India (MNN) — A married couple believes God has used their life experiences to shape their 20-year-long ministry at Agape Rehabilitation Center. Now, ARC, a ministry that helps people with disabilities achieve economic stability, is growing. They hope within the next couple of years they will have the capabilities to help 3-4 times the amount of people they currently help annually.
Daniel and Avitha are with India Partners. They share their story:
Daniel looks back on his life and sees how God has used his own experiences to lead him to the ministry he has now.
“I think God was training me by allowing suffering in my own life. I was born with the congenital heart defect,” he explains. Daniels parents prayed over him, but it would take several years before his heart condition would be addressed. When he was 16, Daniel was able to have open heart surgery–not a simple feat considering the health care system at that time in India. It took him nearly a year to recover.
“Maybe God allowed that suffering in my life, with all the limitations of my childhood, to understand and empathize with the people whom I serve now.”
Daniel had friends with disabilities growing up. “I didn’t know that God was preparing me for that sort of mission,” he says. He was also touched by the story of Joni Earekson Tada.
“When I was in college, I wanted to dedicate my life to Jesus, and He asked me that I use my skills to do the mission.”
After college, Daniel waited for an opportunity to use his skills. He saw an advertisement
He was sent to Japan for a 5-month training sessions in rehabilitation.
At the center, he met Avitha.
Avitha’s story is a little different, though she also feels that God has been training her for this ministry. For starters, she also grew up with friends with disabilities.
“I had a very happy childhood, and I almost had everything I could wish for,” Avitha explains. “So I was so thankful to the Lord and I said, ‘Lord, please use me in whatever way You can.’ I just committed my life to Him.”
Avitha didn’t want to work full-time, but she allowed God to lead her. She taught computer training at the same center in which Daniel worked.
“We decided that God had a plan for us together, and ultimately we wanted to have the disabled students have both the computer training and the spiritual guidance. So that’s why we started Agape.”
Avitha and Daniel feel that God was very specific in His training them for ministry. Even their child’s sickness of brain fever was an experience that prepared them.
“All those things molded me into this ministry,” Avitha says.
“…a burden and a shame”
People with disabilities are not often looked upon with favor in India. Avitha explains why: “In India, it’s like if you’re born with a disability, the family is very upset about it. Most of them are students that are affected with polio.”
She explains that often the children are hidden away so that no one will judge the parents.
“Many of them feel it is some Karma or sin from the previous birth which has caught up with them, and sometimes they are very upset about it.”
“Persons with disabilities are always looked at as a burden and a shame,” Avitha says.
Daniel and Avitha want to give these people the opportunity to be a part of society. That is why they are training them through computers to gain economic independence. They provide wheelchairs and tricycles to those in need; they also have a small hostel for out of town guests.
Their training program is accredited by the State government.
Alongside the practical training, Agape is a place where people have the opportunity to learn about Jesus. They do this through “Jesus Enables Ministry,” or JEMs. The ministry provides several appropriate and helpful activities for people with disabilities to learn more about Jesus.
Recently Agape purchased an acre of land where they will build their own facility to continue what they’re doing now. Instead of reaching 25 students a year, however, they will expand anywhere from 80 to 100.
The facility will be more accessible to all people with disabilities and will have inbuilt features available for many specific disabilities.
“It’s been our dream that we can have this center and establish an institution that will serve the disabled population community in India,” Daniel says.
JEMs will not be in the same building, but as a parallel organization, they hope to eventually have it housed on the same property. Participants in Agape are not required to participate in JEMs as 95% of them are either Hindu or Muslim.
However, Avitha says, “All the Christian activities will be made accessible to them, and they will be invited to join in all those programs.”
There are also plans to have a church on the campus as well.
Ways you can help
Daniel says the most important challenge is to share the Gospel with the people they serve. “It takes time,” he says, “perseverance, and the grace of our Lord. So I’d like the listeners to pray, as we minister, that the words that we tell would bring the conviction of the Spirit to the person with disabilities. That is our main purpose.”
Avitha asks you to pray for their ministry to people who are deaf. This has been a particular challenge for them in the past as many are illiterate.
There are financial needs, as well. The new facility is projected to cost $2 million plus operational funds. Help them little-by-little raise those funds in the next couple of years by clicking here.