|In a September morning of 2011 I prayed and searched online scriptures to learn more about fasting. I was 41 years old, was raised in a Christian family, read the scriptures about fasting and how often Jesus fasted in His life. Yet I had managed to never fast a day in my life. I wanted to know Christ in a new and deeper way. I hoped he would show me more of Himself by making a commitment to fast.
Here is what I read that morning…
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. (Isaiah 58:6-9)
“Untie the cords of the yoke and to set the oppressed free”. I certainly had no idea that this simple decision to fast would radically change my life leading me to travel around the world to help “untie the cords of the yoke” for children enslaved in rock quarries and in sex slavery. Next to this scripture was a link to 58: The Film. I clicked the link, ordered the dvd, and watched it with a group of other Christians. The story of Indian children enslaved in rock quarries so powerfully affected our family we knew this was what God was calling us to do.
In doing a bit of research we learned that that over 3,000 children are being used as slaves to mine slate from 30 different rock quarries in India. The children, ranging in age from 8 -18, work these quarries in horrific conditions. One meal per day. Few have shoes. Children that become sick are left to die, because it’s cheaper to replace them than heal them. To purchase a child from these conditions is expensive. Boys can be bought out of slavery for $2,500 USD each. Girls are worth more because they can be used for sex as well as mining labor.
After speaking with various churches and organizations who have visited the quarries we were put in contact with an Indian man named Praveen Chakravarthy who was leading the effort in India to shut down the quarry. Through various emails and Skype calls I learned more from Praveen and, eventually, how he helped develop a plan for 152 children to be released into freedom! All 71 boys and 82 girls were allowed to leave with Praveen. The photo above shows the smiles of the boys as they prepared to leave the quarry. Praveen is in the middle. Notice in the other photo that children are climbing out of quarry (some in bare feet)...to their freedom.
While it is wonderful that Praveen was able to rescue so many children there is still SO much to be done…
Food and Lodging – There is a great need for funding to care for the rescued children. Praveen has 3 orphanages he helps administer. We have personally spoke with some of the 180 children he has living in just one house! There are another 280 children living in two additional houses. While it is incredibly cheap to care for a child in India (about .70 a day) the total bill to care for the children is about $10,000 per month.
Approximately 1 month ago Praveen was forced to move, with all the children, from their rented home to another rented home due to the number of children living in the home. They were given an emergency 2 month lease. He is, at this point in time, unsure as to where he will take the children following the 2 month lease. He has had land donated to him for the building of an orphanage (I have seen the plans for the orphanage) but needs significant funding (around $100,000) to pay for taxes and construction of a home on this land.
Rescue More Children from Slavery - There are nearly 2,900 more children in other quarries near Praveen that need to be released. These children must be removed from the quarries through a combination of political efforts and funding. Praveen is working for the peaceful removal of these children while in potential danger that the quarry owners will retaliate or act deceptively to protect their crimes. Child slavery IS illegal in India (although, so are ‘Untouchables’). There is a movement to shut these quarries down, not just replace the children with new ones. The children are being released to freedom, not sold. The government of India has been cooperating. Awareness is spreading.
Other ministries – In addition to Praveen’s work with rescuing children from slavery Praveen spends his time running the 3 orphanages, drilling for water wells in the ‘untouchable’ communities, rescuing children from sex slavery at the temples, running an evangelism program called Gospel on Wheels, and serving as president of Sylom pastor’s league (a group of 1029 pastors registered as an Indian non-profit in 1989).
Video - Visit this link for the 58 Film clip on Indian slave children…