Sometimes, we at Food for the Hungry receive e-mails from field staff that stop us in our tracks. A few months ago, I got one of those emails. It detailed the suicide of a teenager in one of our communities.
“Unfortunately, I think this will break your heart,” wrote the colleague telling me the news.
Cristina*, from rural village in Mozambique, deduced that her family planned to force her into an arranged marriage she did not want. While the prospective groom was visiting with her mother to finalized the terms, Cristina decided to take matters into her own hands. Right then and there, while her marriage was being arranged, she went into her home and took her own life.
In shock, FH staff rushed to the home as soon as they heard the news. They went to the funeral two days later to comfort the family. They will continue to walk alongside the family in their grief.
Cristina was in tenth grade. She liked math and wanted to be a teacher. Marriage probably would have ended that dream.
Finding a Better Path
It’s not OK that families see unwanted arranged child marriage as the best solution to life’s difficulties. Cristina’s mother was a widow with nine children. I don’t know the mother’s motives for pushing the marriage, but very often the reasons are economic. Parents can’t see any other way out of grinding poverty. They are hopeless. They can’t face another day of their children crying at night from hunger, with no relief in sight.
A marriage reduces the mouths they have to feed. They may think, at least this one child will have basic food and shelter in another home. In some cultures the groom pays a bride price to the girl’s family, providing a short-term influx of cash or livestock.
FH works hard to help families see they have hope for better solutions than selling off a daughter to the highest bidder. And we build relationships with teens, helping them see themselves through God’s eyes. It’s our hope that these children we work with will never know black despair.
Join Us in Prayer
So we pray for Cristina’s family, church and community. Please join us, if the Lord leads.
We pray that the FH staff in that community can bring light through this very dark and hopeless situation, by helping parents see there are options beyond child marriage. We pray for our staff who can help children walk out of darkness.
We pray for healthy relationships between parents and children, to avoid disagreements with disastrous consequences. And that families would take their burdens to the Lord rather than listening to damaging solutions that their cultures present.
We pray that parents will have energizing hope that working with FH will increase income, so they can feed all of their children. We will pray that parents will see how the short-term sacrifice of just a few more years in school could result in professional jobs for their children. This simple act can lift the whole family out of extreme poverty. We’ll pray that families will understand that God cares for them and has not forgotten them, and will help them raise their children to be healthier.
*Name has been changed to protect the family’s privacy in this difficult time.