International Day of the Girl

On my twelfth birthday, I sat on the cold ground in a corner of a dark room with my knees drawn up to my chin and my arms wrapped around them as the tears rolled down my dirty cheeks.   I couldn’t sleep.   I didn’t want to sleep because I was afraid that he would come back and hurt me again.  It really hurt down there.   Why did he hurt me?  Did I do something bad?  I can’t tell anyone.  He said that no one will believe me.  I can’t tell my mother.  She will beat me if I tell her that my father hurts me.

Sometimes I want to run away but I don’t know where I could go.   Sometimes I wish I was never born.  Sometimes I wish I could die.

One day my father got very ill and a week later he died.  I wish I could say that I was sad but I wasn’t.  I thought to myself, “He will never hurt you again.”  My mother didn’t seem sad either. She and my father didn’t love each other.  They used to fight a lot.  Sometimes he beat her when he was drunk.  Now it was just her, my two brothers and me.   Life did not get better after my father died.  I was still treated badly and beaten.  I worked hard while my brothers played.  Life was hard and unfair.  But what could I do?

Then, one day, three women came to our village.  One of them came to our home.  She had a kind face.  Her name was Sister Hope.  She spoke to my mother.  She talked about Jesus.  I was curious about this Jesus but didn’t want to ask any questions in front of my mother.  My mother had her gods so she wasn’t interested in this new God Sister Hope told her about.  Sister Hope smiled and left.  I was outside doing my chores.   She saw me and she came over to me.  She smiled and asked me my name.  She invited me to walk a little of the way with her.

As we walked, I asked her many questions and she answered them.  She told me about the Bridge of Hope Centre.  It sounded like a place where I would like to be. It was my chance to leave home, at least for a while.  I asked her if she could speak to my mother.

I went to the Bridge of Hope Centre once a day—in the afternoons.  The staff was so kind and caring. I was not used to that.  I was used to being abused, neglected and mistreated.  My father abused me since I was five years old.  My mother never loved me because I am a girl.  She loved my two brothers.  Sometimes I wished that I were a boy so that my mother would love me and my father wouldn’t hurt me.

It was not easy at first. I was not doing well in my studies.  I was still hurting inside.  Sometimes I found it hard to concentrate but Rashmi who taught me was very patient with me.  One day, she gently asked me to share my story with her.  I found it hard to talk about it so I drew pictures.  When she saw the drawings, she looked really sad.  I could see the tears in her eyes. That surprised me.  No one had ever cried for me before.  No one had ever felt sorry for me.  When I was at home, I was all alone.  I had no one to share my pain with.  No one cared.  No one asked me anything.  I didn’t matter to them.  But here, I did.

After she put the drawings aside, Rashmi reached out and held my hands.  She looked me straight in my face and said, “I’m so sorry that you went through such pain but I want you to know that you have a Father who loves you.  He saw you suffering and that is why He sent me to you. He loves you with an everlasting love.  He knew you before you were even born.  He knows that you are still in pain and wants and comfort you.  He wants to pour out His love on you if you will let Him.”

When I heard that I had another Father who loved me and wanted to take care of me, I began to cry.  I cried for a while.  Rashmi sat there, holding my hands.  Then, I stopped crying and felt better.  The heavy feeling that I had was not there anymore.  I felt God’s love fill me.  It felt warm.  That is the moment when I gave my heart to God. My work began to improve.

Rashmi taught me from the Bible.  I learned more about God and how much He loved me.  I learned that He gave His Son, Jesus so that I could have eternal life.  I had a Father who wanted what was best for me and who wanted to give me everything I needed.  He would never hurt, mistreat or neglect me.  He promised that He would always be there, watching over me and protecting me.  He was the father and mother I never had.

Jesus became my Friend.  He filled me with a peace that I never had.  He is always there.  When I read about how kind He was to the Samaritan woman, I knew that He would be kind to me too even though I am a girl.  I knew that Jesus didn’t love me less because I am a girl.  He had friends who were women.  He didn’t reject women and I knew that He wouldn’t reject me.

My mother noticed the changes in me. I was no longer sad. I was singing as I did my chores. I tried to tell her about Jesus but she didn’t want to hear about it. She even said to me, “If I hear another word about this Jesus of yours, I will stop you from going back to the centre.” I didn’t talk to her about Jesus after that but for weeks I prayed every night that she would want to know about Him. Weeks went by and then one morning she came to me. She looked scared. “I had a dream last night,” she said. “I was at the river doing laundry when I saw a bright light around me. Out of the light I heard a voice say to me, ‘forsake your gods and follow Me.’ I was afraid but the voice sounded kind so I asked, ‘who are You?’ The voice said, ‘I am Jesus.’ Then He told me again to forsake my gods and follow Him. Tell me about this Jesus.”

I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say at first. God had answered my prayers. Jesus had revealed Himself to my mother. I told her all that I knew about Jesus. Then Sister Mary came to study the Bible with her. My mother accepted Jesus and our lives have changed. We get along better now.

Now I am 15 years old.  I have been going to the centre for three years.  I love it here.  I want to be a teacher so that I could tell other girls about Jesus.  I want to tell them that it doesn’t matter that they are girls.  Jesus loves them.

This story is fictitious but it is the reality for many girls in South Asia.  Many are abused, neglected, mistreated and unloved simply because they are girls. Some run away from home and end up on the streets where they end up begging, forced into child labor, exploited or trafficked or some of them end up in a Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.

From the time they are born, they are mistreated, solely because they are girls. A girl cannot carry on the family name nor aptly provide for her parents when they get old. Additionally, her parents will likely have to go into debt to pay her marriage dowry. Because of this, she is seen as a burden to her family and not a blessing – Gospel for Asia.

Thankfully, some girls who still live at home like the one in this story are invited to the Bridge of Hope Centre while others like Manjulika are placed in Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.  Read her story.

International Day of the Girl is a global and annual event initiated by the United Nations to raise awareness of the plight girls around the world.  This year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.”

There are nearly 600 million girls aged 10 to 19 in the world today, each with limitless individual potential, however they are disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. Between inequities in secondary education to protection issues, adolescent girls are uniquely impacted and should benefit from targeted investments and programmes that address their distinct needs. Investing in adolescent girls can have a formidable ripple effect to create a better world by 2030. On this International Day of the Girl, join us in highlighting the unique challenges and potential of adolescent girls – UNICEF.

This is our opportunity to highlight the needs and rights of girls.  Girls face discrimination because of their gender.  They face barriers to education, opportunities to make a living, child-marriages and poverty.   The sad reality is that when we invest in girls, “we create a brighter and safer future for everyone.  When girls are educated, healthy and informed, they are able to lift themselves, their children and communities out of poverty” (Because I Am a Girl).  Girls matter!  They should be celebrated, empowered and encouraged not abused, misused, neglected or exploited.   Invest in a girl today!

There are girls out there who don’t know that there is a God who created them in His image and that they are precious in His sight.  He rejoiced when they were born.  Pray that He will send missionaries to their homes and rescue them from their private hell.  Pray that boys and girls will find refuge at Gospel for Asia supported Children’s homes. Help programs like Bridge of Hope, a children’s program, where they help with the children’s education, provide them with food, medical care, tutoring, clothing, and show them the love of Christ.  Pray that many of these girls and their families will be led to Christ who has the power to “give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death–to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Galatians 1:4).

Celebrate the power and potential of girls!

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; UNICEF; Because I am A Girl

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Nepalese Woman Finds Hope

“The Lord has blessed me in such a wonderful way that He has provided shelter, food, special care and attention through His people,” Shiuli says.

What does a 14 year old know about being a wife and a mother?  She should be in school getting a good education.  At 14 most girls aren’t even allowed to date.   Most girls are not thinking about marriage and if they were, it would be an event which would take place in the distant future, when they are older and ready to make that kind of commitment.  Their parents do not arrange their marriages.  They marry whom they choose.  They marry for love.

In some countries, it is considered statutory rape when an adult has relations with a girl 16 years old or younger.  In other countries, young girls are given in marriage.  Nepal is one of these countries.  In fact, child marriages are the norm there.

Child marriage is a global problem which affects millions across the world but especially girls in South Asia. The Government of Nepal has signed many international instruments designed to tackle this problem and has passed a law forbidding child marriage but has found it difficult to eradicate the phenomenon due to weak enforcement and low levels of awareness – World Vision, Nepal.

It’s a problem that continues to persist in Nepal.  According to a report on the website for Girls Not Brides, “As is often the case elsewhere, child marriage is more common in rural areas than urban areas, and rates are particularly high in the hilly and mountainous regions. In certain ethnic groups, the rate of marriage before 15 can reach 83.1%. Castes also play a role, as lower caste girls are generally under greater pressure than higher caste girls to marry while still at school.”

This is the case of Shiuli, a young Nepalese woman.  Shiuli grew up  in a quiet mountain village of central Nepal with her family and friends nearby.   Life changed and hardship began for Shiuli when at the age of 14 her parents arranged her marriage to a man named Tarun.  After they were married the couple moved to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.  It must have been hard for Shiuli to be away from her family and friends.  She was in a strange city with a husband she hardly knew.

Tarun found a job in the carpet industry.  At a later date Shiuli began working there as well.  In the following years, the couple had three daughters.  Then, Tarun became sick and never recovered.  He died.  After seven years of marriage Shiuli was left alone to raise three daughters and struggle to care for them and herself.  She had no one to help her.  Her family was miles away.  She was in a big city, living among 700,000 people and things only got worse.

Desperately poor and unable to provide for her children because of lack of money, Shiuli was forced to do something no parent should ever have to do–watch her youngest daughter starve to death.  As a mother, my heart breaks for Shiuli.  I can’t imagine the pain she must have suffered as she watched helplessly as her daughter died, unable to do anything about it and the toll it must have taken on the other two girls.  Shiuli worried that she would die and leave her two daughters helpless and defenseless against abuse.  She had been through enough calamities.  She couldn’t wait for any more to hit her.  There was nothing anyone could do to help her so she had to do something.  She needed answers to her problems so she went searching.

She figured that religion was the answer.  To her there was little difference between the religion she had grown up in and the other two major ones.  She went to several religious centers and offered the little money she had along with other sacrifices to the gods, hoping for a response but none was forthcoming.  She sought the help of different religious figures, hoping to find peace but it was all in vain until one day visitors came to her workplace.

Three women missionaries told Shiuli that they were followers of Jesus Christ and they explained to her who Jesus was and His sacrifice on the cross.  Shiuli listened to them and their kind words brought her the answers she had been searching so desperately for.  She poured out her heart to them, sharing her sad story and they in turn shared God’s love for her and His plan to free her from her burdens.  The words of these three women filled Shiuli with the peace that had long been evading her.  She knew she could take refuge in Jesus who had brought His peace into her life which had been beset with hardship and unimaginable pain.

The missionaries found her a church where she could connect with other believers and learn more about the Lord.  She accepted His offer of peace and is growing in the Lord at a church supported by Gospel For Asia (GFA) with the help of the pastor and other women missionaries supported by GFA.

Shiulu went looking for answers and peace but found none in her search.  Jesus came to her through the three missionaries and gave her all that she needed and more.  Sometimes we go searching but sometimes the Lord sends His servants to find us.

I thank Jesus and the missionaries who have turn this young woman’s life completely around.   “The Lord has blessed me in such a wonderful way that He has provided shelter, food, special care and attention through His people,” Shiuli says.

If you want to see other women like Shiulu find the answers they are searching for and be led to Christ, sponsor women missionaries.  In South Asia, many women like Shiuli need someone they can turn to who can tell them about the God they can take refuge in but in some societies cultural restrictions prevent women from talking to male missionaries.  So, they can only be reached by other women.  Help change another woman’s life.  Give her hope.  Sponsor a woman missionary.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest – Matthew 11:28

Shiuli’s story is one of inspiration.  No matter how hard life becomes and how helpless we may feel, there is always hope.  No matter how long it takes, we will find the answers we are searching for.  We will find that wonderful peace only Jesus Christ can offer us.

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Source:  http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/nepalese-woman-finds-hope-amidst-great-loss/; http://www.wvi.org/nepal/publication/child-marriage-nepal; http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/nepal/