This day broke my heart!We started out by visiting a Hope Home where the children whose mothers were set on fire because of dowry disputes are now living. Pure greed is hideous when you see the damage it does to everyone involved. At Hopegivers these women are called”dowry castaways.” I’ll explain a little about this cultural practice in this blog, but you can also visit the website www.hopegivers.org and see pictures and learn more about this horrendous practice. Hopegivers opened its arms to rescuing these women and their children nearly three years ago. Dowry, although illegal in India, is still practiced. A man and his family require that a bride’s parents pay a dowry for the privilege of marrying their son. The dowry consists of money, jewels, land – anything of value. Often the bride’s parents cannot pay the whole dowry up front so an agreement is drawn between the parents so payments will continue after the marriage ceremony. Like all of life, the best laid plans…. If the bride’s parents fall upon hard times and can’t continue with the payments, the husband and in-laws demand that the bride pressure her parents. If the bride’s parents can’t or won’t comply, the husband and sometimes the in-laws will beat and torture the bride. Their misguided thinking is that by abusing the girl, this will somehow get “blood out of a turnip!” They are counting on the parents to feel sorry for their daughter and find a way to pay the rest of the dowry. If the husband does not get the financial response he is looking for, he kicks the wife and any children from that marriage out onto the streets. The daughter and grandchildren generally will escape to her parent’s home. Indian culture says that a married daughter returning to her parent’s home brings shame on the family name. Most parents send their daughters and grandchildren back because of this tradition. Sometimes they send them with a little money to appease the husband. Unfortunately, there are times when there just isn’t any money to send back with her, but tradition is stronger than her safety. They call the murders “kitchen accidents.” Indian women wear loose fitting clothing and cook on open kerosene stoves. There are genuine kitchen accidents, but in the case of dowry it is not an accident. Kerosene is thrown on her and she is lit on fire by her husband. The neighbors probably know instinctively which is accidental and which is not. After all, they have probably heard the beatings go on for weeks or even months prior to the “accident”. The husband wants her out of his life so he can marry again for another dowry. He doesn’t want to mess with a divorce. He would rather she die! The kids are kicked to the curb because the next wife does not want to raise another woman’s child. We met some burned women who survived and came to meet us at a Hope Home where many of the children live who have lost their mothers because of the “accident.” They were burned but have healed enough that they can care for their own personal needs. These women are living with relatives while their children live at the Hope Home. The relatives will only keep the woman, not the children, and they demand that she earn money in order to stay with them. They are all poor, so realistically, they couldn’t feed her kids and her as well anyway. Thank goodness for Hopegivers who is prepared to take these children in and raise them. The pastor in this first Hope Home is teaching approximately 30 of these women how to sew! He has one sewing machine – foot pedal – that each woman takes a turn using. He has someone from the city come out to teach them. They make saris, Punjabi’s and other clothing they sell in order to support themselves. They come to visit their children at the Hope Home whenever they can. We visited another Hope Home where this pastor has distributed over 30 sewing machines to women who escaped being burned. They were being abused and tortured due to dowry demands and could see the writing on the wall. They ran away before the abuse turned into murder. These women are supporting themselves by making and selling clothing, doing dishes and housework for the wealthier in their communities. . It’s a hard life and the work is not usually steady, but they are alive and no longer being abused. Their children, in most cases, are living in one of the Hope Homes where they are guaranteed three meals a day, protection and an education. (orphan sponsorship on website – www.hopegivers.org). We left this Hope Home and went to the hospital where we met four women who are recent burn victims. Pictures you see online are devastating, but when you are standing beside the bed of a living, breathing woman with 80% of her body burned it is a visual one will never forget. I stayed in the room long enough to pray for them and then I had to leave. I did not want to break down in front of them. One woman was burned so badly that she couldn’t move her arms, legs or her neck. She could barely move her lips. Her eyes were the only part of her that gave away her thoughts as she watched strangers circle her bed to pray for her. One insignificant infection could take her life quickly. Maybe that is a blessing because she will never be able to care for herself. There were three other women in the room. One was burned from her breasts to her hips, another down the side of her leg and face and another on one arm. How God’s heart must break! Hopegivers introduces these women to Jesus and then we pray that - although they were burned here on earth - they will not suffer burning for all eternity. At the end of this day I was emotionally spent and ready to go back to the hotel! “Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” Psalm 3:7
Every Hope Home has a back story that is unique to the pastor and the specific needs that the Lord has led him to fill in his ministry. What a heart God has for the orphaned, abandoned and at-risk! How wonderful that He places that heart in the minds and hearts of others so His will is fulfilled.