“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”
The Dalit people in India – traditionally known as ‘untouchables’ – are some of the world’s most marginalised and impoverished people. Severely discriminated against socially and in access to education and regular employment, Dalit children suffer from the perpetuated cycle of poverty their families experience. What can we in Singapore do to help them?
Pentecost Methodist Church (PMC) sensed the Holy Spirit’s call for us to “extend our tent” (Isaiah 54:2) and be a blessing to the marginalised, indigenous poor in Asia. We contacted the Rev George Barathan, an ordained Elder of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference who was seconded to serve with Operation Mobilisation (OM).
He put us in touch with OM India, who invited PMC to partner them in building an English-medium elementary Good Shepherd School in Nawapara, Chhattisgarh (Central North-Eastern India). We would like to come alongside OM to light the Dalits’ path to salvation, and to help them break out of their inter-generational poverty trap.
OM India runs more than 110 Good Shepherd Schools throughout India, with the intention of establishing the schools as platforms to serve the villages in the surrounding areas. They provide care for the suffering, empower the women through vocational skills training, teach basic hygiene and provide English education for the children. OM India hopes that a church will be born once a small group of children begin to study in such a school.
In August 2012, PMC leaders visited Nawapara and prayed over the two acres of land that was the proposed site of the school. Our long-term partnership with OM India would be expressed through financial support in the initial years as the school was being built, and opportunities for PMC members to be directly involved in children’s ministry and outreach to the villages once the school was established.
Phase 1 of the building project included the purchase of the land, foundation and five classrooms. On 19 May 2013 (Pentecost Sunday), PMC launched the Dalit Empowerment Project (DEP) in partnership with OM India, in support of building this school. The subsequent response from PMC members and friends was overwhelming.
The building of the school commenced soon after our Pastor-in-Charge, the Rev Lai Kai Ming, led a team from PMC to Nawapara to lay the school’s cornerstone in November 2013. By God’s grace, the school building was completed in record time (by June 2014) and work began on the school’s boundary wall.
As Phase 1 of the DEP draws to a close, we praise God for appointing godly people like contractor Jeevan Lal and OM India Community Development Officer Prem Dande, who have shown unwavering commitment and dedication to ensuring a well-built school. Presently, about 100 children are studying in the school. We also rejoice and thank God for PMC members’ obedience and generosity in empowering and loving the Dalit community in Nawapara. May we continue to pray for them and keep them in our hearts.
PMC is preparing a mission team to visit Nawapara in November this year, to paint murals on the walls of the classrooms in the Good Shepherd School Nawapara. We are also planning to send another team to participate in the school’s inauguration in mid-March 2015.
A verse that continues to inspire us is Matthew 25:40 – “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ”
To SUPPORT the Good Shepherd School Nawapara alongside PMC u Contact Ms Audrey Lim at firstname.lastname@example.org
To KNOW MORE about other OM India’s Dalit Empowerment initiatives u email Mr Terence Loke, Executive Director of OM Singapore, at Terence.Loke@om.org, or the Rev George Barathan, Representative of Dalit Freedom Network, British Columbia, at George.Barathan@om.org
Photos courtesy of Pentecost Methodist Church
Audrey Lim serves as the Lay Executive Staff (Missions) at Pentecost Methodist Church. She has been doing so since October 2007.