My name is Tim Cox, and I work with Redeemer City to City (CTC) where we help local leaders start churches in global cities.
Mumbai is one of those global cities, and when I saw that Redeemer was sending a team there, I signed up immediately. I chose Mumbai because it’s crazy. It really is. It’s a big beautiful crazy city. And I’m allowed to say that because it said it in our training materials.
I along with 10 other Redeemerites left New York in early July 2012 to serve and work alongside our host church, Avatar, a church that CTC helped to get going. And yes, they named the church before the movie came out.
Avatar focuses their outreach programs on the rescue and restoration of those affected by sex trafficking, and we spent a day at an oasis to those rescued called Ashagram, which means place of hope. I made a new friend with Bean, a 12-year old boy with HIV whose mother died when he was an infant in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s Red Light District. I sang songs of praise and played the congas with about 50 teenage girls who had similar stories as Bean. I don’t know how to play the congas, but our team was so encouraged by just giving our time and attention to play games, read and spend time with these kids.
We also went to a worship service in a church just outside of the Red Light District made up of children who stayed at a local safe house, their mothers who worked in the red light district, and the madams who ran the brothels. The children had dances for each song, and they tried to get us to sing and dance along. Not only was I able to sing with these kids but I was able to dance and it was totally acceptable! My life was complete.
It was fun to meet children and adults with incredible stories of hope at every turn, and they all welcomed us as if we’d been a part of their community for years. But I knew that for every story of restoration there were many more stories of despair. How could we, or anyone, help? It seemed like anything we did would be like me trying to play the congas. Again, I don’t know how to play the congas.
God can care about every single one of those 24 million people and though Mumbai is broken, it is He who will make all things new, and he doesn't get tired of doing it.
I struggled with this throughout the week, and at the end of our time in Mumbai, our team was presented with an opportunity of a lifetime: we were invited to attend the wedding of Renu and Rakul. Renu had been rescued out of the sex trade and Rakul was an ex-heroin addict. Both were from Ashagram. The wedding celebrated their love and their incredible story: they had “gotten out” of the despair of their former lives into one of hope, love, and super-human forgiveness. As I watched them dance together I was reminded of how only God can do this kind of healing. God can care about every single one of those 24 million people and though Mumbai is broken, it is He who will make all things new, and he doesn’t get tired of doing it.
I realize now that all of my unforgettable experiences include music and dancing because there was a lot to celebrate in Mumbai. And there’s a lot to celebrate in New York City. Both places are benefiting from its citizens being rescued restored and transformed by the gospel. Mumbai just happens to be a little bit crazier.