"Work hard to feed a six-inch stomach and die," 9-year-old Bhavini said, summing up what she knew to be true about life. She had seen her father work day after day just so he could have money for his alcohol addiction, leaving his large family to starve.
As painful as the hunger was, however, Bhavini's fear of her father was much worse. When he was drunk, it didn't matter who was around, he would pick a fight with them.
Beating From Father Leaves Sister Unconscious
During an especially violent outburst, Bhavini's father grabbed hold of her older sister, Kala, and beat her without mercy. Her body couldn't handle the abuse from the grown man, and she fell into unconsciousness.
The family's neighbors took Kala to the hospital, where she underwent a week-long extensive treatment. It was several days before Bhavini knew her sister would survive the damage her father had done.
Seeing the conditions the family lived in, the believers in the village longed to see Bhavini and Kala given the opportunity to have a better future than the situation they were in now.
As it was, Bhavini's behavior was disconcerting. Because she had seen her father react in anger and frustration toward her family countless times, she fell into the same pattern. Easily annoyed by small things, Bhavini responded aggressively, and she was always ready to fight.
Because of the neighbors' concern for Bhavini's life, Gospel for Asia's Bridge of Hope staff enrolled Bhavini and her sister into the local center.
Bhavini's father spent whatever money he had to support his alcohol addiction, which often made him angry and violent toward his family.
Girl Struggles in Bridge of Hope Center
It was at the Bridge of Hope center that Bhavini regularly said to her teachers, "Work hard to feed a six-inch stomach and die."
Bhavini struggled constantly in the center. She had not done well in her studies before being enrolled in Bridge of Hope, and at first, this was no different once she was there. Her teachers saw through her bitterness, though, and recognized potential in the young girl, which she couldn't see in herself.
The Bible lessons, songs, dances and prayers slowly changed Bhavini's cynical heart. Eventually, she began to enjoy coming into the center to study and interact with other children.
Bhavini started attending Sunday school at the church in her area, where she learned more about Jesus and how to pray. Prayer quickly became a vital part of her life at home—she often asked the Lord to change her family's situation.
Prayer Changes Family
The love the teachers showed Bhavini as well as the things she learned from the Bible began to change the way she behaved, both at the center and at home. Her family noticed a dramatic difference in the way Bhavini lived her life. The girl who had been easily angered was now one who went out of her way to help with chores around the house, who studied hard and who was growing in her relationship with the Lord.
As time went on, Bhavini's prayers and attitude of service and love toward her family members impacted the way they lived and treated one another, too. Fights between her father and mother became less frequent and eventually stopped altogether. Even the neighbors could see there had been a positive change in the family's lives.
Bhavini was no longer a little girl who didn't see the purpose in living—she was growing into a teenager with a heart for God and a desire to serve and love her family.
Persecuted by Radical Anti-Christians
Unfortunately, things did not stay completely peaceful for Bhavini. When she was around 16 years old, she made her faith in Christ more public to the community. While her parents were happy about this decision because they could see the way the Lord had worked in their daughter, not everyone in the community celebrated.
A group of radical anti-Christians in the area were enraged with Bhavini's decision. They held a meeting where they decided to ostracize the girl and her family.
Some people from this group took Bhavini against her will and dragged her into the temple of their gods. Once inside the temple, the group demanded Bhavini bow down to one of their deities, but she refused. They tried to persuade her to perform a cleansing ritual, but she firmly stood her ground.
Seeing she would not be easily swayed, they brought in Bhavini's mother and beat her badly. Still, Bhavini remembered the things she had learned over the years in the Bridge of Hope center.
She knew everything good the family had experience had come from the Lord, and she continued to trust Him, even as she watched the fanatic group beat her mother and threaten to burn down her house.
Family Transformed Amid Persecution
Bhavini continued to pray, and her pastor prayed for the family as well. No one was able to harm the family again, because of God's protection over them. Despite the persecution the family endured, Bhavini's mother and sister both decided to follow Jesus as well. The Lord truly transformed Bhavini's family from the inside out.
After Bhavini graduated high school, she began attending Gospel for Asia's Bible college. Her desire is to teach young children and share the love of Jesus with them, just as the Bridge of Hope teachers did for her.
Every day, Bridge of Hope points children like Bhavini—and their families—to the transformative love of Christ, bringing peace to their lives and raising a generation to know the Lord. You can help them do it!
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*Names of people and places may have been changed for privacy and security reasons. Images are GFA stock photos used for representation purposes and are not the actual person/location, unless otherwise noted.