This is an account of my experience with Deshpande on Sunday. I am sure a topic such as this will raise questions, and I am more than willing to answer with what I know. Please email me or leave comments if you are curious to learn more.
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A quick glance at the Indian population will reveal that it is a culture of divisions. Because of the 3000 year old caste system, huge swaths of society are ostracized, ignored and even hated. But even among those on the fringes, divisions remain. There is one group of people that is persecuted by virtually everyone… Eunuchs.

A south-Indian eunuch (hirja).

A south-Indian eunuch (hirja).

The term “eunuch” may evoke antiquated images of Egyptian courtiers or Roman treble singers, but the phenomenon is very real to this day. Some sources say that there are at least one million eunuchs in India today.

There is some confusion and debate as to how these eunuchs came to be this way. Many eunuchs are purposefully castrated. Many are simply born that way. However, one thing is abundantly clear: eunuchs are on the fringe of the fringe of Indian society, and have little hope of change anytime soon.

Because of how severely eunuchs are ostracized, many turn to prostitution as a means of income. As a result, a large portion of the eunuch population is HIV positive. With little hope for a “normal” life, Indian eunuchs form small communities in the slums, caring for themselves and each other because no one else will dare.

No one that is, except for Deshpande the Truthseeker. Deshpande is a 30 year old college graduate living in Delhi. For reasons that he cannot explain, God has called him to minister to a population of around 20 eunuchs on Delhi’s poverty-ravaged east side.

I had the amazing opportunity of riding with him as he made his weekly visit to his persecuted friends. I walked away from the experience with a deep respect for Desphande and for the ministry to which he is called.

To get there, we took an hour-long rickshaw ride through heavy rush-hour traffic. Choking on exhaust fumes, I asked Desphande how he became involved with the eunuchs. He told me that one day, out of nowhere, he felt a strong calling from God to minister to the eunuch population. So, despite his own fears and misgivings, he pursued this unique calling.

Deshpande and I visiting Red Fort in Delhi

Deshpande and I visiting Red Fort in Delhi

As we drove, I noticed the quality of the area steadily decreasing. The eunuchs live in a tight, crowded slum. The neighborhood is made up of two story concrete buildings separated by dark, muddy alleys. Though I’ve seen several slums before, I was still amazed to see people actually living in such conditions.

After we got out of the rickshaw, Deshpande began walking down an alley and I followed. Above us, a tangled web of electrical wires was strung about seemingly at random.

Arriving at the door of the small, one-room flat, a eunuch dressed as a woman met us. You could see in her eyes the respect she had for Desphande. So few people even talk to these eunuchs, much less love, respect and dignify them. We entered and sat on a bed as three other eunuchs joined us.

The eunuchs, though dressed as women and speaking with feminine voices, had masculine features. They looked at me shyly, and I did my best to convey my respect by smiling and shaking their hands.

Within minutes of arriving, Deshpande was in animated discussion with his friends about their worth and dignity, despite their flaws. At one point, he turned to me and said “Do you have problems too?” I nodded, a little confused. “See! Everyone has problems. Everyone sins. She is thinking that she is worthless because she sins. I am telling her differently.”

The city of Delhi, a throbbing metroplolis with over 17 million inhabitants.

The city of Delhi, a throbbing metroplolis with over 17 million inhabitants.

After a few minutes, I had the chance to share a bit about the Beatitudes while Deshpande translated. I ended by saying, “I believe that if Jesus (Baliraja) were physically here today, he would not be in the temple or in the mosque, he would not be in a government office or having dinner with some rich people. He’d be right here in this room, because you are the ones who are blessed.” And sitting there in that room, I truly believed it.

We prayed, we talked some more, and just like that, we were back on the road. Deshpande had given me a glimpse into his calling and ministry, and I was greatly encouraged. But on the way back, he shared a little more about the consequences of following this calling, and my respect for him grew even more.

“People accuse me of things,” he told me. “They ask me ‘Why would you talk with those people?’” Apparently not everyone sees the value in Deshpande’s ministry. People accuse him of being gay or even of being a eunuch himself. Following this calling from God has strained and even broken many of Deshpande’s relationships.

A MUCH nicer area than the slum we were visiting, but similar in the look and feel of the place.

A MUCH nicer area than the slum we were visiting, but similar in the look and feel of the place.

Yet he will not stop. “This is God’s calling,” he continued. “When God calls you to something, what else can you do?”

Deshpande will continue this difficult ministry to these beloved children of God, despite the criticisms he receives. I can only hope that I too will approach my calling with the same level of commitment and selflessness.

I have been totally blown away by Deshpande’s ministry, and I hope you have as well. Remember… when God puts a calling on your life, “what else can you do?”

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About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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Comments

  1. Brian Bowman said... 

    Reply

    March 12th, 2017 at 10:21 am  

    What an insightful, moving article. Thank you! And I pray that Desphande’s ministry is still sharing the love and hope of Jesus.

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