Changing Culture – India, Day 4

Far from the buzz of traffic and constant vibration of the city, today we sit in what feels like one of the most remote places on Earth. Under the shade of a small oasis of banana trees we hide from the sun’s glare and the scorching heat. It’s here that we first hear the heartbreaking stories; stories of newborn babies (the “girl child”) who are killed.

It is here, in the remote villages of Southern India, where female infanticide (the murder of a baby girl, just because she is a girl) happens regularly. The baby girls are killed within the first week of their lives, before they are named.

In India, a son is valued much greater than a daughter. The son will inherit the family fortune and property and will take care of his parents until they pass, while the daughter will marry off with no rights to property. She will go and take care of her husband’s family. Although dowries are illegal in India, the daughter’s parents will be expected to pay a dowry to marry their daughter off. The dowries are quite expensive, sometimes comparable to a retirement fund. If the parents cannot afford the dowry, they will often times take out a loan that will be paid on for the rest of their lives.

As I sat there sweating and breathing in thick, hot air, I looked into the eyes of a baby girl who had recently been rescued from the threat of female infanticide. She sucked her thumb and stared back at me with dark, chocolate eyes the size of quarters. It was hard to imagine that this gorgeous baby girl, like so many others in India is not valued. That she will most likely be fed last at every meal, if there is food left. She will go to a different school than her brother, and will have to pay for her continued education, while her brother’s will be paid for. Her life will be a struggle.

Today, we helped with one of IGP’s partners who is working to combat the female infanticide problem in Southern India. Through the work of their staff, women in royal blue saris, they have infiltrated the villages with their love and concern. The have saved 167 baby girls from being murdered, and continue to do so, but are also doing so much more. They have come alongside the mothers, committing to help sponsor each girl’s education. They are promising a future life for the baby girls.

They are teaching the people of the villages that it is not a woman’s fault for her inability to produce a son. They are teaching health clinics. They are training the women how to set up “banks” for their villages and manage the small amount of money they bring in. They are assisting the women in buying cows, so they can sell the milk and provide for their baby girls.

Their ministry reminds me of the work of Jesus in the Gospels – not only did he deal with peoples’ spiritual needs, but he did something about their physical needs as well.

With each small step, IGP’s partner is changing the culture and unveiling the value of a girl’s life.

Today, we met dozens of the girls that they sponsor. We listened to them sing. We told them how proud we are of them. We hugged them and told them how precious they are.

Before we left for the day, one of the teenage girls who was being sponsored asked me through a translator to pray for her. She would be taking her state exams this weekend. Those exams would tell her what future occupation she qualified for and what education she would be eligible for. Her dream was to become a doctor. I prayed with her and she kissed me.

We left the village and paused in a field to take photos of one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. Looking at God’s gorgeous creation, I reflected on the fact that God is and has always been in control. A status quo cannot change His will. A state exam cannot change His plan. Satan’s schemes of manipulation cannot change God’s course. God is bigger than all those things. He sees what’s happening to baby girls in India and He cares.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139

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