In Mumbai, the largest city in India, red-light districts boom. Thousands upon thousands of women and children are exploited through prostitution. Many impoverished children and women from rural communities in other areas of India or nearby countries — those most vulnerable to offers of a “better” life that turn out to be lies — are trafficked here. Other women fall into this life out of the desperate need for sheer survival.
It’s here, in a red-light area of Mumbai, that a local Church of the Nazarene has opened a drop-in center. They call it Jivan Asha, or “Hope of Life.” And that is exactly what the church wants to give — true hope.
In the midst of this darkness, church leaders and members came together to create a safe place for women and children affected by the sex trade. The goal of Jivan Asha is to help women and children who are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse experience God’s love and hope-filled lives.
The church was inspired by God’s words in Jeremiah 29:11:
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This past December, the Sharon Bethel Church of the Nazarene celebrated the opening of the Jivan Asha drop-in center.
Their initial goal is to minister to 300 families out of the 3,000 living in the neighborhood where the church is located. The main focus of the drop-in center will be to provide resources for both prevention and rehabilitation.
To give women the chance to leave brothels for good, the drop-in center is providing opportunities, including self-help groups, vocational and skills development training, micro-enterprise, and savings accounts. They can also come for counseling, medical referrals, training in child care, hygiene education, and spiritual care.
The drop-in center offers children an alternative to hanging out in the streets or the brothel areas. Children can come to a safe space to find stability, emotional support, education, nutrition, recreation, and spiritual nurturing.
Although they are still in the beginning phase, the church already has dreams to meet other needs through ministries such as a health clinic and a full rehabilitation center for women and children.
“Every woman in the red light area is God’s child, whether she is forced, trapped, or sold,” said Sanjay Gawali, who serves as district superintendent in Western Maharashtra, India. “God never planned for them to be in prostitution, but He does have plans for these women to have a wonderful life without harm and destruction, and [the church] could be a channel of help for these women to find prosperity in life.”