Mariah slowly opens her eyes. Surrounding her, small voices fling hopes high to a Father – and she feels her heartbeat quicken. Ashwini’s black veil carefully covers both her head and Mariah’s, honoring an Indian custom of women covering their faces in prayer. Ashwini prays aloud next to Mariah, praying over her new friend and teacher, as Mariah feels more sure of one fact than she’s ever felt before.
Jesus is here.
“Sister! You look Indian!” Ashwini’s wide smile brings light to her whole face. And with these four words, Mariah and Ashwini’s story begins.
Mariah, a 20-year-old student at Hope College, arrived on the India Hope Campus at the beginning of June and spent two months working diligently with the children bettering their English conversational skills. She’s been connected to Back2Back Ministries since 2012 when she accepted Christ on a trip to Mazatlán, Mexico, but this trip to India was her first.
She spent her days working with the children on their English skills.
“Ashwini was always in the front of the class.” One of the older girls on campus, Ashwini has a bright smile and quick sense of humor. “She was never intimidated by the new American girl on campus; on breaks she would make her way up to me, offering snacks and asking outrageous questions,” Mariah recalls.
In one of these instances, Ashwini implored how men propose in the United States, requiring Mariah to get down on one knee and act out a potential proposal for all the girls to see.
“We were always laughing together in the beginning of my stay on campus.”
While humor can certainly bond two girls from differing worlds and perspectives, it was honest and vulnerable conversation that cemented the friendship between Mariah and Ashwini.
“I ate dinner with the older girls one night and afterwards ended up sitting on the floor of the home with them while they asked questions about my family.”
In spite of the difficulty she feels sharing about her family, Mariah pressed forward into the conversation boldly, answering questions honestly.
“Come.” Ashwini placed her hand on Mariah’s arm and beckoned her to kneel alongside her during prayer time. As the rest of the girls kneeled beside them, veiling their faces in preparation for prayer, Ashwini covered both her head and Mariah’s with a black veil and softly whispered prayer in a foreign language.
“The Lord really softened my heart in the room that night. It solidified a friendship between Ashwini and me that I couldn’t have seen coming.”
After that night, Ashwini and Mariah could be found together at just about every group event – playing after school, sitting beside each other during dinner, and occasionally finding themselves in the midst of mischievous fun.
On her final night, after praying for months about how she might be able to afford sponsoring Ashwini, Mariah pulled the young girl aside and shared the news.
“My five roommates agreed to help me sponsor her. When I told her, tears sprang into her eyes; ‘but how, sister? You have no money.’”
Mariah smiled at Ashwini. “You’re right, I don’t. But He provided a way.”
If you feel a call to make a deeper investment in the life of a child in Mexico, India, Haiti, or Nigeria, please visit our child sponsorship page. You can be the difference for one.