Stories from the Mission Field

November 2023

India: A new Family for Sunitha

As a young woman, Sunitha (name changed) fell in love with a man from her village. But their fresh romantic attachment was not welcome. They were from different castes. Both wanted to marry and build a future together. But Sunitha's parents banned the relationship. When they got married anyway, both were rejected by their families.

Prisoners of a strict system

The Indian caste system determines a person's position in society. Belonging to a caste even determines which professions one is allowed to work in. Marriage beyond the boundaries of one's own caste is forbidden, even though the Declaration of Independence abolished this set of rules over 70 years ago. Nevertheless, the long-standing tradition continues to have an impact. Especially in rural areas. This also affected Sunitha and her husband. As a result, they suffer a lot. However, their affection for each other does not lessen due to this. Quite the contrary.

Alone and without support

Against all traditions and external influences, Sunitha and her husband get married. By no means do they allow themselves to be influenced by an old system. But the parents of the two and the wider family finally break off contact. In their eyes, both now are no longer part of the family. They both knew what they might be risking and are now even more shocked. Although they consider their path to be the right one, they now have to learn to live with the fact that they no longer have the social support of their families. This is bitter. They are now left on their own. In the years that followed, the two of them could only support themselves and their two children with poorly paid temporary jobs. They never thought life would be this challenging.

New Perspectives

When Pastor Vijender, leader of the South Lallaguda congregation, heard about Sunitha's vulnerable family situation, he visited her and offered her to train as a seamstress in his congregation. As early as 1992, the community started various social projects to help the needy people in the rural areas. One branch of their work is the Lydia sewing school, where young women are given the opportunity to do an apprenticeship.

Many of these women had to drop out of school because the family could no longer afford this "luxury". Sunitha was grateful and excited about this opportunity and immediately started her new education:

"When everyone rejected and abandoned us, even our own families, and the Christian community was there for us. They are so kind and helpful and have become like a new family to us. We praise and thank God for this church and the privilege to do this training with them!"

Equipped for the future

Now Sunitha along with nearly 20 young women, has completed her training and wants to find permanent employment in a nearby garment factory or even start her own small business at home. Her life and that of her small family has now changed. The church and Pastor Vijender have become a new family to them, accepting them as they are. At the graduation ceremony, Sunitha then received her long-awaited certificate, which confirms that she has successfully completed the training. She is very happy and proud.

Sunitha also received her own sewing machine, which is mostly funded by donations. She is allowed to gradually pay back her own share in small instalments - as she is able. With a fixed monthly income of about 50 euros, Sunitha can now better provide for her family and look to the future with much more hope than before. This also lets her husband and her two children breathe a sigh of relief, because they too will have it better one day.