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).
If you met Ellis*, most likely your first impression of him would be the humility and kindness in his words and demeanor. Then soon after that, while talking to him for some time, you would notice the fierce passion, focus, and convictions shining through. More than anything, he and his wife, Naasya, are about walking daily in God’s love and passing that love on to as many people as possible. Mostly to those not many others care about.
When Ellis was a young boy, his mother was often sick, so he took on the responsibility of cooking, taking care of his younger sister, and minding the home. When his family was in crisis, Ellis experienced first-hand the stigma, shame and discrimination that came their way from close friends, relatives and neighbors.
Both he and Naasya went through periods of poverty and suffering before marriage, which they look back on now as seeds God planted in their hearts. Now when they see suffering, they remember their own suffering. When they come across people in need, they recall the hardship and shame of neediness and deprivation. God has cultivated a compassion in them that allows them to relate to others in similar situations.
Ellis met Naasya in 1987, when she spent a week at the university where he was finishing his graduate studies in social work. Over the following year God worked on Naasya’s heart and started giving her a burden and a vision regarding orphans, adoption, and disabled children.
At the same time, Ellis ended up working in a tribal area of Gujarat for three years. This was a hard and significant season, crucial in his spiritual formation. He was exposed to a very different culture. He saw life with extreme poverty, starvation, no work opportunities, and no health facilities. God was expanding his heart and training him up.
Eight years after their first meeting, Ellis and Naasya married. The couple moved to the UK so Ellis could earn his PhD. When they returned to India with their first baby girl, their burden for the poor took a back seat to life’s demands. Their desires shifted towards a good job, a good home, and a good school for their daughter. But God had different plans.
Their life took a different direction the day a woman showed up at their church with two children, asking the pastor to help her put them in an orphanage. God rekindled Ellis and Naasya burden for orphans and widows as they prayed about helping the woman. Soon they had 12 orphans living with them in their tiny home. They made do with the little they had, and God kept surprising them and taking care of them in different ways. One day rice and eggs waited for them on the stairs of their house. Another day a friend showed up with washing soap and bread. They were learning that if they did what God was calling them to do, He would be faithful to provide. Following the vision God gave them even before marriage, they have adopted several children, two of them severely disabled. Even though it’s not easy, they couldn’t be happier.
After a period of living in different states of India, Ellis and his family moved back to Delhi and started Rahham in 2008. Rahham’s goal is to extend God’s fatherly love towards the destitute. Their mission is rooted in His heart clearly expressed throughout the Bible. He is Father of the poor, the oppressed, the fatherless, the widows, the outcast and the marginalized. Scripture contains countless references of God’s deep love for the needy and oppressed, urging His people to reflect His heart. That is what Rahham is about.
They look to Jesus to learn how to demonstrate this love. Christ was compassionate when he saw the widow, the outcast, the hungry, and the lost, and he showed us how to engage with the physical and spiritual needs of individuals. We are called to follow in his footsteps.
For eight years Rahham has done just that, reaching out to the people Indian society treats as worthless. Migrant laborers, rag pickers, HIV infected, widows and orphans, drug addicts, LGBT individuals, and prisoners. They go to areas few other Christians do and engage with the people few other believers care about. They have started three churches where people worship together from many of these different groups.
Ellis and Naasya have learned along the way that no matter the label, the vulnerable are not different from anyone else—they are broken image-bearers who long to be seen and loved.*All names changed to protect identities.