The church is able, anywhere and everywhere—even in the most seemingly-impossible places and circumstances!!
As I listen to Rahham’s director recall stories of life in the slums, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by all the hardship and suffering he shares. Stories of the devastation of alcoholism; widows of men taken by AIDS who are left behind with little children; unwanted baby girls; a man who was hit by a train the same night his wife gave birth to two stillborn babies; kids who barely have anything to eat; beggars who spend their lives on the streets. I take time to look into the eyes of each person in the pictures and try to feel the weight they are carrying, try to imagine what life must be like for them. All of this would be almost impossible for me to relate to, except that, living in Delhi, I see people like them day after day—people for whom life is a constant struggle. I see that they are real, that this kind of life is real.
Rahham has been reaching out to these most vulnerable communities with the message of hope. Hope that orphans, widows, scavengers, drug addicts, HIV-infected people, and the LGBTQ community are all welcome in the kingdom of God. A Hope that Christ cares for them—they are not forgotten, not excluded, not worthless and expendable. Rahham has started churches there in the slums, believing that the church is God’s chosen instrument for changing the world. Following the way Christ showed us will expose the lies that keep communities in darkness and sin. Walking in His footsteps will lead to healed, transformed, flourishing communities that in turn can bless those around.
As I am sitting in a cab on my way home from a meeting with Rahham’s director and his family, fresh information and vibrant images swirl around in my head. Did you know that HIV-infected people need up to 30 percent more nutrition than healthy people? Or that it is often co-infections, like tuberculosis (TB) and hepatitis C, that end up killing infected people, because their immune systems become so weak? Have you ever thought of what it would be like, as a healthy child, to live with HIV-infected parents and siblings? Or how difficult it is to keep a job when your body is constantly busy fighting off disease and infection?
If, like me, you haven’t followed news and research about HIV closely since it ceased to be a hot topic, let me bring you up-to-date on some basic issues. HIV can be spread in four different ways: through sex, from infected mother to child, by sharing needles, and through blood transfusion. There are antiretroviral (ART) centers all around the world where people can get tested, and if HIV-positive, can receive medication. They then have to take this cocktail of drugs designed for them, usually twice a day for the rest of their lives, to keep the virus dormant. As Rahham’s director explains it, you want to keep the cobra in the cage. You will never be cured, you will never kill the snake, but you can keep the disease at bay and live a long life if you are able to follow protocol and take care of yourself.
Reconciled World focuses on the vulnerable because we believe The Father focuses on the vulnerable. As we work with local churches, we teach them to look for ways to show love to those around them who are experiencing physical poverty, oppression and injustice–people who are overlooked and hurting.
This focus on the vulnerable has led us to come around those facing rural and urban poverty, girls facing gendercide, and children with disabilities. Every single story we tell is really about God’s heart for the vulnerable. But no one’s life and ministry tells that story more clearly than the Director of Rahham, a ministry to some of the most vulnerable people in New Delhi.
Here’s his story (with thanks to Adrienn for telling it).
It was hard to believe Savita had any chances of survival. She was experiencing her eighth miscarriage as the three-month-old fetus spontaneously aborted amongst heavy bleeding. Savita went into a coma, and the doctors had no hope for her recovery.
Her husband’s heart sank inside his chest. They had gone through the trauma of all the earlier losses together, but now his wife’s life was on the line. As Ajit was sitting numbly in the hospital hall, out of the blue a young janitor started talking to him. He said something about calling on the name of Jesus. Ajit and his family had always hated Christians and their God. He remembered how years before he had angrily forbidden his younger sister to even visit a church. Yet now, in utter desperation, he decided to give this Jesus a chance. What could he lose? He walked to a nearby church, stood outside its walls, and cried out to Him. God listened to his request and saved Savita’s life.
Shame. Stigma. Discrimination. Rejection. Abandonment. These are the words that should come to mind when you put yourself in the shoes of a person living with HIV in the India of 2015. So much shame, that you’d rather die than go to the detection center where there is medicine available that could literally save your life.
I’ll be honest, the first time I met with Rahham and heard what they were doing, I was a little confused. It didn’t really fit with anything that I imagined Reconciled World being involved with. However, I was struck by two things. 1) the incredible testimony and humility of the leader and 2) an unshakable sense that God was doing something quite unbelievable and it was worth taking the time to find out if God was calling us to partner together. Six months into the process, I can tell you that we are sure that God has lead Rahham to us as a partner and we are excited to have them onboard.