Girls watch their backs. Sexual assault, trafficking, and forced child marriage seem to lurk around every corner, especially in developing nations where there is little protection against predators.
Even parents are in on the act, not valuing or providing a safe harbor for their girl children, and driven to take desperate measures in the face of poverty.
In India, Africa, and throughout the world, David C Cook, in partnership with the local indigenous Church, stands in the gap for an increasing number of these girls. We equip them to know they have a right to bodily integrity, to spot those who seek to exploit them, and to open themselves up to the Holy Spirit’s healing.
Anshuri’s mother died when she was just a toddler. Her father worked construction and was gone most of the day, so he left Anshuri in the care of relatives. After some time, her father realized that she was not being properly taken care of, and placed her in an orphanage. Anshuri is now part of the J127 Hope Club in Hyderabad India. There are 4,200 children in whole life discipleship Clubs throughout India. They are a part of David C Cook’s Orphan Initiative.
It’s within the safety of this Club that Anshuri came to know about Jesus and asked Him to be her Savior and Lord. She loves Club time and never misses a class. She prays out loud, sings, and is learning to play the drums. During a lesson from a unit on character called, “Self Control Keeps Me Safe,” she and her peers were asked to draw a situation where they exercised self-control and it kept them from harm. Anshuri did not draw a picture, but wrote down the following statements:
- For me a safe place is not my house, not my school, and not with my relatives.
- I can live happily without fear.
- I can do good things for the Lord.
- I gave my heart to Jesus and I ask Him now to control it.
- If I control things, I am safe… if not, I am in trouble.
Club leader Auntie Kusuma asked why she chose to write about a safe place. As she quietly shifted in her chair, Anshuri confessed horrific experiences with relatives, stories of physical and sexual abuse. She told Auntie Kusuma that she still feels unsafe, especially when boys follow her on the way home from school.
While she shared, Auntie Kusuma noticed the young girl shivered and had a look of fear. Club leaders spent time counseling Anshuri, and together with her they studied the lesson “God Made My Body” (which talks about good touch and bad touch) and “God Heals Dishonored Bodies.” These pieces provide counsel to children on setting boundaries, protecting themselves against predators, and healing from abuse.
It’s true that children who’ve been sexually abused often become targets again in the future. Education is key, as is her reliance on God as her defender. Club leaders say that Anshuri is strong in the Lord. In the future lessons such as “Jesus Respects Women,” “Clean on the Inside,” and a multitude of J127 teachings on forgiveness, will bring this wounded girl into a place of healing.
In another J127 Club—an after school program located in a Hindu Temple village where prostitution is a livelihood passed down from mother to daughter—many girls wrestle with a destiny that’s often determined by the time they reach puberty.
Sadhra is 12 years old and lives in a colony for prostitutes. Most friends her age have already begun to sell themselves. Men often approach Sadhra on the streets. At first she was filled with fear and ran away. In a lesson on “Courage Comes from God” she has mustered up a firm, “no.” She believes God will set her free from this harassment. “Safe from Trafficking, ” “The Hero who is always with me,” and “The Shepherd who keeps the sheep safe,” are other teachings that will equip her to face the rigors of life in her village.
These are tough stories. And they are, unfortunately, common. The millions of girls and boys covered under the Children at Risk program around the world are gaining knowledge and skills that may save their lives. They are learning to be children of courage. And at the beginning, the end, and the center of everything that’s imparted, Jesus is at the core. For children who have not been valued, it’s a huge deal that the God of the universe knows their name and promises never to abandon them.
Please pray for Anshuri and Sadhara. Ask the Lord to heal and strengthen them in body, mind, and spirit. Sadhra also asked for prayer for her future; she would like to become a teacher. She also fervently prays that her mother would come to know Jesus and leave her life of prostitution. Join her in this request!
Update: In 2018, David C Cook transferred oversight of the J127 clubs to an in-country partner which continues to shepherd and grow this program. By supporting David C Cook’s Life on Life curriculum, you will be helping support this program as well.