Shivani is only in her mid-30s and she has already suffered so much, especially since becoming a Christian – including violence at the hands of her husband. But thanks to your prayers and gifts, local Open Doors partners in India have helped her to establish a business of her own and ensure that her faith remains unshaken. Please note that this story contains details of domestic violence that some may find particularly distressing.
Shivani* from India is a mother of two, a business owner – and a Christian. She has suffered much abuse at the hands of her husband and in-laws, but your support means that Open Doors partners are able to stand alongside her, providing practical aid and spiritual care.
Shivani was raised a Hindu, and her troubles began after she was married. “Mine was an arranged marriage fixed up by my family,” she says. “My in-laws seemed well-to-do, and my parents thought I would have a comfortable life. Much to my horror, a few months into the marriage, I found out that my husband was an extreme alcoholic and very abusive.”
Almost every other day, Shivani’s husband would return home drunk, he would argue for petty reasons and then hit her. The little money that he earned was never enough to support them.
“I sought help from my in-laws who lived with me, but none of them supported me.”Shivani
In desperation, Shivani turned to her extended family – but they made things worse. “I sought help from my in-laws who lived with me, but none of them supported me. They even blamed me for not being able to help him quit his drinking habit. Sometimes they joined him in beating me.”
After a few years of marriage, Shivani and her husband still did not have any children – which only compounded the torments from his family.
But it was also around this time that someone shared Jesus with her in-laws.
“It was my father-in-law who first believed in Jesus,” Shivani remembers. “He wanted the whole family to come to Christian faith. He said that I would be able to conceive only if I believed in Jesus. I denied at first – but then I had miscarriages. I then prayed: ‘Jesus, if You are true then give me a child.’ God answered my prayers: I soon had a healthy baby. Jesus had proved that He was living and that He cared for me. I then completely gave my life to Jesus.”
Shivani’s family was overjoyed at the arrival of the baby. However, the happiness was short-lived. They were like the people Jesus spoke about in the parable of the sower: “seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time” (Matthew 13:20-21). As Shivani says, “My in-laws all backslid from their faith a few months later. They were Christians in name only. I wanted to go to church and live out my faith, but they stopped me from doing so.”
Shivani was now worse off than she was before her family became Christians.
“My husband continued to drink heavily and physically abuse me. I became pregnant again and had another baby. Life was tougher now as I had two children whom I had to nourish, and my husband never recognised that he had responsibilities towards the family. He taunted me when he saw me praying. He would pick a fight with me wherein, towards the end, he would bash me up. I used make-up to hide the marks he gave me.”
Her neighbours and others in the local community also spread rumours about her when Shivani spoke openly about her Christian faith. “They said I had taken money and become a Christian,” Shivani says. Many Christians from a Hindu background in India are falsely accused of accepting bribes to change their faith – something forbidden by the anti-conversion laws passed in 11 states. “I had so much going on inside my house and now, to add to that, society and my relatives inflicted mental pressure on me with their comments and false allegations. They even spread false rumours about me, tarnishing my character… When such false rumours were spread even my children started to hate me.”
However, despite her situation, Shivani continued to pray and ask God to help her: “I had no time or privacy to sit and pray; everybody was against me. Therefore, I would pray in my heart while doing my household chores.
“I prayed that God would help me and provide me a way I could support the income of the family. I prayed I would not be required to ask for financial help from my in-laws to get food for my children, and I also prayed that I would be able to give proper education to my children.”
“God remembered me and I know, deep down, He preserves me as the apple of His eye.”Shivani
After several months, God opened up a way for Shivani in answer to her prayers.
“One of my friends ran a salon business; she saw my condition and sympathised. She told me that she could offer me a training course on how to run a salon, for free. I was overjoyed! I visited her shop daily and learnt all the skills; in return, I helped her with her salon work.”
It was at this point when Open Doors partners came to hear about Shivani, and stepped in to help, thanks to the provision of your gifts and prayers. They came in to counsel her in-laws and offered to help set up a small beauty parlour business for Shivani. The family agreed and the salon business was started.
Shivani is very happy about what the future may hold for her, though she still faces a lot of harassment. “Despite all my afflictions, I am very hopeful,” she says. “God remembered me and I know, deep down, He preserves me as the apple of His eye.
“I am happy that my in-laws have now allowed me to work – even though the community that I live in does not encourage women to work. This step in itself is huge progress. I am able to spend most of my time in the salon where I try to forget my misery and grow in my work. In the back of my mind, however, I am always praying. I know God is leading me.
“My children are also supportive of me now. They assure me, saying, ‘We are with you even if everyone else might go against of you because of your faith.’ This gives me so much strength.”
Shivani still asks for your prayers for her and her family. “Please pray for my husband, that he comes back to Christ. Pray for my in-laws that they’d be able to live their faith and not be influenced by the community. Pray for my children that they grow up to be strong and successful and that they will hold on to Jesus forever.”
Your ongoing support means that local Open Doors partners in India are continuing to reach out to Christian women who are facing violence – including domestic abuse – because of their faith.
*Name changed for security reasons
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