Three young boys, Ravi, Ajay and Bijoy, walk quickly, nearly skipping, kicking up dust from the dirt road of their rural Indian village. They talk excitedly among themselves.
They know today they are receiving gifts from their teachers at the child center, maybe much-needed toothbrushes or perhaps soap. Their pace picks up and their voices get louder. They smile and think about the songs they will sing, the stories they will hear, the letters and numbers they will learn.
For the next few hours these three brothers won’t carry so much sadness from losing their father. All the joy and excitement they will feel while with friends and teachers will push aside the pain of knowing that their mother and older brother, only 12 years old, are working tirelessly cleaning houses in order to put some food on the table, struggling to provide for their needs.
The reality of not having a home to call their own will not seem as difficult to bear as they learn about the hope of Jesus and how He is their true home. These fatherless boys’ hearts will be overwhelmed as they hear about the great, never-stopping, always-there love of the Heavenly Father.
Overwhelmed by poverty
During Mammen Joseph’s visits to the rural areas of northeast India, his heart was deeply saddened by the wretched condition of the children. Many were starving due to the pervasive poverty. They were deprived of the basic necessities of life. They lived in villages without toilets, transportation, proper roads, electricity, pure drinking water, hospitals, schools, police protection, etc. They had no hope or future.
A large section of the population was illiterate. Over six hundred children in one of the villages either were not going to school or had never been to school. Development could not happen if illiteracy continued passing from generation to generation.
God impressed on Mammen’s heart to establish a children’s ministry in these rural villages to reach out to children like Ravi, Ajay, and Bijoy. His ministry, Peniel Gospel Team, started planning the first child development centers.
A way forward for Indian children
In the child centers, Peniel’s staff partner with local churches to provide education, essential needs like clothes, shoes, and hygiene items, one meal a day, regular medical screening, computer skills development, and vocational training. Many of these children are now in college or finding success in carpentry, car repair, sewing, and other occupations. Children start attending at age five. Mammen and his staff hope to engage each of them for at least ten years. They also provide some educational programming for parents.
All the good work in the centers attracts attention and makes them a platform for the good news of Jesus. Both students and parents hear about Jesus’ life-changing love, often for the first time.
This beautiful and effective ministry to children recently lost the significant financial support of one of its partners because of the Indian government’s changing policies toward non-profits. Until this recent development, the two more-established child centers were serving eight hundred children and youth every day. The newest center served 75 students, with a goal of 250. They are struggling to maintain the work now.
Imagine the ground that might be lost for these hundreds of children. Mammen and the rest of the Peniel Gospel Team staff are crying out to God to provide for these precious children. They are praying and believing that God will come through.