An education and 3 meals a day are basic necessities most Singaporeans would not bat an eyelid for. But in Machilipatnam where the Yanadis live, these are luxuries.
The Yanadis are from the Untouchable caste. The Untouchables belong to the lowest caste of human lives under India’s caste system. But even among the Untouchables, there exist a hierarchy and those considered the lowest of all are the Yanadis. This makes them the untouchables of the Untouchables.
As a Christian, we believe God loves all human lives equally. There is no higher race or caste than another. In fact, where man considers another man or group of people to be lowly or unwanted, God holds a place of priority in his heart for them (see the parable of the Good Samaritan).
Pastor Johnson is an Indian Christian who knows the true worth of the Yanadis from God’s eyes, and he has been reaching out to them for 8 years. He was from the Untouchables community himself, but his parents were Christians and knew their value. Poor as they were, Johnson’s father gave him an education. Johnson graduated to work as a lecturer in a college, earning a comfortable income. But his heart has always been for the poor. Finally, he left his comfort to work with untouchables in Machilipatnam. At first, Johnson planted churches, distributed blankets during winter, and did gospel rallies. But now, he is settled on Grace Camp as his main work among the Yanadi community.
Grace Camp offers mainly student-care services catered around the needs of children in a village. The government of India offers free education that provides 1 meal a day i.e. lunch, to incentivize children to go to school. But according to Johnson, these efforts are not working. Without breakfast and dinner, the parents would rather send their kids out to beg or scavenge so as to feed the whole family. This is how the poverty cycle remain for these untouchables generation after generation.
Grace Camp fills in the gap by offering breakfast for these village kids. As the children come, they are organized into study groups according to their academic level and age. Free tuition and bible studies ensue among the children who had come. When it’s time, the tutors and volunteers line these kids up and walk them to the government school, where they get their lunch – and education. After school, these children return to Grace Camp for more activities – and dinner.
Grace Camp also provides bathing facilities and the volunteers at Grace Camp will encourage these children to practice good hygiene. Many of these Yanadi kids get ostracized in school because other children deem them unhygienic and dirty. They are also looked down as they are from the Yanadi caste. However, Grace Camp provides them a community where they can feel encouraged and be socially empowered as a group.
Here’s a video of Grace Camp:
It is undeniable Pastor Johnson is doing a good work in Machilipatnam. How can the Singapore Church support his work? As a friend of Johnson and a minister among the Singapore Churches, I caught up with him to find out the following:
- Machilipatnam is one of the cities in India that has one of the largest untouchable communities in India. This was what brought Pastor Johnson here.
- 70-80% of the Untouchables in Machilipatnam are Christians. However, the lack of discipleship and the poverty cycle are big concerns to Pastor Johnson. Work that is focused on the Yanadi community is rare.
- Pastor Johnson currently has 2 Grace Camps in two villages. For these 2 camps, Johnson is supported by some friends who sponsor for the food and amenities to the children of each camp. However, Pastor Johnson hopes to be able to get a blessing for the volunteer workers who are not paid for their devoted services at the end of this year. You could offer a one-time gift for the volunteer workers.
- Christmas is coming and Pastor Johnson hopes to hold an evangelistic event where he can provide 2 buckets of clothes for each family who comes to the celebration. You could offer a one-time gift for families coming to Christmas.
- An opportunity has arisen for him to establish a 3rd Grace Camp in another village some miles away. Pastor Johnson anticipates 60 kids for the 3rd Camp – but he has no support for it. You (and your friends) could commit to sponsor one (or more) Yanadi kid’s education for about SG$40/month. You could also give to build the shed for the 3rd Grace Camp at about SG$3000 (includes furnishings).
If you wish to support Pastor Johnson in his good work, we would like to form a Whatsapp chat group that includes you, Pastor Johnson and others, so we could help in an informed and responsible way that encourages accountability. Please however note that we are merely facilitating to begin this aid towards Pastor Johnson. We will be unable to commit to coordinating this moving forward nor could we ensure the integrity of it (as much as we do trust Pastor Johnson). But we do encourage you to establish a connection directly with Pastor Johnson through the chat group. You are most welcome to make personal visits to Pastor Johnson’s ministry in India.
Please text Roxanne at 90016790 if you are interested to help Pastor Johnson in anyway. Pastor Johnson also happens to be available in Singapore on the 22-Nov – if you like to get in touch with him please do it through the above number as well. Lastly, could you help us forward this message to those who could be able to support Grace Camp’s work. Thank you.