It has been years since Pravailka last saw her father, Venkat. But in her mind images of him still bring her comfort. She can still see him bent over sweet-smelling flowers as he worked as a gardener at Pravalika’s school in India. Can still hear his words of praise as she rushed home from school to tell him everything she had learned.
Pravalika’s last memory of her father is bittersweet. After months of illness, medicine had stopped working. In those final months of life, Venkat asked Pravalika more about God — he wanted to understand what his young daughter was learning at church and at the Compassion center she attended as a sponsored child. Despite his family’s protests, Venkat wanted to know God.
“My father never felt bad for developing a relationship with God, and he was happy that God had come his way,” remembers Pravalika.
And on that last day, 13-year-old Pravalika heard her father pray for the first time. They were some of the last words she ever heard him say. Within hours of that whispered amen, her father died, a victim of HIV.
Rejected but Not Forgotten
Pravalika and her mother went to live with extended family after her father’s death. It was a difficult time for Pravalika, and she says her faith was tested daily.
“My uncle never accepted our presence,” says Pravalika, “and my grandmother still thinks that my father died because he developed a relationship with God. But these rejections made me think. I wanted to show them that I am not a worthless object that they can neglect.”
Pravalika poured herself into her schoolwork, desperate to show her family that God’s presence in her life was a blessing, not a curse. She excelled in her studies, and during her final year of high school she was accepted into Compassion’s Leadership Development Program.
Looking to the Future
Today, Pravalika is nearly finished with her civil engineering degree, and she is revered both in her family and community. But she admits it has not always been easy to forgive the way she was treated by her family after her father’s death.
“It was difficult to forgive those who treated us with vile attitudes in our past,” says Pravalika. “But the love of God has taught me to forgive them and look above for the heavenly gifts that God has in store for me. If I look back, it will hinder my future.”