Other times, you realize the sobering truth...
You never know what the day may bring and what doors will be closed.
Her name... Bhawani. It is almost pronounced like "bow a knee" if you say the "a" like "uh."
Bhawani on the far right
My husband went to visit a family in a village two hours away. That's when he met her. She was cute and playful, but extremely shy as most village girls can be. He was told she was 6 years old, but it is more likely that she was 5. In this country, they count the year they are working on instead of the years completed. My husband loved the village visit and fell in love with the children. He came home and shared all the details with me like a child on Christmas morning.
He also told me that Bhawani's father had expressed concern over Bhawani's health. She had suddenly started gaining weight and being hungry all the time. As small as she was, she was eating more than adults. Obesity is not a problem in this country, especially with children and even more so with village children. Their eating habits are limited by access as well as finances. And in the villages, there is a lot of strenuous walking and working. There was more than enough reason to be concerned.
Six months after my husband's first visit, our whole family went to the village. I was able to meet Bhawani for the first time. She was everything my husband had described: sweet, giggly, and very, very shy. And she was also much, much larger. She had put on a shocking amount of weight during that 6 months. We knew something was terribly wrong.
Bhawani and Saani
The purpose of our trip to the village was to bring Bhawani and her father back to the city so she could see a doctor. Her parents carried her a long distance up steep hills to reach where we had to park the car. (There is no road access to their home.) The hike for me was grueling. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for Bhawani's parents, but their love for her pushed them forward.
My husband took them to some doctors and even bought Bhawani a stuffed bear. She named it Saani which is the feminine form of "small."
Then, something thrilling happened! Because Bhawani and her father were in the city, they decided to go to church with us. This would be their first time in church. We stopped and picked them up along the way.
When we arrived at church, everyone pulled off their shoes at the door, which is customary here. My husband looked down at Bhawani's feet. No socks. Her little toes must have been freezing! Then we remembered that last week I had stuck an extra pair of fuzzy socks in a drawer in the church office. I had put them there in case my feet got cold and I needed a second or third pair of socks. (Yes, sometimes we really do not realized how blessed we are as other people stand in need.) I grabbed the pretty pink fuzzy socks and watched as her smile grew. She was happy with her new socks.
She went to children's class, my class. I prayed and asked God to help me show her the love of Christ and the truth of His Word. (Her family is Hindu.) Bhawani sat near the door against the wall. She never stopped smiling. She was so shy, but she was also curious. After class, I sent her with extra coloring sheets from previous classes as well as a handful of crayons. (Crayons are a luxury here for many children. Most of them do not own any.) I also hoped I sent her home with the knowledge that God's Word is truth, the Bible is God's Word, and that Jesus loved her very much. In a culture where there is no Bible knowledge, one has to start with very simple truths.
Not too long after that, Bhawani went back to her village. Her father came to church several times, but he came alone. The doctors were not able to discover Bhawani's medical problem, so the father turned to alternative medicines. As far as we knew, Bhawani had shown slight improvement.
Then last week, at 4:30 AM, we got a call. Bhawani had died. My heart broke. I couldn't help but reflect in my mind over our brief meetings. Her smile, her giggle... And I wondered, did I do all I could to show her the love of Christ? If I had known that her time to leave this earth was so close, would I have done things differently? Would have have done more to prepare for children's class that day? Would I have prayed more?
The truth is, every child that walks into our Sunday school classes and into church could be walking in for their last time. Bhawani's first time was her last time. I am fully convinced she is with Christ because of her state of innocence, but her death is a sobering reminder that sometimes we only get one shot to reach, to teach, to love.
Make every class count. Make every visit matter. Life is but a vapor.
by Charity, Southern Asia