PUNE, INDIA (March 15, 2011) – A new rehabilitation center for women rescued from the sex slave trade was dedicated earlier this month, a project made possible through funding from the Break the Chains initiative in partnership with the Hindustani Covenant Church.
Break the Chains, developed by the Department of Women Ministries of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), has raised more than $500,000 over the past three years. The Hindustani church has become deeply engaged in efforts to build relationships with women in the red light district, sharing the love of Christ and encouraging them to transition their lives in a new direction.
The rehabilitation center was created to help provide a sense of support and stability for prostitutes who decide to “come out” of the sex trade and seek a different future, says Ruth Hill, executive minister of Women Ministries. “It is very challenging for them to accept the offer of a new home and training for a self-sustaining business because they have lost trust in mankind.”
The center, a four-bedroom facility located in a developing neighborhood, can accommodate up to 10 women at a time. It has a flat roof, which is where the dedication ceremony took place.
The dedication celebration included a 12-member U.S. delegation representing five ECC regional conferences. Other participants included Steven David, moderator of the Hindustani Covenant Church, and his wife, Monica David, who accompanied the U.S. group during their two-week stay, as well as other denominational leaders and a group of more than 20 prostitutes the Hindustani church has been helping.
One highlight of the ceremony was a ribbon-cutting and unveiling of a dedication plaque that reads: “Hindustani Covenant Church – This building is donated by the Woman’s Ministry for the rehabilitation of C.S.W. and inaugurated by Mrs. Ruth Hill, executive minister, Department of Woman’s Ministry . . . for the glory of God.”
Hill brought the dedication message that focused on the life of Hagar, emphasizing how society viewed Hagar as a foreigner, a slave and a woman, “and yet the Lord knew her name, heard her misery and gave her a promise of great blessing.” Hagar’s words – “You are the God who sees me” – were intended to encourage the prostitutes, Hill noted.
While in India, the 12-member group visited a number of other areas and ministries, including the ragpicker children in the dump of Mumbai. Also visited was Chopada, where Break the Chains funds freed 36 sex slaves from indebtedness to a moneylender. Two small pieces of land were dedicated – the property was purchased by First Covenant Church of Omaha, Nebraska, after the congregation learned of the plight of the women and raised $4,000 to help them.
“Our team dedicated the two small parcels of land on which the freed slaves are now living,” Hill noted. “They only have temporary shelters now, but will eventually have small mud-walled and tin-roofed dwellings.”
The U.S. delegation also met with women in self-help groups who through small loans have started businesses and are now supporting their families. “The self-confidence in their faces was so inspiring,” Hill said. “One woman said, ‘I was very shy before, never talked to people. Now I am a leader in my village.’ ” Other stops included a village being transformed through Covenant Social Service projects, an informal one-room “school” in the slums of Solapur where children abandoned by working parents are cared for, and worshiping with 1,000 people in Pune on a Sunday designated as International Day of Women – a service lasting more than three hours.