Surrounded by false gods, a Nepali widow remains focused on Jesus. Prior to the pandemic, Tavesa regularly invited six women to her small, dilapidated home in Nepal. During these monthly meetings, the women read the Scriptures together and prayed, ignoring the idols and pictures of Hindu gods peering blindly at them from nearby tables and surrounding walls. When Tavesa’s husband died about eight years ago, her 24-year-old son forced her to move into his run-down house after taking up residence in her former home
As a zealous Hindu, he insists that she leave the idols and pictures of his favourite gods where he left them. Tavesa said during an interview with a VOM ministry worker. “If I take the pictures down, he will probably beat me.”
“The only thing that I can do is pray and ask God to change his heart,”
Tavesa said during an interview with a VOM ministry worker. “If I take the pictures down, he will probably beat me.”
Tavesa became a Christian two years after her husband died when she received healing through the prayers of a Christian in her village. Leaving Hinduism and placing her faith in Christ did nothing to improve her social status in Nepal for, as a widow, she was already considered cursed.
In Nepal’s predominantly Hindu culture, any property owned by a widow’s late husband automatically goes to the children, usually the eldest son. For at least the first year following her husband’s death, a widow must always wear white. Many who see one of Nepal’s estimated 500,000 widows in a public setting will avoid her, believing that her bad luck could be transferred to them. Intensifying a widow’s already grievous circumstances is the blame she often receives for her husband’s death, regardless of the actual cause. In addition to all these challenges, when Tavesa declared her faith in Christ, she was not only considered worthless by her son, but also by her two grown daughters, aged 22 and 18.
Focusing on Jesus During Festivals of Idol Worship
Tavesa’s son believes he is honouring his father by ensuring his family remains Hindu, and Tavesa can’t challenge him because he is now considered the head of the family according to her society’s tradition. Each year, during the annual Hindu festival, he hangs a poster of snakes on her front door. In Hindu mythology, snakes (or nagas) represent mortality, death and rebirth. Worshippers offer gifts like incense and fruit to the snake idols, hoping to gain knowledge and wealth.
Tavesa’s faith has been tested during each of the annual snake festivals, especially the first one she experienced as a Christian. Her children wanted her to celebrate with them and perform the Hindu act of worship called puja, offering flowers and fruit to the idols and snakes. “Even then, I had decided to follow Christ and never turn back, no matter what my children did,” Tavesa explained. “Jesus gave me a new life, so this life is now dedicated to Him. My major prayer request is that each of my children may also experience a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The boldest act she took after publicly professing her faith in Christ was hanging a cross on her wall. However, one of her daughters took it down, believing it would anger the Hindu gods. Now, when her son hangs the snake poster on her door or displays Hindu idols in her home, Tavesa doesn’t protest. Rather, she takes comfort in the fact that God knows she didn’t place the idol worship emblems there.
The Prevailing Prayers of the Righteous
Tavesa’s children aren’t the only ones opposed to her Christian faith. Of the approximately 200 families in her village, only two of them are Christian. The hostile neighbours often pressure her to stop attending church and return to Hinduism. In Hindu society, Christianity is often viewed as a religion of the Dalits (or the untouchables) – those who comprise the lowest level of the traditional Indian castes. Although Tavesa is not a Dalit, her neighbours consider her one because she follows Jesus.
Nevertheless, through Tavesa’s persistent prayers to the one true eternal God, she has seen hopeful signs that her son’s heart is beginning to soften. About two years ago, he started allowing her to attend church services in the city. Although her son doesn’t pay for her bus fare for the services, as he does when she travels for other reasons, Tavesa is grateful to God that she has been permitted to worship with other Christians.
Since Tavesa never attended school, church members helped her to learn how to read the Bible their pastor gave her. She is especially moved by the verses assuring God’s protection and care for widows. She also enjoys reading the Psalms, which provide additional encouragement, especially during these times of increased physical isolation. A verse she has found particularly helpful is Matthew 5:44, where Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
“From the time I first read that verse,” she explains, “I began praying for those opposing me because they are not just persecuting me, they are persecuting Jesus. I realise that whatever people tell me, they are actually saying it to Jesus. From that time on, I started interceding for the people around me and my children.”
Tavesa has already witnessed several answers to prayer, including her request for increased freedom to practise her Christian faith and for the Lord to help her with some practical challenges. Until last year, she had to walk an hour to access water because her Hindu neighbours refused to let her use the local well. During Nepal’s 2019 monsoon season, hail had severely damaged her roof. The ministry of VOM helped Tavesa obtain a water pump and a new roof. “I really thank God for helping me to receive those blessings,” she said. “They helped me to more firmly believe that God is answering my prayers.”
Tavesa continues to pray that her children will come to know Christ, and she hopes they will one day be able to attend a prayer meeting in her home or at least hear some of it. “Whenever there is prayer in my house, I sense a different happiness, a greater peace in my heart.” Although Tavesa lives alone, she knows God’s presence is continually abiding with her. “As Jesus is with me, and there are so many people praying for me, I am never truly alone.”