Thanks to a happy “coincidence” the wife and I were planning to visit India when our church leadership heard about and committed to become a Connected Church. Little did Karen and I know where our trip would lead us visiting the Red Light district of Mumbai, where both Tearfund partners Sahaara and Oasis are engaged in their mission for Christ among the sex workers.
Sahaara means “help” and Sahaara seeks to offer “help to every helpless group,” their ministries include offering help to women who have been caught up in the sex trade and people in prison. Oasis also work in the Red Light districts of Mumbai. In addition to offering care and support for women in brothels and places of safety for those who wish to leave, Oasis also works with the authorities to counter the trafficking of underage girls.
In torrential monsoon downpour the Tearfund partners took us to visit what can only be described as a Dickensian tenement building, where we passed the pimps on our way to visit one of several apartments where as many as 12 girls were resident in each. Most of them came from West Bengal, on the far side of India, trafficked into Mumbai or lured by the promise of a better life.
In a prayer meeting that looked no different from a typical cell or house group meeting at home. We sang together I was asked to “give the Word” and then to pray with and for the members who were present. One by one the young women came forward and requested prayer for their health and for their children. What made this cell group different was that these women were sex workers and when they left us they were returning to their night’s work!
To hear stories of young girls being sold by the families, lured and tricked by the promise of a better life and beaten into submission was nothing short of harrowing and heart breaking. To be given a personal guided tour into a brothel with scores of sex workers gave a hopeless glimpse of the darker side of city life.
But to meet with so many people who serve in the name of Jesus was truly uplifting. Christian women who visit and befriend; a doctor who offers free medical advice; house parents who care for children who are orphaned or whose mothers cannot care for them; and a safe house where those who leave can find safety, freedom, new skills and a new beginning are the real and lasting memories.
We meet five small primary school girls who are being given a hope and a future which so many do not get. They have house parents who care for them, they are being education at an English Medium School and they have a personal tutor to follow up with homework.
Towards the end of trip we learn’t that in that cell meeting where with several prostitutes, children and Christian volunteers whom we had shared in the praise of God, in the Word of God, and in prayer. We were not to know it at the time, but one of these ladies who had lingered and chatted with us after receiving prayer, two days later she decided to leave the sex trade for a new life.
India is a wonderful country and to be able to travel to and visit India is an immense privilege. To see first hand the amazing and demanding work in which some of Tearfund’s partners are engaged, is an opportunity not to be missed.
Through these partners our eyes were opened to many things such as, the horror of human trafficking, yet also the compassion, energy, prayer and commitment of Indian Christians in face of such insurmountable odds.
If you would like to support the work of Tearfund in India take a look at their Impact project where your church can get involved or arrange an overseas visit.
Rev Rob Craig - Kilfennan Presbyterian Church