When guests come to visit Dr. Lalita Edwards’s home in Pune, India, seventeen children line up in rows—tall girls in the back, short boys in the front—to sing a chorus of hallelujahs. They stand in their bare feet on a woven rug, beside metal bunk beds. As they sing, caregivers spring up to straighten the children’s shirts like any parent would at a child’s recital.
This is a home for HIV-positive children—and yet this is also a home for hallelujahs.
The home began when Edwards stumbled across a crowd of people watching a boy, who was lying on a floor, covered with flies. They stared, but no one made a move to help. Edwards stooped down and discovered the boy was dead.
“No one knew it because of fear, apathy, or lack of compassion,” Edwards says. She vowed not to be a person who stood around to watch as a child died.
To reach out and touch someone the world shuns “is the nature of our true and undefiled religion,” Mike Douris, president of Orphan Outreach, says.
While God has provided food, clothing, and medicine for the children, much more work remains. Five of the home’s seventeen children teeter on the edge between being HIV-positive and battling full-blown AIDS.
One of these five children—nine-year-old Nikhil—watched the camera as Edwards, the home’s director, told his story in a video earlier this year. In the video, Edwards' gold bracelets clank together as she strokes Nikhil’s shoulders and hair. Shy, he lowers his eyes as she speaks, covering his cheeks with a spray of thick brown eyelashes.
“He is one of my special boys,” Edwards says. “His parents died of AIDS. His grandmother brought him here and it was very sad when he came to the orphanage. He missed his parents very much. But Nikhil has come to love the Lord and he prays very specific prayers. It is really very nice to see that this little boy has grown so beautifully.”
But despite his progress, Nikhil developed an infection and in November lost his fight to AIDS.
“Nikhil may not have lived very long but he has left long-lasting effects. His two grandmothers accepted the Lord,” Edwards wrote to Orphan Outreach. “Thanks once again for standing in the gap for us. Nikhil is safe and happy, of that I am sure.”
The impact of Nikhil’s young life motivates Orphan Outreach and Edwards to persevere in their mission to provide care for children in need. Others such as Shantal, a six-year-old girl, need more than a home—they need hope.
Also HIV-positive, Shantal’s small body fights constant ear and eye infections. “She was brought to us by her uncle and her grandfather. Their house was full. But how do you refuse a girl who has no parents, who has old grandparents who cannot take care of her, and an uncle who is HIV-positive and is quite sick?” Edwards asks. “And this girl is so intelligent.”
At the orphanage Shantal attends school with other hearing impaired children, something which would not be possible without the ministry. “This is one of the little precious girls who I see God’s hand on,” Edwards says. “She can’t talk and she is HIV-positive, but yet the Lord has brought her to us so that we can take care of her and give her life ... and not just life, but abundant life—something I will enjoy when I meet the Lord.”
Offering an abundant life through Christ—as well as an eternal home and family—to orphans who may have otherwise been abandoned in the street to die is something befitting a hallelujah chorus.