A Haven

I was a stranger
and you did not invite me in.
Matthew 25:43 (NIV)

Over a hundred years ago Salvationist workers discovered that there were women in the port city of Madras, now Chennai, involved in prostitution. Many were there by choice, but some had been forced into the sex industry and wanted a way out. That was difficult. Even if they escaped the clutches of their captors, very rarely were they welcomed back home. They had become estranged from family and friends. In many ways they had become outcasts. Who would help? That was how a home for women and children started. That's what it was - a home.

A century later those staying at The Haven have different reasons for being there but there is still a sense of family and community. That's their home. That's where they belong. Some are destitute widows; others have a severe disability that makes living in the mainstream of society difficult; and over the years children who have been looked after in other homes have transferred there in their teens. 

We loved visiting The Haven. Sometimes it was just to say hello. Best of all was the annual visit on Christmas Day, playing party games with the residents. We could feel the warmth of their welcome. We were wanted there too. We felt at home. They called us ‘uncle’ and ‘auntie’. We were part of the family!

A Norwegian Salvation Army officer had served as matron/supervisor/manager for 25 or more years. She knew them all; she loved them as her own family. One of her greatest joys was to arrange marriages for some of the residents. And equal to that, was receiving the firstborn child for special prayer and dedication of mother and father to the responsibilities of parenting. 

Even in times when institutional programmes have had a bad press, and often with good reason, The Haven has been exemplary. 

Leprosy Mission programmes operate with the same motivation, of serving Christ by serving others. We welcome people who may feel they've become strangers because of an unpleasant disease. 

And by the way, helping women out of sexual exploitation continues, with confidential programmes, but now generally in secret locations.