Chittoor is one of the most important districts located in the state of Andhra Pradesh. According to the Indian government census, most of the families live below the poverty line. Poverty in Chittoor district affects most areas of an individual’s life—lack of employment, low income generation and food shortages. This district is one of the most unreached districts, with only 0.8% Christians. This is one of the areas where Operation Saturation has begun the TCT program.
Kanthamma is one individual who was touched by the love of Jesus, portrayed through the church. She comes from a poverty-stricken family. She worshipped 33 million gods and a village deity. In 2006 she was married and then was blessed with two sons, but her dreams were quickly shattered. Her husband was addicted to alcohol, drugs and smoking, dragging the family into poverty. She was physically abused. Her children’s education suffered because she could not send them to school. Kanthamma was very depressed with her life and lost all hope for her future. Just as she felt it couldn’t get worse, her husband passed away as a result of years of excessive drinking. According to the beliefs of the community, widows are bad omens. They are looked down upon and are not respected by anyone in the community, even their own family.
As I travel around the world (which is nearly constant now), I love to ask people, “What do you see God doing? How are churches reaching out to their communities? What can we celebrate?” Getting these glimpses of how churches are seeking to show God’s love is one of the best parts of my job.
As I write this, I am in the DR Congo. Today a number of the stories had something in common: The church welcoming those who have been rejected by the rest of society.
One pastor shared that a few years ago there had been a prostitute in his village who had become pregnant. She had come to the church for help, but they and the rest of the community had rejected her because she was seen as evil. After they started to study the TCT program a teenager came to the church pregnant and looking for help. Her family had thrown her out because they were ashamed that she had become pregnant out of wedlock. Having learned about loving their neighbors, the church chose not to follow the community in rejecting her. They gave her food and clothing and arranged for her to stay in the church. The women in the church helped to care for her. Everyone in the church accepted her. As the pastor shared, only a few years earlier such a reaction to a person like this would have been unthinkable.
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.
I’m currently in the States, traveling around speaking at conferences, at churches and at various organizations. As I do, I share again many stories of what God is doing around the world. Sharing with a pastor today, I was reminded of a powerful story, one that started a few years ago and is still ongoing. It’s the story of the incredible sacrifice that some make for the gospel and God’s incredible faithfulness in the midst of that suffering.
In one village there were five Christian families. The chief of that village decided he didn’t want Christians in his village, so he tried to force them to denounce their faith. They refused. The chief had the village members beat the members of the five families. When the denominational leaders heard about the situation, they sent two people to the area to try to negotiate on their behalf. The villagers also beat them up and burnt their motorbike so they had to run for their lives. The villagers then burnt down the houses and destroyed the crops of the five families so they were forced to flee. The chief held fast that to live in that village they had to renounce their faith. If they continued to stay there then they would be killed.
Sometimes it takes years to see fruit from the seeds we sow. For the teachers at In His Image, patience is one of the most important assets, both in daily interactions with the students and as they look at the growth and development in each child year after year.
Koti came to the center at 12 years old. His parents were at the end of their rope because of his violence and inability to stay still, focus, and follow directions due to autism. He was struggling with constant anger and would hit, kick, and fight every time he didn’t get his way. His father, a very hands-on, involved dad, brought him to In His Image alone. The teachers wouldn’t meet his mother for years. In His Image was these parents’ last chance for any hope before giving in to complete despair.
This month’s Glimpses of God is shared by one of our TCT facilitators in Myanmar:
At the first TCT conference in our area, I learnt from the life of Mother Teresa who was doing ministry in India. Learning about the image of God from Genesis 1:26-27, God spoke to my heart. My heart was full and overflowed into tears.
Glimpses of God are everywhere – in the small actions of churches loving neighbors, speaking out against violence, loving the differently abled. They appear in amazing acts of culture change when one lesson changes the way that a community looks at women. They are also in the stunning miracles that we hear where God turned up and did something that none of us can explain. Sometimes, it is just in the compassion and love that is shared by some of our team.
Last month I visited our Wholistic Development Center (WDC), a vocational and discipleship school. It’s lead by an amazing couple who are models of Christ’s love expressed in everyday life. I can’t name them because they work in a country closed to Christians and I don’t want to be responsible for causing them to lose their visa. It’s probably just as well, they aren’t the type that like being boasted on. For ease of writing I am going to give them the names Joe and Susie.
This story comes from our TCT program in Southeast Asia. We love glimpsing the way God can fulfill His promise to lift up those who humble themselves. Tasks like creating dirt roads or cleaning up garbage can be pretty humbling. But God uses them in amazing ways…
In one area there was no road from the village to the main road. This meant that they had to carry crops on their back through the jungle to the market, so they were not able to sell very much and remained very poor. After TCT training, the church in the area decided that one way they could serve their community was to build a road for the 5 kilometres from their village to the main road.
I try to help my neighbor through a crisis, and she shuts me down. I give cold water to a homeless person, and he says what he really needs is money. I offer to pray for someone and they look at me like I’m a crazy cult member.
Can’t you people see that I’m trying to love you? I quit.
It’s easy to get discouraged when our sincere attempts to love people as Jesus did are rebuffed. That’s why I so needed this story from one of our TCT partner churches in Southeast Asia–a glimpse of how God works through people who just won’t take “no” for an answer.
RW’s leaders visited Nepal in October to check in on the communities that we’ve been walking with since the earthquake last April. Here are the highlights of the trip.
Nepal is in the throes of a prolonged, country-wide fuel shortage. This made the visit challenging, to say the least. The trip included overcrowded buses and very long walks.
Amazingly, our Nepal Program Director was able to procure a Jeep and scrape together enough fuel to visit several remote villages.