By Sandi Roach
She was just a little girl, but not at all like the other little girls in her town in India. She was a Christian, and she had a desire to share her love of the Lord with other children. By the age of nine she had started holding Bible studies for those who had an interest in sharing the zeal for life that she felt. She would read them wonderful stories from the Bible and had them memorize scripture so that they too could know Jesus in a personal way and come to have His peace in their lives. She may have been young, but she had big dreams.
Jyotsana was raised in a Christian household, which was not a common thing in India. Her parents were both Doctors who had been educated in the United States, but both had a compassion for the people of their homeland and after medical school, they returned to India to help those who had so little. Their hearts burned with compassion for those who were burdened with the task of just daily life, and this passion was transferred to their young daughter. Jyotsana was drawn to children and wanted to help them to have a better life – a Christ-centered life.
As she grew – her parents encouraged her to pursue her education and she obtained a Doctorate in sociology – how better to help people than to understand how they relate to each other. She had never forgotten her dream to help children, and with her husband, Kamlesh, who had been one of her Bible study students who came to the Lord, she decided to start a school for children who would never be permitted to attend school because of their caste and impoverished family condition.
The Jagat Jyoti School was a fulfillment of that dream – a school for the Sapera children (the children of the snake charmers also known as the Cobra children). Her parents were no longer practicing medicine, and a medical facility that they owned was transformed into a school. There was one useable building which had a small office and a large open room which became a center of educational opportunity to over 100 children near the village of Kolukhedi. The children loved learning, were supplied with daily snacks, given clean clothing and even supplied with a couple of complete meals each month. There was great joy in Kamlesh and Jyotsana’s (Ranu’s) hearts as they saw the children growing not only academically, but also in an understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the summer of 2007 a second school, Jeevan Jyoti was opened to reach the needs of poor children living in the city. This school started out with just pre-school through grade two the first year. In 2008 they had expanded to include grade four, but had heavy hearts realizing that they would not be able to continue with these children past grade four because they had no more space. Without their benevolence in offering a quality education at a very low cost, these students would not have an opportunity to continue to the next level which would be an education through grade eight and worse yet; they would not have a way to continue sharing Christ with them. During the 2008-2009 school year they kept praying and trying to seek a suitable property that was close to the existing school. Nothing seemed to be available.
This past month the dream of being able to offer schooling through the eighth grade to low caste and poor children became a reality. The building next door to the current Jeevan Jyoti School became available and the couple was able to purchase the property and fulfill the dream of offering classes through grade eight.
Another wish is to be able to offer technical education to the Sapera children since snake charming is officially outlawed by the government for animal rights reasons. With no family business to continue in, these young people are without a caste and cannot assimilate into another caste without the skill of that caste. Harvesters International Ministries has been able to send funds to repair a second building on the Jagat Jyoti property to make it useable classroom space. The school itself, with over 100 children needs space, and it is still Kamlesh and Ranu’s hope to be able to build a new school building where each grade will be able to have its own classroom which will maximize the student’s learning. Ultimately, the old, renovated building will be used as a technical school for the students who have completed grade eight so that they may learn sewing or wood working – trades that are marketable and would enable the students to move up in the caste system.
When the little girl dreamed of helping children know the Lord, she prayed and never lost hope that the Lord would give her the desires of her heart. Those early dreams have been answered, but there are still more dreams that need to be fulfilled.