The streets of Chennai, formerly Madras, India's fourth largest city, are jammed with bikes, buses, trucks and cars, all careening in and out and around each other, honking incessantly and largely to no avail. An occasional sign on the back of a truck or cab that reads "Please honk horn" seems hilariously irrelevant.

Along one of those busy thoroughfares is an imposing gate that opens onto the campus of Gurukul College, a major Lutheran theological center in India. One of the buildings houses the office of the Chennai Slum Women's Advance­ment Program, a ministry under the auspices of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India headed by Vidhya Rani.

Rani, 44, works with some of India's most vulnerable people—female slum dwellers struggling to eke out an existence against towering odds. Rather than recite statistics on urban realities, she told about Lakshima, a woman whose story exemplifies the plight of many.