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  • Writer's pictureDavid and Marilynn Chadwick

Unlikely Heroes: The Ragpicker's Wife

by Marilynn Chadwick

Men, women, and children of all ages squeezed into the patchwork tent that was both home and church for Pastor Raju and his family. David and I were traveling through this remote slum village in India to see the work of church planters like Raju.

Raju was a ragpicker by trade. Daily, he sifted through the nearby garbage dump to find rags, plastic, bits of this-and-that to sell. It looked as if Raju had used some of “this-and-that” to construct his tent which, though humble, was very clean and well organized inside.

Raju was also a Dalit, a member of the “untouchable” caste, as were most of his neighbors. Courageous pastors like Raju were why the gospel was spreading rapidly in this region that was hostile to Christians.

Raju was small and wiry with a firm grip and a wide grin. He was fiery and passionate that morning as he reminded his people that they were the “head and not the tail” in God’s eyes. No longer did they have to be terrified of displeasing the cruel gods or being rejected by higher castes. For now, their identity was secure as dearly loved children of their heavenly Father, adopted into Christ’s church.

Warmth and singing filled the tent. Traditional orange marigold leis had been draped over our shoulders. Plastic chairs were brought in for the “honored guests.” David was asked to preach the message to Raju’s church of about fifty congregants.

Raju had endured much persecution. But this gaunt little warrior deeply loved his people and continued to boldly preach the gospel. Once, he went on a hunger strike until village authorities finally brought electricity into his slum neighborhood. I noticed the haphazard electrical rigging outside his tent.

But it was Raju’s wife who captured my heart. Somehow, she had worked her magic and turned the patchwork tent into an inviting home. Her kitchen was just one shelf, a few staples, and a one-burner hot plate in a corner of the room that was also bedroom, living room, and church.

After the service, she prepared tea along with a single roll of Ritz crackers, served to us by their children. Raju beamed as he introduced his family. A handful of boys and girls, from around eight to sixteen years of age, greeted us with shining faces and firm handshakes. They had been well-nurtured there in that little one-room tent beside the garbage dump. How was this possible?

I noticed Raju’s wife, though lovely in her colorful sari, looked very thin and worn. I was told that Indian mothers and fathers sometimes go without food to make sure their children have enough to eat. This tiny woman had found a way to nurture these smiling children who were adored by their dad. She and her husband had given them physical, emotional, and spiritual nourishment. Looking into their faces, I sensed they would somehow find their way in this harsh and difficult environment.


Raju’s wife was both nurturer and warrior for her little family. She’s living proof that a woman of valor doesn’t just live in a palace, but could just as well be found in a tent. Her children were a testimony that it doesn’t take money or education to nurture a child—just love, self-sacrifice and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This was the legacy of the ragpicker’s wife. This was her kingdom. Her husband and children were her crown.



Today's Moment of Hope is adapted from Woman of Valor by Marilynn Chadwick. To receive a free PDF copy of this book, please visit

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