A boy named Grace

David Mansfield

In 1969 Johnny Cash sang about A Boy Named Sue. Let me tell you the story about a boy named Grace.

Grace’s father, Robert, was born into a Hindu culture in the north of India. Robert’s mother was illiterate and suffered from leprosy. He was sent to a Christian orphanage for schooling where he was taught about Jesus and to whom he surrendered his life.

Robert married Veena, who grew up in a Christian home and trusted in Jesus from a very early age. Their first-born is a daughter whom they named Neha. Their second child is a boy whom they named Grace or Anugrah.

Grace was born with cerebral palsy. Robert remembers sitting by his crib in those first 24 hours, his son’s life hanging by a thread, his own mind awash with conflicting thoughts, when he read the words on a poster next to the nurses station, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

Robert and Veena were strengthened to face a foreboding future with the reassurance of the sufficiency of God’s grace in Jesus. They called their son Anugrah, the Hindi word for Grace.

Saved by grace, and sustained by grace, Robert, Veena and Anugrah returned to their family and village. At first Robert couldn’t understand why he was the only father with a disabled child. But as he walked Anugrah around his village he met many other families with children with disabilities who kept their children hidden indoors to hide their shame and despair. Their Hindu religion and culture taught that their disabled children were a curse from the gods for a misdemeanour in a past life.

Robert challenged this evil and oppressive mindset as he introduced his community to the child he loved, the child he was proud of and the child he was blessed by – the boy named Grace.

Over time Robert and Veena established a ministry to children with disabilities and a ministry to their families. With a growing team of community health workers, they face all kinds of opposition, as they compassionately reached into the community in Christ’s name.

The Anugrah Project, now reaching over 100 families in a predominantly Hindu population with a Muslim minority, is a part of a larger community health programme attached to the Herbertpur Christian Hospital.

“Don’t let your children near those Christians or their hospital. They’ll take out their kidney and sell them.” Or, “Don’t let them vaccinate your children against polio. They want to sterilize them.”

Robert encountered a family with four severely disabled children. One has since died. The mother was reluctant to receive Robert’s help until Robert invited her to his home to see that he, too, lived with the challenges of a disabled child. The Anugrah ministry now provides a range of medical services to her younger two boys.

Another family would tether their disabled child by the leg to a bed post each day as they went to work in the fields. With nobody to look after the child, he grovelled around a two square metre patch of floor with a bowl of water at the extremity of the tether, much like an animal.

Robert’s community health team has about forty members; psychologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, counsellors, HIV/AIDS workers, drivers and teachers. About 70% of them are Christians and passionate about testifying to the grace of Jesus.

Today the Anugrah Project is bringing healing and hope to families in a small district in the north of the hugely populous nation of India.

Today the light of the Gospel of Grace in the face of Jesus Christ is bringing compassion and hope to many people, enslaved by shame and superstition, through Robert’s, and many of his team’s, testimony to the grace of his Saviour.

Banner photo credit: Mester Jagels