“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.