Service in the Slums

 

The first hint we got about Kattahalli was when we were visiting an After Care Home for women. We wanted their addresses for follow-up. When many of them gave the same address we were perplexed and when asked how, they just giggled. Anyway we decided to fish out this area in a niche of a big city and proceeded on. When we asked people for directions to Kattahalli, they looked at us up and down and asked, “Amma, why do you want to go there? That’s not the place for you.” We told them we were social workers and got the directions. Little did we realise that we were proceeding towards the red-light area of the city.

Once we saw the place we realised we were in the territory of the devil, standing in the frontline in direct confrontation with Satan. Our hearts and minds became heavy to see all that happened there. Flesh trade was open. Girls openly told us, they were bought for Rs 800/-, 500/- and so on. They would point out to some old hag who brought them there promising a job. Some were 15 year old girls who ruffled with their parents and walked out. Many were women deserted by husbands and some were dropouts from Mumbai brothels. Others were sent by husbands to earn to clear their loans. They would laugh at our counsel. “If I go home empty-handed, my husband would beat me black and blue.” There are more weird facts which cannot be mentioned. A mother left her teenage daughter in a “home” because she could not clear her loan! Fingers of fate clawed into the lives of people. An avalanche of mundane tragedies flowed before our eyes.

To get a footing was difficult. We went knocking at doors. Each “home” had a “mother” with several girls. Some talked to us, welcomed us and those who were not entertaining men would come and sit and listen. Ramayi was the first to open her house for regular prayer meeting. She had some 6 to 8 girls. For two years we regularly gathered there with new girls coming and going every week. They would begin to thaw as soon as we put them at ease and come out with their problems. Every day some would kneel down and commit their lives to God. They would be missing the following week, leaving us wondering about their commitment.

Ramayi was much impressed with the Good News and the pictures she saw in the children’s Bible. One day she introduced us to her daughter, saying she was possessed with a devil and she was spending huge sums on poojaries. So we prayed for her. She was fully delivered and is now working in the market and married. She built her own house and moved out of the area. So another girl possessed by Raththa Katteri was brought for prayer. As we knelt down hoping for a smooth healing as  the other one, she started gnashing her teeth. Then she screamed, got up and took hold of Ramayi’s hair. Ramayi screamed and ran out of the house freeing herself from her clutches. All the girls fled out in panic. My friend Mrs Kingsley and I were standing there in the room with the girl rolling on the floor. We were shouting praises to God and commanding the devil to leave but our blood was running cold. Praise God! She was delivered. It was risky business for us.

We picked up some courage and started talking to the call-girls by the sides of the streets. One or two ruffians would always hang around watching us. We thought we saw spooky figures everywhere. The girls would try to run away from us though they desired to listen to what we had to tell them. “They are our masters. They are afraid you may convince us to leave the place. Please go away,” they would plead. Many times we shuddered as their masters consumed us with their eyes. God’s people advised us not to go there. Whenever there was problem in the house my husband would suggest, “You better stop going to that dirty place. The evil spirits are after us.” My daughter stormed in one day from school, “Mummy, I am so ashamed. My friend told me in front of so many of my friends that she saw you going to the red-light area.” She was almost in tears. Kattahalli people told us. “Amma, this place will never change. Why bother?” My mind would fluctuate, and my spirit would fail. It was swimming against the current. I would share my problems with my partner Mrs. Kingsley. She would counsel me and strengthen my hands. We held on to each other in times of trouble and learned to fly beyond circumstances. If we did not go, who else would?

One day my maid informed me that she was stopped by some hooligans in the street who said, “Go and tell your amma that we are filing a suit against her. What does she think of us? She has put us to disgrace by publicising us. Next week we are meeting the authorities in New Delhi about this. We won’t leave her alone after all the harm she has done us.” Oh God, now what to do? That was too much for me. I trembled visibly. I was not a Nehemiah to challenge, “Shall such a man as I flee?” In truth I wanted to flee out of the world if there was a door. It was like living in hell. Again and again those people kept sending words of threat. We fasted and prayed as a family of friends for ten days. The men sank into oblivion. To hell with the devil!

Sometimes we entered the slum to find the whole slum gathered around a drunken fight. Women beating men was not an uncommon sight. We returned disappointed because all were absorbed in the confusion galore, and nobody would care for us. We saw young college students coming there and our hearts would ache for them. A steady stream of men kept flowing in and out especially in the evenings. The women would request us not to come on Saturdays and Sundays when business soared. Many of them were demon-possessed and many more suffered from veneral diseases. In every corner, men would be playing dice and gambling. Women rolled in drunken stupor. Another section of the slum comprised of those who lived from hand to mouth in extreme poverty. Those in the evening of their lives sat begging.

We distributed tracts and sold gospels. We started a Sunday Class for the children. Children were very enthusiastic. Some of them trusted the Lord and started distributing tracts. They even took tracts for their friends in school. Three of them joined a Bible Correspondence Course. That year we conducted Vacation Bible School for them with a grand attendance of 110! Still it was the most unrewarding of ministries. We didn’t yet realise even a single convert among the women. Our hopes were pegged on Ramayi. Every visit she would confess her sin, commit and pray and listen intently to all that we said. “But how can I live without a business?,” she would ask and we would suggest many ways. She did send away all the girls once. But understandably problems pelted her. One daughter’s husband deserted her. Her son gambled, hobnobbed with dubious friends, lost a big sum and started beating her for the money. Another son’s rickshaw was taken away by the police on some charge. In spite of our efforts she backslided and we were downhearted. Were we dragging our foot into a foolhardy attempt? But we decided we can’t ever fully succeed unless we are willing to risk a catastrophic failure.

Some girls would promise to come to the church. We would go to collect them only to find them getting ready to go to the cinema. They wouldn’t even apologise. “Not today. We’ll certainly come another day,” and wave us good-bye. Yet we had to go again when they promised. Disappointment after disappointment crashed upon us. But we worked tirelessly to tear down these attitudinal barriers. We laughed and cried with them. We attended their weddings and funerals. We even embraced them and dandled their babies with scabies. Whatever old clothes we could spare or collect from others, we took for them. We combed their hair and gave them hair-clips. We encourged some to marry and settled them in their new homes, away from Kattahalli. Some, we joined in sewing classes. We tried for Governement aid for widows. We allowed their children to sit on our laps. We drank their tea with a silent prayer. We found jobs for some. We treated their sicknesses. In the midst of the muddle and the filth, the agony and the defeats, we struggled on.

Once we met a teenager pulling her hair and screaming and rolling on the floor. “I never knew I was coming to this kind of a place. I was pormised a job and brought here,” she sobbed. We talked to the people around and found that she was bought for Rs 800/- and before she earned and paid back  that amount she couldn’t leave the place. She was a sorry sight. We told her to run away in the night. I couldn’t sleep that night, my brain feverishly replaying the day’s events. I kept rolling in my bed thinking of her. Morning I left for the place with Rs 800/- to release her. She had escaped in the night. I returned with a big sigh of relief.

Regularly some were taken by the police. Most returned after paying a certain sum. One day the police raided the place and gutted down about ten of the “homes.” Many moved out of the place. Till then we were wailing about our lack of fruits. But after five years of labour the police raid made us turn back and see the Lord’s hand on the place — Many were the girls who heard the gospel and vacated the place. Some took their gospels and New Testaments with them. Some took tracts for their friends. Some children found the Lord. We never noticed that the “masters” had virtually disappeared from the scene for nearly two years. Drunken fights had almost died down. Traffic had dwindled. The place had become much cleaner.

Christmas was coming. How to make these barbarians understand Christmas? Eureka! Show them Christmas! Take Christmas to them. That’s it. So we decided to have a Christmas tree. By now we had our first convert, a man by name Seenu. He was a great help to us and a protection. We lent him Rs. 30/- to start a business. He started selling flowers and learnt to earn his own bread, and paid back the loan. He cut down a tree and kept it ready. Children came flocking. As we took out the balloons, Christmas cards and crepe paper decorations to be tied to the tree, hands stretched all around us. Would they do it, or would they run away with the things? Christmas was for these little ones. So we decided they should do it. Sure enough some blew the balloons, some tied them to the tree and so on. Oh what joy surged through the crowd when the tree was hoisted and planted!

We had brought our expensive saris to dress up the children as three wise men. We dressed up Mary and Joseph. We borrowed a baby from a mother there. How proud the mother was! A child brought a lamb. The manager scene was made. Proud parents and lazy onlookers surrounded the place, viewing the paragon. A gospel skit was enacted by some of our staff, followed by a gospel message. Then we distributed sweets and savouries to all and parted. Our fear abated when the children brought back our saris neatly folded (of course they needed a thorough wash!) The next year we had house-to-house Christmas Carols in Kattahalli with guitars and accordions and candles in our hand.

All the ministry was falling into a dull routine. Were we sleeping on the job? We started to pray exclusively for Kattahalli every Saturday morning 9-10, claming promises, claiming every person by name, having the note book open in front of us, shouting at the devil, pleading to God, doing what all we could humanly imagine and do in prayer. We thought the place needed a thrust and a push and a pull. People were lulled by our regular visits. Soon one day around 7 pm when it was just getting dark, alongwith some of our men staff for help we entered the place with gas lights. It was a place plunged in darkness! Young and old came rushing like insects attracted by light. As we headed off to the interior where there was a clearing, Seenu stopped us. “No, not there, that is where the worst of the gang is.” “Oh Seenu, you have given us a clue. That’s exacty where we want to go!” Half-heartedly Seenu gave in. We took electric connection from a nearby point and fitted the public address system. After some songs we announced a breath-taking drama. Drunkards, gamblers, harlots and  children sat around waiting eagerly for the entertainment. A gospel message was given followed by a very interesting gospel skit. At the conclusion an altar-call was given. One young man committed his life to the Lord! Oh, how heaven rejoiced! At the next night meeting the Prodigal Son’s story was presented as a slide show. Twelve young men came forward for counseling. Praise God!

I never realised how close we had come to them until in the last night meeting one call-girl put her hand and chin on my shoulder while watching the skit and another tucked a string of jasmine in my hair. I understood at that moment that she was my sister, my blood relation, because of the shed blood of Christ. I am found but she is lost — otherwise we are the same!

 

WANTED! - men like Paul, women like Deborah and couples like Aquila and Priscilla who would RISK their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! (Acts 15:26; Rom 16:3,4)

Service in the Slums
The first hint we got about Kattahalli was when we were visiting an After Care Home for women. We wanted their addresses for follow-up. When many of them gave the same address we were perplexed and when asked how, they just giggled. Anyway we decided to fish out this area in a niche of a big city and proceeded on. When we asked people for directions to Kattahalli, they looked at us up and down and asked, “Amma, why do you want to go there? That’s not the place for you.” We told them we were social workers and got the directions. Little did we realise that we were proceeding towards the red-light area of the city.Once we saw the place we realised we were in the territory of the devil, standing in the frontline in direct confrontation with Satan. Our hearts and minds became heavy to see all that happened there. Flesh trade was open. Girls openly told us, they were bought for Rs 800/-, 500/- and so on. They would point out to some old hag who brought them there promising a job. Some were 15 year old girls who ruffled with their parents and walked out. Many were women deserted by husbands and some were dropouts from Mumbai brothels. Others were sent by husbands to earn to clear their loans. They would laugh at our counsel. “If I go home empty-handed, my husband would beat me black and blue.” There are more weird facts which cannot be mentioned. A mother left her teenage daughter in a “home” because she could not clear her loan! Fingers of fate clawed into the lives of people. An avalanche of mundane tragedies flowed before our eyes.To get a footing was difficult. We went knocking at doors. Each “home” had a “mother” with several girls. Some talked to us, welcomed us and those who were not entertaining men would come and sit and listen. Ramayi was the first to open her house for regular prayer meeting. She had some 6 to 8 girls. For two years we regularly gathered there with new girls coming and going every week. They would begin to thaw as soon as we put them at ease and come out with their problems. Every day some would kneel down and commit their lives to God. They would be missing the following week, leaving us wondering about their commitment.Ramayi was much impressed with the Good News and the pictures she saw in the children’s Bible. One day she introduced us to her daughter, saying she was possessed with a devil and she was spending huge sums on poojaries. So we prayed for her. She was fully delivered and is now working in the market and married. She built her own house and moved out of the area. So another girl possessed by Raththa Katteri was brought for prayer. As we knelt down hoping for a smooth healing as  the other one, she started gnashing her teeth. Then she screamed, got up and took hold of Ramayi’s hair. Ramayi screamed and ran out of the house freeing herself from her clutches. All the girls fled out in panic. My friend Mrs Kingsley and I were standing there in the room with the girl rolling on the floor. We were shouting praises to God and commanding the devil to leave but our blood was running cold. Praise God! She was delivered. It was risky business for us.We picked up some courage and started talking to the call-girls by the sides of the streets. One or two ruffians would always hang around watching us. We thought we saw spooky figures everywhere. The girls would try to run away from us though they desired to listen to what we had to tell them. “They are our masters. They are afraid you may convince us to leave the place. Please go away,” they would plead. Many times we shuddered as their masters consumed us with their eyes. God’s people advised us not to go there. Whenever there was problem in the house my husband would suggest, “You better stop going to that dirty place. The evil spirits are after us.” My daughter stormed in one day from school, “Mummy, I am so ashamed. My friend told me in front of so many of my friends that she saw you going to the red-light area.” She was almost in tears. Kattahalli people told us. “Amma, this place will never change. Why bother?” My mind would fluctuate, and my spirit would fail. It was swimming against the current. I would share my problems with my partner Mrs. Kingsley. She would counsel me and strengthen my hands. We held on to each other in times of trouble and learned to fly beyond circumstances. If we did not go, who else would?One day my maid informed me that she was stopped by some hooligans in the street who said, “Go and tell your amma that we are filing a suit against her. What does she think of us? She has put us to disgrace by publicising us. Next week we are meeting the authorities in New Delhi about this. We won’t leave her alone after all the harm she has done us.” Oh God, now what to do? That was too much for me. I trembled visibly. I was not a Nehemiah to challenge, “Shall such a man as I flee?” In truth I wanted to flee out of the world if there was a door. It was like living in hell. Again and again those people kept sending words of threat. We fasted and prayed as a family of friends for ten days. The men sank into oblivion. To hell with the devil!Sometimes we entered the slum to find the whole slum gathered around a drunken fight. Women beating men was not an uncommon sight. We returned disappointed because all were absorbed in the confusion galore, and nobody would care for us. We saw young college students coming there and our hearts would ache for them. A steady stream of men kept flowing in and out especially in the evenings. The women would request us not to come on Saturdays and Sundays when business soared. Many of them were demon-possessed and many more suffered from veneral diseases. In every corner, men would be playing dice and gambling. Women rolled in drunken stupor. Another section of the slum comprised of those who lived from hand to mouth in extreme poverty. Those in the evening of their lives sat begging.We distributed tracts and sold gospels. We started a Sunday Class for the children. Children were very enthusiastic. Some of them trusted the Lord and started distributing tracts. They even took tracts for their friends in school. Three of them joined a Bible Correspondence Course. That year we conducted Vacation Bible School for them with a grand attendance of 110! Still it was the most unrewarding of ministries. We didn’t yet realise even a single convert among the women. Our hopes were pegged on Ramayi. Every visit she would confess her sin, commit and pray and listen intently to all that we said. “But how can I live without a business?,” she would ask and we would suggest many ways. She did send away all the girls once. But understandably problems pelted her. One daughter’s husband deserted her. Her son gambled, hobnobbed with dubious friends, lost a big sum and started beating her for the money. Another son’s rickshaw was taken away by the police on some charge. In spite of our efforts she backslided and we were downhearted. Were we dragging our foot into a foolhardy attempt? But we decided we can’t ever fully succeed unless we are willing to risk a catastrophic failure.Some girls would promise to come to the church. We would go to collect them only to find them getting ready to go to the cinema. They wouldn’t even apologise. “Not today. We’ll certainly come another day,” and wave us good-bye. Yet we had to go again when they promised. Disappointment after disappointment crashed upon us. But we worked tirelessly to tear down these attitudinal barriers. We laughed and cried with them. We attended their weddings and funerals. We even embraced them and dandled their babies with scabies. Whatever old clothes we could spare or collect from others, we took for them. We combed their hair and gave them hair-clips. We encourged some to marry and settled them in their new homes, away from Kattahalli. Some, we joined in sewing classes. We tried for Governement aid for widows. We allowed their children to sit on our laps. We drank their tea with a silent prayer. We found jobs for some. We treated their sicknesses. In the midst of the muddle and the filth, the agony and the defeats, we struggled on.Once we met a teenager pulling her hair and screaming and rolling on the floor. “I never knew I was coming to this kind of a place. I was pormised a job and brought here,” she sobbed. We talked to the people around and found that she was bought for Rs 800/- and before she earned and paid back  that amount she couldn’t leave the place. She was a sorry sight. We told her to run away in the night. I couldn’t sleep that night, my brain feverishly replaying the day’s events. I kept rolling in my bed thinking of her. Morning I left for the place with Rs 800/- to release her. She had escaped in the night. I returned with a big sigh of relief.Regularly some were taken by the police. Most returned after paying a certain sum. One day the police raided the place and gutted down about ten of the “homes.” Many moved out of the place. Till then we were wailing about our lack of fruits. But after five years of labour the police raid made us turn back and see the Lord’s hand on the place — Many were the girls who heard the gospel and vacated the place. Some took their gospels and New Testaments with them. Some took tracts for their friends. Some children found the Lord. We never noticed that the “masters” had virtually disappeared from the scene for nearly two years. Drunken fights had almost died down. Traffic had dwindled. The place had become much cleaner.Christmas was coming. How to make these barbarians understand Christmas? Eureka! Show them Christmas! Take Christmas to them. That’s it. So we decided to have a Christmas tree. By now we had our first convert, a man by name Seenu. He was a great help to us and a protection. We lent him Rs. 30/- to start a business. He started selling flowers and learnt to earn his own bread, and paid back the loan. He cut down a tree and kept it ready. Children came flocking. As we took out the balloons, Christmas cards and crepe paper decorations to be tied to the tree, hands stretched all around us. Would they do it, or would they run away with the things? Christmas was for these little ones. So we decided they should do it. Sure enough some blew the balloons, some tied them to the tree and so on. Oh what joy surged through the crowd when the tree was hoisted and planted!We had brought our expensive saris to dress up the children as three wise men. We dressed up Mary and Joseph. We borrowed a baby from a mother there. How proud the mother was! A child brought a lamb. The manager scene was made. Proud parents and lazy onlookers surrounded the place, viewing the paragon. A gospel skit was enacted by some of our staff, followed by a gospel message. Then we distributed sweets and savouries to all and parted. Our fear abated when the children brought back our saris neatly folded (of course they needed a thorough wash!) The next year we had house-to-house Christmas Carols in Kattahalli with guitars and accordions and candles in our hand.All the ministry was falling into a dull routine. Were we sleeping on the job? We started to pray exclusively for Kattahalli every Saturday morning 9-10, claming promises, claiming every person by name, having the note book open in front of us, shouting at the devil, pleading to God, doing what all we could humanly imagine and do in prayer. We thought the place needed a thrust and a push and a pull. People were lulled by our regular visits. Soon one day around 7 pm when it was just getting dark, alongwith some of our men staff for help we entered the place with gas lights. It was a place plunged in darkness! Young and old came rushing like insects attracted by light. As we headed off to the interior where there was a clearing, Seenu stopped us. “No, not there, that is where the worst of the gang is.” “Oh Seenu, you have given us a clue. That’s exacty where we want to go!” Half-heartedly Seenu gave in. We took electric connection from a nearby point and fitted the public address system. After some songs we announced a breath-taking drama. Drunkards, gamblers, harlots and  children sat around waiting eagerly for the entertainment. A gospel message was given followed by a very interesting gospel skit. At the conclusion an altar-call was given. One young man committed his life to the Lord! Oh, how heaven rejoiced! At the next night meeting the Prodigal Son’s story was presented as a slide show. Twelve young men came forward for counseling. Praise God!I never realised how close we had come to them until in the last night meeting one call-girl put her hand and chin on my shoulder while watching the skit and another tucked a string of jasmine in my hair. I understood at that moment that she was my sister, my blood relation, because of the shed blood of Christ. I am found but she is lost — otherwise we are the same!WANTED! - men like Paul, women like Deborah and couples like Aquila and Priscilla who would RISK their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! (Acts 15:26; Rom 16:3,4)

 

   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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