Shilpa’s father, blind and unable to care for her in the wake of her mother’s death, left the 8-year-old on her own. Capitalizing on the girl’s vulnerability, a neighbor forcibly took her to a brothel. Several months ago, Shilpa was rescued during a raid and now remains incarcerated at a state juvenile home.
This home for girls is a large grey building that sits on a typical chaotic city street in India. To enter this fortress-like complex you bang on solid steel doors. As you enter the courtyard, you’ll notice nearly every building window is shattered, only thick iron bars prevent the outside world from getting in and the inside world from getting out. Stale air permeates gloomy industrial hallways and rooms. The only humanity manifests in the resilient laughter of children.
The detention center doubles as a shelter for homeless girls and as a prison for young delinquents. Some are found roaming aimlessly through the streets, some are separated from family in large crowds during festivals, and some ran from abusive owners (modern day slavery), or violent, neglectful parents. Some girls have been raped. Some are pregnant. Others are mentally disabled.
Those caught by the police for stealing a loaf of bread, prostituting themselves, pick pocketing, fighting, or even killing someone are housed side by side with abandoned, frightened children. This combination makes for a dangerous situation. Bullying, fighting, coarse language, and attempts at escape are common and turn wardens into abusers. Girls are beaten with sticks to keep them in check.
Clearly, this is a bleak place filled with children with even bleaker futures.
In the last year, two local Christian women, Nishtha and Anandamayi have been instrumental in getting a J127 club into this facility. It’s a miracle.
J127 clubs (“True religion that God accepts is to care for orphans in distress…”) – an outreach of David C Cook* – are restoring the image of God in orphans and children who’ve faced extreme trauma. Through a family-like community, leaders build trust, nurture, and impart life skills, character development, and creative biblical discipleship. Children seemingly beyond hope are redeemed. Hope is infused into dire situations.
Nishtha and Anandamayi lead the club – they are called aunties, a term of respect and affection in India. They share the love of God; teach the girls to cast their burdens on the Lord; and help them work through grief.
It’s said where it’s darkest; the light of God shines brightest. Scripture tells us,
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 (NIV)
Just 5 months since its inception, the program is bearing fruit. Shilpa, the little girl from the brothel, loves the stories and activities. It has changed her perspective on life. She says,
Joseph was ill-treated by his brothers, but God raised him up. God saw my condition and brought me to safety. I have received God and I am happy today.
Shilpa loves to draw and is always eager to hear Bible stories.
Fathima, age 10, committed various crimes. She knows where her parents live but they have yet to fetch her from the home. Initially she cried constantly, hounding the teachers for information. Fathima has immersed herself in the Action Bible stories, and songs through her J127 Club. She has begun reading the Bible earnestly and praying for her life. The leaders notice significant changes in her behavior.
The aunties don’t know why Fathima’s parents have not come for her. The deep sorrow surrounding this situation may haunt her for a long time to come, but she is gaining hope, experiencing healing, and seeing a future.
Girls much younger than Fathima often approach Nishtha and Anandamayi and plead for them to call their parents. Both aunties know that the little ones will be beaten later for approaching them with this question – the guards keep a watchful eye on all activities. Nishtha shared that girls often cry during prayer time, pouring out their burdens to the Lord. Others who’ve been raped refuse to leave their rooms or talk with anyone.
This is not a Christian orphanage. In this facility we don’t know what abuse takes place, we can’t yet reach every girl. There is a great need for J127 clubs in India’s juvenile detention facilities. The work has just begun – and there’s a long way to go.
Please lift up these prayer requests before the Lord:
- It is forbidden for Auntie Nishtha and Auntie Anandamayi to declare Jesus as the only Savior. The Lord can certainly work around this situation! Pray His Spirit would be manifested through the love of the aunties and in the lessons. Words aren’t necessary for His divinity to be known.
- It is also against the rules for the aunties to hug or meet with any of the girls individually. Many are starved for this kind of relationship. Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of the wardens – and for this club to grow within the facility.
- Pray specifically for Fathima and Shilpa. Ask the Lord to fill them with the Holy Spirit, to protect them, and to walk closely with them into the future.
- Ask God to richly bless this new program. May it prosper at this institution and may doors be opened across India. May countless lives be irreparably changed!
The J127 initiative cares for the other half of a child, his or her soul. Will you consider sponsoring a club and caring for India’s orphans and children in distress? You may also make a one-time gift.