Story, Heart Tug Prompt Help for Freed Indian Slaves

OMAHA, NE (June 3, 2010) – A group of freed Indian slaves, who face eviction from land on which they have been living, soon may have a place to go thanks to the generosity of people responding to an email by a member of First Covenant Church who recently became aware of the situation.

Amy Van Putten learned that the Hindustani Covenant Church (HCC) is seeking to purchase land where the 36 adults and their children can be relocated. The HCC previously purchased their freedom from a moneylender who had enslaved them.

Since then, the freed slaves have had to live as squatters on land adjacent to an HCC church. The owner of the adjacent land is angry that the people are living on his land and is planning to evict them.

The church has located property where minimal housing could be built for the families, but the land would cost $4,000, a huge sum in that area.

Van Putten read about the people’s plight in an online Covenant News Service story and spoke with Ruth Hill, executive minister of the Department of Women Ministries, who had met the freed slaves during a visit to India. The accompanying photo shows Hill visiting with some of the freed slaves.

The people still need a lot of assistance restarting their lives, but have faith because, as Hill notes, “They are all strong believers now.” Hill visited the country to contribute funds that had been donated through the department’s Break the Chains anti-trafficking initiative.

Van Putten also had fallen in love with the people of India when she visited the country last fall to see her daughter, Sarah, a North Park University nursing student who spent the semester working in a hospital.

Van Putten decided she wanted to raise the needed money. Going through channels at a church is “necessarily time-consuming,” Van Putten says. But it was time the people in India didn’t have. The funds were “needed yesterday,” Hill told Van Putten.

Van Putten shared her plan with Pastor Wes Gibson who provided encouragement – he asked if she would like to have $40 that came as the result of a sermon illustration the previous Sunday. Gibson was talking about money, noting it is a tool to be used. He had prepared two hammers, each with a $20 bill attached, and asked that they be passed from person to person as his sermon unfolded. When the hammers were returned to Gibson, an additional $40 had been attached to the original bills.

Uncertain what to make of it, Gibson “stuck it in his wallet to wait to see what he was supposed to do with it,” Van Putten recalls. “It became the first gift to the (India) project.”

More gifts came in after Van Putten spent all of last Sunday emailing friends asking for donations. Within two days, she had received the full $4,000 from one donor and more than $2,500 from others. Her birthday was Monday, and friends kept giving her cards with money to be used for the project.

The single donation will pay for the land. The rest of the funds can be used toward paying a portion of costs to construct housing for the families.

Those interested in donating to the project can send checks to First Evangelical Covenant Church, c/o Amy Van Putten, 3138 Bridgeford Road, Omaha, NE, 68124. Donors should include “Break the Chains” in the check’s memo line.

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