Sai Jyoti, Shweta, and Hari Priya have each other’s backs. The three sisters are clothed, fed, and sheltered in a Christian orphanage. Yet they are far from okay. A crippling past and an uncertain future stalk them.
The sisters are part of a family of Dalits – a people known as the “untouchables” – the lowest caste in Indian society. True to Hindu beliefs, each family member believes his or her life is a heritage determined by the good deeds or bad deeds committed in a prior life. As a Hindu, your lot in life is decided while you’re still in the womb. Children in lower castes are defeated from birth.
The girls’ story begins with the damage wrought by this corrupt worldview. Their mother is a “sweeper” who spends long days bent over at the waist cleaning streets with an extra short broom. Their father is a day laborer. The wages and working conditions for this caste is abysmal at best. Their father turned to alcohol to cope with grinding poverty. In alcohol induced rages he regularly beat his wife and daughters. One day in the midst of a drunken tirade he picked up his daughter, Hari Priya, then three months old, and threw her to the floor.
This incident drove the girls’ mother to take desperate action – she fled home with her daughters. She knew the safety of her family depended upon their escape. Then she sacrificed the privilege of mothering and her dreams to see them protected, well fed, and educated in an orphanage. She sees them once a year. Her greatest fear is for Hari Priya and the damage to her brain from the force of being thrown. Her concerns are justified.
Hari Priya is now 6 years old, and mentally challenged. Classmates bully her, as often the case with children who are different. When she joins in on games she is mocked and ridiculed. Her sisters, Shweta, age 4, and Sai Jyoti, age 8, try to shield her from the cruelty but they can only do so much. The orphanage staff also intervenes, yet they can only do so much given their responsibilities to care for the great needs of all of the children.
This is where the Half-a-Child cause comes in.
Food and water are necessary to nourish a child’s body, but the care can’t end there.
Shelter can offer temporary protection from the strife and upheaval in a boy or girl’s community, but it does nothing for the soul of a wounded child.
Education is essential for growth of the mind, but it doesn’t begin to tear down ingrained, damaging worldviews such as Karma.
Play brings out joy and laughter, yet it can’t begin to touch the hearts of children who’ve faced extreme trauma.
Who is caring for the half a child paralyzed by their past and facing a bleak future? Where is intentional soul care in developing countries?
The Children-at-Risk curriculum and the Story of Jesus evangelistic tool that are rapidly spreading across the globe provide a remedy. Indigenous churches are equipped for the long haul to evangelize, provide spiritual formation, character development, and life skills to children. This whole life discipleship is also central to J127 Clubs in India and Bangladesh.
The Capbowl J127 Club began last year. It’s where Hari Priya found refuge – and her sisters found hope. She and her peers are gently shepherded by an “auntie” and “uncle,” a Christian couple from a local church, three times a week for three years. Through a child-centered, customized, and active curriculum, kids feel safe enough to open up about their sorrow, fears, and questions. Strongholds are broken as the Holy Spirit speaks to them through lessons. They come to know a God of grace and justice, a strong contrast to the corrupt beliefs of Hinduism. The future opens up.
Hari Priya is eager to learn, soaks up the loving care, and best of all, is growing to know Jesus as Father. She reads her Action Bible with great enthusiasm – and loves the songs, stories, and games. She works hard to memorize her scripture verses. She is beginning to understand her immeasurable worth in God’s eyes. The program is intentionally designed to allow space for the Holy Spirit to heal a child’s heart, and in Hari Priya’s case, those of the wounded orphans that tormented her.
Each of the sisters are learning about bullying, respect for others, and standing up for the vulnerable through the J127 curriculum. This movement is completing children and giving them a future and hope.
Please pray for the hearts of these three sisters – and for their mother and her salvation. Lastly, it’s our hope you’ll join the Half-a-Child cause. While this outreach is impacting millions of children, many more languish under the weight of suffering, confusion, and trauma.
Update: In 2018, David C Cook transferred oversight of the J127 clubs to an in-country partner which continues to shepherd and grow this program. By supporting David C Cook’s Life on Life curriculum, you will be helping support this program as well.