Usha returned home after a long day selling garlic on the streets of the slum in which she lived. She placed her basket of garlic on the dirt floor inside the family’s one-room home. She sighed as she noticed that the box where she kept the family’s few clothes was open, its contents strewn about. She knew that her husband had been searching for something to sell so he could buy alcohol.
She glanced quickly around the bare room and saw that nothing else was missing. Her husband had already sold everything the family had—a chair, a blanket, her decent cooking pot. She bent over and folded the remaining clothes and replaced the box top.
Like many poor people in Mumbai, India, Usha was just 12 when she married her husband, who was 16. She dreamed of a better future, but her young husband began drinking, and those dreams turned to ashes.
Usha worked long hours to buy rice and a few vegetables to feed her growing family that eventually included three children. Her husband worked as a day laborer, but his earnings went to buy alcohol. And when that wasn’t enough to satisfy him, he took Usha’s earnings as well. Then he began selling the family’s few pieces of furniture and Usha’s saris. If she tried to stop him, he’d beat her.
Usha supplemented her earnings by collecting old newspapers, metal, and plastic to sell. Her life turned into one of desperation and hopelessness.
One day as she stirred the boiling rice she heard music—joyful singing—coming from a neighbor’s home. The music gave her a sense of peace, and she smiled. The next day she heard the singing again and wondered what was happening. But she was too shy to go to her neighbor’s house to see. So she listened from her yard as she prepared dinner.
The next time she heard the singing, Usha’s curiosity overcame her shyness. She stood and followed the music to the neighbor’s house. She walked through the open door and sat down on the floor to listen.
A group of women were singing songs about someone called Jesus. I wonder who this God is, Usha thought.
When the singing ended, a man stood to talk. Usha learned that he was a pastor from an Adventist church. As the man spoke, she felt a peace settle over her; her burdens were lifted, and she felt light.
She returned the next day and the next to hear more about Jesus. She found hope and faith amid the despair of her life. As she listened to the pastor’s words about the Savior who loved her, her heart warmed. In time she accepted Jesus as her Redeemer. Life still was difficult at home, but at last her heart was at peace.
Then Usha’s husband became sick and couldn’t work. But he still drank. He was hospitalized for treatment, but he couldn’t live without alcohol, so he returned home. He died a month later, leaving Usha and three small children to fend for themselves. In spite of the comfort Jesus brought her and the words of peace and faith that her friends whispered to her, she felt alone and helpless.
The pastor visited her and spoke to her about her children. “They need to go to school,” he said. But Usha could hardly feed them. How could she pay school fees for them?
The pastor revealed a plan. “If you can pay half of your children’s tuition, we will find sponsors to help pay the rest,” he said. When he told her what it would cost her each month, Usha allowed her heart to hope that her children might indeed have a future after all. Now that no one was taking her money for liquor, perhaps she could earn enough to send her two oldest children to Lasalgaon [LAH-sahl-gaon] Adventist School.
The pastor arranged to take the children to the school and enroll them. She misses her children while they are away, and she continues to struggle to pay their school fees. But she is glad that they are learning in a safe environment, preparing their lives to serve God and have a better life, as she once dreamed.
Often she sacrifices her own food to pay the children’s tuition. But she has hope, and she knows that God is looking out for her.
This quarter part of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help provide new classroom blocks at Lasalgaon Adventist School so that more children can prepare themselves for a life of service in India.