India

Families for Life: Reconciling Relationships in India

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“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

– Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

It’s estimated that more than 2.1 million people in India live with HIV. Focusing on a key cause of HIV/AIDS – broken relationships – World Relief in India works with local churches to prevent the disease from spreading while also protecting and strengthening marriages. In India, pastors are challenging couples in their churches to be more than just two people who pass through life together, but to be partners in ministry to the most vulnerable in their communities.

Pastor Abraham in India
Pastor Abraham in India

“A family ministry – by a family to families is important and strategic”, said Pastor R.D. Abraham. He had taught the Families for Life course to a small group that included four married couples. He had prayed for a meeting like this to take place in his area for a long time when it finally began. During his training, Pastor Abraham was challenged to partner with his wife as he ministered to the people in his church through prayer, house visits, and sharing the gospel.

“We do not involve our wives as we should. The Lord said ‘when two of us agree together on the earth and pray, He is going to hear and answer our prayers’. But we ignore this. Two are better than one and we need to pray together and do the ministry as husband and wife together. Then we will see changes happening and fruits coming in,” Pastor Abraham said. He encourages husbands and wives to attend the meetings together, and those who come alone often decide to bring their spouse to the next meeting.

One couple traveled a long distance to attend the trainings, and now they are hoping to host similar meetings for pastors who live in his area. The lessons of the importance of teamwork in marriage are spreading through the church in India, and families are strengthened for the future.

Addressing HIV in India means strengthening marriages

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In India, we are empowering the local Church to transform marriages, protect families, care for those living with HIV/AIDS and prevent HIV/AIDS. All of this is done by addressing the root causes of HIV/AIDS – broken relationships. Our Families For Life curriculum, taught by the local Church, reinforces the importance of commitment, faithfulness and communication in marriage. We have seen these live-saving, Gospel-centered messages bring healing to broken families and entire communities.

World Relief introduced these pastors to the curriculum in February 2014. They said they wanted to be trained in the curriculum with their spouses so they could deliver the curriculum to their congregations. Since March, 65 new pastors have been trained to restore and strengthen their marriages and the marriages within their churches.

Our local staff member, Jeyaprakasham, said, “All the participants were very happy and actively involved in the program. It was a first time experience for many of the pastors and their wives to attend a meeting of this kind.”

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One pastor said, “I have been married for 24 years and I never thought of this - that my wife is my friend. Here begins our friendship, and we will be the best friends to each other.”

His wife added, I attend[ed] this kind of meeting for the first time in my life. I missed a lot in my married life. I will make it further and take it to our church.”

(India) Pastor Daniel's Story

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This is Pastor Daniel Jayachandran, a local pastor in India. He is pictured with his wife, Amutha and their three children. In 2012, he attended World Relief’s Families for Life training and was so moved by the message of healthy marriages that he appointed a new pastor over his church and moved to an unreached area to plant new churches. He disciples other pastors and trains them using the Families for Life curriculum. These pastors often go on to reach thousands of congregation members and people living with HIV. We are proud to empower pastors like Daniel who go on to change their communities with the holistic Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So Much Happening in Twenty-Thirteen...

by Larissa Peters, World Relief Communications Liaison I don’t know about you, but I have an especially good feeling about 2013. I admit, I keep a journal, and on the first of every year, I wonder what will fill its pages. The same is true in managing this blog – what will be the stories, reflections, and prayers that fill this year?

So many things are happening at World Relief, and so many great things we get to be a part of this year as more and more stand for the vulnerable! So I thought I would share 13 of the ones that I’m personally excited about and that others could even join:

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Immigration Reform: From publishing the book Welcoming the Stranger in 2009 to speaking at Willow Creek Church and the G92 Summit, Jenny Yang – Vice President of Advocacy & Policy  and Matt Soerens – US Church Training Specialist are truly affecting change for the immigration system. We believe this is the year for reform. Want to keep up to date on the issue? Follow Jenny and Matt on twitter at:  @JennyYangWR and @MatthewSoerens.
  2. Peace building in the Congo: Village Peace Committees are changing their communities in the DR Congo. Conflict still abounds, but the grassroots movement of the Church is transforming lives. This is something to be a part of!  Follow updates and watch our video.
  3. Our partnership with Pure Charity: if you haven’t checked this organization out and you shop online or use a credit card (which should cover most of you), click here now. Here is a creative way to raise funds: shop and the stores you shop at will give to your charity of choice. World Relief has a few projects of their own there, and you’ll find Pure Charity at the Justice Conference. I already wish I knew about them earlier – I have to admit I’ve become slightly addicted to online shopping.
  4.  Fighting the battle of slavery: more and more people are taking on the cause of anti-trafficking. Currently, there are 14,500 people trafficked into the US each year (this is a low estimate). But our offices in Spokane, Tampa, High Point (and even internationally in Cambodia) are fighting to prevent that number from going up. Follow World Relief’s efforts on twitter and find out how you can promote awareness through races, workshops, or advocacy.
  5.  Church Partnership: Churches around the US have partnered with World Relief with a commitment of investing in a country or program for 3 to 5 years. Building relationships with the field and giving opportunity for long-term sustainable development, partnership is about wholistic mission. More and more churches are signing on, and we are excited about the changes it is bringing! Want your church to be part of this?
  6. Catalog of Hope: This year, our Catalog of Hope has a new section: fair trade items that benefit refugees in the US, empower women in Burundi, Rwanda, and Indonesia, and provide a monster for children in the US. A monster? Yes! See what this is all about.
  7. Stand Together Project: The premise is simple: Empowering women who are heroes in their own communities around the world. Check it out here: www.standtogetherproject.org.
  8. Savings for Life: A woman in Rwanda had never held a 5000 Franc note (worth $8 USD).  For the first time in her life this year, she saved up SIX of them because of her Savings group! How much more exciting can that get? Savings for Life is making credit available to those even the microfinance institutions can’t consider.  Watch a video on what Savings group is here: www.savings-revolution.org .
  9. Reviving and strengthening marriages in India: There is a quiet and unique program in India. One that is saving marriages, helping couples to be faithful to each other, and actually preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Check out the story on India.
  10. Volunteering with refugees in the US: more and more people are asking, “What can I do?” Our US program with refugees provides tangible volunteering. I can promise you that your 2013 will be incredibly enriched by befriending a refugee and welcoming them into your home and life.
  11. Volunteering with refugees in Indonesia: you have to check this unique opportunity out:  living in Indonesia and ministering to refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Sri Lanka. You can read about some of the volunteers’ experiences here: www.worldreliefindonesia.com .

12   AND 13

Tis the season for conferences! So I’ll have to just wrap them all up into the last two: Churches and organizations are stepping out and bringing awareness to issues of injustice, educating their communities on how to respond. World Relief is privileged to be a part of these conferences with other Justice advocate hall-of-famers:

My hope is that these 13 (and then some) inspire and encourage you.  And may this year be full of all that is more than we can ask or imagine!*

*Ephesians 3:20

Chin Refugees from Burma Seek Refuge in India

by Jenny Yang, Director of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief For years, I had heard that thousands of refugees from Chin State in Burma were fleeing into Mizoram State, India to escape persecution at the hands of the Burmese military regime.  We heard these stories from the Chin people who were resettled to the United States through World Relief who pled with us that their family and friends left behind in Mizoram desperately needed our assistance and protection.  This population has been out of sight and out of mind of the international community because access to the Northeast area of India has been restricted for decades by the Indian central government.  The Indian government lifted these restrictions in December 2011, which allowed me to participate in an assessment trip to see first-hand the challenges that these refugees face in this remote area of India.

Mizoram State is a beautiful, rugged, mountainous area of India where houses hover on stilts over 40 feet ravines and children play alongside windy, unpaved roads.  What’s striking to me about Mizoram is not only the physical beauty of the state but the vibrancy of the Mizo people’s Christian faith.  Mizoram is the most Christian state in all of India where over 95% of the residents are Christian.  In fact, the church is the strongest institution in the state, providing much needed social services through hospitals, orphanages, and schools.

While the beauty and vibrancy of Mizoram shone, we also met with Chin refugees who are living in the shadows of this beautiful society.  The horrific abuses they escaped in Burma are haunting and real.  One woman for example was a teacher in Burma and one of her 14-year old students was raped by Burmese soldiers.  When she reported this abuse to the authorities, they came to her house looking for her and she fled to India to seek safety.

She runs a small tea shop in Mizoram and tries to take care of her parents and brother who was tortured in Burma and escaped to India a few years before her arrival.  We also met an 18 year old youth who was forced to porter for the Burmese military over 20 times in his young life, often for weeks at a time, carrying military equipment and supplies with no pay away from his family.

While these refugees have found some safety in India, the fear that the refugees live with in India is palpable.  Without any form of proper protection in the form of documentation, many fear being deported back to Burma where they could be persecuted again. For many Chin refugees, they hope for the day when they can return to a safe, democratic, free Chin state in Burma.  In the meantime, the Chin people in Mizoram yearn to be able to integrate into their host country of India.

It is my hope that through the local church, the international community can come alongside the church in Mizoram to welcome the Chins to Mizoram through protection and humanitarian assistance efforts, and that the U.S. government continue to raise with the Indian government the need to provide protection to this group of vulnerable refugees.

The full 134-page report with our findings, recommendations, and photographs and a shorter executive summary can be found at www.chinseekingrefuge.com