Anjali* grew up believing her god was a difficult god to please. As a part of the Santhal tribe of India, Anjali and her family worshiped Maran Buru. Their definition of worship? Sacrifice, pleading, obligations and fear. In spite of the family’s offerings, Maran Buru remained a vengeful god.
Maran Buru inhabited their water and made them sick. Dwelled in their home and led Anjali’s husband, Rajan, to drink. Reveled in the fights that broke out between the couple when there wasn’t enough money, wasn’t enough food.
Anjali could find no peace in her religion. Each month illness made her miss work, and visits to the witch doctors offered no relief. Rajan was often too drunk to find day-labor jobs. And when Anjali discovered she was pregnant, the idea of caring for a child in the midst of the turmoil of her life was too much.
When Anjali was 5 months pregnant, she learned about the Bal Vikas Bhavan Child Survival Program, run by a local church in her village. Anjali joined and received immediate physical benefits, including prenatal care, vitamins and food supplies. But her spirit was still heavy. Her religion was deeply steeped in her tribal culture. She had never known anything different.
Anjali’s struggles did not go unnoticed. Another mother from the program, Priya, became close friends with Anjali. Each day she prayed that Anjali would be rescued from the darkness she felt. Priya prayed with Anjali and offered her a spiritual support she had never experienced before. Bible stories, prayers and worship brought Anjali peace, a relief from her constant fear of making sacrifices that would not please her god.
The prayers of Priya and other mothers in the Child Survival Program (CSP) were powerful. But the real turning point for Anjali came when her infant son, Robin, became ill. Anjali could not help thinking about past illnesses she and her family had suffered. The fruitless sacrifices. The hopeless trips to the witch doctor.
And Anjali made a decision. For the first time in her life, she prayed to God. And within days, her son was well.
Today Anjali is an active member of the church and of the women’s fellowship at her church. Her husband, Rajan, also became a believer, as well as Anjali’s mother-in-law. The entire family was baptized in 2008.
Their decision went against deeply rooted tradition, and Anjali says they came under immediate attack, both by spirits and neighbors. She recalls a time they saw an evil spirit standing in front of their home late one evening.
“We were scared to enter the house, so we prayed, holding hands, to ward off any evil inhabiting our premises, and then stepped into the house,” says Rajan.
At the CSP center, Anjali has learned parenting and vocational skills. She now knows how to sew and is able to repair her family’s clothes and serve as a seamstress in her village.
And this once-frail, beaten-down woman is now active in her community. She has learned to manage her family’s finances, and she and her husband work hard to find steady jobs to support their son.
“[Anjali] has learned to read and write and that makes me feel very proud of her,” says Rajan.
Gone are the days of fruitless sacrifice and a fickle god. Anjali and Rajan are raising Robin in a home filled with boundless grace and a living God.
“Getting involved in CSP was not by chance, but God’s plan to deliver us from the stronghold of Maran Buru to bring us into His saving knowledge,” says Anjali.
*All names in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.