If this is tl:dnr and you just want to know how to help send me back to India, click here. Then come back and read the post to learn about what we have done and hope to continue!
It’s been a little over six months since the Cross Point Community Church mission team to India returned from Kolkata. The experience continues to impact our group as we love and support one another and reach out to the Nashville community through service. We also try to find ways to assist our brothers and sisters in India with their amazing work.
This passage may seem odd for such a letter, but these are the words I have been meditating on for the past few weeks:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIV)
This message from God through the prophet Habakkuk encourages us with the truth that no matter what we see or experience, our God is able to bring us through: He gives us strength, gifts, and talents to do what He has called us to do. And I find these words to be appropriate when I think of the ministry that Cross Point Community Church has been called to in India.
For every two steps forward, we have experienced setbacks. Just as SEED (the Save, Entrust, Equip, Disciple Society) built the school in the Khalpur slum, the local authorities came in and bulldozed the slum, forcing SEED and the residents to rebuild their huts made of bamboo and covered with plastic pinned down with blocks, tires, or other trash. Just weeks ago, the local authorities threatened to bulldoze the slum again, but SEED managed to convince the police to give the residents a hearing in court. The outcome is still far from certain, and hearings often only go positively when officials are bribed (something SEED rightly refuses to do).
The physical conditions of the people’s lives are just one obstacle; the other big one is financial. Parents enroll their students in school only to pull them back out to send them to work either at home or in some other context of menial labor — more about that later in this letter.
First, I want tell you about some of my experiences and the work that was and continues to be done in India on behalf of God’s kingdom. Our first days in Kolkata were spent acclimating to a time zone literally half a world from Nashville (11½ hours). We spent time with our local ministry partners, SEED at their new office space. We met the teachers and administrators of their different programs as well as the pastor of the Cross Point India campus and his family. We learned more about Indian culture, customs, and history through visits to Mother’s House and the Home for the Dying (Mother Teresa), the Victoria Memorial, and Kalighat temple.
When I think back on my experience at the temple, words cannot fully express what it felt like, what it smelled like. If the color “black” had weight, texture, and smell — Kalighat is it. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, the goddess of destruction. In many paintings, she is shown with her tongue hanging out. To a Western view, we see this expression as showing anger … almost literally frothing at the mouth. We learned that this depiction of Kali’s mood is actually showing grief. In those paintings, she is grieving the loss of her husband, Shiva, who sacrificed himself to her murderous whims. And grief is what I felt at Kalighat. The darkness in such a place is oppressive and pervasive. It felt as though there is no way light could get through.
Yet, next door to the temple is Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying. In a world where the poor sick, elderly, and dying normally would lie on the street, she built a place for people to come and have dignity in their final days, a place where they are clean, safe, and loved. Just as Habakkuk said, no matter what happens, we still have hope in a God who is our strength. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 that He is the source of all comfort — we give because He first gave to us. We shook hands, hugged, and smiled to these people. It is amazing how something as simple as a touch on the hand can restore the life and humanity to a person. Bringing light and God’s love is what SEED is on mission to do in Kolkata, and it is why Cross Point has partnered with them.
Our start in India was a bit slow, but once we got moving, we did not stop! Sunday, we visited the Cross Point India campus in the village of Ghoraghata. Our group taught Sunday School to about 30 kids and led worship, and Pastor Pete gave the message that morning on lessons from the parable of the prodigal son. We also toured the village, spent time playing with the kids, and met the families who call Cross Point India their church home. One young mother told us that she loved to make jewelry to sell but that she didn’t have the money for the raw materials. Her husband, as is typical for the village, is gone during the week working as a laborer elsewhere. I have included a photo of her daughter (the little girl in the orange skirt with a 1,000-watt smile), who is a student in the school SEED runs through Cross Point India. Since our visit, the church has started a women’s Bible study class and crafting group; they make flowers and jewelry to sell.
On Valentine’s Day, we took Jesus’ love to the slum of Khalpur. One hundred or so families live in this area, making houses out of bamboo and/or plastic and holding them together with rope and tires. Trash is dumped in the middle to be sorted through — the residents look for anything that could be recycled or resold. Around the slum, there were a number of illegal stills making and selling alcohol that were recently shut down by the police.
The needs in this slum are great, and the workers have been few. Organizations like Compassion and World Vision will not work in Khalpur because no local church sponsor exists there. (Only one family in Khalpur is Christian!) So SEED has gone where others will not, and in the middle of trash, roaming animals, and chaos, SEED has built a non-formal school and feeding center. Every day, dozens of children gather to learn about Jesus, to learn how to read and write, and to receive a hot meal. Over the months that SEED has been working in Khalpur, the children have seen their height and weight measurements rise toward their national averages for their age. A medical missions team from Operation: Blessing also visited the slum to give physicals to 155 people, to check vision, and to assist in arranging for four children who needed it to receive more specialized and advanced treatment. As they are able, SEED sends children to boarding or day schools. With the rupees our group left as a gift, SEED was able to fund tuition and supplies for 4 girls who were in danger of becoming child brides or being sent to work as domestic help or worse.
As I mentioned earlier, parents in Khalpur often pull their children out of school to go to work. Having been to the school in the slum, I know that it is just one dot of hope, love, and acceptance in the midst of a society that looks down on them and does just about everything to keep them in their “place.” The SEED personnel say that their ministry in Khalpur and other such places is akin to fireflies winking in the night — shining a tiny point of Light into a world of darkness. One example of a firefly moment touched me deeply — developing a bond with a very special little girl: Tuktuki. She is 6 years old and is the middle daughter of three girls. Until recently, Tuktuki and her elder sister, Sujata, attended an English-language day school, but their mother pulled them out to take care of their 1-year-old sister. When I met Tuktuki in February, she pulled on my arm to have me sit on the floor. For an hour, we played the Bengali version of “Eenie Meanie Minie Moe” (Tuktuki had no interest at all in learning the English version!). She would giggle uncontrollably, jump up, and hug me. She thought that my sunglasses were silly and refused to wear them at first when we were playing. Tuktuki loves to sing and dance; she was a very big help in getting the chairs and stage set up for the community show in Khalpur. And whenever it was time for another group to be in the school room, she would yell “Auntie!!” through a hole in the bamboo wall to get my attention. To say she is precious to me would be an understatement!
As of today, Tuktuki and Sujata are taking turns at the non-formal school in the slum so that they can take care of their baby sister and the house while their mother works as a maid. This latest development is a big answer to prayer, but their situation, I am sorry to say, is typical. In this slum, parents go to work leaving small children unattended. Older children take advantage — manipulate and abuse — the smaller ones. Often the only adults in the slum during daylight hours are either passed out from alcohol or drugs or are the SEED teachers.
So you can see how much our mission in India — a mission about sharing God’s love with people that the world says are not worthy — is needed. They need to know who Jesus is, that they are loved, and that they have a purpose. Through telling the parable of the prodigal son, we taught them about kindness and grace, and we are looking forward to bringing different stories and activities to share next year.
Cross Point will be returning to India in February 2012, and it is my privilege to invite you to be a part of our team through prayer support, financial support, or both!
- I need and desire your prayer support. Prayer will keep us connected with the Father and will allow us to be successful as we follow His leading on the ground in India.
- As you can imagine, a trip like this is expensive, and financial support from a number of people makes it possible for the team members to go serve. In order to go on this mission trip, each team member must raise $2,500, the bulk of the money being due by mid-October so that airline tickets may be purchased. If you would like to sponsor me financially, I would be very grateful. I must turn in $2,000 by October 16, and the remainder is due by mid-January.
To be part of this mission through your financial support, you may send a check to
Cross Point Community Church
4301 Charlotte Ave
Nashville, TN 37209
Please make your check payable to Cross Point Community Church. All contributions are tax deductible if made payable to Cross Point and sent with Mission Trip Tax Donation Form. In the memo field of your check, please write Jonnelle Rein – India so that it will be credited appropriately.
You may also donate online: http://www.crosspoint.tv/nashville/giving/ and select “Make a one-time donation.” On the next page, select the Nashville campus and “Other” as the fund. In the memo field, enter “Jonnelle Rein – India 2012.” If you choose this method, you complete the donation form at the same time and please let me know (email: Jonnelle.Rein -at- gmail.com or call 615-482-5321 [cell]) the date and reference number so that I may notify the bookkeeper to track the donation.
Thank you so much for prayerfully considering if this is something you’d like to participate in. May God bless you for your time and support.