“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Jesus; recorded in John 10:10
It has been many years now since the day Salma* arrived at the Mission’s gate terrified for her life. She was on the run from her father. He had arranged for her marriage to a much older man. Although she begged her father to reconsider, he didn’t care what she thought.
This may be difficult for many Westerners to understand, marriages in India are often arranged by parents for their children. Although many parents arrange marriages that are beneficial for their children, some parents – oftentimes very poor parents of a girl – arrange a marriage to a man that is financially beneficial for the parents, since dowries are expected to be paid to the man’s family. In addition, marriages in these cases are often arranged for the girl when she is still very young. In doing so, it may mean a life of sadness or abuse for the girl.
Salma, an exceptionally bright 15-year-old girl, was able to sneak out of her house the night before the wedding, even with the absolute certainty that if her family ever caught up with her, they would kill her due to the ‘shame’ she would be bringing upon their name. Somehow someone pointed her to the Mission.
‘What in the world had she done?’ she wondered and fretted, shaking in fear. She couldn’t bear the thought of being married to an old man, but what would happen to her in this unknown place?
When she fled her home Salma was in the middle of her 10th-grade year of schooling (the year of high school graduation in India) and was unable to complete the school year. She struggled with the teachings she heard at the Mission which glared in contrast to all her lifelong beliefs. But one day she heard God speak to her. She found a change in her attitude and also a desire to learn more about this God of the Bible. An intelligent girl, she was encouraged to finish her schooling and completed not only high school but also ‘junior college’ through grade 12.
After this schooling was finished, she went on to complete six months of Bible training. Salma also succeeded in finishing training to be a nurse. Today she has a good job in a hospital and is making her way in life. She has met a young man whom she believes is the man for her and is awaiting approval to finalize the decision.