India (MNN) — Uttar Pradesh, India can be a dark place for its few Christians. It's one of the nation's most populous states, the second-poorest state, and the birthplace of a number of religions. The city of Varanasi is filled with shrines and temples to false gods.
With the overwhelming poverty in the state comes a host of problems. Since Bright Hope International is dedicated to helping the poorest of the poor through the local church, the ministry has focused its work in India specifically on Uttar Pradesh.
On a recent visit to Bright Hope programs there, president C.H. Dyer was made more aware than ever of one specific result of poverty: human trafficking.
It's not that there is nothing being done. "We have some churches there that are reaching into the red light district and working with women who are forcibly trafficked," says Dyer. Bright Hope churches have taken a great deal of time and effort to build relationships with these women, and [to establish] ties to the police to end the problem.
But as Dyer and the rest of the Bright Hope team went about their work in Uttar Pradesh, it became clear that much more must be done.
"I sat in a church, and two women came in and shared their stories," remembers Dyer. He says one young girl was 17 and had been a prostitute for the last few months. When asked why, she explained that her dad took a loan he couldn't repay. The men he borrowed from decided his 17-year-old daughter's body would make the payment for him.
After hearing from these trapped women, says Dyer, "We made a plan to get these two women out as well as hopefully 100 others over the course of the next 12 months. It's really about reaching in and not only finding protection for them and a safe place, but also skills training."
Over the next year, Bright Hope will install a plan giving trapped, prostituted women back their freedom. The young ladies will be trained to do other jobs, they'll receive counseling, and the local church will continue to pour into them the love of Christ. The church, Dyer points out, already has the relationships established to share Christ, but they need the expertise Bright Hope has to give these girls a new life on earth.
Dyer just returned from India, so the project is new and a work in progress. "Right now we've committed just $10,000 to the project. But over the next three years, a much larger amount of money is going to be needed to create safe houses, to create the job programs," explains Dyer.