Prayer Requests from India

  • Praise! In an area that has been going through a drought, it has finally rained! The children now have enough water!
  • One of the homes is needing funds to replace their broken water filter.
  • The older boys are receiving special coaching and equipment to help ensure good marks in their exams. But, they still need prayer for their studies!

Snahakunja Short Film

Check out our new short film of one of the homes we support.


Practical Christianity

"For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me." (Matthew 25:35-36)

Kolkata (sometimes better known as Calcutta) is a chaotic, huge, and very densely-populated city in NE India. Once a key center during British colonial rule, Calcutta has a rich and important history. William Carrey, the famous linguist and Bible translator, and Mother Teresa also spent significant time here.

But more than the history or personalities that have highlighted Calcutta over the years is the struggle that millions here experience as their reality each and every day. Poverty, pollution, contaminated water, malnutrition, disease, and homelessness all feed into the current of this dark stream.

Among perhaps the most neglected of Calcutta's downtrodden are those with HIV. Ostracized by family and society, how do these people survive? Where do they go? Who will care for them?

Fortunately for a couple dozen such kids, a man lovingly nicknamed "mama" has stepped forward. Once petrified of HIV, he now deeply loves the infected children under his care. This, along with an emphasis on nutrition, rest, and holistic living is bearing fruit and these kids are really blossoming! They are going to school, learning English, playing the violin and mandolin, and making (and selling) crafts. They are just like any other kids.

Practical Christianity. This is what "mama" is living out.

Something is bothering me, however. It's not "mama", or the kids at the orphanage, or the facility. What's bothering me is the line up of HIV infected kids that are waiting for admission to the orphanage. "Mama" looks at me asking for the OK to bring them in, but due to the number of kids that we already are trying to find sponsors for, I hesitated to give him the green light.

Here's the thing: most of us that are reading this have been blessed, at least to some degree, financially. Doesn't mean we are rich, but we're also not living in a Calcutta slum. We have enough to get by, and then some.

Here's the rub, however: practical Christianity points to reaching out and helping the orphan, the hungry, the homeless. Are we doing that? Yes. But could we do more?

That's the challenge I would like to throw out there. We've got the photos and stores of a handful of kids on our website (https://kidstown.org/children). These are kids that need a helping hand, that need a friend, that need some prayer. Not a big thing, but a meaningful thing. Perhaps you will consider helping one of these kids, or forwarding this email to a friend or family member who might?

Practical Christianity. May this be something each of us strives to live out - on a regular basis - and in an increasing manner.


I will not!

For those of you who have been to India, or have read about it, you know that it is a country filled with diversity. The plains of Tamil Nadu, the endless rice fields of Andhra, the rolling hills of Orissa, the majestic Himalayan foothills of Northern West Bengal, the pineapple groves spread across the hillsides in Assam…India is a land of great geographic diversity.

Akin to the geographic diversity are the vast number of cultures and languages that pepper the country. With somewhere around 2,500 distinct people groups speaking some 1,600 languages and dialects, India is truly an ethno-kaleidoscope!

But not only does India possess great geographic and cultural diversity, it is also a land which espouses a great diversity of gods. Hinduism ranks among the top religions in the world in terms of adherents. The caste system, karma, yoga, and reincarnation are all terms which find their source and meaning within the Hindu context. Hindu deities are many, and allegiances to these deities may vary based upon one’s family, community, location, or caste. Pujas (Hindu festivals) are common. During my time here I have had the opportunity to observe in close proximity the playing out of one of these pujas known as the “Durga Puja” – a holiday dedicated to the goddess “Durga”. Worshippers, faces painted purple, move in slow procession down the street, dancing (at times almost in a frenzy), while music blares from a nearby audio system. It’s a disturbing thing to observe.

Most of our orphans in India (and Nepal) come out of Hindu backgrounds. In some way – either recommendation by a local church pastor, divine intervention, or good old-fashioned luck – these kids have somehow ended up in a Christian orphanage. They have been given a second chance at life. Colossians 1:13 comes to mind which says, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son He loves”. Life is different for these kids now. They have a safe place to live, caretakers that love them, good food to eat, and good clothes to wear. They go to school, and they hear about Jesus and have the opportunity to begin a new life with Him. Many choose to do so.

Many of these kids have living relatives, and it is not uncommon for a visit “home” from time-to-time. During these visits the kids are reminded of the life they once lived. Nothing has changed for their relatives, however. They still live in physical poverty and spiritual darkness. They continue to faithfully perform the rites and rituals inherent to the worship of their particular Hindu god(s), and they expect their visitors to do likewise. Imagine the shock when the answer is, “No! I will not!”

This is exactly what happened in the case of two of our teenage orphans, brothers who have embraced New Life in Christ, and refused (like Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-Nego) to bow a knee to a pagan god. Instead, they shared with their family members about Jesus. Wow – what faith! What courage!

These brothers are living their faith outside the orphanage walls. They are the “light of the world” that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:14. This type of bold, courageous witness is what we desire of, and pray for, each of our orphans in each of our orphanages. We want to see them go forth one day (even now) as His envoys of light into a very dark world. Doesn’t mean they all will be full-time Christian workers when they grow up. Most probably will not. But, no matter where God sends them or how He uses them, it is our prayer that they will be full-time Christians – brightly shining the Light of the Gospel to those around.

“Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘…we have not need to answer you in this matter…let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’” (Daniel 3:16,18).

I was inspired by these two orphans that I met, a modern-day “Shadrach and Meschach”. Unafraid to stand up for Christ. Unafraid to say “no” in the face of pressure to bow. Pretty impressive.


The Unsung Heroes

Orphan ministry takes special people with a special calling. People who are willing to give up the "normal" life and live the "outward-focused" life that we spoke of a couple of days ago. It takes people who are willing to fight in the trenches for the long haul, enduring stresses, fears, uncertainties, loneliness, and far too often, little-to-no recognition or honor for the work they have done among these children.

These "unsung heroes" to whom I refer are the orphanage leaders - a breed of people all their own. They are the ones who not only sympathize with these little ones that are suffering, but are willing to do something about it. And I'm not referring to giving a child a piece of bread and calling it good, I'm referring to taking these kids into their homes - kids with lice and scabbies, kids with emotional and spiritual baggage, kids which society at-large would rather turn a blind eye to - and giving them love, care, structure, godly modelling, and so much more.

These orphanage leaders are the true visionaries: people who are able to see beyond the filth and matted hair to the gleaming potential of what could become of these kids given sufficient love (and, of course, with God in the mix)!

These are the unsung heroes. And our Kidstown family is privileged to partner with many such heroes in India, in Nepal, and in Romania.

We all believe in orphan ministry. We all want to see these kids helped, given hope and the Gospel, and that they fulfill their God-crafted destinies. But this can't happen without the orphanage leaders. They are the critical link. And so, they need our prayer support.

May I challenge each of our readers: will you commit to praying on a regular basis for our 50 orphanage leaders? That God will sustain them, encourage them, provide for all their needs, refuel their zeal and passion each day, and help them to stay in the fight for the long-haul?

Thanks for your belief in, commitment to, and prayers for our orphanage leaders.


Having an "Others" Mindset

While in-transit very early this morning at the Shanghai airport, I exchanged a few words with a Swiss-Canadian man that was, like me, headed to Calcutta. He has not been to India for about 25 years, and we briefly talked about the changes he might see. I shared that I had been to India numerous times, and briefly about the orphan work that we are involved in, to which he made a comment something to the effect of, “these trips must help break you out of the self-centered living (of the West)”. Interesting statement, and yet, very true.

I don’t know about each of you, but I find it very easy to build life around
myself. My comfort, my security, my wants, my needs, my priorities, my choices, my rights, and on and on. How often do I stop and realize that I’m living this way, and then ask myself the antidotal question of “is this how I’m supposed to be living?” and if not, then what should my focus be?

The answer to this question has been aptly coined by one of our India co-workers who said “live for others, not for self”. Likewise Jesus, when sending out the 12 disciples, is recorded as having told them to preach Good News, to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons (Matthew 10:7-9). Theirs was not a mission of self-benefit; it was a mission with others in mind: their spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. They were on an “others” mission!

This applies to all of us as well – whether we are in transit to India, in India, or in suburban USA. Each one of us has been blessed in one way or another, and are instructed to pass those blessings along to others (“Freely you have received, freely give” said Jesus). May living with such an outward/other-focus be something that each of us aspires to, each day, in some way. Maybe that means supporting an orphan, or writing a letter to an orphan you already support. Maybe it means reaching out to a hurting family in your neighborhood or church. Maybe it means taking a trip to India in order to “break out” of the “me” mindset. Whatever it is, may I encourage all of us to take an active step in this direction.

After the 12-hour plane ride from Vancouver to Shanghai, the last thing I was
expecting was a spiritual lesson while waiting for my next flight. But one never knows how and when God’s going to show up, and what He is going to say when He does. “Don’t live for self. Live for others.” That’s a pretty good message!


Praying for our Kids

Dear Kidstown Friends,

We have the opportunity not only to help our orphans in practical ways, but also to
pray for them. God can do far more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and
He beckons us to engage on our knees for the sake of these little ones that He
created, loves, and has such great plans for. A few key requests to pass along
today:

1. Pray for our orphans' physical, mental, and emotional development and health.
Especially during the summer season it can be very hot and, in India and Nepal, very
wet due to the monsoon rains.

2. Pray that each child will discover Jesus in a real and personal way, that they
will grow in their faith, and that they will move forward in accordance with God's
plan for their lives.

3. Pray for the orphanage leaders: that God will give them strength and
encouragement, that He will provide for all their needs, that He will give them
wisdom and love, and that He will sustain their zeal and passion for this ministry
that He has entrusted to them.

4. Pray for our orphanages in India and Nepal, some of which are beginning to feel
heightened levels of negative pressure, from the surrounding society, due to their
Christian faith. This is due in part to a right-wing Hindu movement that is
currently underway.

5. In a special way, please pray for one of our orphans which has been hospitalized
due to unknown severe abdominal pain and vomiting. Pray that God will give the
doctors wisdom, and that He will bring this young lady back to full health soon.

Thanks for praying!


The Widow's Mite

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Many of you are familiar with the account of the "widow's mite", recorded in Luke 21:1-4. Yesterday this took on new meaning for me.

This last Sunday our pastor spoke on Biblical stewardship: the reasoning, rationale, and Biblical basis for the giving of tithes and offerings and their uses within the context of the church. He spoke of God's blessing of, and provision for, His children. He handled the topic well.

As he spoke, however, I felt something shift uneasily deep within my heart. I believe the promises found in Psalm 34:8-10 that the Lord is good, that those who fear Him lack nothing, and that those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. I have experienced the fulfillment of these promises personally. Here's my tension, however: I often travel to places like India, Nepal, or Romania - and I know of many situations where Christians barely have enough to survive...sometimes not enough to even keep their children, thus they send them to an orphanage to live. I'm not saying that God is unfaithful to His Word, but I just don't understand how it all really works. Why does my family have sufficient but they don't?

That was Sunday when our pastor spoke on this topic. Fast forward two days: Tuesday. I'm sitting at the dinner table with my family. Conversation shifts to this topic and my wife and I struggle with it. My daughter, now 11, sits quietly by as she listens to us discuss something which she (and we!) cannot understand.

So - I come home yesterday and notice an envelope sitting on my desk. Curious, I pick it up and begin reading the hand-written script pencilled onto a couple of sticky-notes attached to the front. What these notes conveyed was that, inside that envelope, was some money to be given to a missionary or poor Christian family in India. I discovered moments later that this offering was given by my daughter. I further came to find out that she had deposited into that envelope all of her savings that she had accumulated over the last nine years. She retained none of it for herself. And it that were not enough, later in the evening, with a tear rolling down her cheek, she asked me if she should give more because she knew there are people who have nothing.

Dear friends - this is the widow's mite that Jesus spoke of in Luke 21. Compared to the budgets of many churches and corporations its nothing...but to Jesus, its everything. She gave everything she had, and I guarantee that Jesus will multiply those dollars like he did the loaves & fishes; using her little to do great things.

Why is it that an 11-year-old is teaching me such a profound lesson? Her generosity and her faith have surely surpassed mine. They likewise point to God at work in a young and responsive heart, and He will surely reward her for what she has done.

And He (Jesus) said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

May this be a challenge to all of us today. There are lots of people all around us and all around the world that are in need: physically, emotionally, spiritually. God calls us to be generous, the type of generosity that is fueled by faith; faith that believes that God can take the little we offer and can do GREAT things with it to bring help, give hope, and ultimately advance His Kingdom.


A Mother's Prayer

Dear Kidstown Friends,

In 1 Samuel 1:9-11 it says “So Hannah arose…and prayed to the Lord…and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you …will give your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.”

Yesterday we left behind the urban sprawl of Hyderabad, India’s fourth largest city of nearly 9 million inhabitants. A leader in the area of technology, Hyderabad occupies center stage in what has become known as the “Silicon Valley” of India. Western tech firms, modern hotels, wide expressways, and a world-class international airport all greet those inbound to Hyderabad. But our journey left all this behind, in favor of a more out-of-the-way destination. Centered in a small village of predominantly Muslim and Hindu families, the Divine Children Home is unassuming, yet is being used by God in great ways. A small, family-style orphanage, the Divine Children Home is “home” to nine abandoned or destitute children; a place where they receive love, care, an education, the Gospel, and a 2nd chance at life.

As we spent time with the children, the leaders, and a few native missionaries (which had come to meet us), a theme began to form. Listening to the missionaries as they related their backgrounds and how they became involved in ministry, I found it interesting that two of them (David and Rama) made mention of their mother’s prayers. Both mothers prayed, in one fashion or another, for their sons to be used by God in ministry. And God heard those prayers and has indeed deployed these men as His witnesses, using them powerfully to shine His light among unreached peoples.

What’s the theme? Simply this: there is power in a mother’s prayer. Many of you sponsor orphans here in India, or in Nepal, or in Romania. In a sense, these orphans have become part of your family. You help supply much-needed financial resources that provide them with food, clothing, and shelter. You reach out to them in friendship, conveying to them via letters, cards, or small gifts that they are loved. At times you encourage them in their faith, assuring them that what they have in Christ is of utmost value and worth. But, can I ask a question? Do you regularly pray for your orphan?

Think about Samuel’s mom (I Samuel 1), or about David’s mom, or about Rama’s mom. They are no different than you. They loved their sons, just like you love your sponsored orphan. They wanted the best for their sons, just like you want the best for your orphan. They prayed to the Lord for their sons…and God responded by using Samuel in a great way, and is also using David and Rama in great ways. These mother’s prayers proved to be very effective!

So, speaking to all you moms out there: you’ve “adopted” an orphan. You know their name, where they live, and a bit about them. Maybe you have their photo on your fridge or on a corkboard. You are engaged at least to some level in their lives. My challenge to you, however, is this: will you commit to regularly praying for them? Will you pray that God will help them today and give them hope for tomorrow? Will you pray that God will draw them to Christ and grow them in their faith? Will you pray that God will help them to become all that He has planned for them (Jeremiah 29:11)? Will you pray that God will deploy them one day as His witnesses and that they will boldly stand for Christ, no matter what their situation, location, or vocation?

The power of a praying mom cannot be underestimated. Too often it is. It’s time to bring it back to the surface and to request all you praying moms out there to do what Hannah did, to do what David’s mom did, to do what Rama’s mom did, and by so doing unleash God’s power and work in the lives of your sponsored orphans, with the anticipation that God WILL do great things for, in, and through them.

Thanks for praying!

Sincerely,

Matthew


Real Value

The last few days here in India have been full, replete with many experiences, sights, sounds, and of course the savory tastes of Indian cuisine! But that’s not why we are here. The reasons we are here are less obvious, often tucked away off the side of the road, or at the end of a five-hour drive, or 5,000 feet up a windy mountain road. It is in these places that our purpose and meaning become clear, materializing in the form of little faces peering out of windows or from behind trees, waiting eagerly yet curiously for our visit.

It is children that our work is focused on, for whom we labor, and for whom we hope and pray the best. It is children, who God created and so dearly loves, that we aim to help, befriend, and assist in their journey to becoming and being all that God created for them. It is for children, who have such great value in His sight, that we endure the long train rides, the dusty and bumpy roads, the short nights, the unsettled stomach, and the days away from our own families and homes.

You see, these kids have value. Real value. More than the value ascribed to a costly gem or a luxury car. Unlike those things, children are living beings, created in the image of God, for His purposes and ultimately, for His glory. Each one is unique, like a snowflake, possessing one-of-a-kind qualities and characteristics that set them apart from every other. Each one is here not by accident, but as a masterpiece of the Creator.

And yet, these kids have suffered. Some immensely. Take Alan and Milan for example. These brothers, ages 5 and 6, have experienced anything but a normal childhood. Their dad, not long ago, tried to murder their mom by tying a rope around her neck and hanging her from the ceiling. After failing in this attempt, he proceeded to go to the pre-school where his sons were, with evil intentions of killing them. Having been rescued from this hellish environment, Alan and Milan lived for a time with an aunt and uncle, under a tarp alongside a runway, in sheer poverty. I can’t relate. I doubt you can, either. But what we can say with certainty is that Alan and Milan have suffered extensively.

It is kids like Alan and Milan that we are focused on helping. It is because of the generosity of some of you readers that Alan and Milan now live in a Christian orphanage. They have a new mom and dad. They have a bunch of brothers (and two sisters!). They have stability, structure, and safety – possibly for the first time in their lives. They eat good food three times per day. They go to school and are encouraged to apply themselves to their studies. They hear about a God who loves them, accepts them, and will be a loving Father to them who will never, ever do anything to hurt them. Alan and Milan are told the twin truths that they have value and purpose in life.

Ever wonder why you participate in orphan ministry? If it really makes a difference? The next time those thoughts cross your mind, think about Alan and Milan. Think about what their life was like, and what it is now. The bridge over that causeway is people like you – people who are willing to give, to pray, to befriend, to reach out, to care, to help, to love. It’s people like you who give the Alan and Milan’s of our world a 2nd chance to become and be all that God ordained.

As I look out the window of the train on this balmy February afternoon, innumerable palm trees, tile-covered homes, and the occasional river sweeping by, I find myself glad to be engaged in something of value. I just wanted to pass along these thoughts to you, to encourage you. Keep it up!