“You are not our daughter anymore.” They were the last words 11 year old Saree* heard her father say to her as she stood in the street, holding the clothes her family shoved at her while slamming the door in her face.
How would you respond if you were Saree? This Sunday we will join with millions of Christians around the world in praying for the persecuted church. We’ll look at Acts 8 and see God’s people “Acting Out” the love of God and the power of the Gospel.
As a young child, Saree was deaf. Because of her disability, she had a hard time listening and studying at school. Her parents tried everything to heal her. “We went to the hospital, to Hindu temples and even to people who practiced witchcraft. Nothing helped,” she shares.
But one of Saree’s aunts had something different in mind and convinced Saree to go with her to church. “Your family members are not believers in the true God,” she told her niece. “But I am. Come with me. My God will heal you.”
After the sermon, the pastor and a few other people prayed for the young girl. Saree is still visibly moved. “First they called me to the front. I was a bit afraid and actually wanted to run. But I still went. While they were praying, I could hear sounds. Slowly, the sounds became louder and louder. I also felt something coming to me. It came closer and closer. It was the presence of God. Then the sounds became really clear. I could hear everything. I was incredibly happy.”
Afterward, Saree’s aunt explained who Jesus is and what she needed to know about following Him. Then she told Saree’s mother about Jesus. Instead of seeing the miracle of her daughter’s healing and coming to faith in Him, Saree’s mother became irate.
“Your God is not our God,” she told Saree’s aunt. “We are not going to believe in your God. People in your church die too. So we won’t go to that church.”
But Saree, having been healed at church, secretly went back to the place where she had found new life. “My elder sister was the only one who knew,” she says, “but my brother also found out. He caught me many times on a Sunday after I came back from church.”
The situation continued to escalate. Pretty soon, she was enduring regular beatings. “Almost every time I went to church, my brother and father beat me,” she says. “Leave Jesus Christ!” her brother screamed, beating her with a stick and slapping her with his shoes.
“About three months ago, they were fed up with me. My brother and father yelled: ‘If you continue to go to church, we will punish you!’ They beat and kicked me badly. Then they gave me some clothes and pushed me out the door. My father said, ‘You are not our daughter anymore.’”
But Saree stood firm. “I won’t leave Jesus,” she told her brother. She knew she had no other choice than to go back to her aunt’s. She has been living with her for the last few months. It is a brave decision at any age, but especially for an 11-year-old girl in India. Saree says candidly, “I want to leave Him. But I can’t. There’s something there …” she explains, struggling to find words.
The most painful part of Saree’s decision right now? Not being able to attend school. She also misses her family. It has been a year since her father disowned her and left her on the streets to pick up the pieces. She’s now 12 years old. During the lonely days, Saree finds encouragement from God’s promises in Scripture: “God has said that He will never leave nor forsake us,” she says, remembering how she met Jesus in the first place.
Saree is a symbol of a disturbing trend developing in certain regions over the years. Children are often persecuted not for their own faith, but because of their parents’ faith. In 2018, one reporting agency in India documented 775 persecution incidents against Christians, representing more than 51 million people—including 12,858 children.
How can we prepare ourselves for the testing that Jesus promised in John 15:20, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”? How do we respond to the challenges to our faith and testing we face in the Silicon Valley? We’ll pray for God’s power and boldness for ourselves and for the 245 million Christians like Saree who are suffering today for the name of Christ.
P.S. Don’t forget to set your clocks back one hour on Saturday night!
*Adapted from an article by an unnamed Open Doors staff worker who visited and prayed with Saree whose name has been changed to protect her identity. www.opendoorsusa.org