Today is the International Day of the Girl Child. It’s a day for us to recognize all the potential girls have to be positive contributors and make a significant impact in the world around them.
However, in many nations, just growing up as a girl is an extremely difficult and heroic feat. As Wendy Alsup wrote in an article for Christianity Today,
“Even today, in many impoverished areas of the world, the mere words ‘it’s a girl’ can be deadly. The female gender continues to be systematically devalued and abused, with sex-selective abortions and infanticide regularly resulting in female deaths.” Journalists have called this problem Gendercide.
Can you imagine being born into an environment where this is your worth? And yet, what girls in these nations have the potential to contribute is no less important or valuable. I remember as if it was yesterday the time the Lord arrested me and helped to realize the value of these girls in difficult circumstances around the world. I recounted this event in an excerpt from my book No Longer a Slumdog:
Then one day the Lord got my attention while I was standing at a busy street corner of a major Asian city waiting for the light to turn green.
There were little children everywhere, a common sight on busy corners throughout Asia. Tourists are cautioned not to give them anything because once you do, the others will all mob you.
While I was at this corner, feeling a bit annoyed by little hands grabbing at me, I heard from behind me the voice of a young girl.
“Sir, my father died. My mother is sick. She can’t beg anymore. And I have a little brother, who is very hungry. Would you please give me a few pennies so I can buy some bread and take it to him?”
The light turned green, and everybody hurried on. But I couldn’t move. What she said pierced my heart. I turned around and saw this young girl, not yet 10 years old. I will never forget her face—one of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen on a child. She had big brown eyes, thick black hair almost the length of her body, dirty fingernails, and dust mingled with sweat running down her face. She was barefoot and in rags. She just stood there with her hand extended.
I put my hands in my pocket and took out all the money I could find and gave it to her. Then I walked on.
Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I felt like an unseen stranger joined me on this emotional walk. The silent question He asked was deep and penetrating, “So what do you think about the little beggar girl you just met? Is her life as valuable and precious as . . .” and the face of another young girl appeared in my mind’s eye. I didn’t know the name of the girl on the street, but I for certain knew the name of this new face; it was my own little daughter, Sarah.
The two were approximately the same age, but their lives could not have been more contrasting. Sarah had her own carpeted room with furniture and toys and every comfort one could imagine. My wife, her German mother, made sure she was well taken care of. Her sheets and pillowcases were changed every week on her comfortable bed. She had plenty of clothes, socks, tennis shoes, a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and shampoo. We had given Sarah all of what is so abundantly available for children born and raised in the United States.But for the street girl I had just encountered, I doubt that she had ever held a toothbrush in her hand. Her face had never been washed with soapy water, and her hair had never been touched by shampoo. She had never slept in a warm bed under clean sheets and on fluffy pillows. Maybe she had never even heard the words, “Your mommy loves you. Your daddy loves you.”
Probably her entire upbringing had been one of daily struggles—living on the streets with thousands of other children who also had no home to go to when evening came.
This question just kind of hung in the air as I walked on, “Is her life as valuable and precious as . . .”
I knew what the proper response was. Being a minister and quite familiar with the Bible, I knew right away what my answer was supposed to be.
“Of course, Lord! I care about her. The value of this little beggar girl’s life means as much as that of my own daughter’s.”
. . . Honestly, I had great trouble trying to assimilate this revelation. I couldn’t imagine my daughter standing on that street in Bombay with her hand out begging for a few pennies to buy a piece of bread for her brother. It was too painful for me to think about.
Unless we can “see” these kinds of hardships ourselves, they are difficult to really grasp. It says in the Gospel of Matthew 9:36, “When Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them.” As we truly see the destitute and hurting, we also will be filled with compassion.
In the documentary “Veil of Tears”, from Gospel for Asia, you can see girls from South Asia who have lived through very difficult circumstances. More importantly, “Veil of Tears” shows a behind-the-scenes look at what is being done to help these girls and women. Well-trained women are working as “the hands and feet of Christ,” ministering hope, letting these girls and women know God cares for them and loves them. As they find hope and understand their true value in Christ, they are beginning to realize their potential. Many of these girls never knew anything but difficulty, and all they could do was try to survive. But now they’re not only rising up from their own circumstances and are making a difference for those in their communities. It makes my heart so glad when I hear about the beautiful changes being made in the lives of these precious girls and women.
As Christians, these issues should lead us to really engage in prayer and cause us to get involved and be part of the answer. This one life is the only time we have to make a difference that will count through all eternity. Because we represent Christ and are responsible for what happens in our generation, let us bring His light and hope to the world.
To learn more about the challenges of being born a girl in South Asia, go to www.veiloftearsmovie.com.
To read more from No Longer a Slumdog, go to www.gfa.org/book.
Story above excerpted from No Longer a Slumdog by KP Yohannan. Copyright © 2011, 2017 KP Yohannan. All rights reserved.