The word for hope in Hindi is “asha” which is also a very popular name for girls here. I met an Asha recently. A counselor at a local remand home requested me to help her with a special case she was working on. I have a heart for counseling young women, so I went without any idea of what I was going to see or hear that day.
When I walked in there was a beautiful girl with light eyes and dimpled cheeks smiling at me. Asha was only sixteen and even though she smiled on the outside, I soon realized that this beautiful girl was broken within; shame permeated her entire being and she was full of anger and hatred from the experiences that had happened in her past.
She had lost her mother when she was very young. She told me that her father had raised her along with two other siblings. Her sister was married off and her brother worked as a truck driver. Her father supported the family the best way he could, but quite suddenly, he passed away as well. And as per Hindu customs, funeral rites were performed on the thirteenth day. The family had a special worship service for the gods and the home was then purified with water. Then, on the day when the rites were brought to an end her brother-in-law raped Asha.
She felt broken, guilty and ashamed about what had happened to her. There seemed to be nowhere to turn to now that her parents were gone and she was alone in the world. That's when she decided to run away with a male friend. However, her decision to run away from home ended in more tragedy, as the friend with whom she ran away also raped her then handed her over to others who also raped and abused her. This went on for a period of two years and during that time she was overcome with a deep sense of despair.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick and Asha was no longer a carefree teenager anymore--that person was gone. Instead she had transformed into a young girl unable to trust, terrified of the dark, having nightmares and flashbacks and sinking into deep depression. She felt stripped of her dignity and robbed of her humanness—utterly without hope.
Though numb and dejected, one day she pulled up her strength and dragged herself out of the tiny apartment that her male friend had confined her in. She found herself at a tiny chai stall by the side of the road. There was a man sitting sipping chai on a broken bench. He looked at Asha and sensed something was very wrong. He spoke to her and asked her to share her story. He then told Asha of a home she could go to, a remand home, where she would be safe. He also helped her file a report with the police.
As I sat in the remand home talking with her, I could hear the fear in her voice. She desperately longed for someone to protect her because as a young, single woman without family she is still vulnerable.
Asha’s journey to heal her body, soul and spirit from guilt and shame will be crucially influenced by her ability to surround herself with those who will love and support her. Those who will give her hope in the way that leads to life. Not the hope that is just a desire with anticipation that good will eventually come, but the hope that is grounded in Christ Jesus.
You and I will find many such hopeless Asha’s around us with similar stories. We need to think of how we can reach them with the hope/asha that we have as women who hope in Christ Jesus as the One who gives us ultimate freedom and peace.
We need to share with those who are hurting that Christ has given us a precious promise, one of hope that helps us persevere through trials. The bible says that, if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (I Cor15: 19). So we have hope not just in the trials of today, but he also gives us hope for eternity, by his work on the cross. Our circumstances don’t shake the hope and promises that we have in Christ Jesus.
There are young women in every city in India who need someone to share hope with them. I encourage you to seek out these places, these homes where women are desperate for a caring, listening heart to come alongside them in their journey towards healing. They need to know that they are loved and have been created for a purpose and that this life isn’t all there is. You don’t need a counseling degree to help, just a willingness to share your hope with them, listen to their stories and be a safe place for a hurting heart.