Centering hope on the gospel

Just watching the parade of blaring trucks, stray cows, scampering children and swirling dust in this western Indian slum can leave a visitor overwhelmed.

Try living here.

About 6 million people live in this city, almost half of them in slums like this one, according to Eric, director of a local ReachGlobal partner ministry.

Many people, many needs

West_India_CamelAbout 10,000 people from a mix of castes live in this neighborhood of concrete-block buildings and sometimes-paved streets. Some are renters, some are squatters. Almost all are poor.

That’s why Eric’s group has just built the Hope Ministry Center, a new church and ministry building, along one of the busiest streets in the slum.

“When we started visiting this area, the people were in a really horrible condition,” says Ravi, a pastor who directs the Hope Center. “When I saw them, I kind of placed myself in their place, and I remembered that once upon a time, I was in the same condition. But somebody cared for me and loved me and shared the gospel with me.”

The Hope Center includes living space for Ravi and Smita’s family, plus a 30 x 15 outdoor area for ministry. No more moving furniture out of the house for 70 churchgoers or a group of antsy students.

“Sometimes it has been very, very difficult,” Ravi says. “Now, because of the open space that we are going to have, there will be no crowding. You can sit very easily.”

Ministering to kids

Ravi and his wife, Smita, began their ministry here three years ago with children. Most kids don’t carry the spiritual baggage or prejudice that makes many adults in this area resistant to the gospel (the local province has anti-conversion laws). They teach them to read and write with Bible stories to educate them, and to get them off the streets.

Many children in this predominantly Hindu area are too poor to attend school, so they either roam the streets or work at whatever job they can find.

“They were child laborers — unruly, uneducated,” Eric says of many kids who have come through the Asha program. “One of our visions for the slum ministry is that through the platform of education, we are teaching them the gospel, and their tender hearts are transformed.”

When Ravi and Smita first moved into the neighborhood, they faced several difficult situations that Ravi didn’t know how to address. Among them were:

  • A next-door neighbor running an illegal distillery.
  • Numerous other neighbors habitually abusing drugs and alcohol.
  • Local parents threatening Ravi and Smita when they found out that their children were learning the Bible. Many expressed anger and told them to stop.
  • Teenage boys regularly shouting at them to leave.

So why live here, when another neighborhood would be safer? Simple — God told them to do it.

“We prayed together, and we said, ‘Lord, whatever conditions will be there, and whatever suffering we may go through, we will go in the midst of them and stay there and serve these people,” Ravi says.

Their perseverance has paid off.

Good results

In three years, Ravi and Smita and their coworkers have ministered to about 2,000 slum children. As the gospel began to change the kids, their parents noticed. As a result, about 60 children and adults in the three slums have professed faith in Jesus and planted three new churches.

“They are very open to the gospel, and then they become our evangelists to reach their families,” Ravi says. “Those young people were using bad language, using drugs and alcohol all the time. Now many of those youths have seen in our lives the love of Christ, and they have forsaken those filthy habits, and they are moving towards Christ.”

And that neighbor running black-market booze?

“Now he has become a Christian because of the love and care for him and his family,” Ravi says. “He has become our protector. He said, ‘If somebody does anything to you or threatens you, just come and tell me. I will take care of that.’ It’s good.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Give

Donate now to Eric’s ministry.

Pray

Ask God to:

  • Help Ravi and his team to reach at least one person in each of their local slum’s estimated 1,200 families with the gospel.
  • Allow more and more children to attend Hope Ministry Center’s programs.
  • Speak to parents whose kids are being changed by their exposure to the Bible.

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