This true story happened over 45 years ago at the Mission. Although old, the same situations occur today at the Mission schools.
Premila knelt in the corner in a dark little room made especially for the “god” that was only made of clay.
She draped ornaments, arranged flowers, coconuts, and tulsa leaves around the costly Gunpati idol that her father had purchased. “How proud everyone is of Gunpati our elephant-god” she thought. “Strange when you think of how he came to be.”
His story had been told to her a hundred times or more, ever since she was old enough to remember. Parawati, the wife of the god Shankar, one of their deities, had gone to the bath. She made a small image out of the dirt that she washed off her body, and put it above the door of the bathing-place to guard her and to keep Shankar from coming into the bath. Just then Shankar came to see Parawati, and when he tried to open the door of the bathing-place, the image drove him off. Shankar, in anger, broke the head off the image and smashed it. When Parawati finished her bath, she stepped out of the bathing place and saw what had happened. Alarmed, she explained the birth of the image to Shankar. Ashamed and repentant, he went to his tribes people and told them to bring to him the head of the first person they met. The first creature they came upon was an elephant. According to Shankar’s order, they cut off the elephant’s head and brought it to him. Shankar took the elephant’s head, the story goes, and joined it onto the body of the dirt image and brought it to life.
Now Premila sat looking at the elephant-headed god. “What a strange beginning for a god that is so greatly revered,” she thought. She was becoming confused as she tried to reason it out. How could this be the god of wisdom, good character and good luck? She remembered her parents, according to the custom of orthodox Hindus, had waited until the Gunpati festival time to enroll her in school, so that she might do well. Were doubts creeping into her mind? She straightened herself up, and remembered she must not let herself think such thoughts. She took the end of her sari and flicked the dust off the idol. To her horror, a few strands of her sari caught the protruding tusk and the clay image fell forward on its face. She caught it, but it was too late. She saw that the fall had caused a crack right through the thick neck of the image of the elephant.
Premila gasped in horror. “What an inauspicious spell has been cast upon me?” What could she do? Surely this elephant god must have read her thoughts and brought this calamity upon her. She cringed as she thought of her mother’s angry storm of words when she saw it. What would her father do? He was educated. But so strict about their religious practices. He seemed as afraid of the god’s displeasure as her mother was. She knew what they would say. They were not pleased with her open acknowledgement of the stories and truths that she was discovering through those in school who were followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
She could not hide her growing longing to trust the real God. Christ claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” How her heart warned to flee to Him. Her family would fling insults at her. The broken idol would be blamed on her betrayal, causing the wrath of the gods because she dared to speak the name of this true God of the Christians. But she must do something!
Quickly she ran outside, gathered some red oleander blossoms and tulsa leaves. In the cupboard she found some string and a needle. Her fingers flew as she quickly prepared a garland and placed it carefully around the neck of the elephant god to conceal the crack. As she prayed that her parents would not see it, she thought, “It will break into a hundred pieces anyway when it is dumped into the well on the tenth day of the festival, as they do each year.”
“What in the world takes you so long, Premila?” her mother’s impatient voice called from the doorway. “You could have cleaned ten rooms of the gods and you’re still fooling around.” Relieved, and hoping it would not be discovered, Premila tried to forget about the crack.
Her hopes of this were smashed when she met her friend Sheela on the way from school, who was waiting for her at the big prickly cactus plant beside the road. “Oh, Premila,” she said seriously, “I couldn’t go to school today. Mother needed me at home. Your mother came over this afternoon and was very upset. Your father brought some guests to see your Gunpati. When admiring and examining it, they discovered a large crack. Your mother guessed immediately why you had made the garland. She was very angry. She said your father’s taunts had made her own ears sting. He had even flung out a threat. He said it was probably because of those teachings you were getting in the Christian school. They were going to your head, he said and perhaps they had better take you out of school and get you married into a good Hindu family before it was too late.”
Premila remembered some words from the Bible read in chapel that morning “Come unto me all w that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
She wished that she could be like the girls in her class who loved this Savior and worshipped Him together in their homes. All day long she had thought of Him. She tried to understand His love for the world which must have included her. She was sure He must be “the way, the truth, and the life” which He claimed to be. The thought of trusting Him as her own Savior and Master had been so sweet and desirable. Now she faced the bitter facts of life. She dreaded the sharp pain of smarting pricks from the taunts and anger which she would have to face when she arrived home.
While they were talking, Sheela spotted something red on the cactus tree. It was about the size of a small apple, and looked ripe and ready to eat. She liked the fruit of the cactus tree. She peeled it carefully and gave Premila some. It was sweet and tasty, but hidden in the skin were tiny thorns that pricked the tongue like needles if they were not carefully removed.
“Sheela,” Premila said suddenly, “Would my parents marry me off now, just to keep me from believing in the Lord Jesus? Would they? Oh, come. Let’s kneel down right here, out of sight behind the cactus tree, where no one will see us, and pray to Him like teacher says. If He will help me now, I’ll trust Him, no matter what my parents say or do.”
Can you think what it would be like for Premila and all the other girls from Hindu homes who attend schools like the Mission High School? Many of them want so much to believe on Him as their Savior, but are afraid to do so. If you believe in Him, and know Him as your own personal Savior, thank Him because He is a living, loving God, and not one that can be cracked and broken.
Pray that young people like Premila, who long to know Him, will not let fear keep them from believing and following the Lord Jesus.