The Slums of Mumbai

Welcome to the series, Stories From the Field,” the podcast that takes you deeper into the stories from our partners in the national church worldwide. Ron has sat with incredible men and women of God and listened to their testimonies. This podcast is a glimpse behind the scenes of his many adventures. Welcome back to the studio, Ron and Charis.

Ron- Thank you!

Joy- Okay, let’s talk about the slums of Bombay.

Ron- Which is also called Mumbai. That is the new name for it but I’ll always call it Bombay because it’s got history to it that city. It’s on the western side of India and you might say New Delhi is the capital up at the very top center of India, well this is the business area of Bombay or Mumbai but also is a place where there is a great big slum area and it’s called Dharavi and that is where I want to tell you the story from today cause I went in there and it was desperately poor. Let me just describe to you what I saw. They are in this area and I don’t know how many square miles it is, and people live in there in the most squalled conditions in huts. When we drove in, I still remember driving beside this sort of canal sort of river and in the river there was a man up to his waist picking things out of the black muck and it was called water but it was muck, and he was picking things out of that and I remember I asked the driver, he was another pastor, and I said, So, what is that guy doing down there because it looks filthy!” And he said, He is probably trying to find things to sell and that is the way he makes his living as a scavenger in the river.” But they would throw everything in there, the carcasses of dead animals, they would throw everything in there of refuse, it was just putrid. Here he was working in that area. We kept going along and we drove by all these mounds shall we say, of garbage and the animals and I still remember two or three little kids, and they were scavenging in the garbage to try to find food. I would say they were like four and five years of age, something like that. They were just looking for food in there, anything to eat.

Joy- Like digging through the bags.

Ron- Digging through the garbage, digging through the refuse just looking for something. Then we kept on going and I met the young pastor that we were supposed to meet with. He was 17-years-old and he had I think it was four churches in the area. These were house churches, literally house churches.

<p>Slums of Mumbai</p>
It’s on the western side of India and you might say New Delhi is the capital up at the very top center of India, well this is the business area of Bombay or Mumbai but also is a place where there is a great big slum area and it’s called Dharavi and that is where I want to tell you the story from today cause I went in there and it was desperately poor.

Charis- Right in the slums?

Ron- Right in the slums, different areas, and when you say house, more of a falling down house. But it was an area that people would go into out of the congestion of the area to have church. So this was a house church. We went there and for the next few minutes he was describing to me the conditions in there.

Joy-This is the 17-year old?

Ron- The 17-year-old, before the congregation came. As I looked out with him outside he said, There are men that come by every day to take the dead people out of the huts. You’ll see them because they’ve got long plastic gloves on and there’s a cart that goes by.” And he said, They will take the bodies, throw them on there and take them to an area where they will burn the bodies.” He said, Every morning you can see the smoke going up from some sort of crematorium that they had there.” I never did see it, but he said that is where they would burn the dead bodies. I thought wow, this is amazing. This is death all over the place. The people,” he said, actually understand death than many Westerners,” because what we do is we gloss over death and have these wonderfully beautiful funeral homes and you go in there on soft carpet with gentle music and it’s sort of like this masquerade around death. He said, In Dharavi slum, there is no hiding it. These people die, they are going to be burned, cremated, and everything right over there. Everybody knows that death is right at the doorstep.”

Joy- And it’s a daily occurrence.

Ron- Oh, daily. They just live with it, with starvation, with disease, with crime, with rape, with murder, with everything. It’s right there, every single day.

Joy- You probably don’t know the answer to this but who would be the guys that have that job of going through houses?

Ron- I have no idea. But there was a cart, I did see a cart. I think that is what brought his attention to it. Anyways, to the good part of the story, now we go into this house church meeting. So I’m sitting in this house and people started to come in, probably two-thirds women and one-third men in proportion, and they come in and they are sitting on the beds and they’re sitting on the floor. There is a little set of stairs going up and they are sitting on that. And I would suppose that in our way of thinking this house might, at the maximum be worth about ten people being able to sit down. They had over 35 in there and they were just sitting everywhere and oh, it was hot. It was hot, it was smelly, it was just terrible.

Joy- And you’re squeezed right in there!

Ron- Oh yeah, I’m just sitting in there and in fact, somebody I think gave me a place to sit down and I’m looking at this and the fellow at the door, I still remember this one, the fellow at the door was shaking hands with everyone, like a greeter, but then I looked at him and he had no fingers, in his shoes he had no toes and he had no ears and he had no nose. He was a leper and he was the one greeting at the door and the pastor leans over and says, He’s our trophy of grace. He was leprous and we prayed for him and God completely healed him. The doctors say he doesn’t have anything anymore,” and he said, he’s the one we let greet at the door.” I thought wow, that is a different greeter.

He’s our trophy of grace. He was leprous and we prayed for him and God completely healed him.

Joy- That is a statement of faith when you walk in. What an encouragement though!

Ron- Oh yeah! So they had worship and they were all singing. There was a fellow sitting up on the bed with a little sort of strumming organ. Everybody was singing at the top of their lungs. There was a lady sitting in front of me. I still remember, on the floor, and tears were pouring down her cheeks as she was worshiping. She had her hands raised and everything like that and again, I’ve heard this story many times before, the pastor told me she came here against the wishes of her husband and she will probably get a beating when she gets home but she is here worshiping today. So this went on for, I don’t know, it seemed like an eternity with the heat, but it was probably about half an hour. Then they had a time of prayer and then the 17-year-old pastor started to preach and I still remember that another man was translating for me and he was sort of whispering in my ear what was going on. This 17-year-old pastor who had only been a believer for, I think it was a year, year and a half, something like that, he gave the most dynamic sermon. Billy Graham had nothing on this guy or vice versa, whatever the saying is. This guy was very, very good! And I thought to myself, my, he’s 17 years old and he preaches, you could tell he has compassion and everything like that. His preaching ended and everyone would stand and we would pray for them. We were praying for food, we were praying for healing, we were praying for witnessing, we were praying for family, we were praying for everything, and that went on for a long time too. Finally, service was completely over after about two and a half hours. Everybody made their way out and the pastor says to me, Come upstairs, I’ll show you where I live.” So I crawled up these little steps, went upstairs, the smallest lowest ceiling on the second floor you could ever imagine. He went into his little room and this was a tiny, little attic room, I still remember turning left, walking in and I hit my forehead on this beam that was going across from the door and almost knocked myself out. And here I get my senses together, I duck down, I walk in, and I look and up in the ceiling, sort of like you say, rafters, he had two shirts that were rolled up and one pair of pants and that is all that he owned. He then had a mat on the floor that he would sleep on and this was by an open window that looked over Dharavi slum and he said, This is my mission field.” And he took me over to the window and he pointed out all the people that he goes to every single day. He gets up early in the morning and he prays and then he goes out and he’s witnessing all over, he meets with his people, he prays with them, they have church services, he teaches the Bible, from early morning until late at night. And then I looked at the floor on this little mat and there were two little worn spots where his knees go. He would get up and he would pray over the Dharavi slum, over his congregation to be shall I say, and he took his finger and pointed down at it and he said, And that’s where I pray.” And I thought, oh my, this is the perfect example of why he’s so successful. Here’s a 17-year-old man who has a burden for the lost, the dying, the destitute, the impoverished, the worst situation I can imagine on earth, it’s like a living hell. And here he is pastor of this group. He’s not discouraged, he only has a few worldly possessions, he knows the power of prayer, he knows what his job is and he’s a good, good pastor. I kept telling people for years, this is a wonderful picture of the national church around the world. This is what it’s all about. I went from there that day and I’ve thought to myself many, many times, I wonder where he is now, what he’s doing and I’m sure he’s still praying and I’m sure he’s still evangelizing in Dharavi slum and people are going to heaven there. Years later, I was in another slum and I met another young man, not quite as young as him, but I met another young man doing similar things and I asked that young man, and I’m not going to tell you his whole story, but I asked that young man something that I should have asked the 17-year-old in Dharavi, I should have asked him, Why are you doing this here?” That 19-year-old guy, he said to me, I’ve got nothing else to do but win the lost.” He said, That is the burden that God has given me and there is nothing more important in life. This is what I shall do.” I think that is in many places in the world what God is putting on the hearts of some of these young people today. There is nothing better in life than winning people to the Lord. Nothing better.

Joy- I have known many 17-year-olds and I have never encountered someone like that. I have so many questions I would love to ask him myself and honestly, quite the story.

Ron- One day when we’re in heaven, I’ll introduce you to him.

Joy- It’s an emotional story because just the idea of those grooves on the floor, it’s something else and the idea of that the joy of the Lord really can transcend everything else, picturing those people worshiping.

Ron- He had a burden. He could see them living in hell and going to hell. And there is the difference. We don’t see people with eternal eyes. We often see people in their temporal state here and he had a good viewpoint from which to see what life and death is all about. And that is important. So when I see those things, it’s a reality check. This is not trying to be preachy to everybody listening right now, but I think every once in a while we need a reality check as to what is important in life. They are blessed in some of these countries that they wake up in the morning, look outside, and that is reality. We look outside and we see a car, we see good times, we see hobbies, we see all those things. Nothing wrong with any of that, but we need to, as Christians, every once in a while get a reality check.

Joy- Well, thank you. Ron. That was quite the story that, and I don’t know about all of our listeners, will linger with me and that was a glimpse behind the scenes and I can’t wait to hear the next one.

I’ve got nothing else to do but win the lost.” He said, That is the burden that God has given me and there is nothing more important in life.

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