These thoughts and experiences were sent a couple of days ago but got lost in internet sidings. Each of the team are telling us what is happening in their minds and hearts. First from Phil:
Today we heard about “chicken 65”. Every day is a new food experience here. Every child we interview tells us about the foods they love and hate and every day we seem to taste one of them (either for breakfast or lunch). Sharon tells me chicken 65 is spiced with 65 different types of flavourings (Sharon: only joking). Whilst I’m not entirely sure she is telling me the truth it does quite describe the assault on the taste buds that the food is here and, perhaps more relevantly, the sheer assault on the emotions you are taken through talking with some of these children about their lives and things they live with and the things they live under.
One moment we are faced with smiling faces and warm handshakes and the next we are hearing about lives torn apart by alcoholic fathers, physical abuse, runaway parents, and just the sheer grind of supporting a family of 8 on £40 a month. I chatted to a boy whose father had died; I talked to him about his school life and hopes for the future and then had to write down his description of 2014 as a “good year”. Maybe something got lost in translation! I guess it’s no more odd than praying through some of the above issues and then asking them to smile for a photo. Yet smile they do and with such ease – expressing joy at the drop of a hat and always so grateful for the help they receive. I’m aware that there are people with at least some of these problems living in London – it’s just that I don’t often interview 30 of them one after the other!
I love Indian food (65 spices or not) but living with those flavours every day is a lot to handle. Handling a church of 600, full of people with issues like these every day is what Kevin and Deborah do: it would make me run a mile from pastoring for sure. I guess that’s why Jesus is so obvious here – He needs to be!! I guess that’s why He loves these people so much – they really need Him! It has created a church who pray easily because prayer is where they pour out their hearts to Him and these hearts have a lot to pour out for sure.
And now from Karen:
The above were our collective thoughts from yesterday, eloquently expressed by Phil last night. Unfortunately we were unable to get a wifi connection to send you our blog, but now we are back in the slums interviewing the last few children before we head on out to pray in the homes of these amazing people.
As we wait for the final few children to arrive Phil is providing us with worship on his guitar, Deborah is accompanying him on the band (south Indian drum) and Sharon is sitting next to me busily uploading photographs of the children she has been taking. One of the things that I didn’t quite appreciate was how much administrative work goes on behind the scenes of Grassroots.
Interviewing the children produces mixed emotions – joy, sadness, disbelief, gratitude; sponsors receiving the information can go through similar emotions, but also delight as they see pictures of the children they sponsor. But between those two sets of emotions is a lot of work to let sponsors know exactly how their children are doing: and that is such an important part of the ministry so that sponsors can pray effectively and these families not only need the prayer, but covet it.
Thank you to those of you who have been praying for us, please don’t stop! Being here and praying for so many people, one after the other on occasions, makes you realise even more how much they need Jesus, but also how much we do too, as we have nothing to offer except Him. No-one else can save these people and bring healing to them. Please also continue to pray for Kevin and Deborah as they reach out to their community, that they will have wisdom and grace and see the breakthroughs that they are so fervently praying for and are longing to see.
And finally from Sharon:
Throughout each day we have had a steady stream of people arriving with children in tow looking, asking and in some cases begging for sponsorship. It is hard to turn them away but presently we do not have the resources financially to take these children on at the moment.
Out of the children we are already financially supporting we have 70 are without a sponsor. This is putting a strain on our financial system and we are definitely running as close to the edge as it is possible to do without falling over it.
It is with sorrow that we have to say “no, sorry not yet”.
The people here need extra food, especially the widowed and grandmothers looking after children. It has been suggested that to help on a regular basis would produce dependency, but without help it could produce death. In the UK those with children receive child benefit – we might not consider it much but it helps. Here in India there is nothing. Does child benefit make us more dependent on hand outs in the UK? It’s a quandary! For me the sign of civilisation is the way we treat the poor and needy in our midst. These people may have felt a long way away in the past but these days we know they are our neighbours.
In the next 3 months building work will be completed and the church here in the slum in Chennai will have the room to increase their capacity by 100 per cent. The extra children who need the help are staring us in the face – literally today! Finding the money to help them is a different matter. It would be just wonderful to be able to support them by finding more people to join with us in partnership, sponsoring children…. or just giving generously! Please pray the Lord will put us in touch with the people who can help us do it.