“The days we spent in South Asia were intense. Seemingly endless needs weighed heavily on our hearts, but then, what a joy to see the work that is growing! We visited a GFA World-supported Bridge of Hope centre that had opened just eight months earlier. The little students still had a very tangible ‘from-the-streets’ feel: little boys with shirts buttoned askew, girls with off-centre ponytails, each clutching brightly colored backpacks—all clapping their hands to praise Jesus!
A narrow pathway took us behind the centre and into a sprawling slum that is home for these students and their families. We visited the believers’ homes and met a number of families that had received GFA World-supported ‘Christmas gifts’ just two days before. One jubilant woman already had a pile of shirts she'd sewn with her brand new sewing machine!
This is a new believer, Asha, which means ‘hope.’ Her home was unimaginable—six people living in a room that was maybe 6’x6’. A little hole in the corner with two pots served as her kitchen, and a tarped-off corner was their bathroom, which was used for bathing only—there were no toilet facilities. Their home is at the end of an alley, and when the monsoons come, the water gushes into their house. For those months, they live in a few inches of foul water.
Like so many others in the slum, her husband couldn’t provide for his family, and that despair drove him to alcohol. Our GFA World-supported pastor and Bridge of Hope staff talked with him, and they found out he wanted to take care of his family but just had no way to do it. Just two days before we visited, the local church gave him a pull cart to sell vegetables. Now he’s made a commitment to work and provide for his family. Asha was radiant with excitement, talking about that pull cart. What a difference it will make for this family!!
It is difficult to imagine how they eat, sleep or even live. And yet, these vibrant believers were pulsing with life and greeted us with the most enthusiastic ‘Praise the Lord!’ that you’ve ever heard. Their present circumstances are dire and even deplorable, yet for them, none of it matters—they have abundant life in Christ.
What we experienced in these slums was the embodiment of all we've heard of and prayed for. [These believers] are what it's all about.
It was this little boy that really made that hit home for us. He’s Asha’s youngest son. His mother’s kitchen is just a few pots on the ground over an open flame, and he had fallen and stuck his arm in a pot of boiling milk—an accident all too common. With no understanding of first aid in areas like this, most people have no idea how to treat injuries like that.
His blackened, blistered little arm is the sort of prolific, widespread tragedy that propelled one of GFA’s newest ministries: A health and hygiene initiative that is part of the Women’s Fellowship ministry.
At the GFA World-supported field headquarters, we met 80 women who coordinate the Women’s Fellowships across our congregations. They had travelled from all across the mission field to begin implementing this new programme of teaching basic hygiene and first aid to communities—meeting a critical need. It was stunning to hear some of the myths and misunderstandings in regards to health. For example, because cow dung is considered to be holy, it is used to treat all kinds of injuries and diseases—and even applied to a newborn’s umbilical cord. When asked how most people would treat a burn, many answered with things like ‘Potato! Salt! Oil!’ or even ‘Curry powder!’
When we stood in this South Asian alleyway and saw that tiny boy's blackened arm, we realized that in just a few months, his mother will be learning what to do if anything like that happens again. And even by simply learning the importance of covering their pots, she and thousands of other mothers will be able to prevent such needless anguish.
Several of our leaders told me if even a fraction of those first-aid trainings make it back to the mothers, many children's lives will be saved, and their quality of life will be so incredibly improved. We’re already hearing amazing reports of how the Lord is using this new ministry. Praise the Lord!”