A mother’s arms are a soft, safe haven. A father’s love is kind and protective. Like many children, Akhila missed out on these gifts at an early age. At two years old, she watched her father bludgeon her mother to death with an ax.
Akhila’s mother used her body to protect her daughter from the ax’s blunt force, but the young girl was still injured in the attack. She clung to her dying mother screaming with a toddler’s terror, confusion, and pain.
Akhila is now 8 years old and in the third-grade. She lives with a Christian neighbor, and studies at a local residential home for orphans. Akhila’s shy smile lights up a room, but not all is well with her soul. (See picture above, Akhila is on the far left). She is especially fearful of men.
God created human beings to be in relationship with one another, and the first one with our parents sets the stage for all others.
Dads are uniquely important in a child’s development. They represent his or her first view of God the Father. Their words and actions can either build up or wound. Little boys want to be like their dads. Little girls want to be cherished by them. All children long to be loved and affirmed for who they are on the inside.
Sadly, this God given role is often marred by sin.
A large number of the world’s orphans have one surviving parent. Of these children (an estimated 101 million) a majority is fatherless. This number matters a great deal. According to the latest research, kids who feel rejected by their fathers show higher rates of behavioral problems, delinquency, depression, and substance abuse, than those rejected by their mothers.
Akhila not only experienced rejection, she faced unspeakable abuse. This kind of damage is not easily undone.
At her orphanage, Akhila is part of a J127 club*. This three-year program through David C Cook is based on James 1:27, “True religion that God accepts is to care for orphans in their distress…”
The Club provides children with a strong Christian worldview, character development, and life skills, all wrapped in a nurturing family environment. “Aunties” and “uncles,” Christians from local churches, lead the clubs. Creative games, stories, and songs are used to teach specific lessons.
It’s within this program that children such as Akhila begin to feel safe enough to open up, share their feelings, and receive tangible help.
Uncle Prasanna and Aunty Lata run Akhila’s club. Uncle Prasanna’s kindness and easy manner has helped ease Akhila’s fear of men. She loves the way he tells stories and he makes her laugh. Though her voice is barely audible, Akhila has begun to speak up in class.
She recently took a step that is second nature for children with relationships with their dads: She drew a beautiful picture for Uncle Prashanna. Afraid to present it herself, she dragged along her two girl friends. The three of them gave the card to him and then ran away to a giggling huddle.
The relationship Akhila is developing with Uncle Prasanna presents a new healthy view of men.
More importantly, Akhila is getting to know God, a Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) through fun, unique spiritual lessons. She is learning He provides for her in all ways (Matthew 6:26-33); that He is her hiding place and preserves her from trouble (Psalm 32:7); and cherishes her by singing over her with joy (Zephaniah 3:17).
Above all, Akhila will eventually realize that absolutely nothing, not even death, can separate her from the abundant, relentless love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 38-39).
In Akhila’s life, the word “father” is being redeemed. In the end, it will keep her from doing what girls do the world over: Search far and wide to fill that void inside reserved for a dad’s love, affection, and attention. In India this could leave her vulnerable to trafficking, prostitution, promiscuity, or choosing men who will abuse her body and soul.
Our J127 Clubs make a difference in the lives of children such as Akhila. However, many more orphans who’ve experienced childhood trauma need immediate help. You or you and a group of friends can sponsor a club*. When you do, you will get to witness firsthand how God changes the lives of the children you are helping.
*Update: In 2018, David C Cook transferred oversight of the J127 clubs to an in-country partner which continues to shepherd and grow this program. By supporting David C Cook’s Life on Life curriculum, you will be helping support this program as well.