Nelson and Janet Thomas-Raja: The secretly incredible parents of unwanted girls
JS: Nelson, you grew up in an abusive home. What was that like for you?
Nelson: My father was a preacher. On Sundays we went to church and he would stand in front and proclaim a freedom found only in Jesus. When we got home, we would be imprisoned by his beatings and abuse.
He would beat my mother. He would beat me and my brother. He would sexually abuse and beat my sisters. Often it was my charge to be his lookout while he would force himself on them. I would stand in the doorway watching for people while listening to their cries for help.
If the physical abuse wasn’t bad enough, his words were cruel as well. We all lived in constant fear. I grew up believing that I was worthless. I had no hope for the future.
The abuse is difficult because in India you can’t talk about it. You can only suffer. What happens in the family is considered closed and personal. You can’t talk about it and if you do, there is no reason to think anyone would listen.
JS: You must have been turned off by the God your father believed in. What changed?
Nelson: A friend of mine who lived in another city worked with a group called Youth With A Mission (YWAM), a Christian volunteer organization. I left my home to live and work with him, and was asked to go through a discipleship program. Because my father was a preacher, everyone there knew my family but didn’t know the truth. They were unaware of the abuse.
As I lived and interacted with these other men, I began to see that what the gospel is really all about. These were loving, kind people who really cared about me. For the first time in my life I felt safe. In this safety, I was able to talk about the past and begin the healing process.
I lived with a Dutch family who was part of the group. They were very peaceful and generous. As I began to deal with my past they were very patient. Through them I was able to see the Father’s heart. I was able to see what a fatherly love is all about.
JS: How has that background influenced you today?
Nelson: I found forgiveness and truth and grace in Jesus. Through this past he has helped me to understand the pain which others are dealing with. It helps me to communicate well and understand how they deal with life. God uses my scars to help me minister to those with their own wounds.
JS: Fast forward to today. Nelson, you met Janet and were married. You lived in Northern Ireland for some time, but returned back to India and together started a ministry called Angel House. What is your ministry about?
Janet: Nelson and I have alway been interested in rescuing babies. I am a pediatric nurse and from an early age wanted to adopt. After the tsunami in 2005, we moved to India to help those who were in need. I volunteered at the adoption center helping to place orphaned children.
It was here that we met our daughter, Phoebe. She was in the center for 3 months but went unadopted. She was hard to place because she apparently had some physical issues and was labeled as “special needs.” I wasn’t disappointed by others lack of interest because I wanted to adopt her.
After she became ours, we looked over her entire body for the physical problems. We found none. It turns out that she was labeled “special needs” because of the color of her skin.
We thought that adopting her would quench our thirst to help children in need, but having her only made our desire stronger. One night when we were putting her to bed, she prayed and asked God to save all of the babies from being killed in India until she grew up and become a mommy to take care of them. At that moment we knew we had to return to India on a permanent basis.
I felt that God was calling me to India but had been avoiding this for over a year. I love the people, but am not a huge fan of living there. Through the sweet and tender heart he gave our daughter, God spoke to us again and this time we answered.
Phoebe chose the name of Angel House. Our goal is to make it an extension of our family. We want babies to grow up in a family atmosphere instead of an institution. We want them to know love.
Phoebe still struggles from spending time in an orphanage. She finds it difficult to give or receive hugs due to a lack of physical contact from birth. When I volunteered at the adoption center I noticed that babies would stop crying for attention at around 3 months. They would just lay there since they knew no one would come.
We want the children to know comfort. We want to give them a reason to cry.
JS: Why are so many girls being abandoned or killed in India?
Janet: In India there is a huge pressure one women to produce a son. This doesn’t only run in the low castes but in the high ones too. Looking for the gender during pregnancy isn’t permitted, but people still do it. If the baby is a girl, the mother will often be forced to terminate the pregnancy.
The problem stems from the dowry system. To marry off a daughter, families are forced to pay the prospective husband and his family a signifiant amount of money. More than most families can afford. To win at this system, it is better to have boys.
UNICEF estimates that as many as 7000 baby girls are killed at birth every day in India. These numbers do not include abortions. These are girls that have been born.
Our hope is to make a small dent in the problem and to help these mothers and especially the unwanted baby girls.
You can leave a comment by clicking here.