By Noel Solomon, a junior FFF/TAL Reporter in southern India
(In the photo, the boy on the right and the older girl on the left are friends of her children who could not resist having their photo taken.)
The power of the Gospel has changed many lives, and it excites me to know and hear how great and wonderful our God is. One such changed life is mentioned below, that of the children of widows.
A young woman named Valli attends a prayer group in one of our newly started house churches in a slum area. She looked dull, as if distressed and weak, yet at the same time unable to convey her thoughts as she was shy and accustomed to being ignored by people. After the prayer, one of the sisters spoke to her and came to know her story. Upon hearing it, I determined to speak to her to learn more about her and her situation, believing it would help our American partners better understand our culture, which has been shaped by the idolatry and bigotry of Hinduism for thousands of years.
I was shocked to know that a woman of her age, around 35 to 36 years old (she doesn’t know her age), is already a widow with two children. It has been a few years since her husband passed away.
Her husband was a person with an alcohol addiction, a gambler, and sometimes would take drugs. He had a small shop where he used to repair locks and keys. He was earning little, but his bad habits pulled him down, and he began to spend all his earnings on his destructive activities. Slowly he lost everything and became irresponsible, never loving his family and two children. One day, he was so drunk that he fell on the road, hit his head on a stone, and died.
Valli was determined to take care of her children. Still, being widowed and uneducated left her with no hope and very little confidence as she started to search for a job. In her condition, she could only hope to get employment as a helper or a housemaid. During this time of struggle, she visited the prayer group and requested that they pray for a job. The pagan gods she had served her entire life could not answer her prayers, but this Jesus, whom she had never heard of, answered the prayers of the ladies who implored Him on her behalf. She wondered how awesome He must be when, after a few days, she was hired as a housemaid. This event alone increased her interest in Him. She hungered to know more about Him and began attending the prayer groups consistently.
Valli had found it very difficult to run the family and be able to give even a once-a-day meal to her children. Most of the time, she had nothing in her home to prepare something for them. But, with her new job working as a housemaid, sometimes the family would give her their leftover food. With that, she would go home joyfully and fulfill her children’s hunger. Her two children are also not healthy due to a lack of food.
Remitting the house rent and purchasing groceries have been the critical needs of the family. But her earnings as a housemaid don’t even fulfill these partial needs.
Her two children (one daughter, Puja, and one son, Chandhan) study in a government elementary school. There, they are provided with small afternoon meals. So, typically, the children eat only a single meal per day.
Valli somehow learned that Touch a Life India provides an evening meal for the children attending the house church. So, she requested that we permit her children to attend the children’s program with the intention that they would have an evening meal, too.
Of course, you know that in the past, it would require us to get an application and photo of each child and then wait while you seek a sponsor. But because Touch a Life no longer requires the child to have a personal sponsor to be fed, we were able to enroll her two children immediately. Now, they receive an evening meal from us every day. They also receive help from our church members who provide educational tutoring for the children.
Jon, you asked me to give more information about this family and explain the life of widows in India.
In India, even today, in some places, widows are considered cursed. This is because, after losing their husbands, especially at a very young age, they are not included in any public functions. Even if they attend, they should not come to the front and show their faces. The sad point is that even if their own children are getting married, a widow is not supposed to be seen in front of the ceremony or meal with them. This is why the Gospel of Christ and the Church play a critical role. We teach that to our loving God, being a widow is not a curse. Christ loves them, and they are still important and useful vessels for God.
In Indian marriages, parents stand at the forefront and arrange marriages. At the ceremonies, they welcome the guests, but when a woman is a widow, she is deprived of her rights. She can attend the wedding but is not supposed to come to the front, participate as a family member, or welcome the guests. She may attend the wedding like others but is not given priority or acknowledgment.
When a child starts a new life after their wedding, the widowed mother will be behind the scenes. She is not supposed to come in front of them as she now lives under a social stigma, being considered accursed. A woman is blamed and ostracized for being a widow. It is believed that Karma from her past lives has cursed her to be reborn as a woman and caused her husband/protector/provider/god to be taken from her as additional punishment. Many widows are mistreated or killed by their husband’s family for revenge.
To further complicate their lives, and those of the children, widows cannot remarry, whatever their age group. However, thanks to the missionaries of past eras and their influence on education and civil policies, such social stigmas in society have been reduced. However, in some places, they are still present.
Closing comments on Valli and her children.
Valli and her two children live in a small room where they eat, sleep, and cook. There is a community toilet outside their house. Such lives and their poverty compel and motivate us to do more for God and his widowed people.
Valli and the children attend our nearby House Church regularly (it meets in the evenings), and occasionally, they attend our combined church for most services. She works on Sunday, so there are times when she cannot attend, but the children come and have accepted Christ. Valli is learning more about Jesus. She has already come to believe in Him, that He is the Son of God and Savior, but has yet to commit her life to the Lord. This is not a bad thing from our perspective. Having been raised in Hinduism, she has much to overcome mentally and spiritually. We are glad she chooses to continue to study and grow in her knowledge of Christ and does not feel pressured to make a quick and shallow profession of faith. We pray and hope she will accept Him soon and become a member of the Christian family.
A final comment from Jon Nelms
Though most still directly sponsor a child, and for that, we have been very grateful. However, all new and future support for Touch a Life goes not to the child but to the local, church-based feeding center. This allows them to feed any child in need who seeks food, including Children of Widows. In turn, they receive Bible stories and lessons and help with their education through supplies and/or tutoring. This operational method change has allowed us to open multiple new feeding centers, particularly in Pakistan, India, and Africa, feeding hundreds of additional children. Thank you for giving to Touch a Life.