19-year-old Reena grew up in persecution and nearly died because of it.
Her Indian family has a Hindu background, but her parents came to faith when she was still very young. She never knew anything else than that persecution was part of Christian life. But she never expected to be drugged and kidnapped.
Reena is a short, shy girl. Painfully shy. Her answers to simple, polite questions are not longer than one, two or three words. Yes, she will gladly share her testimony. No, she is not nervous. But her hands are clasped together in front of her. It’s difficult to get her to talk.
What was it like to grow up in a Christian family in a Hindu village?
“Sometimes difficult. I don’t stay among them.”
How did your friends look at you in class?
There was no discrimination?
“Well, they did look differently at me because I didn’t participate in the Hindu rituals.”
Did they say anything?
“During Hindu festivals, they participated and I refused. For that, they scolded me.”
It takes several rounds of questions for her to open up. She needs the time to feel more comfortable. But then, she is able to paint for us the picture of her life. It’s a triptych painting.
On the left, we see how she grows up. A kind, lonely child. “Nobody wanted to play with me, because they were Hindus and I wasn’t. After school, I just came home and entertained myself.”
On the right, her parents are forbidden to draw water from the village well. “My parents had to walk a few kilometers to get water from the river.” Was she ever angry with the villagers? Or even with her parents for being Christians? “No, I was never angry. My parents explained that persecution will come when you are a Christian. And I was not jealous of the Hindus because Jesus gave me joy inside.”
At the center of the ‘painting’ are Reena’s teenage years. She went to a school in a different village and lived in a hostel. She didn’t experience persecution there. Until there was no more money to continue to school. “I had to work and applied for a job as a teacher at a certain school. I was accepted. They promised me a salary of 1500 rupees a month. The first two months, I got only 500 rupees. Then they stopped being altogether. So I quit my job after six months.”
That was September 2016. Only a few days later another school offered her a job. The headmaster invited her to come to a teachers meeting. She wasn’t suspicious at all. “The headmaster offered me some Indian sweets, which I ate. I don’t remember anything after that.”
She was drugged and taken away. When asked what happened, she said she was held unconscious for several days. That may be true, at least partially. More likely is that she was so terribly hurt she doesn’t want to share about the days she went missing. Of course, we don’t want to inflict more pain on her and don’t pry. We do know that several hours after her phone was switched off, she called her parents and told them she was held in a terrible place.
They informed the police, who didn’t act for three days. Only then were higher police officials informed and they gave the order to arrest the headmaster and all the staff. All of them were eventually released.
And Reena? She woke up in a train. There was nobody there except for several teenage girls. “They said, they would help me and asked me to come with me. I could barely walk. But I got up and left the train. The girls were following me. I told them to go away or else I would call the police. Then they left me alone. I still think they have something to do with my kidnapping.”
At first, she didn’t have a clue where she was. Then she saw the name of the train station and she knew she was in a big city 14 hours away from her village. Police were nearby, but she was too weak to walk the distance. In her pocket were a few one rupee coins and she made a phone call to the one person she knew in this city.
“She was my friend and came to pick me up with her parents. I was so confused. I don’t remember but apparently, I asked them not to call my parents. After a couple of days, I took the train back home and my friend phoned my family to tell them on which train I was.”
Her parents took her to the hospital. Slowly, she came out of her state of shock. When the realization of what had happened sank in, fear took hold of her even more. “I had all these questions. Why did this happen? And why did the villagers targeted me of all people?”
Her spirit was crushed and she didn’t see a reason to live anymore. Reena, that shy but sparkling young lady in front of us, contemplated killing herself. “I prayed: God I know you. Yet, this still happened to me. Why? I felt broken in this way.”
Later she attended a Christian service. And when the pastor prayed from the stage, God’s light broke through the darkness. The physical pain and depression grew less. She was able to reconnect with God. “I was really touched by God. When I came home, I was overjoyed and shared it with my ‘friends’. Which friends? My Hindu friends, of course. I wanted them to come to a similar church service and also experience God’s healing power in their lives.”
In the past period, she read the Bible. The Psalms gave her great encouragement. Especially Psalm 25, verses 4 and 5: ‘Make me to know your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation, for you I wait all day long.’
And also Revelation 3:20: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.’
“I realized that if I opened the door of my heart, that Jesus would come in and dine with me. So I surrendered to Him. I came to know that it was Satan who wanted to destroy my life, but God loves me.”
How do you view your future?
“My future is very bright. I will share the Gospel with non-believers. I don’t expect more problems.”
Unfortunately, the reality is more robust than that. She lives outside the village with her brother, who came along with her for this interview. She is back in school on weekdays. But when she visits her parents, she stays in the home. “The headmaster said that he is in trouble because of her,” her brother adds. He wants revenge and may hurt her again.”
Through our partner network, Open Doors was able to provide encouragement and medical assistance for Reena. She is immensely grateful and says: “I want to thank all those who supported me through prayers, financial help and standing with me in all my struggles and whatever I went through. It is because of all your help that I am a recovered person today.”