A small ball of red yarn rolled across the floor, threatening to entangle itself with others from the knitting bag. Rani reached to rescue it. I had asked Radika for a remnant of yarn for a small project I wanted to do. Her sister, Rani, picked up an unfinished piece of knitting, and the three of us began to work together. Communication was a challenge. I speak no Hindi, and the girls speak almost no English, but somehow we managed.
“Do you knit?” they wanted to know.
“No, only crochet.”
“Then we will show you, Auntie.” Picking up their knitting, they showed me how easy it was. Clearly they thought I would learn quickly. Picking up another small ball of yarn, they handed it to me. I cast on a few stitches. This was a skill I remembered from many years back. Then they showed me how to proceed. In spite of valiant efforts, I could not get the hang of it. I kept dropping stitches. I had learned some knitting years ago using a different technique. However I could not seem to get the feel for this method.
Giving up on knitting, I selected a crochet hook and chained a few stitches. After several false starts, I finally got going on my project. The ladies were both interested in what I was doing and wanted me to show them how to do it. Chaining about 20 stitches for each, I showed them a simple single crochet. They each tried to replicate what I was doing. Laughing and struggling together, we were amazed that what was simple for one person was so difficult for another. We pulled out stitches and tried again amid much merriment.
Working together with yarn, we tried to learn words in each other’s languages. I would mime something and ask for the word in Hindi. Then they would ask for it in English. After struggling with sounds until we got a close approximation, we laughed and moved to another word. Struggling together, we drew closer in heart, until we were all dear to each other.
Trying out her new English words, Rani turned to me and said, “Auntiji, I am ugly.”
“No, Rani,” I replied. “You are pretty.”
“My brother doesn’t like my teeth.”
I shrugged. “He doesn’t have to eat with them. They look nice to me, and they seem to work fine.” She smiled shyly, giggled and continued knitting. I hoped she understood.
What terrible messages of abuse had been heaped on this young woman? She was not strikingly beautiful, but she was attractive. She had lovely dark skin, an infectious grin and a caring heart. But she had a terrible self-image. If only she could grasp how valuable she is in God’s eyes. I grieved my lack of ability to communicate in her language.
Radika, who came from the same background, has discovered her true worth. It has given her a new self-image and the ability to stand up for herself and what she believes. She runs the household with amazing efficiency, enabling the two young missionaries living here to visit the people in the village and establish relationships that they hope will lead to victories for Christ.
When it was time for her to return to her home further up the valley, Rani and I embraced warmly, smiled bravely and waved our goodbyes. We had only shared three days, but our hearts had been stitched tightly together. My heart was breaking. I will likely never see this bright, engaging young woman again on this earth. Will I see her in heaven?
We are struggling to determine strategies for the future of the Pahari Project. Although no AFM career workers are currently living here, God has provided two Indian missionaries to work together with Radika in reaching out to these people. Some of the people are just beginning to catch a glimpse of the true God. Please pray that Rani, Raj, Panji and others living in this valley will develop the strength and confidence to believe fully in Jesus and to step out in faith to follow Him. His Spirit is obviously working on their hearts.