Sitara* is just 21, but she already been acting as a surrogate parent to her two younger siblings for six years. Orphaned at the age of 15, she has faced many challenges, not only because of losing her parents, but also because of her Christian faith – and the pandemic has only made their lives harder. But your support and prayers have enabled Open Doors partners to support Sitara and her brother and sister with vital aid, and show them that they are part of a global family in Christ.
‘You bring us rations whenever we are out of food’
“Jaimasih!” calls Suresh*, an Open Doors local partner, as he arrives at Sitara’s house. It means, “Praise the Lord!” He sees Sitara standing outside her mud hut. “How are you?” he asks.
“I’m fine, and I’m so happy to see you, Brother,” she grins.
Sitara’s eight-year-old sister stands beside her shyly, holding a ragged doll in her hand. Their teenage brother, Shekhar*, arranges some wooden stools outside the hut for the guests. Suresh and Mahesh*, another Open Doors partner, pull some food supplies out of the car and Shekhar runs to help carry them inside.
They sit on the wooden stools, talking about how things have been. The pandemic has made life difficult for everyone. Shekhar is just 15, but had already had to leave his studies and find work as a day labourer to provide for the basic needs of his sisters. With the pandemic, it is extremely difficult to find work, and there are days when food is so scarce they go to bed hungry.
“Had God not been faithful, we wouldn’t have met you. You bring us rations whenever we tell you that we are out of food,” Sitara says.
She brings the workers inside the house, where she unfolds two very old mats on the floor, and offers Suresh and Mahesh a seat on one of them. She and her siblings get seated on the other.
It is a small hut with no windows. The door is almost broken, and there are no beds or mattresses – these same rugged mats are used for sleeping too.
Sitara shares, “We have some fields left to us by our parents. My father used to cultivate them when he was alive, but now we have no one to work on them. We have given them to some people to cultivate – after the harvest they take some of the grains and give some to us. That’s how we have a little food, even when my brother doesn’t find work.
“Also, the people in our church are kind. They provide us with vegetables sometimes when they have extra. However, life is tough. The house needs repairs; the roof leaks when it rains and Shekhar and I have a tough time finding daily wages work. But God gives us courage and strength for every day.”
‘I have never looked back’
When asked what motivates Sitara to keep trusting in the Lord despite her challenges, she says,
“I came to know the Lord as a teenager and have never looked back since then.”
She shares the story of how she came to faith. “Our mother became paralysed when we were young, so I left my studies to take care of her. My father also tried his best, but she did not get better.
“Then someone suggested that she should be taken to a church where people would pray for her. I got permission from my father and took her to a church which was quite far away. She was kept on the church premises for almost a year, and every day some people would come to pray for her. On Sundays all the church members would pray for her.
“Soon after, we saw her health improving. However, this was not to last. After some time the improvement stopped, and she eventually died.” Sitara’s eyes are moist as she talks about this, the grief still fresh in her memory.
“Her body was taken back to the village, but she was not allowed to be cremated anywhere in the village graveyard. No one from the village came to help. The villagers hurled insults at us, and called us traitors. They accused us saying, ‘Your family has been in the church for a year, you have become Christians. Take her back to the church and bury her there.’
“We finally buried her in our fields. Some believers came to help with the cremation when the entire village shunned us.”
Sitara’s father was shocked. He had hoped that his wife would become well through prayer, but it hadn’t worked. Instead, the family had been completely rejected by their community because of their connection with the church.
He was furious, and blamed Sitara for what had happened. He warned the children not to connect with the Christians again.
“But I could not restrain myself from going to church,” Sitara says. “Though my mother did not become well, I knew God was real. I had tasted His love for me. I knew God filled in the void that nothing else could fulfil. I went secretly to church with my siblings. We also went to the prayer meetings. Whenever my father found out, we were beaten up in front of all our neighbours. We were also made to skip dinner that day.” Sitara’s voice breaks as she remembers.
‘We have felt His presence even in the worst circumstances’
Then one fateful day, Sitara and her siblings faced their greatest challenge yet. Their father was returning home from the market when he suffered a massive cardiac arrest on the road and died on the spot. Sitara was just 15 at the time; her brother was nine, and her sister was two.
Despite the vulnerable situation the young siblings were left in, their community had no sympathy for them. “The villagers were furious; they blamed our Christian faith for this happening in our lives. They said our father could not be buried in the village crematorium. Again, a few of the families from the church came and helped us bury our father in our fields beside our mother.
“None of the villagers helped us. In fact, they didn’t have one kind word for us. Only God came to our rescue all the time, and He always does even today.”
Open Doors local partners came to know Sitara two years ago through her pastor. Since then, they have been in regular contact with her and were able to help her several times with food aid during the pandemic.
Despite her young age and the many hardships she has faced, Sitara is full of faith. As her time with the Open Doors partners comes to an end, she says confidently, “Thank you so much for encouraging us. We know that God is our Father and whenever we need anything, we pray, He answers us. We have felt His presence even in the worst circumstances.”
Please continue to support Sitara and her brother and sister with your prayers. Pray that God will continue to provide for all their needs, and help them to keep putting their trust in the Lord.
*Names changed for security reasons.
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