Raju has been mentally and physically challenged since birth. Now 38 years old, he lives with his family in Northern India where many believe that disability is a sign of God’s curse. Because of this, people with disabilities are often socially isolated.
Raju’s elderly father has been in poor health for many years, so his mother seeks to earn money by running a small shop on the roadside. He has two younger sisters – one takes care of her father and Raju while the other works as a house maid. The meagre amount the family earns, along with the old age pension received by the elderly couple, is barely enough to pay for medical expenses and daily needs.
When Jesus walked among us, his great compassion was always stirred for people who were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36b). That same compassion is moving in the hearts of God’s people in North India. A church in Raju’s neighborhood has made the decision to move past the social stigma to serve people with disabilities.
Pastor Santosh’s church began meeting with staff members from the Urban Development Project(UDP), praying about how they might love their community more effectively. The UDP, run by field India’s partner the Emmanuel Hospital Association, exists to equip local churches to address the social needs within their communities. As UDP staff helped Pastor Santosh’s church look compassionately at their community, they felt God urging them begin serving people with disabilities.
Pastor Santosh and a staff member of the Urban Development Project took to the streets in order to identify people to serve. God directed them to Raju and his family. Although at first apprehensive, Raju’s mother was moved by the concern showed by Pastor Santosh. “This is the first time,” she remarked, “after so many years that someone has asked about my son.”
Following in the footsteps of Jesus, these men spent time in Raju’s home. They listened and empathized with the family as they shared their struggles and heartache. For the first time, Raju’s family encountered people who accepted them and cared for them.
With UPD’s assistance, the church will take steps to help Raju’s family access government benefits that Raju is entitled to receive. Once his disability certificate has been issued, he will be eligible to receive a monthly pension, a wheel chair, free travel in the bus and train and a low interest loan to build a house. The church will also try to help the family access other entitlements like subsidized food rations and free medical care. And as this local body offers access to resources and a better life, they extend the hand of community and hope – a gift beyond barriers and beyond words.
Remember UDP staff and the churches with whom they partner to view their neighborhoods through eyes of compassion and possibility.
$200 gives the support one member of the Urban Development Project staff for one month as they partner with churches and train believers to become advocates for their communities.
Is God asking you to serve in India? Find out more about how you could respond to need in India here.
Written by Bethany. Approved for online and print publications.