On our first day at Emmanuel I got to meet Priscilla, a recently married Indian American. Priscilla is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and one of the remaining three full time American staff for Hopegivers. As one of the children covered her hands in the traditional henna tattoos that new brides wear, Priscilla shared with us about the organization.
Hopegivers was started by Dr. M.A. Thomas a few decades ago when traveling across India, seeking God’s will. When Dr. Thomas ran out of funds for his trip, he happened to run into Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade, who sponsored the rest of his trip out of his own pocket. Since then, Dr. Thomas, and now his son, Dr. Sam Thomas, have planted churches, started Bible Colleges, and raised orphans throughout this massive country.
It has not been without difficulties. The Thomas’ have faced persecution throughout their entire ministry. Priscilla shared that this persecution reached its height about three years ago.
Radical Hindus (not the ahimsa-loving Gandhi types) took Dr. M.A. to court on false charges of child stealing, child rape, human trafficking and more. Dr. M.A. spent a long time in court, but the full charges, as well as those against Sam and his family are still tied up. Near the same time, the orphanages were attacked and the children fled. The largest orphanage, in a town called Cota, used to be home to 2,000 children, now only has 800. Our small orphanage of 80 children is down from 350.
When we asked Priscilla why the Hindus would to this, she explained that “they want to keep these children down. They are orphans, prostitute children, leper children: untouchables.” Hinduism teaches that you are in your caste because of the sins of your past lives, and your only hope is to live a good enough life to rise in the next.
Emmanuel is a great example of the true power of the gospel of Christ: it offers a promise for eternity that has a transforming impact today. Children who would be lonely and starving on the streets are given a family of brothers and sisters to eat with, play with, and learn with. Three times a day, 5:30am, 2:30pm and 6pm they gather to sing songs and pray. Despite what the radical Hindu’s accuse, they are not forced to convert, they are simply instructed in the way of Christ, as any good Indian family would do for their children.
Today, Hopegiver’s task is harder than ever. Recently, the senior Dr. Thomas, now 79 years old, suffered a paralyzing stroke during a fundraising trip in the States. The U.S. economic downturn has decreased the stateside staff from 18 to 3. Court cases, from the incident three years ago, have stranded Sam Thomas’s wife in the U.S. and have kept them from operating international banking accounts neccessary for the transfer of funds raised abroad.
The results of these difficulties were obvious from our small orphanage. Work on a half built dormitory was halted years ago, and will probably have to be razed. Their only source of water, a small rusted out tanker, is beyond repair. This forces them to carry water bottles back and forth from a well a mile away. A new tanker would only cost $600. Completion of the entire orphanage, only 7 million.
If you would like to learn more about Hopegivers and how you can help, contact me a firstname.lastname@example.org.