The sprawling red-light district of Mumbai, a huge city once called Bombay, is home to thousands of prostitutes or, in polite language, commercial sex workers. It’s also home to their children, who have no idea who their fathers might be. Their mothers are seldom home. Their homes may be a single crowded room or a gutter on the street itself. Home is not a safe place because the children are at risk of being raped or trafficked into the sex trade also.
In the midst of all this bad news, David C Cook’s intensive J127 Orphanage Initiative brings good news to three clubs of girls in a special orphanage for daughters of prostitutes. These girls have each other, a safe place to live on the outskirts of the city, and “aunties and uncles” who are local church members who meet with them several times each week. Through the clubs and the local believers who nurture them, these girls are finding true love in Jesus Christ.
These girls are a special priority with God. The Bible actually has more to say about fatherless children than it does about orphans. In India, many children have a living parent but still lead shattered lives, abandoned by that one parent and relatives for any number of tragic reasons. They are called orphans because, for all practical purposes, they have no family. Worsening an already dire situation, adoption is almost non-existent in India. An education requires school fees. Girls are often aborted or murdered at birth to make room for the all-important son. The traditional culture devalues girls. Even in normal families it is common for men to be fed first, the boys next. Women and girls eat last.
If the situation in India is grim for any kind of orphan, it’s worse for the children of prostitutes. An estimated ten million Indian women are commercial sex workers. Half of their children will end up as prostitutes themselves, according to recent studies. If, by any chance, one of these women leaves an inheritance it will go to her male children, relatives or even her pimp. The girls in the Mumbai clubs are kept, on purpose, far from the pimps and others controlling their mothers so they aren’t pulled into prostitution themselves.
The J127 Orphan Initiative takes its name and direction from James 1:27, where believers are instructed to care for orphans in their distress. The 18,000 Christian orphanages in India do their best to feed and clothe the children in their care, but many admit they have no real capacity to deal with their emotional pain or spiritual growth. The clubs supply that missing piece: an ongoing small group ministry that provides orphans with mentoring, counseling and a spiritual refuge to begin healing.
Lessons also cover practical life skills like using money, practicing good hygiene, communication skills and how to protect themselves from bullying. Bible stories are part of each week’s studies. Just a few weeks after beginning the program, orphanages report observable results: fewer quarrels, less theft and increasingly forgiving attitudes among the children. Eventually, most of the orphans join Jesus Christ in an eternal relationship.
Like almost anything other than God’s grace, this ministry costs money. Aunties and uncles receive a small stipend. Writers, editors and translators compile the lessons, workbooks and teachers’ manuals which are printed at a low but still real cost. The program includes ongoing training for the leaders who work with the kids.
Many J127 Clubs are already sponsored. Currently two clubs of children of prostitutes need sponsors. Would you consider also being a healthy influence in the lives of these girls? As soon as these clubs are sponsored, we will start others for still more orphans.