Often in life it comes about that a day that is life-shaping in a most horrible way begins most mundanely. From time to time there is a calm before the storm, a sense of foreboding that comes to a climax with a dreadful tragedy. Most, though, are not so courteous. They are sudden, and earth-shattering, like a lightning strike from a clear blue sky. They test faith, and through the pain it is a struggle to remember that He is good.
On one such day Pam was sitting in her bed, reading a book, while Sunil napped beside her. They were living in a village in Maharashtra, in small but safe home. Their three girls, Bekah, Anna, and Jess, were very young, 8, 6, and 2 respectively. With the many children across the street, they had plenty of friends to play with. There lived a group of squatters, who had built their homes from mud and bamboo. Every day they would travel to the fields and work, leaving their kids to take care of each other.
The children would play with the girls, though never in the pond behind the house. Small, insignificant, there was a hole in the ground that would fill with water during the monsoon season. Even at its deepest it was only six feet. When full it was murky water, stagnant and ominous. However, the village children would play at the edges of the pond without fear or care, heedless of the muck.
On this day it was raining gently, with the soft murmur of the rain droplets falling on the roof. Everything was calm and good, the girls were playing inside together out of the rain. Sunil slept peacefully, and Pam was enjoying the rare calm. Nothing was out of place, and no worry disturbed the serenity.
On this day, in the early afternoon in a small village in Maharashtra, Pam’s housekeeper started screaming. She burst into the bedroom in hysteria, and Pam was just able to understand what had happened. Without pause, without thinking she rushed outside to see a small crowd gathered around the pond, and she jumped in. Two men followed her, and together they carried out two small girls, the same ages as Bekah and Anna.
Fifteen long minutes passed, a blur of panic and despair. Pam desperately tried to perform CPR, to teach the others how to do it. But, fifteen minutes later, she knew they were gone.
The rain was still falling. It created a mist that settled over everything. Nobody said anything. Slowly, dejected, Pam went inside.
She took a hot shower then. Soaking with dirty pond water, dirty with the tragedy of the two little girls, she stood in the steaming shower and asked God, “Why?” So hopeful she had been, praying the whole time to Jesus that the girls would be saved and the power of God would be demonstrated to the village. She was frustrated with Him, and His failure to intervene. She was frustrated with herself, thinking, “If I had been just a little faster…”
In direct answer to her protestations, she felt the Lord in her, and felt that the children were with Him in heaven and that all was good.
Their souls were safe, but when Pam got out of the shower, she looked out her window and saw through the drizzle the two girls still laying at the edge of the pond. The crowd had dispersed.
When called, the police refused to come take care of the bodies.
It was only several hours later that the girls’ parents came home to learn what had happened, and to come get them. Pam heard wailing outside as they mourned.
In the coming days a bouquet of flowers arrived for her, and Pam was portrayed as a heroine in the papers.
It was then that Pam realized the extent of a very deep-rooted issue in the Indian culture.
She realized why those little girls had died, why people were just standing around the pond instead of jumping in.
They had had the misfortune of being born untouchable girls in rural India, the lowest of the low. Had they been boys, had they been of a higher caste, had they been born in the West, they might have lived. But the worthlessness of untouchable girls is so ingrained in the minds of the people that they could not be bothered to jump into a shallow pond.
Through tragedy, God works to change lives. It was eye opening, life-changing, and Pam began to work for women’s empowerment.