Mumbai - Gateway to India
by John Murray
There are two main red light districts in Mumbai, and during our evening visit to the Jeevan Asha boys' night shelter, on our first night, the sidewalks and roadways were jammed with people, and the women – young and old – were not shy about plying their trade. We wondered aloud a few times ‘how hard is life that this is the best option?’ There is little doubt that life on the streets of Mumbai is difficult, but in the midst of the chaos The Salvation Army is a beacon of light.
The young men who reside in the night shelter had a profound impact on Gary, David and me. We quickly bonded with these kids, sang songs and prayed with them. They entertained us and shared their stories. They live in the shelter because their mothers work in the sex trade industry and some of the boys have called the shelter home for more than seven years. They are friends and brothers and it was apparent that they support and look out for each other – they’re family.
Once in a while, I get a spur-of-the-moment idea and on this night I announced to the kids that we were going to play soccer with them the next evening. I think we were as excited as the kids. We met at a local sports park on Thursday evening in 40-degree heat and played. We ran around in the dusty dirt for the better part of an hour, passing the ball, and ‘high-fiving’ the kids when the scored a goal – It was great! At the end of the game, we formed a circle on the pitch – surrounded by hundreds of other aspiring athletes playing soccer and cricket – and we prayed and we reminded the boys to stay close to Jesus – and then we took some pictures.
The Salvation Army in Mumbai is doing important, live saving work, plain and simple. The men who live in the Blind Men’s Working Shelter – live rent-free and their meals are provided. These guys are an inspiration.
The 35 young girls who call the Aruna Centre home are wards of The Salvation Army. They once lived on the streets with their mothers but now enjoy a stable, comfortable life by inner-city Mumbai standards, and their mothers visit them twice a month. The girls have hopes and dreams like all kids their age and when asked, one young girl said that she wanted to be a Salvation Army officer, just like the young female officer in charge of the programme – talk about influence!
It was a whirlwind visit to Mumbai but we even managed to see the famous Gateway to India archway which welcomed hundreds of missionaries to India during the early 20th century and we enjoyed a walked through the famous Taj Palace hotel – which was the site of a terrorist attack just a few years ago. Interestingly, The Salvation Army’s Red Shield House, a 200-bed travellers hostel is adjacent to the Taj Palace hotel but the fee is a little more reasonable than the starting rate of £250/night at the Taj.
We visited other programmes, interviewed people, listened to their stories, filmed and created our first two video blogs but I think I’ll leave it there for now. I hope that you can sense something of the reality of life and ministry in Mumbai. Kolkata is up next.
Thanks for reading.
JohnTags: Education, India, Western, Health, Employment, Homelessness