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.
Maybe it’s hard to imagine what a church in these most vulnerable, marginalized communities looks like and how it functions. Maybe it’s challenging to see how people coming from and living with such unimaginable hardships, economic poverty, serious health issues and deep needs can, at the same time, be a blessing for each other and the people around them. I know it was for me. And while change is slow and gradual and the church is far from perfect, hearing the many stories coming from these groups makes it clear that God’s presence is undeniable. Beyond a shadow of doubt, God uses His people graciously and powerfully—no matter where they come from, what challenges they face, and how far they still have to go—to be salt and light in the neighborhoods that they live in.
When Rahham staff visits the churches, they encourage people to tape a sheet of paper on the wall and write down the needs of the community, then pray faithfully for those issues. In one of the communities, women were scared and concerned about a sensitive matter. Since the homes do not have private toilets, they have to use a public bathroom for their families’ needs. Women usually go only early in the morning or late at night while it is still dark. In this specific area, four to five men would sit around all night until early morning, drinking, mocking the women, and causing trouble. The church started praying about this issue, and God answered: Soon these men stopped using this as their place to gather for drinking.
It is clear that God is raising compassion in the hearts of these new believers. Instead of everyone only caring about their own needs, people are starting to think of each other, even in the midst of their own struggles. One widow, an old and sickly woman, always brings someone else with her to church, usually someone even needier than herself. Last time she brought a deaf and mute woman whose husband left her with two children. Another time she brought an old lame man, helping him to travel more than two hours to get to the church meeting. This widow receives some rationed rice, oil, and other staples from the church regularly, and instead of being afraid that she might get less if there are more people coming, she keeps bringing along others who are in deep need.
People express towards each other what they see and receive from God through church leaders. They want to give, share, and take care of each other. They want to pass on the blessings they receive. They are eager to invite their extended family members and neighbors to their life-giving gatherings. And their tiny seed-efforts bring tenfold fruits.
One time the church gave an undernourished pregnant woman a tray of eggs and prayed for her. The next week she brought eight more pregnant women with her, because she wanted to share the blessing she had experienced. People are creating a culture of sharing and caring: reusing and recycling things, passing on baby items, taking care of the elderly, praying for each other, giving counsel. These are very practical, very powerful ways of living with a renewed heart and mind.
Five small groups (each group is called by one of the Fruits of the Spirit, such as love, joy, peace…) have been started in these communities. Each group has 15-20 people, mostly women, who put their savings together each month and use the money to help each other. Everyone needs to put in a minimum of 100 rupees ($1.50) per month. These meetings serve as times of talking and sharing, presenting needs, discussing community issues and how to respond, praying, and giving advice. Together they also decide how to use their savings. For example, in the past they have given loans within the group for house repairs, wedding expenses, or times of unemployment. As opposed to money lenders who charge 25-30% interest, they charge 1%. What a difference!
Even though these church communities are young and have much to learn and as they grow, God is certainly working among them and through them in tangible ways. These are just a few of the many stories we hear from every marginalized community that Rahham minister among. They fast and they pray. They celebrate and learn and respond. Their situations might not have changed much yet, but the way they think of themselves, each other, and the world is being constantly renewed by the Spirit. The presence of God is clearly manifested in their changing community life, and that is the sweet aroma that brings glory to God and draws others in.Written by Adrienn