Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 26, 2012

The Face of Hope

Tenali, India

I saw the face of hope today in the most unlikely of places — the kind of places where despair bullies its way into hearts and homes and marks its territory with broken lives. India, it seems, is a breeding ground for despair. It grows abundantly here in the fertile soil of poverty, a caste system that does not treat all people the same, cultural norms that favor males instead of females, and much more. Harvest India, a Christian non-government organization based in Tenali, exists to battle despair head on. The organization currently supports the work of churches in 1,000 villages and has 10 orphanages, 3 nursing schools, 8 Bible colleges, and numerous other ministries. Their work is nothing short of amazing and inspiring. Today, I saw the face of hope in the places where Harvest India is working to make a difference.

I saw hope this morning in the faces of Dalit children that attend a Harvest India school. Dalits are the lowest caste, have generally been regarded as untouchable, and provide the labor force for the most menial, filthy, and dangerous jobs. Harvest India provides Dalit children with the opportunity to get a good education. Dressed in their blue and white uniforms, barefooted Dalit children welcomed us warmly into their classrooms, told us about their favorite subjects, and showed us some of their classwork. The children in every classroom were smiling and beaming with hope. Even the youngest seem to have a basic understanding that an education is important. They know that they are the fortunate ones because they have seen some of their classmates drop out of school to help their families earn extra money by working in agricultural fields.

I saw hope in the faces of women at a sewing center. All of the women who work at this center once had a very different profession as commercial sex workers — some by choice and some against their wills but all trapped in a dark world ruled by despair. Today, each of these women know the hope that is found in Jesus Christ and are learning new skills that will help give them a brighter future. These women make a product called Punjammies that are available for purchase online. We enjoyed our time with these women and the opportunity to encourage and affirm them.

I saw hope in the faces of the dying at a Harvest India HIV‑AIDS Hospice center. This center exists to help those suffering from these dread diseases, mostly very poor men, women, and children. Apart from the work of this center, those suffering from HIV-AIDS would have no place to go. The center provides medication, lodging, and the special diet that these sufferers need in order to survive from day-to-day. Over the past few years the center has assisted hundreds of individuals. The center is staffed by a doctor, a nurse, and a chaplain who leads daily devotions and prayer times. It was especially tough for me to see the children at the center, many of whom will become orphans in the near future. But, because of the work of Harvest India, those suffering from HIV-AIDS are able to receive the help that they need and know that Harvest India will make provision for their kids if there are no other relatives to care for them after their death.

I saw hope in the wrinkled faces of the elderly at a Harvest India home for the elderly. The saddest part of our visit was listening to the stories of the residents, many of whom have families that cast them aside. In spite of the heartache they have experienced because of being rejected by the children they raised, they were grateful that Harvest India provides each of them with a safe place to live. I must confess that it upset me to hear that the children that these now elderly adults had raised did not care for them or visit them. Thankfully, these senior adults have found a new family among their peers and the staff at the elder care center.

Finally, I saw hope in the faces of former sex workers in Tenali’s red light district where Harvest India has a ladies hand-bag manufacturing ministry. The women employed in this business came out from the ranks of sex workers in the hope of changing their lives for the better. And, it’s working. I have never seen so many smiles on the faces of those who worked in one of the darkest pits of despair, satisfying their filthy clients for as little as a dollar or two. These women worked at the lowest and poorest rung of the commercial sex industry ladder in Tenali’s red light district. Today, these women and their children have found new hope in Jesus Christ and radiate His presence in an unmistakable way. It was a delight to meet and to spend time encouraging and praying for these women and their children.

It’s been a long day but one that has refreshed me and reminded me of the difference Christ-followers are making in some of the most difficult places and among some of the most desperate people on the planet. I am encouraged by the ministry of Harvest India and all that they are doing to evict despair from dark and dangerous places.


Responses

  1. I want to go there! I’ll meet you… Just let me get settled! 🙂

    • Absolutely. We hope to come back to Tenali to work with Harvest India and would love to have you join us here whenever we return.


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