Children Caught in the Crosshairs of Martyrdom

Lazarus is rising from the dead. He is a 10 year old boy who’s healing and growing after what he says is the darkest day of his life. Six years ago he witnessed a gruesome murder, and his life changed forever.

When we think of persecuted Christians we don’t always consider its smallest victims, those too young to grasp the sacrifice or embrace the faith of their parents. Lazarus comes from Odisha, an area of India where persecution against Christians is particularly virulent. He was nearly four years old when Hindu radicals broke down the front door of his home and murdered his father in front of him, his younger brother Ajay, and his mother.

Children Caught in the Crosshairs of MartyrdomConversion, which is illegal in Odisha, is said to be the source of riots. In 2008, Hindus went on a rampage. Many villages were impacted, with 4,640 homes, 252 churches, and 13 schools torched during the attacks. More than 18,000 people were injured and 50,000 displaced. Hindus have also been attacked for associating with Christian relatives.

For many months after the incident, Lazarus and Ajay did not speak or respond when they were spoken to. Their mother couldn’t help them process– she had a break from reality and descended into mental illness.

An aunt in Delhi was alerted of the situation and intervened on the boys’ behalf. She mentioned it to a pastor and he put her in contact with the orphanage, where the Apna J127 Club is hosted. (J127 Clubs are part of David C Cook’s orphanage initiative.) The orphanage has taken in several children from Odisha.

The boys were mute when they arrived at the home. After much patience and care from the auntie and uncle who run the orphanage and lead the Club, the boys began to speak. It’s now several years later and the healing is still a work in progress. Lazarus is reserved and talks softly. He is still a little fearful, anxious, and he struggles with depression.

Children Caught in the Crosshairs of MartyrdomLazarus is an eager participant in the Apna Club. The curriculum is designed with the latest in trauma research and best teaching practices in mind. It’s designed to equip lay people and heal damaged emotions in children, all while helping them grow in Jesus and character, and learn essential life skills. The J127 curriculum and Club time provide ample space for the Holy Spirit to work in the children.

The Action Bible is used along with the Life on Life curriculum. Each child has his own copy. Lazarus’ favorite Bible hero is Joseph. He wants Jesus to be proud of him, as he was of Joseph when he faced great trials. He likes how Joseph led his people out of starvation and misery. He also wants the gift of interpreting dreams.

Lazarus often draws pictures of the hard things on his mind. He wants to be a police officer. Ajay also wants to be a police officer and “catch wrong-doers.”

The apostle Paul talks about Christians lifting one another up during trials. This is especially important with those being persecuted for their faith.

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 1 Corinthians 12:26 (NIV)

The auntie and uncle leading the Apna Club are called to these children and to suffer alongside them as they heal. Please join them through prayer. Pray that Lazarus and Ajay may sense Jesus’ presence and open themselves up to His power, love, and tender care.

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.

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