It has almost been a year since we started our Children’s Church in India! It has been an amazing year. We have watched the kids and their parents transform from a people who were outcasts, discarded from society, who felt the stigma and prejudice of where and how they were born, to a people full of love and dignity. A people who know they are loved by the Creator of all and know they are children of the King. Royalty, fully loved and cherished. New creations washed clean. We are beyond blessed to be a part of their lives and all the Lord is doing!
And now, our kids are going to school! We have been praying for almost a year for a way to provide an education for the kids in our Children’s Church in India. The challenges are great: they are from a tribe of outcasts, unable to attend the local schools. They have been outside of society, not having official citizenship or documents. None of their parents or grandparents have ever been to school. They don’t have birth certificates or know the exact date of their birth, and all but the very youngest would be far behind their peers. They are a nomadic tribe because they have nowhere to call their own and stay in an area until forced to leave.
During my trip a few weeks ago, we continued to look into starting a school ourselves or at least a tutoring program. Like many areas, bureaucracy is great and there are many hoops to jump through. We can accomplish all of this eventually, and we believe the Lord is leading us that way, but the kids are ready to start learning now.
After our week-long VBS, their hunger to learn became even greater. They had invited more than 50 extra kids to join them, and all of them had been raised traditionally and attend school. Our kids saw the other kids reading the books and activity sheets and wanted to be able to do the same.
Before I left India, while praying for each child, every single one of the bigger kids asked me to lay hands on them and pray for their education. But we weren’t finding any good options. We continued to pray, and like it often is with the Lord, a season of prayer where nothing seemed to come together, suddenly changed and everything started coming together at once!
Two local schools have offered admittance to our kids! One, a local government-run elementary school, and the other is a local Christian boarding school. I was initially very against sending our kids to the boarding school. I haven’t met anyone who appreciates that their parents sent them away to boarding school, and I have heard of the abuses and mistreatment of children while there (admittedly, none were from India!). This was concerning, and needed much prayer. The kids, however, were filled with joy.
While my reaction was one of fear, they immediately saw it as an answer to the prayer I prayed over them weeks before. When I saw their joy and sought the Lord again in prayer, He quickly softened my heart and filled me with gratitude. So, we’re moving forward in faith!
Each child can choose which school they want to attend. Currently, 13 of our kids want to attend the local school from home, and 24 want to attend the boarding school. We’re sending 39 children to school!
At the boarding school, they will have tutors to help them catch up and will learn English. (Remember, their parents are uneducated and unable to help them with homework.) They live in a more modern environment than ever before with electricity and indoor plumbing! But they will sleep apart from their parents for much of the month. I am glad that they will have each other at the boarding school! Our volunteers will visit them several times a month and they will get to visit back home as well. And, any of them may leave the boarding school at any moment.
The parents (mostly moms—most of the moms in our church are widows) are excited about this opportunity, and see these as great options until we can build our own school. Until now, when their kids asked to go to school, they had to explain that this wasn’t an option for their tribe.
While we and the kids, and their parents step out in faith, we need your prayer support! This will be the hardest thing the kids have ever done. They will be entering school, many as adolescents, with students who have been in school since preschool. They need our prayers for their safety, for their hearts, and for their education. The teachers need our prayers, that they will be filled with love, compassion, and patience with our kids.
In the next post, I’ll include photos of each student with their names and ages. I encourage each of you to pray for them by name. If your prayer time is short, please choose one or two kids and decide to pray for them each day as if they are your own children.
In the meantime, we’re busy getting 39 children ready for their first day of school!