Neha’s voice sounded fragile, like someone desperate for help. I gladly sent her a New Testament from our warehouse. Every Friday for a long time, Neha phoned me at our office and shared her struggles. We became friends over the phone.
“You can be free; you don’t have to live like this,” I would tell her. That was three years ago.
Today she sits across from me over coffee, a vibrant, new woman with sparkle and determination in her big, dark eyes. When she talks about Jesus, her face shines. But her road to freedom was far from simple.
Born an only child in Gujarat, India, Neha grew up in the highest priestly and privileged caste—the Brahmins. The moment she opened her eyes in the morning, she engaged herself in worship—not to the One True God, but to many gods, even the trees.
“Spirituality was my life,” Neha explains. “Yet I still felt thirsty for God. I needed peace. I faced a lot in my life in India. I chose my own husband, although my parents first opposed it. But the real torture began from my in-laws.”
“My in-laws told me I was ugly, that my skin was too black. They only allowed me to use their toilet once a day in the morning. It was a control thing to make me like a servant in their house.”
Like a good Hindu woman, Neha never fought back. Secretly, she cried a lot. When she gave birth to her first daughter, things got worse. The in-laws didn’t want girls. Three times, they forced her to have an abortion because the baby was a girl.
When Neha and her husband decided to move to the U.S., via New Zealand and Canada, Neha felt hopeful her life would get better. While in New Zealand, she became pregnant again and prayed to the gods for a boy. Discovering it was a girl, she decided against her husband’s will that this time she would keep the growing child inside her.
But it was a turning point for Neha. Her days of worship ended. She no longer believed in the gods.
But One God kept pursuing her.
“Call on Jesus; He will help you,” a Kiwi woman at her workplace urged. Another woman at a bus stop told her to ask Jesus to be her Saviour.
She refused to listen. Her disbelief continued for another seven years.
Shortly after moving to Canada, she met a Punjabi coworker who asked her, “Do you worship?”
“No, the gods never listened to me!” she replied in disgust.
“Did you talk to Jesus? Talk to him at once. He will listen,” the man insisted. His next words touched her spirit and changed everything: “He is alive. He will come to you.”
Neha became interested in Jesus and agreed to read a Bible. It took three months to secure one in the Gujarati language. She began in Genesis but soon gave up because she couldn't find Jesus and didn’t understand it. Her coworker told her to try again by reading the book of John. “Jesus is there,” he told her.
One morning after reading John 4—about the woman at the well—she was on her way to work when she heard a voice behind her say, “Look at me; I will look at you.” She turned around to see who was speaking, but the street was empty.
Puzzled at first, she then recognized whose voice it was. Her heart felt light as she responded with pure joy in the street.
“After that I became addicted to reading the Bible,” she says. “That’s when I phoned your office to get a pocket-sized Bible so I could read at work.”
The peace Neha had sought all her life came, despite the increasing turmoil in her family life. Reading her Bible openly and going to church infuriated her Hindu husband. He grew more abusive in front of the children and began to monitor every phone call and her every move online.
Bruises on her arms raised suspicions at the office where she worked. Out of fear, she tried to cover up the truth. “You have to understand. For an Indian woman to walk away from an abusive husband is a huge thing,” Neha explains.
Finally one day, God made a way for her to escape her prison of domestic abuse. Christian friends helped and to her astonishment, she walked into a fully furnished apartment. Days after moving, to her great delight, Neha discovered a church in her language just five minutes from her new home.
It doesn’t end there. Neha can’t stop talking about Jesus to everyone she meets! She helped a Punjabi Seik friend by offering her the Hope magazine and telling her, “This is what God wants to tell you.” Her friend followed Neha to church and received Christ that first Sunday. “I was so happy that day,” Neha says.
That woman with the fragile voice who called for a New Testament three years ago no longer exists. A new woman who listens to Jesus’ voice—a voice of wisdom, power and love—has replaced her.