Nikhileshwar’s story is horrifying. Several years ago he saw his father overpower his mother, tie a rope around her neck and hang her as he watched. His mother died. His father ran from the house and has not been seen since. Raised by his mother’s family, his grandmother told him daily, “Eat your food and grow into a strong man. Then, go find your father and kill him.”
Where is any redemption in this? What kind of a life would Nikhileshwar face as an adult bent on vengeance? Nikhileshwar’s story does not end here, however. When his relatives could no longer support him they left him at a Christian orphanage near Hyderabad, India. There he is part of a “Jesus Fun Club” run by David C Cook’s J127 Orphan Initiative. Taking its name from the passage in James 1:27 which instructs believers to “care for orphans in their distress,” the clubs address the emotional needs of seriously damaged children.
Three times a week the children meet with “aunties and “uncles,” usually couples belonging to local churches, where they deal with deep issues like forgiveness, trust, and basic hygiene such as hand-washing. While preparing a session on forgiveness, an auntie named Prasanna, herself an orphan, met God about her own unfinished business. “You haven’t forgiven your mother for putting you in the orphanage and never visiting,” she heard. “How can you teach children to forgive?” She says God instructed her to deal with her forgiveness issues before teaching the children.
Now nine years old, Nikhileshwar listened at the end of the lesson as Prasanna asked, “Do you think you could let go of even a little bit of your pain and anger because you believe God knows what that person did, and God will take care of it? He doesn’t want your pain and anger to hurt you.” She offered the children a chance to talk with her or another adult about their pain.
Shortly afterward Nikhileshwar told Prasanna God had touched his heart. “When I heard about how God loves me and forgives me, I knew he wanted to get rid of my hatred,” he says. “Now my goal is still to find my father when I grow up. But instead of killing him I want to tell him that I forgive him and he can be forgiven by God, too.”
Astonishingly, and miraculously, several stories similar to Nikhileshwar’s are coming in from other orphanages when they teach the same forgiveness lesson. The slogan that defines all of David C Cook’s ministries is Transforming Lives Together. Nikhileshwar is a poster child for what that means.
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.