When I am in Calcutta, I like to visit my dear friend, Ritika, who always welcomes me like a sister. I love to spend time with Ritika because in her home I feel like just one of the family. It’s a comfortable and easy transition into familiarity as we share a cup of tea and talk under the whirring fan.
One day Ritika told me the story of two girls, Jumpa and Piya, sisters aged 19 and 20.
The girls had lost their mother when they were young and their father remarried. They lived with their father, stepmother and a stepbrother in one of the slums of the city. Their new mother had no place in her heart for the sisters, favouring her son instead. Many times she would prepare food for her boy and nothing for the girls. Daily she would deprive them of food, so Jumpa and Piya regularly went to school hungry, had nothing packed for lunch, and came home not knowing if there would be something to eat that evening.
Girls have all kinds of needs, not just those that nourish the body. These girls did not have adequate clothes, there were no blankets for the cold winter nights, never mind a pillow. They suffered verbal and emotional abuse and their daily survival was becoming more and more difficult. They didn’t know where to turn but to each other. Yet they made it to school every day. School was their hope and the sisters were determined to continue their education, somehow.
Jumpa and Piya prayed and prayed that somehow God would provide and take care of their needs. Surely, God would hear their prayers? The church family helped as much as they could, and in Ritika they found a mentor. To God they made a promise that they would pray for their stepmother’s heart to change.
I was so moved by this story that I asked Ritika if I could meet the sisters and before the week was out I had the opportunity. Two such thin and extremely timid girls, they were hardly there. I attempted to communicate in my broken Bengali and was met with shy giggles – what a break through! I promised them that I would find a way to support them until they had completed their education and to provide for their daily living needs. At that moment I’m not sure who was more excited, the girls or me! We celebrated together the start of a new way forward.
Today Jumpa and Piya are in their third year at university. They are eating balanced meals, gaining weight. With their peers they are gaining confidence, laughing… But most of all, they have an outstanding testimony about how their needs were met, how their prayers were answered. A true message of hope!
In all of this the girls are giving back as they can through the church and praying for their stepmother. Last I heard it even seemed that her mother’s heart was changing towards her daughters. For that I say, thank you Lord!