“I’m so glad I could go India, not as a tourist,” Mary says, “but to experience the hope in the orphanages we visited.” Now, Mary is not a typical American tourist. She has wide international experience, raised six children and is completing a Ph.D. in theology at Trinity Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois. Her horizons, however, broadened significantly on a David C Cook Discovery trip to India.
“This is a wonderful program that works with orphans, not only teaching them about faith in Jesus,” she says, “but preparing them for the world when they leave the orphanage.”
Unfortunately, even the 18,000 Christian orphanages in India are hard-pressed just to feed and clothe the children who show up on their doorsteps, left alone in the world by their families and circumstances. Some have seen mothers murdered by fathers who then desert the families. Others are children of prostitutes. Some parents, farmers who cannot produce a living from the land, commit suicide by drinking pesticides. Other families abandon children simply because they can no longer feed. The numbers are staggering. According to widely available statistics, India is home to more than 25 million orphans, more than any other country in the world.
But, as Mary saw for herself, redemption can and does live in these darkest of all dark places. Children in Cook’s J127 Orphan Initiative, she says, “are living in such different conditions than those on the street. It was nice to visit the Taj Mahal and other sites, but the best part was the children’s smiling faces!”
The “J127” in the orphan program’s name comes from James 1:27, where believers are directed to “care for orphans in their distress.” Taking this passage seriously, the Cook program gathers children in “fun club” three times each week. Christian adults from local churches — often a husband and wife trained by Cook — come to the orphanage to lead children in games, discuss Scripture and help them form basic life skills like using money, practicing good hygiene, communication skills and protecting themselves from bullying and trafficking. These “aunties and uncles” treat the children as friends rather than as students, establishing strong relationships that enable kids to talk through their pain.
Often the aunties and uncles themselves are orphans whom God touched in their own distress, and now are comforting and coaching the next generation of “the least of these.”
From a Western worldview, it’s difficult to understand India’s orphan situation where adoption is rare, social service agencies are few and foster care is uncommon. American Christians like Mary find that visiting J127 programs is a truly amazing journey. She and her family now sponsor a Jesus Fun Club.
Discovery trips happen several times a year. Returning travelers use words like “redemptive,” “eye-opening,” and “it changed my life.” Jesus calls on us to take His Good News to the nations. See for yourself. Contact us for information about upcoming Discovery Trips.
Update: In 2018, David C Cook transferred oversight of the J127 clubs to an in-country partner which continues to shepherd and grow this program. By supporting David C Cook’s Life on Life curriculum, you will be helping support this program as well.