This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Evangel Magazine.
At three years old, Pramod Anderson saw his biological mother for the last time as she dropped him off at an orphanage in India. He would grow up there, sleeping on the floor and living among a sea of children. This was years before Church of God World Missions would acquire and rename the orphanage, and years before Pramod would become the director of it.
The facility then housed 250 children with just two caretakers, whom they called Matron and Warden. There were four 16×16 rooms, two for the boys and two for the girls. Most of them were orphans and street children whose mothers came from the Red Light District in Mumbai, just like Pramod’s mother.
It was a life of trying to find his place. Growing up with so many boys meant there was always competition, and he felt he had to keep himself safe and protected. Some days were good, and others were not. His biological brother was at the orphanage, but he ran away and Pramod never saw him again.
Although the system was declining, it was a Christian organization and he learned about Christ throughout his time there. At 18-years-old, Pramod had an inner sense of knowing that he should follow God. This lead him to relocate to a city that was a five-hour train ride from the only place he’d known.
With only the support of himself and God, he got a job as an accountant to sustain his passion of studying photography and graphic design. He bought a small camera and started doing side jobs in media.
One side job at a conference ended up changing his life when he met Church of God World Missions South Asia Regional Superintendent Ken Anderson. The two began talking and Ken shared that he was looking for land to relocate an orphanage. Pramod told him about the orphanage he grew up in. He had not been to the grounds in seven years.
Upon their return, the grounds were in ruins; the orphanage that was once buzzing with hundreds of children was now desolate, minus the director’s family that was there trying to maintain the property. Funds decreased and it had been closed shortly after Pramod left.
After much work, the property was transferred to Church of God World Missions and El Shaddai Orphanage was birthed four years ago. Pramod, who once slept on the floors there, became the director. And, during all of this, Ken adopted Pramod into his family and Pramod took their last name.
El Shaddai started with five young boys and has since grown into 18. The orphanage aims to take a holistic approach and teach the children valuable life and spiritual lessons, while also meeting their physical needs.
“We give them good education, skills in vegetable gardening and goat farming, and raising chickens and rabbits,” Pramod said. “Our kids definitely enjoy this. They get this idea that they can do anything! The children see the results of their vegetable gardening and are excited to eat it.”
Pramod is amazed and thankful for how much the quality of care has changed since he was living there. With support from Church of God and advances in technology and equipment, he sees a complete turnaround from the previous living circumstances.
Most of the children currently living there are “semi-orphans” — meaning they know and are in contact with their biological mothers, but most of the fathers are deceased because of alcohol and crime in the area. All of them are from Hindu backgrounds and would never hear about Christ if it weren’t for El Shaddai.
Relatives are encouraged to visit the children once a month; and most take them home for holidays or extended breaks.
“The interesting thing is that kids don’t want to go back home,” Pramod said. “They want to stay with us because they get all three meals with us and the quality of care is higher.”
Most are malnourished when they return to the orphanage and they can fall back into the pattern of bad behavior. While the readjustment period can be hard, Pramod says that it is always a joy to work with them and see them grow.
Because of the current small number of boys there, the environment is intimate and feels like a family. He gets to spend time with them, share meals with them, and take them to school.
World Missions has helped him connect with this younger generation of orphans that he deeply relates to. He is now involved with seven other orphanages in India and gets to visit remote villages and churches to do photography and media. Most of these areas hold unreached people groups.
As he looks ahead, his goal is to create exit strategies for the boys since it is illegal for them to live there after turning 18. He has seen young men graduate and have to go back to where their family is from. Most don’t find jobs or finish school because they don’t have support or family guidance.
Pramod hopes to implement self-sustainable projects, like having them work and support the orphanage. He says that some have gone to get degrees and are now wanting to study theology and do evangelization work.
“We don’t tell them what they have to do,” he said. “It’s their desire.”
His overarching goal is to have 50 boys and 50 girls as a part of El Shaddai and he hopes to continue to travel and help orphans around the world, and show them that they are cared for by Christ and can go on to live better lives, and invest in future generations themselves.