As we walked out of the airport we were met by Global Ministries Mission Co-worker, Karen Campbell Nelson, who, along with her husband John, has been serving in Timor, Indonesia for over 20 years. Karen met us with her colleague Emil from the Evangelical Church of West Timor also known as GMIT. After greeting one another we were told there was a group of pastors and nuns waiting for us in the cargo area.
We learned that a casket was on our flight from Bali. This was the 83rd casket that had arrived within the past few months from Malaysia and the surrounding islands. The young man who was deceased was 26 years old and was violently taken from this world. It had taken over two months for his body to be identified and for financial resources to be met for his remains to be brought back home.
We prayed for this young man with church leaders from the region. Most of us realize that human trafficking and migration are very dangerous. Timor, Indonesia is now beginning to make significant efforts to educate people in rural areas who are at a higher risk of being trafficked or lured to migration.
In East Timor, people who live in rural areas are prone to fall victim to trafficking or migration. They are sent to Indonesia and other countries for domestic servitude and agricultural labor. East Timorese people are led to believe that migrating promises a better opportunity for employment. While migrating can offer more and better employment opportunities, the risks associated with migration make this a dangerous choice.
I witnessed how human trafficking was impacting so many people, from the people who leave their homes, their children, their extended families, and even church communities. There are grandparents now being forced to raise their grandchildren. There are broken marriages. There are financial strains. Most families still aren't sent enough resources from loved-ones who migrated to pay for their children's education and other necessities.
Through education and resources, GMIT is helping pastors in local communities to educate its congregations about the risks of migrating illegally and the signs of potential trafficking. GMIT hopes to encourage people who want to migrate to do it legally so they are less susceptible to human trafficking. GMIT is also providing income-producing avenues to people who have migrated or are thinking of migrating.
About 80% of the Evangelical Church of West Timor (GMIT) church members live in small villages in Indonesia where farming is essential. A group of GMIT pastors with farming experience formed an association called Kompastoni. Kompastani means “pastors who like to farm.” To address the needs of the community, Kompastani conducts activities and workshops for congregations in modern and cooperative farming methods. This program helps develop resources, enhance sustainability, and empower communities.
One person who has been directly impacted by this program is a young man who is called "Captain." The name came from when he was a migrant making a living as a fishing boat captain. When at sea in the Philippines, Captain became sick. The sickness lasted for over two years. He eventually made his way back to Indonesia and was able to reach Bali. He went to the doctor and was told that nothing was wrong with him, yet he continued to feel sick. He decided to go to a prayer group to receive healing from God. Captain prayed and was healed. It was then that he decided he wanted to stay home and make a living in Indonesia.
Captain reached out to a local Kompastani Pastor and began to receive training on how he could cultivate his family’s land. His best friend decided that he wanted to follow Captain because he was such a good fishing captain. He knew Captain would make a living at whatever he decided to do. The two now work together by using modern farming techniques to grow to produce in their community.
Of the 22 million people living in Sri Lanka, Christians are a small minority, making up about 8% of the total population. Global Ministries partner, the Church of the American Ceylon Mission (CACM), focuses on empowering children and youth. They work with vulnerable Indian Sri Lankan youth to provide vocational training. St. John's Vocational Training Centre (St. John’s VTC) in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, offers training for boys and girls in programs like computers, sewing, air conditioning repair, refrigeration, and more.
The Batticaloa region consists of a large number of single-parent households. In an already poverty-stricken community and home, single-parent homes find themselves at an even larger disadvantage. Children are forced to grow up earlier than expected, often dropping out of school and going to work at an early age. St. John's VTC offers alternatives for young people who seek employment and education.
The school has trained about 3000 students and about 2000 students have been placed in jobs. This program is important in the community because it is creating income opportunities in skilled labor jobs, thus lifting young people and entire households out of extreme poverty. Breaking generational poverty is one goal of the program. Rev. Rajan P. Rohaan, CACM community outreach pastor and pastor of St. Andrew's church, has seen first-hand the transformation that this program has on young people and their families.
Sutha was not always a single mother. She lost 8 members of her family including her husband during the recent Sri Lankan civil war. Her husband died right in front of her. Her grief drew her closer to God and she found herself attending Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) of the Church of the American Ceylon Mission. Through hope and community, Sutha was able to begin the process of healing. She sacrifices time with her children during the week to attend the seminary. Sutha's mother cares for her children while she is attending the seminary.
Global Ministries support provides a stipend that helps pay for Sutha’s tuition and needs for her family while she attends seminary full time. Sutha is able to travel home by bus on Fridays to see her family. She stays over the weekend and then travels back to school on Sunday. It is difficult, but she knows that she is called to serve. CTS has helped Sutha discover her passion and purpose to help single mothers who have lost their husbands and loved ones to war. Christian Theological Seminary has made great progress in recent years toward its mission of providing theological education as a humanitarian response to the post-war community.
Kalavathy is standing to the right of Sutha. She is one of Sutha's classmates. Kalavathy lost her husband during the war in a very traumatic way as well. The deaths of their loved ones have made them closer to each other. In 2020, they will both be graduating from the seminary and will be among a handful of female pastors in the region.
Sri Lanka is a religiously and ethnically divided nation. Partners and people like Sutha and Kalavathy are working to help bring reconciliation, hope, and support as the country continues to recover from civil war. Sutha hopes to bring community development, interfaith dialogue, and relief and rehabilitation to those who were affected by the violence of war.
There are 1.1 billion women in Bangladesh and many don’t have access to electricity and clean water for cooking. Global Ministries partner, the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB), has introduced a low-cost cookstove called the Akha Stove, which means "agriculturally friendly" stove.
Monkhushi Halder has been using the Akha Stove for years. In 2000, she became a member of Akonful Forum, one of the many poverty reduction programs of CCDB. Monkhushi received microloans from CCDB and used her first loan to rent a grocery store. Today, she owns and runs a grocery shop in front of her home. She received another loan to buy a cow. Monkhushi now has a grocery store, a pond, cattle, and livestock.
After paying back the first loans, she took out another loan to buy land, build a house, and cultivate the land. The house has a sanitary latrine, a well, cattle, and poultry. She has 60 clay pots for composting and sells the compost to other farmers for organic farming. Monkhushi hopes to continue to grow her business with her family and live a happy life. She is a great example of what one person can do when they are provided access and opportunity. Her participation in this program has not only impacted her family but also the lives of those in her community who have been inspired to seek out microcredit loans for their own businesses.
In New Delhi, Global Ministries visited with Santosh of the Indian Samaritans Program to learn about their efforts to dismantle caste-based discrimination and uphold human dignity. One of the sites we were able to visit was Nagli Jalib. The project there, called the Enrichment Empowerment Center, strives to educate children about options beyond systemic oppression. Santosh is a local pastor who loves children and has a heart for God's people.
The young women pictured are a part of the Indian Samaritans program. They showed us their community and introduced us to their parents. This was such a humbling experience. Families invited us into their homes to chat and tell us how the program was transforming their lives and the lives of their children.
The Indian Samaritans Program serves economically underprivileged children by supporting their education, empowerment, and employment. They work with parents and schools to ensure that the children succeed in education and are trained to enter the workforce when they finish school. Almost all of the children are first-generation students. It is Santosh's hope that the children do not leave the program for any reason and continue their education past grade 9. Large numbers of people throughout the world have no formal education. Poverty and child marriages continue to directly impact a child's access to education.
This program aims to break the cycle of poverty among children living in extreme poverty in India. The Indian Samaritans Program also addresses the issues of child labor, malnutrition, school dropout rates, child marriages, and discrimination against disabled women and widows.
Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country. The people of Bangladesh make a living from agriculture, textiles, garments, jute products, seafood processing, fertilizer production, sugar, tea, leather, and steel. Many of the people are landless and are forced to live on and cultivate flood-prone land.
Periodic severe flooding in Bangladesh during monsoons has become worse due to global warming. Climate change and severe weather issues impact the lives and livelihoods of the people of Bangladesh. Global Ministries works with two partners in Bangladesh, the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh and the Church of Bangladesh, who provide aid to those most affected.
The Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh is working to transform lives through its poverty reduction program forum groups. Global Ministries visited several forums and learned how this program is helping to change multiple communities into thriving and growing neighborhoods. At one forum group, we met women who have received microcredit loans. The forums play a significant role in increasing household income as well as poverty reduction. Micro credits are provided to men and women who want to create a business but need low-interest loans. With the microcredit loans, people can start businesses that range from farms, grocery stores, jewelry, snack and candy making, and more.
In one forum group, women from a Muslim community have come together to change their community. Women sell milk and other products at a fair value that allows for a greater return on their investments, allowing them to be able to send their children to school. Working together has proven to benefit these women. The women pay a monthly fee to be a part of the forum and the fee allows them to do community activism and development. The forum can support children by awarding scholarships for school, providing nutritious meals, and offering blankets for children in the community. The program works to prevent child marriages in Bangladesh, where 60% of marriages are child marriages. Another issue that women are facing is domestic violence. The forum provides education on domestic violence for women and men. Most of the women farmers are also organic farmers who use sustainable farming techniques for their produce. Both men and women farmers are working to eliminate greenhouse gas through cooking and farming. In this forum, women have grown to such prominence in the community that one was recently elected to a local political position.
The Four-B program is a group of youth in the Kusum Pahar slum in Delhi, India, working to educate and advocate change in those around them. Four-B program was created through the Center for Social Equity. The Four-B program has encouraged young people to rise up and find their voices through learning, socializing, doing activities together, and learning job skills. The young people use their talents through storytelling to explain issues in their communities. The performances they do highlight prominent issues within the Dalit community. The group recently won a large award for their performance work, including best choreography.
One of the young people, Deepak, realized, “There is a gap between the people who have and those who don't.” He hopes to work with Sunita, the organizer of Four-B, so he can help empower those who are disenfranchised.
This program has helped Deepak believe that by staying connected to the community through Four-B, which provides him access to opportunities and education, he will be able to achieve more than he could have imagined. It is his hope that he will be able to help someone else in the same way.
India is big, crowded, and diverse. It is full of joy, laughter, sadness, and frustration. Immense poverty exists throughout the country and it can be hard to absorb and especially hard to understand. While in New Delhi, we visited with Santosh of The Indian Samaritans Program to learn about their efforts to dismantle caste-based discrimination and uphold human dignity. The project, called The Enrichment Empowerment Center, strives to educate children about options beyond systematic oppression. Santosh is a local pastor who loves children and has a heart for God's people.
With Santosh’s guidance, we visited a center called Kirby Place where we met many children and families. People came up to Santosh to say hi and to share about their day. Most live in slums and are oppressed by caste-based discrimination. It was a joy to see their smiles. Santosh hopes that through education and empowerment, the minds of children will be transformed so that they may believe they can achieve more than child marriage or what their parents experienced.
Before we left, we asked Santosh what we could do to support his efforts. He said that it is helpful to receive the financial support that these children need, but prayers are needed the most. Please pray for the children of The Indian Samaritans Program, for their futures, education, and families.
It is the hope of The Indian Samaritans that we pray for them and continue to support them as they strive to help change the futures of children, that they grow in believing that they can become more than they even hope to achieve.
Read more about the work of the Indian Samaritan Program here.
Since you last heard from us we’ve entered what we call the “three-shower-a day season.” This morning I woke up at 5:00 AM as I always do, and it was 86 degrees! The humidity comes later in the day.Read more