewing machine. She then became responsible for teaching other women in the slum how to sew! Not only was she enabled to earn a living to pay the rent, but her girls were both able to attend a Bridge of Hope center and receive an education.If the Lord can provide a way of hope for a woman who was told she should move to the red-light district, He can make a way for Dayita.
And He can make a way for us, no matter what we’re facing at the moment. Let’s keep trusting in Him, hoping in Him, both for own lives as well as for these precious little ones in the slums.
Watch my vlog to see more about my time with these precious Bridge of Hope children.
Learn more about how GFA’s Bridge of Hope Program is helping children in need.
Click here, to read more articles on Patheos by Dr. KP Yohannan Metropolitan.