Sumitra is an Indian woman whose decision to follow Jesus ushered in a decade of grave hostility. But her faith remained unshaken, and today, whilst some opposition remains, she is in a much happier place – thanks in large part to your support in establishing a chip-making business.
Ten years. That’s how long Sumitra* prayed that her husband would stop tormenting her for being a Christian. Today she can reflect upon answered prayers – in more ways than one!
It’s all part of Sumitra’s remarkable story – one of unrelenting faith and fortitude despite immense hardship and opposition.
Decade of difficulty
Sumitra was first introduced to the Christian faith in her 30s when a friend invited her to church. “I was mentally ill and evil thoughts were always tormenting me,” she explains. “I also had a constant severe headache and was fed up of going to doctors and praying to different gods and goddesses. But one day, my friend took me to a church, and when I was prayed for by the pastor, I experienced peace and complete healing. It was then that I decided to follow Christ.”
It was decision that was a great blessing to her, but also ushered in a decade of difficulty. “My happiness and deliverance in Jesus was opposed strongly by my husband,” Sumitra continues. “I feared him but I continued to go to church secretly; however, he always found out and beat me, threatening to kill me if I continued doing so.”
Her husband would mostly use thick wooden sticks. On occasion, he would try to hit her with an axe. “Miraculously, God saved me every time from getting critical injuries,” Sumitra adds.
It wasn’t just from her husband that Sumitra encountered opposition – it also came from her local community.
She adds, “I tried to find a job but whenever I took up a job in my area, people would come to know of my faith and ask me to leave. My family was always struggling financially and we could barely manage to have two meals a day as my husband was the sole breadwinner.”
During all this, Sumitra stood firm in her faith in Jesus and kept praying. Today, her husband is a wonderful testimony to the power of persevering prayer.
“I continued praying and after 10 long years my husband stopped tormenting me,” she explains. “Since he had also been suffering from mental episodes that seemed like evil spiritual attacks – which made him depressed and act strangely – he started coming along with me to church in the hope of being healed like me.
“Praise God, he experienced healing and accepted Christ as his personal Saviour!”
Sadly, hostility from locals remain. The family are outcasts, deemed unclean because they left age-old traditions for Christianity. They are barely spoken to and, as with many from Sumitra’s church, job opportunities are painfully scarce. This is social boycotting, the most common form of persecution in India, and involves depriving citizens of basic privileges – including access to a community well, meaning Christians will sometimes need to walk over five kilometres just to get drinking water.
Thanks to your generosity, Open Doors partners have been able to assist with work opportunities, giving impetus to an idea Sumitra’s church, led by Pastor Hari*, had some years ago but couldn’t quite get off the ground. The plan was for struggling families to generate income by producing chips to be sold at a local market, however they didn’t have the machinery or raw materials to make it profitable.
“Thankfully, Open Doors partners came in as an answer to our prayers and made our feeble hands strong by providing us with better machines and good raw material,” Ranu*, Pastor Hari’s wife explains. “Our people are also able to save money which had been never possible before.”
Pastor Hari adds, “The business is now yielding a profit. It provides a small, regular income to several families from the church. This initiative adds to their other income sources and makes them more financially stable.”
That’s certainly the case for Sumitra. “I am now able to fulfil the needs of my family,” she shares. “My financial status is much better now. I am now self-sufficient and no longer jobless. I am so glad as I am also able to support my church with my work.”
Savings and salvations
Production had to stop for a time due to lockdown. Thankfully, the profits made beforehand enabled families to survive this period. “Families had savings because the business had been doing so well,” Pastor Hari explains.
And amazingly, it’s not just stable incomes the project is achieving. “Though people in our community oppose us still, they do look towards us with more respect than before,” Pastor Hari adds. “The group prays before they start work every day in the production unit. A ladies’ prayer group has also started. Our church families are being developed holistically and are flourishing. Three more families have come to Christ recently.”
A time of favour
The 10 years before her husband found Jesus understandably left Sumitra discouraged on many occasions. But she made a promise to God that her faith would remain unshaken. And it has – and she puts this down to the strength given to her by God through the Holy Spirit, the Bible and the help of Open Doors supporters.
“It was not easy – 10 years of verbal abuse, threats and beatings,” she reflects. “But God was the source of my strength in my suffering. Previously, when my husband used to beat me to stop me from attending church, I used to be so discouraged. When he threatened me with an axe, I used to cry a lot. But I did not stop going to church. It’s only God’s strength that enabled me to stand strong, or I would have not survived.
“Whenever I was discouraged, I remembered Joshua 1:5 which says, ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you’. This encouraged me and I promised to God that, even if my husband left me, my faith would not be shaken. I would never leave Jesus because He is the real God. Even if we suffer for Him, He will surely reward us later, and it is never in vain. Not only this, but He suffered for the sake of my sin on the cross, so even if I suffer, He understands my pain.”
She concludes, “Now we are seeing this time of favour, I want to thank all Open Doors partners for helping us in so many ways. The way they stood with us during our hard times is amazing. I thank you for bringing happiness in my life.”
*Names changed for security reasons
Source and photo: Open Doors