Oakseed thanks the Lord for a wonderful time of fellowship around the gospel at our annual Virginia Banquet on Saturday evening! Our guest speaker was Maheshwari Deep, director of Sugandh in India.
Ms. Deep began the evening by sharing her testimony of how the Lord called her out of idolatry to worship the One True God. Though born into a Brahmin caste, she grew up in a poor family and struggled to see why a god would not see her or provide for her. As a young woman, she followed Hindu tradition by offering food to idols and then sharing that food with people who came into her office. One young man refused to partake of the food offered to idols and, several conversations later, challenged her from the book of Isaiah, pointing out the folly of making a god and then bowing down to it and asking it to save you. The Lord used this conversation and Scripture to open her eyes, and a few months later, she turned to Christ in repentance and faith.
When she came to Sugandh a few years later, she was given the job of translating into Hindi, but she longed to have more opportunities to share the good news with the lowest of the low, the untouchables of their society. The Lord began to bring slum children to her, also fulfilling her desire to be a mother. In addition to several boys who came through her home, Ms. Deep and her husband have raised 15 girls, several of whom have gone on to graduate high school and pursue higher education and are on track to be able to support themselves and their families.
Satish Moses (Oakseed Ministry Coordinator and Liaison to India) interviews Maheshwari Deep of Sugandh
The slums where Sugandh works are full of undocumented immigrants, Hindu and Muslim, and Ms. Deep believes that the Lord has brought Sugandh there to bring the gospel of hope to a people virtually invisible and nonexistent to the government and most of society.
Large families are crammed into tiny rooms and have no money or means of education. Because they don’t have papers, the law doesn’t protect them from abuse or theft. Sugandh’s various ministries have arisen out of the seen needs in the slum communities, and they seek to bring the gospel into every facet of these endeavors.
Self-Help Groups: Slum houses are made of plastic and do not have doors, so anyone can come in and grab anything they want. It’s not a secure place to store the hard-earned funds necessary for housing and food, but there are no other options, as these people don’t have the papers that banks require. Sugandh has entered this void by becoming a bank for over 11,000 women in these communities. The women deposit their money with Sugandh, and they receive it back with interest when they need it to pay expenses. Currently, they have over 90 of these self-help groups.
Advocacy: Because a majority of these slum dwellers are undocumented, they cannot access government resources, including hospital care. Sugandh works to help them obtain the necessary documents. They also work with impoverished Indians, who, though citizens, do not have the documents needed for daily life. Sometimes, this means tracking down distant family members in remote villages to request paperwork so they can obtain death certificates, bank papers, birth certificates, etc. This has become more difficult under the current administration, and things are hard for minorities living in India.
Educational Support: The women in the self-help groups have children who would be left at home to care for younger siblings or sent out to work all day collecting dangerous medical trash to earn money for their families. Sugandh rounds these children up and offers them daily meals, Bible stories, and academic training when they are not working. They assist the children with school and encourage them to pursue university education.
Care for Children: Because these children sort and collect garbage, their hands and clothes are filthy. They look unkempt and feel unseen and avoided by passersby. They feel that nobody cares for them. Sugandh holds out the gospel to them, telling them that every person is valuable, no matter how they look or smell. They tell the children they are worthy because they are God’s creation. Sugandh’s staff work to know these children by name, what they are struggling with, and where they are, thus pointing them to the God who knows them by name, knows their struggles, and knows where they are.
Ms. Deep shared that when she first came to Sugandh, the ministry did not yet have a name. They were going into slums with foul smells. She struggled with the smell when she would visit and began to pray for the Lord to close her nose so she wouldn’t feel sick. When the current director asked for help with a name, Ms. Deep suggested Sugandh because it means ”sweet fragrance.”
Their goal is for the sweet fragrance of the gospel to overcome the foul smell of the dark places in which they minister.
Ms. Deep shared several goals and needs for their ministry:
- Property of their own: For 27 years, Sugandh has worked out of rented space. They have had to relocate many times after landlords have been opposed for renting to them and revoked their rental agreements. They are concerned about keeping the school open and are praying for the Lord to provide a space to purchase where they can house their church, school, and advocacy office.
- Equipment: Please pray for the Lord to provide additional computers and printers for Sugandh’s advocacy office and educational use.
- New location: Sugandh has identified many needs in a nearby resettlement colony and would like to open a small center there. Please pray for the Lord to provide the funds and staff for them to do this in the next year.
- Staff: The cost of living is high in Delhi, and Sugandh has not been able to keep up with the cost of living increases for their staff. Please pray for the Lord to bring godly, like-minded staff to work with them and provide funds to pay them accordingly so that their work is not a burden to their families.
- Education: Please pray for the Lord to bring the children to school, especially the girls. Pray also for Him to provide funds for them to pursue higher education as needed.
- Clothing for the children: Last year, Sugandh gave the kids new clothes. These are often their only clothes, quickly becoming dirty and worn out. They would love to be able to provide additional clothing next year. Please pray for the Lord to provide funds for them to clothe the children in their programs.
- Gospel fruit: Sugandh rejoices to know of many young people who have come through their ministry and are faithfully serving Christ as adults today, and they long to see more. Please pray for the Lord to continue to bring children and adults to faith in Christ. Pray for Him to give them creativity, boldness, and protection in faithfully sharing the gospel in their communities.
- Support for Muslim converts: Sugandh knows many young girls who have converted from Islam to Christ. However, most of them feel the need to keep their conversions secret, as they live with and at the mercy of their families in predominately Muslim neighborhoods. Please pray for the Lord to provide a solid support network for these converts, including churches and even guardians, to care for them. Pray also for wisdom and boldness for these young people as they seek to grow in faith and confess Christ publicly.
When asked how we can pray for her, Ms. Deep answered, “God is the one who fights my battle; every battle He fights every day. My hands are full; I have so many girls to look after. So many times, I can say I’m stressed, but God gives me calmness, peace, and the love to love somebody else. I didn’t get that love when I was born, but God gave me a portion of His heart to be able to love somebody. That is enough. If God is on your side, you don’t need many others. He will fight the battle.”
- Please pray for the Lord to continue to support Ms. Deep and her staff in their labors, keeping them from growing weary in doing good and providing for their needs.
Please continue to pray for the Lord to use Sugandh to bring the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ to those living in darkness (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Pray for Him to show Himself to be the God Who Sees to those who feel unseen by the world around them (Genesis 16:13).