Treasure Hunters, Mental Illness and Hope

Treasure Hunters, Mental Illness and Hope

Photo by Gospel for Asia

June 2016

Shocked by the news of her 7-year-old son's murder, Tilaka's mind whirled into a grief-laden state of confusion. If only her son had stayed with her that day; if only someone had stepped in to rescue him.

Little Arun had been kidnapped by treasure hunters and given as a sacrifice to their gods in the hope of unearthing riches. Unbearable pain pierced Tilaka's mothering heart when she discovered what had happened to her precious son. Grief stole her ability to think clearly, and she became labeled as a mentally challenged woman by those in her community.

Treasure Hunters, Mental Illness and Hope

Overcome by the emotional trauma of losing her son, Tilaka (not pictured) developed a mental illness that isolated her from her community. Many women in Asia face similar rejection from society, if their husband dies.

Woman Swallowed Up into Obscurity

After losing her oldest son, Tilaka wandered the streets, slept on the pavement and began murmuring to herself while she gathered up dirty items alongside roadways. Recognizing that Tilaka was far from able to care for her remaining two children, the villagers sent Tilaka's 5-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter to a children's home in the area. Tilaka would never again be part of her children's lives.

As the years passed, Tilaka's difficulties were compounded by her status as a widow. In a culture that often blames widows for the death of their husbands, Tilaka found little sympathy from others over her plight. She survived by begging, facing the dangers of street life all alone: crime, disease and predators watching for helpless women. But Tilaka fell victim to a different street danger. A bus struck her one day while she sat alongside the road. Badly injured, Tilaka was taken to a hospital to receive treatment for fractures in her leg and hand. She spent months lying in a hospital bed, yet she received no visitors from her family or her village. It seemed that only the kindhearted doctors cared about the mentally challenged widow.

June 2016

Treasure Hunters, Mental Illness and Hope

Overcome by the emotional trauma of losing her son, Tilaka (not pictured) developed a mental illness that isolated her from her community. Many women in Asia face similar rejection from society, if their husband dies.

Treasure Hunters, Mental Illness and Hope

Millions of men and women live on the sides of roads similar to this Asian street. Tilaka (not pictured) was one of them. She would wander about and eventually suffered a severe injury after being hit by a bus.

Tilaka's short, heavyset body mended partially, but her mind remained unstable. Physically unable to work, she resumed begging for her food, dragging her leg as she looked for a way to satisfy her hunger. Tilaka now lived in a hut instead of sleeping on the pavement, but her mental difficulties had become so well-known that no one was willing to speak or spend time with Tilaka, leaving her in a world of isolation.

Visitors for the Overlooked Woman

Then one day, Tilaka's world changed. For the very first time, she found unexpected visitors standing in front of her little hut. Shocked to see a man and woman at her door, Tilaka invited them in, offering them spots on the dirty ground where she sat.

Gospel for Asia-supported pastor Dhevan and his wife, Marita, had been riding their bicycles when they noticed a poorly constructed hut near the road. Impelled by love, they stopped to minister to whoever lived there. Inside they found Tilaka—a picture of loneliness and despair.

Millions of men and women live on the sides of roads similar to this Asian street. Tilaka (not pictured) was one of them. She would wander about and eventually suffered a severe injury after being hit by a bus.

Treasure Hunters, Mental Illness and Hope

When Gospel for Asia-supported Pastor Dhevan and his wife visited Tilaka, she heard for the first time that she was loved by God and was not alone. This woman rejoices at hearing a similar message.

The couple's kindness comforted Tilaka's heart, and she quickly opened up to them. Ignoring the smell of the dirty ground he sat upon, Pastor Dhevan gently comforted the troubled widow with truths about her loving Creator.

"Mother, Jesus loves you a lot," Pastor Dhevan told her, addressing her with the endearing term of their culture. "You are not alone."

Tears fell from Tilaka's eyes as she listened to the pastor's words. Something changed within her heart—she felt happiness and peace. Even her hunger faded away in the presence of the new joy in her heart. It was the happiest day of her life.

Loving Community Welcomes the Unloved

When Gospel for Asia-supported Pastor Dhevan and his wife visited Tilaka, she heard for the first time that she was loved by God and was not alone. This woman rejoices at hearing a similar message.

Treasure Hunters, Mental Illness and Hope

These women at a Gospel for Asia-supported church found a place of community and friendships, just like Tilaka did. Tilaka's new friends prayed with her and provided her with food, helping her to heal from her mental illness.

Before leaving Tilaka's hut, Pastor Dhevan invited Tilaka to the church he was leading. Pastor Dhevan's warm welcome excited Tilaka so much that she walked to church the very next Sunday, even though it was some distance from her hut. She joined in among the believers at the worship service as they praised Jesus for His love and mercy. Seeing Tilaka's need, the church provided her with food. Thereafter, Tilaka started walking to the church every day, receiving food and growing in her knowledge and love of Jesus. Gradually, her leg grew stronger, as did her troubled mind.

Tilaka's heart stirred with hope and love for her newfound Savior. As her mind cleared, her heart overflowed with thanksgiving to God all throughout the day.

"Once I was insane," Tilaka shared. "Jesus touched me and made me normal. He takes care of my day."

Widow Knows She Is Not Alone

These women at a Gospel for Asia-supported church found a place of community and friendships, just like Tilaka did. Tilaka's new friends prayed with her and provided her with food, helping her to heal from her mental illness.

Treasure Hunters, Mental Illness and Hope

Tilaka's life was completely changed by the love demonstrated by Pastor Dhevan and the believers at his church. Instead of grief, Tilaka (pictured) has hope, and instead of shame and isolation, she has a community that cares for her needs.

Tilaka discovered a God who promises to never leave her nor forsake her and a community of people who love her and provide for her in Jesus' name. Beyond the meals she received, Tilaka experienced the care of her new community when a fall trapped her in a pit filled with filthy water for seven hours. Pastor Dhevan and Marita visited Tilaka in the hospital and helped provide medicine for her injuries. No longer alone or forgotten, Tilaka's church family prays for her and ministers to her needs, regularly providing her with food and encouragement.

One in 40 Million

As one of Asia's 40 million widows, Tilaka longed to hear she was not alone and God will never leave her. Gospel for Asia-supported workers minister to these hurting women by meeting their practical needs while also demonstrating the unfailing love of Christ.

Tilaka's life was completely changed by the love demonstrated by Pastor Dhevan and the believers at his church. Instead of grief, Tilaka (pictured) has hope, and instead of shame and isolation, she has a community that cares for her needs.

Treasure Hunters, Mental Illness and Hope

Gospel for Asia-supported workers minister to widows in Christ's name through many practical ways, such as providing food, clothing and income-producing gifts.

You can join with those ministering to the practical and emotional needs of widows like Tilaka. Give toward Gospel for Asia's Widows Fund today to help bring hope to the lives of forgotten widows!

Gospel for Asia-supported workers minister to widows in Christ's name through many practical ways, such as providing food, clothing and income-producing gifts.


*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.