Have you ever seen the movie Slumdog Millionaire? I don’t generally watch many movies and am not very emotional when I do watch them. But this was one movie I couldn’t get through without crying. I watched it once, but I could never get to the end a second time. It was so emotionally draining.
Part of the story is about this terrible man going around collecting lost children from the streets. He takes these kids to a house far away, promising them food and Coca-Cola and all these different things. Then comes an absolutely heart-breaking scene where you see a cute little boy being taken to the back of the house and being knocked out with chloroform. The man pours boiling oil into the eyes of this little one and blinds him. Later in the movie, you see the same boy on the street begging.
When I saw this, I couldn’t think of it as just a story made up for a movie. The reason being that I have lived in places where things like that really happen. When I saw that little boy, I thought of the hundreds and hundreds of beggar children I have encountered personally, and suddenly I felt such compassion for them. It hit me so hard.
God uses different things in our lives to speak to us. And for me, He used that movie to get a hold of my heart. He cares for those who are suffering. I wonder how many times He is speaking to us about the desperate needs in this world but we miss hearing what He is saying to us. Today, we don’t have to wait to travel to different countries or even go outside our home to see poverty, starvation, slavery, terrorism and war. Technology has exposed us to countless heartbreaking stories and circumstances. After a while, it is easy to try to put a shield up to protect our heart, and everything then becomes just information to process intellectually.
Can we try to lower that shield and open our hearts to the suffering people that we see? When I’m traveling in some of these nations and see the beggars, the suffering children or the needy, I realize, “But for the grace of God, that’s me. But for the grace of God, my children and my grandchildren would be on the street, vulnerable and alone. But for the grace of God, these are my children trying to make a living and survive.”
Take a moment to imagine how we would feel if it was our children who were suffering. Imagine hearing them crying out at night because of hunger. Imagine the despair of having nothing to offer them but a glass of dirty sewage water.
It’s not that we should feel guilty for what we have. But can we use what we have to help others?
Just a few years ago, my assistant sent me a link to a story that appeared in a major Asian newspaper. The story shocked me to tears. I recounted the experience in my book, No Longer a Slumdog:
On January 7, 2011, more than 50 desperate women from a rural village got together to sell their children at the market. First, I thought it was a misprint. People go to market to sell vegetables and material things, not to sell their children! As I read on, however, I learned that their entire village is impoverished. None of these women were able to care for their children anymore. The article continued:
Among the women was Malati Hembram who had lined up with her five-year-old daughter. “I will sell her off at whatever price I get. The money is not important; I just want my daughter to be taken in by a family which will give her food, shelter and education. We are not being able to sustain ourselves as well as our children and the elders in the family,” Malati said.
I don’t know if any of these women actually sold their children. If someone offered these mothers money, I think they would have done so. Sadly, I read on that it is not an uncommon sight to see women going door-to-door trying to find a buyer for their son or daughter.
I have seen many stories of deprivation, misery and hopelessness, but this one caught me completely unprepared. Immediately, I called the field leader nearest to this village. I told him, “Please, set up a center in this village right away.”
Within one week, I got a call back from this leader saying that they had established a Bridge of Hope center with 150 of these desperately hungry, needy children. They distributed blankets and met some basic needs of the poor people in the village. And now these children would be cared for, get a hot meal each day and receive an education. As often happens, a door was opened to share God’s love and bring the assurance that He will take care of them. Thank God that we were able to learn about the situation in this village before it was too late.
We may not always be able to make a drastic, immediate difference, but if we open our ears and our hearts to the people we encounter—whether in person or in a newspaper article—we can do something to help.
Next time you’re watching the news, talking about world events or reading statistics about poverty or suffering, may I ask you to please pray? Even if you feel like you’ve seen and heard it all before, this time can be new and fresh. Ask the Lord, “What do You want me to do? How can I pray? What is Your call for my life? How do You want me to make a difference?”
And as we seek the Lord’s face at these times, He will speak to us. He wants us to bear fruit and will give us the grace we need if we only look to Him.
Watch Malati’s story in Gospel for Asia’s documentary, Veil of Tears
Story above excerpted from K.P. Yohannan, No Longer a Slumdog (Wills Point, TX: gfa books, 2017).
For more blogs on Patheos from Dr. KP Yohannan Metropolitan, go here.