By David Granner
In 1969 she lived kitty-corner from the Kodai School gate near Seven Roads. Sitting on an old bed in her little cottage with a tin roof, Dayavu Dhanapal read Psalm 121 over and over. . .
“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come.
My help comes from the Lord,the maker of heaven and earth.”
Just five years old then, I remember dodging chickens in her front yard and getting butted by an old billy goat. Inside the house, as she prayed and read, I noticed her dark complexion—soft and beautiful. A native Tamil woman, her parents had been brought into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the Ida Scudder family in the early 1900s.
Dayavu grew up in a Christian home and knew Handel’s Messiah better than most Europeans. ‘Auntie Dayavu,’ as many of us called her, had a burden for people in need. She loved prostitutes and lepers, and was always sharing her small resources and her powerful faith in Jesus with the poorest of the poor.
Back then, every single day we saw poverty, disease, and disability. Yet, also seeing such kindness in the face of utter despair had a foundational and life-long impact on many of us who experienced childhood in India. We played marbles with kids just like those we now have in our Bethania homes.
We played marbles with kids just like those we now have in our Bethania homes.
Bethania Kids officially began in 1987, with Dayavu Dhanapal and a few supportive Christian people. One founder writes, “There is no question about the fact that we had no experience with organizing a ministry. I can’t help but remember, early on especially, that we made so many mistakes. We were so naive. We did have a vision, yet often when we would forge ahead on a particular path, we came to learn too late that we should have taken another route. I believe that is the way God works. We are simple people. We do the best we can to obey God’s word as we understand it. And we simply persevere. By God’s amazing grace, each one of our Bethania Kids is becoming a beautiful work of art.”
We recently received this note from Pakia-lakshmi, a graduate child of our Bethania Kids Home in Nagercoil: “I shall try to serve God and my people through my nursing work. I won’t forget Jesus—throughout my life I will always remember His grace to me.”
Now in my early fifties, I still feel a large part of me is a kid playing marbles with the street children in India. Joyfully, I know this ministry doesn’t depend on our intelligence, strength, or ingenuity. Dayavu Dhanapal always said that Jesus Christ brought each child to Bethania.
Joyfully, I know this ministry doesn’t depend on our intelligence, strength, or ingenuity.
Let us thank God for our blessed naiveté, which has always made it imperative that we spend more time praying and placing faith in Almighty God rather than in ourselves.
Join us for a family meal on Friday evening, September 26th at 6:30 pm at the St. Luke Ann Arbor site to celebrate the ministry of Bethania Kids and to find out how we can reach more children with Jesus’ love.
From Kodaikanal, staff member M. Paramadas writes, “It is my greatest privilege being on the staff of Bethania Kids for the past 23 years. I am praising God for His love, grace and for the work of the Holy Spirit. Especially, I thank the churches who have opened the door for our ministries. I’m praying for my upcoming trip to the United States. I will be in Ann Arbor on September 26th and am looking forward to personally greeting the members of St Luke Lutheran Church.”