By: Mike Strohl
The Intersection of Profit and Purpose
One of our key values at Red Leaf is to use our business to make the world a better place. (You can see what we are about here!) We are capitalists at heart and believe that capital creation, risk-taking and profit are what make free-market economies the only sustainable model that achieves inclusive opportunity for all. However, we also believe that our success should be a catalyst for making the world a better place as we use our profits for the purpose of investing in organizations and people that overcome great obstacles to serve humanity. These organizations and people inspire us and help us keep going each day to build a successful business that finds the intersection of profit and purpose.
Red Leaf and The India Gospel League
One of the organizations that has inspired our family is The India Gospel League (“IGL”) located in Salem, India. IGL is an organization of hundreds of people working diligently to meet the needs of some of the poorest people on earth. Through their faith-based approach to serving the poor in Southeast Asia, IGL has built a sustainable model that is lifting people from poverty and creating generational change through their 3-part mission of 1) Caring for children, 2) Caring for the poor and 3) Caring for the sick.
As many of our customers and readers know, one of our team members (and youngest Strohl daughter), Sarah, was born with Down syndrome. As a family, we have felt so blessed to have Sarah in our family and we have seen throughout her life the importance of proactive therapies in enabling Sarah to live her most meaningful life. This has placed a burden on our hearts to use our resources to bring those same therapies that have benefitted Sarah to others across the globe that do not have access to such services. IGL began serving children with special needs at the Children’s Wellness Center several years ago and have become one of the only organizations in India serving the population of individuals with special needs. When we heard about this at Red Leaf, we were hooked and agreed to sponsor the Children’s Wellness Center as part of our giving portfolio.
We recently sat down with Rebecca Stanley, Director of Children’s Ministry and Rural Development at IGL to discuss their mission, our partnership and how others can help in addressing the needs of the poorest people on earth.
Tell us a little about the history of India Gospel League (IGL) and its work in India?
IGL’s President Samuel Stephens, my father, shared, “My great grandfather was the first one of my family to become a Christian. He heard about Jesus when the Salvation Army first came to South Asia in the 1860s. He accepted the Lord, left home, changed forever and set on a path to care for those most in need. His son (my grandfather) founded the ministry that today is known as India Gospel League. He lived his life, extending his hand and caring for the most vulnerable, and so did my father after him. I had the privilege of working with my father for 12 years in the ministry. He taught me many things, but I will always remember his last words to me: “No matter what happens, son, don’t lose the vision.”
IGL was formed on the basis of his deep conviction that, as Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The vision is reaching out to the neglected masses of people throughout South Asia. This verse is the motto for IGL, and we remain committed to that vision and calling.
How is IGL working to satisfy its mission and what are some of the strategic objectives of the organization?
India Gospel League is an indigenous, Bible-centered organization born and operating in over 90,000 villages throughout rural South Asia.
We believe in touching lives with the gospel because we believe it is the only way to find true transformation.
IGL also works to build sustainable communities by providing skills training, childcare, evening study centers, leadership development, small business loans (which we call micro-credit loans), clean water, medical camps and education/awareness programs and much more. We also have a hospital and palliative care center, as well as a community college, several children’s homes and the Children’s Wellness Center.
We do all this through a wide network of leaders, churches, donors and God’s mighty provision and leading.
Can you tell us a brief overview of the Children’s Wellness Center?
The Sharon Children’s Wellness Center (CWC) is the first of its kind in Salem (city in southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu where the IGL headquarters are located). The CWC provides interventional therapy and care for children with special needs. Presently 38 children are enrolled at the center. With full time speech, occupational, physical therapists and special educators, the care and therapy provided to these children address both their specific need as well as ensure holistic development.
Due to the pandemic, the government has ordered educational and care giving institutions related to children and young people to remain closed to curb the spread of COVID-19. The CWC’s outreach, however, has continued uninterrupted. Children enrolled with us receive necessary therapy, guidance and counseling through online sessions.
Despite the change, children undergoing these online sessions have shown amazing improvement in their development. Parents and families too, have greatly appreciated the continuous contact and support provided to their children during these challenging times.
Outside of the CWC, how do children with intellectual disabilities receive services in India?
Unfortunately, in rural India there are many superstitions, myths and misconceptions about intellectual disability. Sadly, this means that most children with disabilities are hidden from the community. Most people in rural communities view a child with disabilities as a curse.
In general, in India, services are inadequate, being concentrated in big cities and urban areas. Many rural villages are fortunate to have a health clinic and most do not even have a doctor, let alone a pediatrician. So, a child’s disability often goes unchecked. If detected the child can be sent to an urban center to a specialist if the family can afford it.
How do partnerships with families like the Strohls or organizations like Red Leaf Nutrition help IGL and the CWC meet its goals?
Partners like the Strohls and Red Leaf Nutrition, make it possible for IGL to provide quality care for children with special needs. Their financial giving and prayers provide trained and qualified staff at the Center. This ensures that children and families get the help they need.
What are the biggest needs of the CWC today?
Several of these young ones come from families where both parents have to work and they are unable to care for their children and attend to their special needs at home. Many of these children would not have an opportunity to attend the center if we did not provide transportation to and from their homes. Prior to COVID lockdowns in India, children were bused in everyday from in and around Salem to the Wellness center for their therapy and care.
We hope that in the very near future we will once again be allowed to welcome children back to the campus for in-person classes and therapy. When we are allowed to be together, children will once again share their ride with the college students attending the Sharon Community College located on the same campus. With space and time constraints and with our children requiring additional safety while traveling, there is an urgent need for a dedicated vehicle for the wellness center. This would allow for our children to be transported safely and comfortably from their homes to the center and back. Moreover, with a dedicated vehicle our hope and prayer is to provide accessibility to many more children in the rural areas needing such help and care.
How can people help?
Your prayers and financial support would be very much appreciated,
Prayer: Twice a month IGL sends out an email with updates and prayer requests. If you’d like to receive this, you can sign up at: iglworld.org
Support: Give to support the work and mission of the Children’s Wellness Center. Donations can be made at: https://give.iglworld.org/project/childrens-wellness-center
We hope you see why the work of IGL inspires us at Red Leaf to serve this organization. Please visit their website listed above and see the great work they are doing to serve the poorest of the poor in Southeast Asia. If you feel so led, please join us in partnering financially with IGL to make a difference in the world. Also, please know that with every purchase you make from Red Leaf, you are partnering with us to help serve children with special needs in India receive life-sustaining services that they would otherwise not receive. Thank you for being part of our mission!