Squatting in the shadow of Harsha Hospital, Harsha Slum is home to a community hanging by a thread.
Some there are related by blood, such as the thirteen year old girl who explained her aunt’s needs to us so we could pray for her. Others simply share this ground straddling a filthy, polluted trickle of a stream, for better or for worse.
For worse, like the shouting match that erupts as we enter the slum. As a mother and daughter slap their wet laundry on the nearby cement to clean it, the aunt rails at anyone in earshot.
She’s fighting for her reputation. To be known as poor. It seems someone spread a rumor at the Good Shepherd school where all the slum children attend that she has a car. If she has a car, the thinking goes, why should she receive subsidized education for her children?
For worse, like the woman who quietly asked if Elsie and we could come inside her hut. Elsie has been visiting the slums every day for many years and has their trust, because she loves them. Please pray for me, the woman asked. My husband gets drunk every night and sometimes beats me. Her ear is healing now from the last incident.
All the wives ask for prayer for their husbands. Absent medical care or even simple medication like painkiller, their day laboring husbands nightly wash away their physical pains with drink. So they can sleep. But often the drink brings new troubles. One man died in the street when he wandered, drunk, into the chaotic Hyderabad traffic. Another drowned in a quarry’s deep lagoon. Others beat their wives.
So as I stand there, watching Elsie introduce her friends and share each one’s painful story, their humble request, the pixel of light they can see at the end of the tunnel, is Will you please remember us, pray for us? God Himself is the lifeline for these women, who gather weekly in the lee of one of their huts to pray together and study the Bible. Many attend the Telugu church at the OM base where I had the opportunity to preach the Sunday before. Their kids go to the school. Elsie is under strict orders to bring any sick or injured to the OM clinic.
It isn’t simple, and it isn’t easy, but it is happening. In so many ways, they are a community hanging by a thread, but in this light, I can see that in their midst is a community bound to a loving God by a strong cord. Look into their faces, and, as they have requested, please pray for them.