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Forced to Marry Unbeliever

November 8th, 2013 Comments off

 

Weddings where Tamarai lived were several-day affairs filled with color, tradition and family. For Tamarai, though, her wedding was just a countdown to the day she was banished to the home of someone she was desperate not to marry. She had grown up knowing a forced marriage was possible, but this man didn’t even follow the same religion.

Tamarai felt helpless when her parents forced her to marry a man who, in turn, expected her to convert to his religion.

As if their faith meant nothing, Tamarai’s Christian parents expected her to give up Jesus for this man’s gods. Feeling like she had no other choice, that’s exactly what she did.

Parents Give Daughter to Unbelieving Man

Despite living in a part of the world where being a Christian carries heavy risks, Tamarai’s parents still claimed the Christian faith as their own—even though they never took it seriously. They were safe in their own community, so they attended church and said they followed Christ. When it came to making decisions, however, God was far from their minds.

In South Asia, families have a variety of reasons to ignore their daughter’s input on whom she marries. A well-connected husband can bring status and honor to a family. Lesser husbands at least rid families of “extra mouths to feed.”

Tamarai’s parents should have known better, but marrying their daughter to this man would help solve their problems. Unfortunately, it was only the beginning of Tamarai’s.

New Gods Bring Hardship

After Tamarai married Paandu, she dutifully began following his religious traditions and worshiped his gods. She had never received much from her parents’ nominal faith, but these new gods seemed bent on making her miserable.

Her new husband wasn’t home much. He worked all day and spent his nights drinking alcohol. Meanwhile, Tamarai began suffering dizzy spells and pain throughout her body. Her doctor didn’t know what was wrong, and her health worsened every day.

Still, Tamarai told herself she couldn’t simply trade in these new gods for another. As the years passed, she had two children, whose care added to the problems of her alcoholic husband and unexplained illness. Who had time to switch religions a second time? Besides, how would Paandu react?

Even if another god could heal her, she was stuck—unless someone could show her a way out.

After she began worshiping her husband’s gods, Tamarai suffered an illness her doctors couldn’t cure.

Woman Seeks Answers in Secret

Wahab, a recent Bible college graduate, and Ibraheem, a Bible college intern, were new to full-time ministry, but they didn’t hesitate when a local believer asked them to visit a woman named Tamarai who had been sick for more than a decade.

“We are serving the Lord, and we came to know that you have not been well for a long time,” they said when they arrived at her door. “We would love to pray for you.”

After they prayed, Tamarai began pouring out her life’s story to them.

“I was born and brought up in a Christian family, but my parents had no fear of God in their lives,” she began. “They were living a worldly life. Due to that, there was no blessing in our family.”

As Tamarai told her story, the men listened thoughtfully, and then told her to put her faith in the Lord and not lose heart.

“Our God will make all of this right in His time,” they said.

Tamarai was encouraged and asked them to come back. When Paandu found out, he forbid any more visits, but Tamarai continued inviting her friends in secret and began attending fellowship meetings.

The men gave her a Bible, which Paandu also forbid her to read, but Tamarai couldn’t be dissuaded. As Wahab and Ibraheem continued to pray for Tamarai to have true faith in Jesus, she began to change—and her pain began subsiding, too.

Still, the young men wanted to see God do more in Tamarai’s life—to know she wouldn’t revert to the nominal faith of her parents or give it up completely when more pressure came. This time, they wanted her to have faith that couldn’t be shaken.

A Bible college student and a recent graduate encouraged Tamarai to trust Jesus despite her husband’s opposition.

Woman Stands Firm in Faith

Wahab and Ibraheem had equipment to show a film about the life of Jesus, and they began fasting and praying for the opportunity to show it in Tamarai’s home. One day, while Paandu was out, they got their chance.

As Tamarai and 15 others watched, she felt the Lord speaking to her heart, calling her to love Him. From that day on, there was no question: Her faith would encompass her entire life.

Tamarai began spending time in prayer and rejoiced as Jesus brought her complete spiritual and physical healing.

Seeing his wife healed after a decade of suffering, Paandu stopped voicing his objections to her new faith, and he even came to church a couple of times.

Tamarai prays that one day he will embrace Jesus, too, but even if he doesn’t, she’s ready to stand firm in her faith. Because of two young men’s efforts, she knows truly serving Jesus is greater than a Sunday-morning ritual.

“If I had to forget my husband,” she says, “I would do it for my Jesus.”

Whatever she may face, Tamarai is completely devoted to following Christ now.

 

This article was originally published by Gospel for Asia. To learn more about Gospel for Asia, click here.

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One Dream Not Worth Following

October 25th, 2013 Comments off

 

The village just a couple miles away struck fear in Minati’s heart. She knew all previous attempts to share the Gospel with the residents had been met with staunch opposition. An anti-Christian group had warned the villagers to stay away from any new religion, and local missionaries and pastors had given up trying to reach them.

Minati’s heart ached to share Christ with these people, but all doors appeared closed.

But one desperate woman eagerly waited for the hope Minati’s words would bring.

Jayanti was a priestess and gave six years of her life in service to the gods and goddesses of her faith.

Jayanti was a priestess and gave six years of her life in service to the gods and goddesses of her faith.

One Dream Changes Everything

Jayanti was 15 when she had an unusual dream.

Brought up in a family that worshiped many gods and goddesses, she wasn’t alarmed when one appeared to her while she slept. The goddess told Jayanti to perform rituals to please her, and from that day forward, Jayanti served as a priestess in her village. The role required that she abandon hopes of marriage, but she faithfully offered sacrifices and performed the prescribed rituals. Still, something felt wrong.

A Priestess with a Problem

Jayanti wept as she thought about her life. Now 21, six years had been spent in service to the gods, and all she had to show for it was family sicknesses, a brother in prison for murder and little hope for change.

Jayanti tried to fix it. She offered sacrifices in many temples and called on different gods and goddesses she knew. But no one seemed to hear her prayers. Finally she gave up. If the gods refused to help her, she determined to stop trying to please them.

The villagers were upset when she no longer offered her services as a priestess, but Jayanti’s decision was made. Now, if only she could find a solution for her family’s struggles.

A Year-Long Commitment

One by one, Minati and the women entered the room, each taking a spot on the floor. As a small circle formed, they began to lift their voices up to God. They needed a breakthrough.

Minati’s Women’s Fellowship group had been meeting together for a year, often fasting and praying. Their simple request was that God would open a door to share His love in a nearby village where people hadn’t heard the Good News.

A dominant political party had made a firm announcement that no one should listen to the words of the believers, but the women in the group knew God had the power to change hearts. When news that a man from the unreached village they prayed and fasted over had made his way to their church and begun following the Lord, Minati realized God was opening a door.

Minati's Women's Fellowship group met often for fasting and prayer to reach Jayanti's village. All across Asia, thousands of women gather to study the Bible, pray, do outreach and raise money for missions.

Minati’s Women’s Fellowship group met often for fasting and prayer to reach Jayanti’s village. All across Asia, thousands of women gather to study the Bible, pray, do outreach and raise money for missions.

She Saw a Difference

As the former priestess watched Aadit and his family, she noticed something different. He was just an average man from her village, but now he and his family followed a new God. As Jayanti watched the positive changes in their lives, she wondered if this God could change her life too.

One day as Jayanti sat at home crying out for answers, a group of women stopped in for a visit.

“What happened to you, sister?” one asked. “Why are you crying and sitting alone?” Overwhelmed, Jayanti started sobbing again. A few moments passed before she was composed enough to share her story with them.

Minati’s Women’s Fellowship group listened closely to Jayanti’s story and then began to tell her about the love of Jesus. They told of His miraculous power and then prayed earnestly for her. Before they left, they invited Jayanti and her family to church, where she could learn more about Jesus.

Minati's love and concern for Jayanti opened a door for her to share about Jesus.

Minati’s love and concern for Jayanti opened a door for her to share about Jesus.

A Life of Hope

Curious, Jayanti and her brothers showed up at church, where they listened to Pastor Gunin preach from the Word of God. Something began to stir in Jayanti’s heart, and when the service ended, she asked the pastor to pray for her and her family. After he prayed, Gunin invited her to come again.

Jayanti went home different. She knew the Lord was speaking to her heart, so she shared with her family what was going on. They all decided to join her at church the following week, and from then on, she followed the Lord.

Now Jayanti works in a tea garden as a daily laborer and attends church and Women’s Fellowship regularly. She even finds time to help keep the church building organized and clean. She also goes out with the same group of women who remained faithful in prayer to reach her village, and tells others about Jesus—the One who gave her a hope to live for.

 

This article was originally published by Gospel for Asia. To learn more about Gospel for Asia, click here.

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She Sacrificed Her Son

September 27th, 2013 Comments off

Millions of people come to the Ganges River hoping their sins will be washed away.

Through the stench of human waste and charred flesh, a mass of priests and pilgrims pressed toward one of the holiest places known to their faith.

On this day of celebration for their goddess, religious devotees believed the river would provide physical healing and forgiveness of their sins. They brought their dead with them, and set fire to their bodies on pyres in hopes of providing their loved ones with a good afterlife. Ashes, bones and cremated bodies sank into the river.

But above the clamor of the crowds, Varghese heard a lone, wailing voice. Kneeling along the shore, a young woman beat her chest and sobbed uncontrollably.

As Varghese approached, she wiped away the tears and tried to compose herself, but when he asked what was wrong, her horrific story poured out.

Her husband was sick with tuberculosis and had been out of work for months. Without his income, the young couple didn’t know how they would survive—unless they could somehow make peace with their deity.

“The troubles in my home are so great, and my sins so many,” she said, “so I gave my goddess the best I had to offer: my firstborn son.”

With horror, Varghese realized the woman had just thrown her infant into the river. The practice is centuries old: parents sacrifice their children in the river out of desperation for forgiveness. They’ve never been told that salvation was already purchased by the Son of God.

Read about the opportunity to reach people like this woman with Christ’s loveorder and read your free copy of Revolution in World Missions.

This article was originally published by Gospel for Asia. To learn more about Gospel for Asia, click here.

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She Sold Her Daughter

September 16th, 2013 Comments off

Lakhi had been warned of the coming destruction, but so many others had denied it. She had nowhere to go anyway if it did come. But that day had finally arrived. Now hundreds of police officers marched through the monsoon rains, clearing Lakhi and her neighbors from their homes and making way for the bulldozers. Carrying an infant in her arms, she joined the mass evacuation and pondered the question plaguing the other women: How would they care for their children now?

Prostitute Flees with Infant Daughter

The government had talked for years of clearing out prostitutes, like Lakhi, from the neighborhood, but it was just recently that they had seemed serious about their vows of cracking down on the red-light district.

The day before, the big news had come: At 7:30 a.m., the police were coming to tear down all the huts involved in the sex trade. Lakhi had until then to leave.

Four buses waited to take sex workers to a mental asylum-turned-government rehabilitation facility. If they refused, they could return to the lands they’d been trafficked from or be put in prison. Despite their lack of options, no one trusted the authorities enough to climb aboard the buses, and Lakhi wasn’t going to lead the way.

The next morning, as the walls of her home and business turned to rubble, she held her 1-year-old daughter close and ran. The journey began with thousands fleeing, but the crowd thinned out as former neighbors split off toward their homelands.

After traveling two miles through the rain, Lakhi saw a woman on the roadside who hadn’t come from the carnage, and she had an idea.

Lakhi didn’t know where she would get a job or how she would live, but she was certain of one thing right now: Her child could have a better life, if only this woman would say “yes.” If only she would agree to buy Lakhi’s daughter.

Daughter Sold to New Mother

As far as Naavarasi knew, there wasn’t a protocol for handling requests that one buy another’s child. The traveling woman was making an outlandish plea. Still, she did seem truly desperate, and what would become of the poor baby if Naavarasi denied her?

At the very least, Naavarasi knew the child would be safe in her family. And as the only girl in a house of three brothers, she would be well loved.

The women agreed on a price equivalent to $22—about a month’s wages for some in the area—and Naavarasi took the infant home. She would call the baby Tamanna.

With no way to make a living, Lakhi made the desperate decision to sell her 1-year-old daughter to a woman named Naavarasi.

With no way to make a living, Lakhi made the desperate decision to sell her 1-year-old daughter to a woman named Naavarasi.

Illness Shakes Adoptive Family

For a while, Naavarasi and her family made a happy home for Tamanna. But when the girl was 3 years old, Naavarasi was overtaken by stomach issues that frequently caused her to vomit blood. And though her family belonged to a traditional religion, the gods they worshiped did nothing to heal the mother of four.

As a wage laborer, Naavarasi didn’t earn much, but her children depended on all of it. If Naavarasi couldn’t go to work, if she couldn’t care for them, perhaps her sister would take them in—but she already had four little ones of her own.

It was a dark reality to grasp, but the future awaiting Tamanna and her brothers was just as uncertain as on that day by the roadside.

When Naavarasi became sick, it threatened her ability to provide for Tamanna and her other children by working as a laborer.

When Naavarasi became sick, it threatened her ability to provide for Tamanna and her other children by working as a laborer.

A Cook Offers Hope

When every course of action Naavarasi tried had failed, she was left with only one thing to do: talk with others about her problems. One of those other people happened to be Chahna.

Chahna was a cook at a local Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope center and knew Jesus was the hope Naavarasi needed.

Chahna told Naavarasi all about the God who loved her and would never leave her, and she invited Naavarasi to come to church. As Naavarasi listened to Chahna’s pastor share, she felt the Lord calling her, and she decided to embrace His love.

Daughter Raised in Christ’s Love

Over time, God healed Naavarasi of her illness, and she was able to resume her position as family provider. Not only that, but she is raising her children to know of the God who saved their family.

Because of her adoptive mother’s love, Tamanna, now 10 years old, has never known the life of pain she was rescued from as a baby or what she could have faced as a toddler. At age 5, she was enrolled in the local Bridge of Hope center, and through the godly examples of her mother and the staff, she is learning what it means to follow Christ.

As Bridge of Hope staff members watch Tamanna’s growth, they’re encouraged to do more to reach the children of the red-light district, even making plans to open another center soon. After all, they know the most important part of Tamanna’s story: She is beloved by the living God, who paid the highest price to call her His own.

You can bring the love of Christ to mothers and their children each day by linking your life with a Bridge of Hope child.

Through the care of Naavarasi and the Bridge of Hope staff, Tamanna knows a life full of God's grace.

Through the care of Naavarasi and the Bridge of Hope staff, Tamanna knows a life full of God’s grace.

 

This article was originally published by Gospel for Asia. To learn more about Gospel for Asia, click here.

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