STERLING – Knock. Knock.
You open the door to find a small orphaned child sweating and sobbing in the excruciating heat. He looks up with sad eyes and asks, “Will you let me in, or will you let me die at your gate?”
That’s the scenario Bishop Marineni Jacob of the Khammam District of India asked about 200 Sauk Valley residents to imagine. He spoke at a banquet Nov. 16 at the Latin American Social Club in Sterling – an event that raised more than $28,000 for an orphanage.
For Jacob, the scenario is reality. Through the Gospel for Tribals Social Service Society, he cares for about 2,578 orphans in 30 facilities, many of which are churches. They all call him “Papa.”
Unfortunately, if Jacob cannot build new facilities, about 1,400 orphans will return to homelessness, he said. The Indian government recently ruled that churches no longer can double as orphanages.
Jacob emailed his friend, Debra C. Case, 32, of Sterling, about the problem. She has befriended many orphans on mission trips to Africa and India – experiences that forever changed her heart. She quoted David Platt’s book, “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream”:
“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They’re easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”
The morning after receiving Jacob’s message, Case sat on her porch swing and asked God whether she should do something.
“After some reflection and pondering, I realized that’s a really stupid question,” Case said. “I just learned that children in India might end up on the streets. Of course God wants me to do something.”
Case decided to raise $64,000 – enough money to build one orphanage in India and keep 100 children off the streets and out of child labor. The commitment seemed ambitious to her friend, Stacey F. Avelar, 30, of Rock Falls.
“When she first said it,” Avelar said, “I thought she was crazy.”
Nevertheless, Case launched a website, nostingyact.com, to raise awareness and funds; and she organized the banquet.
“I’m realizing if I live my life the way Jesus told me to live my life,” Case said, “if I’m loving my neighbor as myself, then that means that I take on the needs of people around me as if they were my own. And the needs out there are huge; they’re devastating.”
About 12 million orphans live in India, Jacob said. People consider them “less than human, less than the animals,” and many starve, die or end up in prison for stealing food, he said.
To make a difference, Case invited everyone she knew in the Sauk Valley to her banquet. Many hosted tables by inviting co-workers, family members and friends. Volunteers prepared Indian food and decorated the hall with bright-colored draperies and centerpieces.
Case displayed one of her favorite Scriptures, James 1:27 (New Living Translation), on the stage: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
Jacob flew to America to speak to the crowd. He talked about how GTSSS workers feed, clothe and educate orphans.
Children who age out of GTSSS orphanages become nurses, teachers, missionaries and more. Once, no one cared about them, Jacob said, but “today they are the future of the country.”
Avelar – who filled two tables with guests – said his words helped her “put things in perspective” about American spending in a needy world.
“I guess – especially this time of year – it just made me sick, seeing how much we spend on things that are meaningless.”
Donations from the banquet were a “tremendous blessing,” Jacob said. However, they will cover less than half the cost to build one orphanage – and GTSSS needs to build 14.
“If they close orphanages, what is going to happen to those children?” Jacob asked. “Where will they end up?”
How to help
For more information, go to nostingyact.com or contact Debra Case at email@example.com or 815-441-5295.
Donations may be made online, or by making checks payable to “Christian Aid Mission” and writing “620GFT Operation Orphanage” in the memo line. Mail checks to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906.
Go to www.gtsss.org for more information about Gospel for Tribals Social Service Society – which also provides water wells, care for lepers, and other ministries in India.