March 2016

The faintest hints of the sun's rays begin to streak across the sky and bounce off the plastic-tarp rooftops as one man makes his way along the narrow alleyways of the slum. Some people recognize him and smile; others take little notice. Many have known him since childhood. The man steps around dirty puddles and piles of garbage; he ducks under low-hanging wash lines, strung between houses and laden with wet clothes. Every morning, Pastor Martin walks this route with purpose and prayer.

March 2016

A Slum Child's Return

Eating from the Garbage Bin

Martin, also known as Marty, lives and ministers in the same South Asian slum he was born and raised in. As a young boy in a poor family, he often dug for food in the bottom of dirty garbage bins to fill his empty stomach. He and his mother were left alone when his father died of alcoholism, and in sixth grade, Marty suddenly found himself shouldering the responsibilities as the new head of the family. The daily struggles and addictions each day holds for a child living in the slum had been his own.

"Most of these children's parents are my friends. We went to school together," Pastor Marty explains. "But most of them dropped out; they could not continue the studies by seventh or eighth [grade] … They started indulging [in] wrong things, and they started to drink. Some of them are even dead. So I started thinking about their children: Why [don't] we do something for their children?"

A Slum Child's Return

"He does what Jesus would have done. Helping the poor and needy and also loving people … He is always willing to help people."

Living Today with No Hope for Tomorrow

Life in the slums is a vicious, generational cycle. Alcoholic husbands provide families with little money and even less leadership. Wives, many uneducated, take up daily labour jobs to try to stay afloat. Children drop out of school as early as second grade to help earn money. Some kids never step foot inside a school at all—their families are unable to pay for water or electricity, let alone their kids' education.

Garbage litters the streets. Dirty drinking water and the absence of simple hygienic practices like hand-washing cause disease rates to soar. Prostitution, sex trafficking and other crimes hold countless people in bondage with no escape.

"I went through what these children are going through," Marty says. "That gave me a burden . . . and pain in my heart."

"He does what Jesus would have done. Helping the poor and needy and also loving people … He is always willing to help people."

A Slum Child's Return

Pastor Returns to Where He Started

In 2006, the Lord led Pastor Marty to start what would become the first ministry in the slum where he grew up: a GFA World-supported Bridge of Hope centre. Now nine years later, there is a second Bridge of Hope centre and three GFA World-supported churches. God has blessed Marty's efforts amidst the hopelessness of the slum.

"[He] is a great example for us as he represents Jesus," one believer says of Pastor Marty. "He does what Jesus would have done. Helping the poor and needy and also loving people … He is always willing to help people."

After going on his neighbourhood prayer walk every morning, Marty comes home and spends time reading and meditating on the Word and prays for each individual in his church by name. He and his wife, Prina, know dependence on the Lord is essential to their ministry.

"That is one of the reasons I am growing in the Lord [and am] able to do ministry," Marty insists. "That's what I have also taught my family."

Prina knew nothing about city life when she married Marty in 1999. The slums frightened her at first, but when her husband graduated from a two-year Bible college and became a pastor, she encouraged him to minister to the people he grew up with. Now they serve in the slum together as husband and wife, telling people about the powerful love of Jesus.

"If we are afraid," Prina says, "we cannot do ministry. So we need both God's guidance and strength."

A Slum Child's Return

Pain for a Purpose

Because Pastor Marty has lived in the slums his whole life, locals relate well to him. They feel at ease and are willing to open up and share their lives with him.

"He knows the situation, experienced the situation, and [grew up] in the same situation," one believer explains about Marty. "He understands [the slum life] better than anyone else."

Marty is reminded of his difficult past on a continual basis. Yet he knows every hurt, every trial and every tear has an eternal purpose.

"Ever since my childhood, the pain and difficult situations and poverty—all those things," Pastor Marty says, "when I look back, [they] were tools in the Lord's hands to make me strong and to trust and [have] faith in Him, so I would, in the future, do ministry."

A Slum Child's Return

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*Names of people and places may have been changed for privacy and security reasons. Images are GFA stock photos used for representation purposes and are not the actual person/location, unless otherwise noted.

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