This week John Marshall shared a blog post called Finding Hope: One Boy’s Story on his website. Inspired by it and the thought that a person’s story can be a powerful thing, we want to share the story of the newest member of our family, Raju.
Raju joined us just one week ago. He is significantly older than most children that we take in, but as luck would have it Raju made it into the family. Over meals, walks, cups of chai and casual afternoons, Raju has shared with us much of what his life was like before he was here on the mission. He’s agreed to let us share some of that with you.
“I don’t know where I am from, I don’t know my Mum and Dad”, Raju stated one evening after dinner. “I remember them leaving me but not what they look like.” Raju’s parents were pilgrims who had visited a Hindu holy site about 30km from the mission. It was during this time, that for-whatever-reason, they chose to leave their 5 year old to fend for himself.
Life was about as difficult as you can imagine it would be for a 5 year old out in the world by himself. Living off the generosity of the gurus and pilgrims, Raju scrounged for food, clothing and shelter. “Sometimes I had to steal, I just had to,” he recalled when he was asked what he would normally eat.
As time went on Raju got to know the local people. At just 6 years old he started cleaning dishes in a small side-of-the-road shack restaurant. Before long he was putting his hand to whatever work was available: sweeping roads, cleaning cars, preparing ‘prasad’ an offering sold to visiting pilgrims. It was a hard life.
As Raju walked with our kids to the jungle on Thursday, he recalled to them how one time an elephant herd had surrounded him in the jungle. “I had to climb a tree and hide for hours!” he exclaimed with vivid gestures. “They were really angry, I don’t know why.”
Life was not all work and adventure for Raju. He openly shared of the terrible physical abuse he suffered at the hands of complete strangers; people who just saw him as a street rat. He was beaten, kicked, spat on by drunks from the neighboring villages. Some days he would sleep in the rain, some days he would take shelter in the back of an old car.
One day, while visiting a local river, Raju met a woman named Najma. Najma, upon hearing from Raju about his life, took pitty on him. She brought him into her home and cared for him. Mothered him. Loved him. She tried desperately to get him admitted into a school but was continually told that he was too old to start. To old to learn his ABCs…
Wanting a better life for him Najma approached the Sub-District Magistrates court for help. She herself was poor but just could not bare the thought of Raju growing up on the street. Touched by her love & commitment the SDM told her of our organization. A chance for him to have a family to love him, educate him and give him hope.
There is always room in our family for one more; we consider ourselves blessed to have Raju join us. He is a powerful soul. A fighter in every good sense of the word. Despite experiencing more heartache in his young life than most of us will experience in a lifetime, he is filled with love, joy and passion.
We cannot wait to watch Raju grow. He has already started in our school and is doing great! In less than a week he has learned his English alphabet and much of the Hindi one. We know he is going to excel.
Raju is no longer alone, no longer wandering the world searching for his next meal or the next place to lay his head. He is not in danger. He can be a child, for once. Safe and part of a family that will see each new day with him as a gift. That is a promise.
What’s more, Raju’s life can even begin to inspire others. Where once he was lost, ignored and forgotten by the world, now he is truly found, a living testament to the healing power that is possible when we reach out in love to welcome those in need around us.
We hope you’ll join us this week as we raise a prayer of thanks and welcome to the newest member of our family: Raju. And for as long as we are needed, may many more lost children find their way to our front gate.