Each time he entered the jungle, Hashmat didn’t know if it would be his last trip there. Then one day his fears became reality when a tiger pounced on him.
Like many men before him, Hashmat became a casualty of the jungle’s predators. He left behind two wives, Mutholi and Hasna, and five children.
Ten years later, these two widows still beg by the roadside to avoid starvation. Instead of going to school, their children work in tea shops to provide additional income.
Mutholi and Hasna are two of hundreds of struggling widows on the islands where they live. In this area, many people gain their livelihoods by fishing or gathering wood or honey from the dense mangrove forest that spans the islands. These occupations, however, pose the risks of drowning or being attacked by wild animals.
Despite their prayers to the forest goddess for their husbands’ safety, many women become widows. These women, usually illiterate, often resort to begging and can’t afford to send their children to school. Guilt and depression stifle their lives.
A Vision of Wholeness
As Gospel for Asia workers on these islands saw the desperate situation of the widows and their families, God inspired them to shine His light to them and their communities. Women missionaries started visiting widows to pray for them and share the Good News. As able, the missionaries provide food, clothing, basic medicine—and even shelter—to widows in need. When they met Anisha, 65, along the roadside and learned she had nowhere to stay, they brought her to live with them.
On June 23, 2011, GFA workers hosted an International Widows’ Day celebration, where 200 widows listened to a message of God’s special care for the vulnerable. Hearing the missionaries’ plans to stay with them in joy and sorrow, the women’s faces brightened. Each widow received clothing and a packet of food as well.
“It may well have been the first time they realized that there was someone who cared for them,” reports a GFA correspondent.
The missionaries’ vision for reaching the widows of these islands extends from uplifting their spirits to educating their children, teaching good hygiene, offering basic health care and providing opportunities to earn income.
They have established education centres to help widows’ children grow academically. A GFA Bridge of Hope centre opened in 2011 and is now blessing more than 100 students with education, nutritious meals and the knowledge of Jesus’ love for them.
In addition, through gifts of livestock or other income-generating tools, the missionaries give widows the opportunity to provide for their families.
Now, Mutholi and Hasna have something to be grateful for. As the women missionaries encourage these widows with God’s Word, they are glimpsing God’s plan to bring meaning beyond sadness and poverty into their lives.
Desiring to learn about the One who inspires the missionaries’ compassion, more than 500 widows have visited six fellowship centres in the area, where they are reading the Bible and learning to pray. Now, several come to Sunday worship services regularly, and 40 have decided to follow Jesus. As His light dawns over these islands, hundreds of widows can look forward to brighter futures.