In some ways, Oppilmani and Sadhya were typical of many South Asian children: They worshiped a traditional god, they couldn't afford to go to school, and their family struggled to make ends meet under their father's alcoholism. Yet for all their ordinariness, their mother, Naomi, knew something about their ancestry that could change their lives—if only she had the courage to embrace it.
An Unequal Union
Before she was the wife of a man who spent all his earnings on booze, and before she was the mother of two children she couldn't support, Naomi had lived a life that was anything but ordinary in her part of the world. Naomi was a Christian, and her parents were Christians, too.
While other girls offered sacrifices for their gods' favor, Naomi grew up praying to Jesus as a friend and reading the Bible to know Him better. Her love for God was so great, it seemed natural that she would one day pass on her faith to her children. When it came time to arrange her marriage, however, such desires were forgotten by her parents.
The wedding was held in the church and followed all the Christian traditions, but at the end of the ceremony, Naomi walked down the aisle with a man of another religion. The next time she attended worship services, she would discover the full extent of his antagonism toward her faith. It would be years before she entered a church again.
Alcoholic Husband Thrusts Family into Poverty
Naomi was raised to love the Lord, but she wasn't allowed to attend church after her parents arranged her marriage to a non-believer named Tarak.
Alcoholic Husband Thrusts Family into Poverty
It didn't take long after the wedding for Tarak's alcoholism to reveal itself. Although he found steady work as a truck cleaner, he always spent his paycheck getting drunk or buying cigarettes, leaving the couple struggling for basic necessities. When Oppilmani and Sadhya were born two years apart, that struggle only increased.
As they grew, the children would need even more—clothing, food, education—and Naomi knew she had no way to adequately provide it all. When she stopped to look at her life, all she could see was a mess. In her despair, however, she thought back to her life before, and with a penitent heart, she began to pray.
Tarak still disapproved of Christianity, so Naomi didn't tell him she had repented of her neglect toward God, or that she was praying for their family's restoration, or that part of that restoration meant Tarak's sobriety.
When Gospel for Asia pastor Zaafir came to their village, though, she began talking with him frequently and even going to church again. As she grew in the Lord, Pastor Zaafir helped her enroll her children in the local Bridge of Hope center, where Oppilmani and Sadhya excelled in their studies and learned about Jesus.
For a short while, Tarak allowed Naomi's revival, but soon his animosity returned. He began verbally abusing his wife when she attended church and insisting that the whole family follow his religion.
In the heat of constant opposition, Naomi lessened her church attendance, but she refused to give it up entirely. As she continued praying for her family, a bigger crisis began brewing in Tarak's life.
Lung Infection Threatens Father's Life
Tarak had been drinking and smoking for years when breathing became difficult for him. It began as simple asthma but quickly progressed into something unmanageable. Waves of nausea overtook the father of two, and he began vomiting blood. Although he could no longer eat, Tarak continued to drink alcohol.
Within a few days, the family had to take Tarak to the hospital. The doctors said he had a serious lung infection, and he would die if he didn't have an operation. After years of spending his income on alcohol, though, Tarak didn't have enough money to be treated.
Heartbroken, Naomi, Oppilmani and Sadhya took Tarak home. All they could do now was prepare for life without a husband and father.
Oppilmani and Sadhya continued attending the Bridge of Hope center, but it was clear to the staff that something was wrong. When they asked Oppilmani the reason for his sadness, he explained his father's condition and the surgery they couldn't afford.
The staff encouraged the 12 year old, telling him Jesus could solve his problems, and they decided to pay a visit to the family.
God Speaks to Father through Bridge of Hope Staff
When the center coordinator arrived at Oppilmani's home with two social workers and GFA pastor Bahurai, Tarak had thinned drastically and looked years beyond his age of 35. Still, the group shared from God's Word and encouraged the family to ask Him for mercy.
As the staff shared, the Lord spoke to Tarak's heart. He confessed his wrongdoings to God, and from that day on, a change began to sweep through the family.
Naomi was allowed to attend prayer meetings regularly, and along with the pastor and the other believers, she prayed for Tarak's healing. Slowly, he began to recover, and he opened his heart to God. Now, instead of protesting his wife's church attendance, he brings the children to church, too.
As Oppilmani and Sadhya learn about Christ from their pastor, the Bridge of Hope staff and their parents, they have a true hope of continuing their family's legacy: raising each generation to serve God.
"Jesus turned our trouble into happiness," Naomi says, "and we are ever thankful to Jesus."
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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.