of the largest illiterate populations in the world.
Nearly half of India’s population—over 463 million—is under
the age of 20, which means that these children will eventually be members of the
world’s largest democracy.
“The vast majority of those children are the
poorest of the poor,” Dave Stravers, with Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Mission
India, says of these kids. “Their families earn less than $1.25 a day. Forty percent of
them are malnourished.”
As a result of
the typical poverty, India also has the highest
number of working children, a majority of whom live in villages and urban slums.
“This is systemic poverty,” says Stravers. “It’s also
a very abusive social structure. Those in the higher castes look down on the
lower castes and consider them to be less than human,” which makes these children part of a vulnerable population.
“Poor children, as well as their
families, are considered commodities. That’s why you have the trafficking.”
The issue of human trafficking has gotten more attention as
of late, according to Stravers. “There’s actually a kind of movement starting in India
to highlight the abuse of children.” However, until there is a change from within,
these kinds of grim conditions threaten to overwhelm people with hopelessness.
That’s why Mission India has the Children’s Bible Clubs
(called “Child Development Clubs” in India). “We
train workers from local Christian churches who want to minister to these poor
people in villages and neighborhoods that usually don’t have a church,” Stravers explains.
Under the loving attention of their volunteer teachers, the
dreams of India’s boys and girls are changing, and they are discovering joy in
Jesus. “We find that a high majority
not only pray to receive Christ and stop worshipping idols, but they actually testify
to their parents. They’re the best evangelists in the world, and literally thousands
of their parents are coming to Christ each year.”
India’s Christians are eagerly waiting for the chance to
introduce Children’s Bible Clubs into their communities. “We have a formal training program for them,”
Stravers explains. “We provide them with lesson materials, with
some games and sports equipment—everything that they would need to minster to
40 children in their community.”
Children’s Bible Clubs are introduced in a community through
a 10-day program. In the clubs, children enjoy songs, skits and games, listen
to Bible stories, memorize Scripture, discover a loving Savior, and learn to
This introduction requires the involvement of someone who
knows the community best—a local resident. “Our staff does not lead the Bible
Clubs. They do not lead the witnessing. We are there to empower and provide
resources to local Christian volunteer workers from all over India,” Stravers says.