By Chris Perkins
After a full day exploring Mumbai at our leisure on Easter day, it was time to get to work. One of the highlights of our touring yesterday had been a quick diversion to the world’s first billion dollar home (yes that’s literal) which resides in the city as private skyscraper belonging to a rich business man. It seemed silly to see some of the small squalid dwellings in its shadow, working class citizens drying laundry in one room flats, only a few feet from its gated walls. But the neighborhood we arrived in today had no humor in it at all.
I don’t mean that it was the absolute poorest living conditions we’d ever seen, because it wasn’t, but that the nature of the poverty was much more difficult to grasp. The residents didn’t clamor for money when we arrived. Rather their eyes seemed resigned. Dead, or close to it. This was a neighborhood succumb to slavery at every level. There are no chains or shackles but neither are there any alternatives for them. These women endure abuse in every conceivable fashion and worse, they must pretend to want it and encourage it at every opportunity to bring in more business. They brush their hair, call, taunt and smile to all the men who walk by.
With this to the left, to the right, and across the street, Bombay Teen Challenge has placed their clinic. A small, one room facility made from two of the narrow brothels purchased side by side with the dividing wall torn down. A clean white marble interior (thankfully with working bathrooms!) with several curtains and tables and chairs.
A full time physician laboring for Bombay Teen Challenge, Dr. Prashant, visits once or twice a week to care for as many patients as he can. Today with three physicians and one physician assistant operating non stop from about eleven until five, we saw about 80 patients. Not all of them were trapped in prostitution, but most were, or they were the madams operating the brothels, or a few children. It was as many as we could handle in the time we had.
A couple of us took triage to determine ailments and give the physicians something to work with when they met behind curtains to dig deeper and attempt to diagnose any illnesses or prescribe medications from our modest “pharmacy” table. Most complained of body pains and headaches, no doubt induced by the stress, but we also gave out antibiotics and skin screams and there were of course several afflicted with the inevitable side effect of their professions. When there was nothing we could do, vitamins were given. Translators assisted at every stage but communication was difficult at best. The women came in shy and nervous, but they were very grateful. Many sat and prayed with BTC leaders including KK Devraj, the founder of BTC itself.
They say if you can reach one person, it’s worth it. By the end of the day when the heat and dehydration and quick pace had wiped most of us out, we learned we did in fact reach at least one woman fully. A woman tricked by a friend some thirty years prior and sold into this life and who continues to live in this neighborhood even today. After speaking for some time with Devraj and then praying together she accepted Christ’s grace and was welcomed as a sister into our family.
As for the rest, some will come periodically for ongoing care, and some will develop friendships with the local women with BTC. Ideally these relationships will lead to freedom, and for that, BTC has a place for them and a life waiting, something we will see more of later in the week. But for tonight all of these woman involved in prostitution remain in it tonight. Not one of them entered our clinic without eyes silently monitoring them. They remain enslaved as you read this. But they are not without hope and not forgotten. If you are reading this now, please pray for them. Tomorrow we go back to do it again.
Luke 10:9 (Jesus appoints seventy two disciples and sends them out saying…) “Heal the sick and tell them ‘the kingdom of God is near you’.”