“Whatever happens, whether we live or die, I will never stop believing in Jesus Christ.”
These are not just empty words for Kusum; she knows about death and loss. She is just 25, but has already been widowed, and her youngest son has died. Her community and her husband’s family blame her Christian faith for their deaths – and her father-in-law has threatened to kill her. But in spite of all this, she is able to say, “God gives me strength.”
Kusum was born into a Hindu family, but began going to church secretly when she was 11. Later, her parents also began to go to church with her. She married at a young age, as is the custom in her community, and had her first child, a boy, at 16. She had a second son four years later – but her husband died shortly afterwards.
The villagers blamed his death on Kusum’s Christian faith. “First, I worked as a cook, and then they fired me. Then I got a job at a school, but was again kicked out. They told me it was because I refused to recant my faith in Jesus.”
For the next five years, she struggled to earn enough money to feed her children. She began to hide her faith so she that wouldn’t upset her Hindu neighbours, and they allowed her to earn some money for food and to draw water from the well.
But in the summer of 2015, tragedy struck once more. Her 5-year-old son contracted cancer, and had to be taken to hospital. “He stayed there for an entire month. At first, I tried to hide my faith as much as possible.” This isn’t surprising, given her previous treatment. But Kusum began to feel that she should no longer hide her faith in Jesus, and started to share it with those around her.
At the same time, her son began to heal. “My faith increased. It was then that I decided in my heart: ‘Whatever happens, whether we live or die, I will never stop believing in Jesus Christ.'”
Kusum took her son home, and for a few months he seemed back to his normal self. However, one day, he began to feel unwell again. As Kusum travelled with him to the hospital, she could feel him slipping away. He died in the hospital that evening.
Kusum was devastated. To make matters worse, a new wave of persecution also came with this terrible loss. “The villagers didn’t allow me to bury my son. They said, ‘You brought this curse upon your family! Because of your faith, your husband and your son are dead!’ In the end, I was allowed to bury my son on the outskirts of the village. I was all by myself. Nobody was allowed to help me.”
One night around this time, Kusum’s father-in-law came to Kusum’s house, armed with an axe and threatening to kill her. He shouted: “It’s your fault my son is dead! It’s your fault my grandson is dead! You killed them with your toxic faith! Come outside! I will cut you to pieces!”
Kusum hid in her house and waited for the Lord to intervene or take her home. “I could not escape. I just withdrew into a corner and sat there silently and praying. I had only one certainty: I would not betray Jesus. Despite all the tragedies, He has never disappointed me.”
In the end, Kusum’s father-in-law just walked away and took his axe with him. She doesn’t know if he will come back.
When we met with Kusum, it was just a month after her son had died. “I miss him so much. I hear him talk, I see him, I feel him here on my lap.” But she finds consolation in the Word of God. “I know from the Bible that God will not bring him back to me, but that one day I will be brought to him.”
Open Doors partners have been able to provide Kusum with financial support. “I’m surviving thanks to you. Please pray for my nine-year-old son. He struggles with his studies and cannot cope with the loss of his brother yet. Pray for the salvation of my village. I’m thankful I’m counted worthy to suffer for Jesus. But pray that the villagers will accept Jesus too. Please pray that I will recover from a persistent virus that’s affecting my body. To all of those who pray, I give thanks.”