There is no greater violence than to deny the dreams of our children – Kailash Satyarthi, founder of GoodWeave
Imagine what it would be like if your son or daughter was forced into child labor. On the Voices of America (VOA) site I saw a photo of five year old Pakisthani girl named Naginah Sadiq. She worked in a brick factory. In the photo she was resting on a bed next to her 8 month old sister Shahzadi on World Day Against Child Labor on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan on June 12, 2012. She was wearing dirty clothes and was barefeet. Her hands and feet were dirty. She looked so tiny. How could she work in a brick factory? This photo was taken three years ago. Is she still working there? Will her baby sister be forced to work once she turns five? Millions of children are forced into child labor in order to support their families.
I’m sure that Naginah would rather be like other children who get to play, have no responsibilities and go to school–things that our own children take for granted. Growing up, I didn’t have to worry about anything. There was always food on the table, clothes for me to wear and I went to school. I didn’t do any housework. I played with my friends or spent most of my time reading and writing. Life was good for me. I had a decent childhood. This is the kind of childhood that children like Kalavati could only dream of.
Can you imagine how eleven year old Kalavati felt when she saw other children playing without a care in the world while she worked alongside her mother? She had been working since she was eight years old. At eight I was probably still playing with dolls. Kalavati had to work in order to support her family. She had no choice. Her father lost his job because someone had performed witchcraft on him, causing him to be mentally disturbed. He stopped showing up for work and then he disappeared. Days, weeks, months and a year passed but there was still no sign of him.
Then one day, while walking through the village, Kalavati’s mother, Bhama saw a crazed looking man, sitting under a tree. He was naked and alone. He had a long beard and at first she didn’t recognize him. Then she realized that it was Deval, her husband. She took him home where he was welcomed by the family who were relieved and overjoyed to see him. The joy didn’t last, though. Deval was not in his right mind. They took him to the hospital to be treated but that didn’t work. He was violent and no one could control him. His story reminded me of the one about the man who was living among the tombs in the country of the Gadarenes because he had many demons. He was violent and no one went near him. Deval began to throw stones at the villagers. He was not the same because of the curse someone put on him.
Tired of dealing with Deval’s violent behavior, the villagers drove the family out of their home. Life went from bad to worst for Kalavati. Now she had no home or support from the neighbors. The family went to the big city where Bhama hoped to find work. For days they lived and begged on the streets until Bhama finally found work as a maid in a farmhouse. Unfortunately, this job was not enough. It didn’t provide the family with the relief they needed. Bhama worked day and night but it was not enough to provide two meals a day. Kalavati helped her mother with the laundry and cleaning of the utensils in the house but all the while she wished she could be like the owner’s children. She saw them studying and wished she could do the same. At that moment education seemed far out of her reach. It was merely a dream that would never come true.
What touched me as I read this story was when Bhama became so discouraged because her husband was not getting well in spite of the treatment he was getting with the money she had borrowed from her employer that she was convinced that the only way to save her family from the ever-growing burdens was to poison them and herself. It was at that moment when God intervened.
It was around this time that the Bridge of Hope staff members visited the family. They listened as Bhama told them that she didn’t believe in God and revealed her plans to commit suicide. They told her about Jesus and prayed with the family.
Bhama had a change of heart about God after her encounter with the believers and when she saw some improvement in Deval. She knew that this miracle could only have been the result of the believers’ prayers. This prompted her to visit the Bridge of Hope center the next day and ask if they would enroll Kalavati. The dream that had seemed impossible for Kalavati became a reality! She attended the center the following week. The staff members continued to ask God to heal Deval and for Bhama to find stable work so that she could provide for her family. God answered their prayers. Bhama found a stable gardening job at the local hospital. Kalavati helps her sometimes but not because she has to.
Kalavati can be like other children. She plays and draw pictures. And she is getting an education. She has something far better than what the children of her mother’s ex-employer had–she has Jesus in her life. Thanks to the Gospel for Asia workers, Kalavati and her family learned about Jesus. She is thriving at the Bridge of Hope center. She has reason now to dance and play with her classmates. The love of Jesus has transformed her world. There is hope now when there was so much despair. Her father is improving a little at a time. He is no longer aggressive and violent toward others. He eats meals with his wife and daughter and attends church with them. Together they worship the One who saved their lives.
Just think, there was a time when Bhama thought there was no hope. She saw no way out of her despair. She saw no end to the family’s struggles. But God does not give us more than we can handle. He sees what we are going through and He intervenes. Thanks to the Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope ministry, Bhama came to know the God she had not believed in. He had revealed Himself through the changes He had brought into her life. God revealed Himself in a very profound way and helped Bhama to do what she could not do in her own strength.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble – Psalm 46:1
Pray that God will intervene in the lives of other children who are trapped in child labor or families who are forced to beg in order to survive. You can make a difference. You can sponsor Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope ministry so that they are able to reach out to families like Kalavati’s and share with them the hope that they can find only in Jesus. Or you can sponsor a child like Kalavati and change a family.
With God’s help, you can help Asian boys and girls to be like other children who are free to play and draw and do the things that children do. You can help to protect them from those who would rob them of their childhood and innocence, deny them a bright future and crush their hopes and dreams.
Deliver the poor and needy; Free them from the hand of the wicked – Psalm 82:4
Sources: Gospel for Asia; AZ Quotes; VOA