FIRST PERSON: Seeing smiles on India's 'poorest of the poor'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Recently I had the privilege of traveling to Bangalore, India, to meet with fellow Baptists involved in ministering to people in need. I heard amazing reports about what God is doing through our efforts around the world to alleviate poverty, respond to disasters and to touch people in need with the love of Christ.

I also had the opportunity to visit several projects, in both rural and urban settings, that are helping some of the poorest of the poor in their respective communities.

I saw some amazing things:

-- An urban slum project that was feeding 250 undernourished children each day and giving them after-school tutoring as well. As our team helped serve them their evening meal, it was amazing to watch children as young as 4 and 5 years old taking their treasure of food back to their homes. Lots of smiling faces.

-- A rural program focused on bringing light and hope to disabled children. Some of the children were smiling and even laughing during the program and visit. Almost every one of the mothers there was smiling for the simple fact that somebody cared about them and their child.

-- An urban program of ministry to widows. Over 50 gathered together in a small room, praising and worshiping God, giving thanks for the ministry, food and care they were receiving. Destitute and poor, yet smiling with joy at someone caring.

-- A rural alcohol and addiction recovery program where two men shared their testimony how, after 20 years of alcoholism, they now were sober, holding down jobs, gaining weight and becoming the fathers and family men that they were supposed to be. Their wives shared, with smiles, how nice it was that their husbands did not beat them anymore.

-- A rural health care clinic that sees about 30 people/families per day in an area that has little or no access to government health care. Smiles on the faces of parents getting help for their children. Smiles on the faces of people getting access to affordable medical care.

-- A job skills program helping women learn and ply their trades as beauticians and seamstresses. Smiles of pride that they had a chance at gainful employment.

I saw a lot of people in need being helped through our Southern Baptist efforts. I saw a lot of smiles on faces that went deeper than the fact that they had help, jobs, different lifestyles, etc. Smiles that also came out in words from many of the beneficiaries saying, "Thanks to Jesus, I am now a changed person."

I wish you could have seen what I saw that day -- smiles from people who have come to know that somebody cares for them and, even better, that there is a God in heaven who sees and cares as well.


Jeff Palmer is executive director of Baptist Global Response, a relief agency that works in concert with Southern Baptists. He blogs at www.KingdomCommunities.blogspot.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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