A Seminarian's Work For Rural India

by Akash Daniel Mathew, Class of 2021

Mathew.jpg

Light to Life is a child sponsorship project that reaches out to the unreached with the message of love through education. This project is administered by the Mar Thoma Mission Board and is one among the many mission and outreach initiatives of the Mar Thoma Church, Diocese of North America.  Light to Life aims at the social transformation of communities by the holistic development of children through education, health care, food and shelter. Its objective is to ensure that children in disadvantaged communities have access to life’s essentials, enabling them to lead a life of dignity and equipping them to boldly face various challenges in life. A year before embarking on my academic journey at General Seminary, God had mysteriously opened doors for me to serve as the mission coordinator for the Mar Thoma Mission Board. It has been a great privilege to serve in this role right from the very beginning of the Light to Life mission project and it continues to be a truly rewarding experience the more I get involved.

Our diocesan bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. Isaac Mar Philoxenos Episcopa, identified the need for an alternative form of support for communities in rural parts of India when Compassion International, a Colorado based nonprofit organization, had formally ended all operations in India as of 15 March, 2017. This affected more than 147,000 children and 589 church partners. As a partner, the Mar Thoma Church was caring for approximately 15,000 children at its various mission centers located across India. The Mar Thoma Mission Board, through Light to Life, has been reaching out to individuals in the Diocese of North America to commit to this great need by pledging to sponsor a child for $20 a month. This project was instituted on a diocesan level in May of 2017 and funding for the first 500 beneficiaries began in November. By the end of 2018, the number of beneficiaries has rapidly increased to over 3000 children and this number continues to grow steadily.

Countless children around the globe today live in poverty stricken regions despite foreign financial aid and humanitarian support rendered for their benefit. One would naturally have a tendency to shift the blame to governmental authorities and implementing agencies. However, in my opinion, the real question is whether or not enough is being done? According to an interesting research statistics, if we were able to reduce the interest rate on the debt held by developing countries by even one per cent, the difference would be vastly larger than the total incoming foreign aid.

The reality is that our focus has shifted from raising other people up as we have become very self-centered. In the words of the American philosopher, Allan Bloom, “education is the movement from darkness to light.” Sadly, education is often overlooked or undervalued by parents of children in disadvantaged communities due to the various obstacles that they face in order to survive. Many children are simply forced to drop out from schools at an early age to help make ends meet. Such circumstances severely limit the child’s potential to thrive in this rapidly shifting world, ultimately ending all dreams for success. In 2018, I was able to visit several mission centers and can attest to the fact that their efforts are truly making a significant and positive impact in the lives of many.