chennai5-585x328India, a country of over one billion people. It is hugely diverse ethnically, being made up of many states. Each state has its own language or languages and culture. India is the world's largest democracy. It is a relatively stable and peaceful country, although there is on-going tension with Pakistan over Kashmir. There is religious freedom in India. Most Indians are Hindus (74%), although there is a signifi cant Muslim population (14%), and a Christian population of 5%. Christians are persecuted in a few of the states by extremist religious groups. There are tens of thousands of Indian church planters, evangelists and those involved in education, social work and health care. There is so much human need in India. Poverty affects hundreds of millions.

A number of Kiwis from our churches are serving the Lord in India. It was my privilege to visit some of them in February this year: Colleen Redit at Christian Missions Charitable Trust (CMCT), Phyllis Treasure and Sarah Simpson at Rehoboth Girls Home, Ian and Wendy McCabe and family at Hebron School, and Ian and Judith Payne at South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACs).

This article focuses on Colleen Redit as it has been fi fty years since she left NZ for India. In my role as a Board member of CMCT I was part of the 50 year celebrations.

Fact: there are 40 million more men than women in India. Even with India's huge population, 40 million more men than women is astonishing. Why this difference? One word says it all: Gendercide. Baby girls are aborted just because they are girls. To stop this practice the Indian government has made it illegal for pregnant women to have scans. But it is fairly cheap to get a scan from a private clinic. And then, unwanted new-born baby girls are killed, or abandoned and left to die.

Why aren't girls wanted? First, in India men are considered superior to women. Next, there is the expensive dowry that a girl's family has to pay the boy's family upon marriage. Poor families simply can't afford it and out of desperation girls are aborted or killed. Third, sons, not daughters, light the funeral pyre sending their parents into a good afterlife. This belief devalues girls. The consequences of having 40 million more men than women in India are increased rape, child traffi cking and young bridal marriage.

'It's a girl' are three of the deadliest words in India. Let's pray for Indian girls and women. Let's pray that their society will be transformed by the gospel.

I love the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. The gospel changes everything. To quote the Apostle Paul: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. These are radical words. They were radical when Paul wrote them to the church in Galatia. Because women had no rights back in the 1st century. They are radical for an Indian to hear today. We are all one in Christ Jesus. Do we believe it? I love the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. I thank God for CMCT because there girls are honoured and valued. It's a safe place for girls who are orphaned or from destitute families. Girls are fed, clothed, educated, taken to doctors when sick and given the opportunity to hear the gospel. CMCT allows girls to not only survive, but to fl ourish.

CMCT is an essential organisation in the fi ght against gendercide and child traffi cking. It was begun by Colleen Redit.

While I was at CMCT Colleen celebrated her 75th birthday as well as the anniversary of her 50 years of service for the Lord in India. CMCT's staff wanted to arrange special celebrations to mark this anniversary. I was one of fi fteen New Zealanders who travelled to India for these celebrations.

Three celebrations were organised by the amazing staff of CMCT:

  • A Thanksgiving Service: with guest speaker Charles Price (Pastor of the Peoples Church, Toronto, Canada). Phyllis Treasure and Sarah Simpson came to Chennai for this event.

  • A Concert: put on by the staff and hostel girls lasting over four hours and culminating in a feast served on banana leaves and eaten with our fi ngers.

  • A Fundraising Musical Concert: with a world famous keyboard player, Stephen Devassy, performing. Christians from all over Chennai were invited to this event.

The fundraiser was to provide a home for destitute old people. When the staff started to mull over what they would do to celebrate Colleen's 50 years in India, they asked her if she had any unfulfi lled dreams. She said, "I want to see a home for the destitute old folk who have no one to care for them." CMCT's staff decided to invest their time and effort to see this dream become a reality. They saw it as a way for them to honour Colleen and, most of all, to glorify God.

CMCT has a camp at Paddapai, 50kms out from Chennai. They have set aside half an acre of the three and a half acres at Paddapai for this old people's home. I was moved by the efforts of the staff go home from work, cook, and then bring the food into CMCT to sell, with all profits going to this "old people's home" project.

One of the saddest, yet one of my favourite ministries at CMCT, are the soup kitchens. Six days a week the CMCT social workers go out to these soup kitchens in some of the slums near the CMCT centre. The soup kitchens provide a nourishing mid-day meal for older destitute people who don't have families to care for them. They also provide for people sick with HIV or leprosy who have been abandoned by their families. This is the only meal these people eat. About 40 people are getting a meal at each soup kitchen.

At each soup kitchen there are two or three people who sleep on the streets each night having no home in which to live. These poorest of the poor are the people that the proposed 'Bethany Home for the Aged and Destitute' is to be built for. (Note: there is no superannuation in India.)

Colleen's goal has always been to reach out with the gospel of Christ's love to the poorest of the poor, the rejected and the unwanted. This remains the focus of CMCT and its many ministries (26 in all).

Fifty years ago an ordinary young Kiwi woman simply followed her Lord Jesus, doing His will, because she loved Him. Colleen was so moved by the plight of young women and girls and their lack of opportunities that she began to teach sewing and God's word to a single woman in her garage. As more women joined this ministry, CMCT was birthed.

When I think about all I saw and experienced at CMCT, as well as Rehoboth, Hebron and SAIACS, I see the truth of Psalm 118:23, "This is the Lord's doing. It is marvellous in our eyes."

- Karen Brookes

Colleen Redit is commended by Gonville, Ingestre Street, Lincoln Road and Pakuranga, Day 6 in the GC3 Daily Prayer Guide.

Karen Brookes is on the CMCT and GC3 boards, Day 18 in the GC3 Daily Prayer Guide.

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