by Joanne Lane
North Bengal is one of the least developed regions in India, and life can be hard there, particularly for the more than 1.1 million people who live in the tea gardens of the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts.
The closure of many of the tea gardens and pathetically low wages have brought poverty and destitution; parents struggle to provide even basic needs for their children, and more than 1000 people have died of starvation in these districts over the last 12 years. This has brought an alarming rise in substance abuse, violence, migration, and human trafficking.
Theological training and social work
ITEE serves the Nepali people who live in the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts, and leaders often have to travel to some very remote locations in order to visit their tutors and students. Many believers in these regions are the only Christians in their family group, and often are subject to verbal and physical abuse as a result. ITEE partners with local churches to provide desperately needed encouragement and theological training and equipping to these believers, as well as to the pastors and lay leaders.
“We encourage our tutors and students to practise what they learn from the TEE courses among their churches, families and communities. So it is a two-way development: discipleship and leadership,” explains ITEE’s Director, a Nepali now based in India. They also address important social issues within the community. “We try to motivate young people to stay in their own village and seek sustainable ways to generate income.
We provide counselling on the consequences of substance abuse.” And through their awareness programmes, many parents are learning about the importance of protecting, supporting and educating their daughters, rather than marrying them off at a very young age or placing them in situations where they are in danger of being trafficked.
Pray for more workers to join the staff and tutors in ITEE as they provide sound theological teaching to believers who often have no other resources, and pray that the Nepali people in India will continue to be open to receiving the Gospel of Jesus.
“My dad is a Hindu Priest and well known in our locality. As a priest’s daughter I found it very hard to accept Jesus as my Saviour: my family was very unhappy about it. I went through a difficult time; people misunderstood me and accused me of insulting my culture and religion but I continued to grow in Christ and love my family. I wanted to do leadership training, but it seemed an impossible goal. Then last year God answered my prayer, and I was able to attend ITEE tutor training locally. Training has shaped me and helped me to grow up in the Word of God.”
(Kalpana is not her real name)