The Mathews – One little girl, one decision, and one big God

orphans 4You may have seen David and Jolene Mathew, and their eight-year-old son, Judah, around Access Church. Seeing them, you may never guess that they actually have 40 children under their care! This story begins in India, where David was born and raised. David’s family still lives in India, and he returns to visit them when he is able. On one such visit, a little girl asked to clean his motorcycle windshield. She was just another orphan of the 31 million in India, a common sight. David could’ve easily waved her away. But he didn’t. He noticed her hand. It was broken. She told him her “rowdy” (pimp) had broken it because broken children get more when they beg. Just another little girl out of so many, yet precious and uncommon to God. David and the friend with him decided to do something to make a difference for this little girl. Hours later they returned for her, and found her a home, leaving one less child to be trafficked on the streets of India.

orphans 6With that first child rescued from the streets, David determined to do more. They decided to set up a trust as a family so orphans could be taken off the streets and provided for in the custody of David’s sister, Jemima. Choosing to open their hearts has meant opening their hands and trusting God with their finances in ways they never have before. God has met them at every turn. Today, they support 39 rescued children in India who have found a place to be safe and to be loved with Jemima. “Many orphanages in India are like a jail, but Jemima provides a home for these children,” said Jolene. “They even call her ‘Amma’ (Mom). The young ones believe that Jemima is their real mom. She has told them she is not, but they don’t believe it. To them, she is “Amma.”

David and Jolene never set out to start an orphanage. They simply decided to open their hands to God and do what they could with what they had. “God has shown over and over again – when David and I lacked in our roles as providers –  that He is Father to the fatherless.” 

orphans 19Not that it has been easy. At one point, both David and Jolene were unemployed and their son, Judah, was only three months old. “It was definitely a very hard season,” Jolene remembers, “but the orphanage survived.”

Another time, the Indian government decided to charge orphanages special fees and require them to have 25 children to keep operating. At the time, Jemima was caring for 14 children, and it was already a financial struggle for the Mathews. If they did not adhere to the regulations, the children would end up back on the streets. “Despite our low-income situation and the need to take on more children, God provided,” Jolene said. “Jemima and her big heart could not turn children away, so that number actually kept growing.”

orphansIn His perfect timing, God opened doors for Jolene to start a business. “The business has grown tremendously by God’s grace, and we are now able to send the orphanage practically as much as I bring home after taxes while teaching,” Jolene said. “One thing we have learned is that God is faithful even when we cannot see it with our own eyes at the time. God has proven He can be trusted.”

The Mathews hope to travel to India more often and provide Jemima with an indoor kitchen, washing machine, dishwasher, and more bathrooms. They have big plans for the children under their care and in their hearts. Some are in college now, and all are making plans for the future. “We want to continue to make sure they are taken care of and that they reach their own dreams for their lives. We also hope to help get more children off the streets and provide them a home.”

orphans 12 copyHow do you measure the value of a life, precious and uncommon to God, rescued and loved? These children’s lives have been immeasurably impacted by the Mathews’ trust in God, and yet when you hear their story, you sense David and Jolene are the ones who feel blessed. We have learned that when we take the little that we have and are faithful with it, God definitely will give us more to be faithful with in due season,” Jolene said.

It all started with one little girl, one decision to simply do what they could, and one uncommon God with big plans, looking for open hearts and hands.