In India, Roshan and his mum Devi were rejected by their relatives for choosing to follow Jesus. After finding a village with other ostracised Christians in it, Roshan now goes to a 'bridge school' run by local Open Doors partners where he has a chance for a brighter future. Many other children like him need that same hope.
“I am very happy during Christmas,” says Roshan*. “At Christmas, I like to sing songs and dance to action songs!”
"I am very happy during Christmas." Roshan
His face lights up as he listens to his mother, Devi*, talk more about Christmas: “During Christmas, the bridge school is filled with Christmas decorations, and children are taught Christmas carols with song interpretations and they are dressed up in their best attire.”
Roshan has a lot that he can celebrate now, but this seven-year-old boy has also faced – and continues to face – some really difficult experiences for someone of such a young age. Not long ago, the idea of a school and a Christian community seemed impossibly far away.
When Devi became a Christian, she was rejected by her family. She hadn’t expected it to happen and was devastated when her husband’s Hindu relatives made it clear that they wanted nothing more to do with her, because of her faith. Her family’s future had already been impacted by her husband leaving, and the rejection left them even more vulnerable.
"We are breaking all bonds with you,” her in-laws told her. “You bring shame on the family because of your faith in Christ! Do not call us even if something happens to you and your sons. We won't help you. Let go of your faith or never come back!”
"In their eyes, I would make their house unholy because of my faith." Devi
“They even wanted to take my children,” says Devi. “When I visited, they did not let me inside. In their eyes, I would make their house unholy because of my faith.”
Devi’s courageous decision to follow Jesus meant that she had lost the financial security she had and her livelihood. Her in-laws would no longer help her or Roshan or Aarush in an emergency, and she had forfeited the security she had for her little family’s future. It was hard, but Devi knew she’d made the right decision in following Jesus.
“I don’t have family anymore on this earth, only Jesus,” she says. “That is a sad reality. It's hard to accept it, but I should. There’s no turning back. I accepted Christ not because of persecution or healing. But for my children and because of Christ’s grace, so that they will become better, strong, and good people.”
Devi and her children looked for another home – though village after village refused to let them stay, because of their faith. They were continually rejected. But the right place was on the horizon. Eventually, they reached an isolated village situated amidst forest land and found out that the people living in this area were believers like them. They couldn’t contain their joy! The village has people of other faiths too, but there are many Christian families – Devi and Roshan were so happy to have found this community.
Finally, they were able to find a good place to start a new life. Though they did not have the financial resources to build a house, they built a small hut made of bamboo sticks. Devi knew that life was still hard – but it was their home. Devi managed to get a job cleaning, earning little to buy food for her children. “When we don’t get daily work, we Christians help each other,” she adds. It is a treasured community.
God had even brighter plans for this family, though. When Open Doors local partners learned about the Christians in this village, most of them rejected by other communities, they immediately went to see how they could provide support.
“I received groceries like rice, potatoes, oil, sugar, soap, clothes for the children to wear, and blankets,” Devi says gratefully. Other persecuted believers in the community received the same vital items – but this was only the first step.
Open Doors partners saw that children from these Christian families desperately wanted to be treated just like other children. They wanted a brighter future. And so Open Doors partners started a ‘bridge school’ in this isolated, ostracised community. They are schools open to children from different faith backgrounds, aiming to ‘bridge the gap’ between persecuted Christians and other members of the community.
When Roshan heard about the new bridge school near his village, he was curious. Previously, all he would do each day was collect firewood, carry water on his shoulders, and wait for his mother to come home. Now, he has a chance at an education.
Devi says, “I am incredibly happy. Because of the bridge school, my children can learn, write and sing. I cannot afford to send them to regular school, but this school has given my boys a chance to study for free! I am happy that the bridge school not only focuses on education but also gives importance to spiritual nourishment.
"I am so grateful for our dear brothers and sisters who helped us in providing the bridge school." Devi
“I am so grateful for our dear brothers and sisters who helped us in providing the bridge school,” she adds. “And to the teachers, who pour their hearts out to educate these little children, and let them know that Jesus Christ loves them.”
“There are 29 students from different communities and religions,” Roshan’s teacher, Aarti* explains. “As a teacher, I hope that my school can make something better for the future of the children. For their higher studies, or ministry or for society. I always pray that these children can mend where the world is broken and share the gospel. Since the bridge school started, there has been a lot of change in the children, in how to live and to talk to one another. Even the parents have learned to talk to each other and have friendship.”
“My teacher told me that Jesus loves me, just as my mom says,” says Roshan. And what does he love most about the school? “I love to play football. Because of this school, I have friends who can play with me. I get to study in school, which I find interesting. My favourite part of being in school is I get to learn the alphabet.”
There’s one time of year that is particularly special for Roshan: Christmas. “The best part about going to school is during Christmas when I get to sing and dance and celebrate Jesus’ birth with everyone,” he says.
“We teach kids the Christmas story,” his teacher adds. “All the parents were so interested, that they came to see the children’s plays, action songs and singing.”
Now that they live in a community of Christians, Christmas is also a joyful time when Roshan and his family can celebrate openly with others.
“It is during Christmas that we enjoy our time with other believers in the village,” says Devi happily. “All the families come together, sing carols, listen to the Word of God, cook together and have a wonderful time.”
Though resources are limited, the families celebrate Christmas in their own special way by distributing chocolates to children, singing carols and sharing the message of Christ.
Being in a community with other Christians is precious to this little family, but the village is far from luxurious – indeed, they live in severe poverty. “There is no electricity, no water, roads or medical facility,” says Devi. Commuting to the village during rainy weather is difficult and transportation is only available twice a day. Open Doors partners are exploring how to supply clean drinking water to the village, and there are many other villages where ostracised Christian families live together in similarly poor conditions. As Devi and her children put their hope in Christ, many other Christians live by faith in dangerous and difficult situations.
"I know that Jesus hears my prayers, and He sends people like you to help us" Devi
“The Christian life is quite different. It brings me joy despite all the challenges we face today,” Devi says. “The most important part is that God does not need any offerings, sacrifices or money to love us. He loved us so much that He paid that price on the cross.
“When I was a Hindu, I made a lot of sacrifices and donated money for conducting prayer for my family or children. Whereas today, I know that Jesus hears my prayers, and He sends people like you to help us.”
Devi continues: “I remember my favourite Bible verse which says, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good (Psalm 106: 1). I am learning to give thanks to God in every situation, for He is indeed good. He has done good things for us through Open Doors partners. I can see the changes in my children and myself. Constantly, God is changing my life.
“I consider our brothers and sisters who support us as instruments of His blessings and as messengers of God’s love. Through Open Doors partners, my children have been given free access to education and the privilege to grow and the opportunity to build their future.”
"I am very happy and thankful for those people who are helping us with financial support and relief." Roshan's teacher
“I am very happy and thankful for those people who are helping us with financial support and relief,” says Roshan’s teacher. “I am very happy for that. May God bless you. I hope in the coming days you will continue to help us to educate these children.”
Please continue to pray for and support courageous young believers like Roshan. With your help, they can have a brighter future. So many young children need the same support Roshan is getting, and more – so they can have education, community and fun today and a better start for the long-term. You can help ensure that the next generation of Christians is equipped to keep following Jesus despite the rejection and persecution they face.
*Names changed for security reasons
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