Dealing with Dispair

We visited the HIV slum where Evangeline was forced to live after testing positive for HIV. She was there for about a year but her disease became aggressive and she was moved to a government AIDS hospital. We don’t know if she will ever come back, but we have hope, even in the face of AIDS. CTL still provides her with medicines and supports her care, but it was sad to visit the slum and miss seeing her. My prayer is that she feels love support and God’s hand somehow in her life.

What made us equally sad was discovering what the government did to the rest of the people living in the slum, 80% of which carry the virus. They built a new building for them. A building they didn’t need and in the process covered up the only well the people had for fresh water. Now they have to walk to another part of the city to draw water- a place where they aren’t welcome. The conditions in the slum were already filthy, and this has made it worse.

The ray of hope there is the schoolteacher. She is a Christian and feels compassion for these kids. She asked me if I would remember to pray for her and for those kids. I don’t want to forget that request. I’m still thinking of those kids. They were so excited to see us, and I’m guessing they don’t get a lot of visitors. In spite of their conditions, the children laughed and smiled and one young girl sang for us- she had a powerful voice!

We took some gifts to the children there and when I saw what happened to the well I was stunned.. My first reaction was, how could the powers that be act so foolishly? I don’t know the details of why it happened, but this really affected the team, as we have ministered to the kids there and we know that more HIV positive kids will come to the orphanage from the street, and we will have to send them there. Some of the team members pooled their money and covered part of the $1000 cost of a new well. Water issues cause a high percentage of the world’s health problems. Maybe someone should inform the government.

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Is This For Real?

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One question we ask ourselves over and over while we visit the CTL-Berachah Childrens home is this: After all they have been through in their short lives, HOW can these kids be so normal? Where is the attachment disorder? Where is the negative behavior, the lack of social skills? Where are the trust issues?

The most amazing thing to notice here is what ISNT showing up. A lot of CTL team members have experience working with children of all kinds of needs. Many of us have been in orphanages, group homes, counseling centers and have seen what a hard life and early trauma can to to a young person.

Dont misunderstand me – I am not saying they dont have scars. As Pastor Kiran brought some of the older kids forward to share their stories with us, we could see the pain return to their faces. One boy named Joshi, now in college, watched his father kill his mother and then himself. He is not the only child there to have watched that. The pastor tells us that some kids will overreact to events that bring back bad memories.

But in the day-to-day lives of the kids, their smiles, bright eyes and enthusiasm for school seems to show that there moving forward. They are finishing school with good grades. They do family chores (there are lots of chores to do in a family this big) cheerfully. Their lives have structure, purpose, and a sense of future. They are taught that they are not victims– they are special children of God who can experience love and grace every day.

If it sounds like Im painting a picture of an unrealistic utopia, in a way I am. This place should not exist. There is not enough support to keep it open. It seems to go against the tide of local culture. The nearby city, Machilipatnam, which means fish town is a depressed area plagued with alternating droughts and floods and a very high suicide rate. Its not a place one associates with the word utopia.

But it does exist, and I have returned several times to see if what I saw was real. Everything about the place feels like a miracle, and if you havent seen it, it may be impossible to fully understand it.

There are many orphanages in India and a huge number of kids live and beg on the city streets. The gap between Indias rich and poor is sickening, but there are also many things to appreciate there. One of them is a childrens home a few miles from a depressing place known as Fish Town. After seeing God at work there, I have never been the same.