With hindsight, starting our ANCOP work within the archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in Odhisa, India can now only be understood as the providential work of the Holy Spirit.
This diocese was put into the spotlight in 2008 when Christians within the district of Khandamal which is part of the archdiocese were targeted and killed, churches and schools destroyed and 60,000 Christians displaced. Nearly 10,000 children were impacted due to their parents having to abandon their homes, fields and livelihood. Till today there is an under-current of religious tension. Even after seven years the perpetrators have not been brought to justice for the rapes and murders of Christian men, women and religious. The tens of thousands that were displaced have not been able to return back.
During my initial visit in 2012 and a follow-up visit in 2013 and thereafter a full year of mission work in 2014 within the archdiocese, I encountered countless number of extremely poor families and children that troubled me to the core of my being. These people were our Catholic-Christian brothers and sisters in Christ. They were malnourished, poorly clothed and living under structures that were unhygienic and could not even protect them from inclement weather.
How many times mothers and fathers took me aside literally begging and pleading to help their children go to school and have an opportunity for a better life since they were helpless and beyond despair. They had no money for food let alone school fees.
Since starting ANCOP’s Child Sponsorship Program (CSP) to-date we have been blessed with the privilege to sponsor 240 children for their education. My recent pastoral visit to the archdiocese in February 2016, bought me in contact with many of the parents of the sponsored children. Just looking into their teary eyes and seeing their deep gratitude and joy, hearing their words of thankfulness and seeing the children laugh, play and have an opportunity to go to school, have proper uniforms, footwear and proper clothing and meals convicted me that we in Canada through our sacrificial giving, we are participating in the redemptive work of the cross.
I have often wondered when I was in their midst at Sunday mass – what they felt when they prayed. Did they wonder when their prayers would be answered? The question in front of us all is this – Do I want to be the answer to their prayers and an instrument that our Lord can use to alleviate the plight of one child at the least and give them an opportunity to be educated and have a chance at a better life?
When we reach heaven we will see the complete results of our giving and its impact of bringing the reality of the gospel into the lives of many generations which started from the first child you sponsored and gave an opportunity for education and a chance at a better life.
Giving to others sacrificially is an awesome privilege and honor. May you who give freely experience the tremendous joy that comes from knowing you are making a difference in the life of a fellow human being and may the prayers of your sponsored child become a shield of protection for you and your loved ones. AMEN.
Bro Francis Almeida
ANCOP Mission Worker, India
Couples for Christ