13 years with the same prayer
For 13 years, every night before Nandini would get into bed, she would pray. Through the years many of her requests to God changed, but one remained persistent, unchanging, and desperate. Every night, she would plead with the Lord to reunite her with her little sister. They were separated when Nandini was just 6 and her sister, Preya was only 3. I think that for the time they were together, Nandini had played the role of a mother more than an older sister; their mom had died early on and their father didn’t play much of a role of anything. To get by, Nandini roamed the streets looking for scraps from garbage heaps that could be sold for enough to buy a meal for her sister, her father, and herself, a rather big responsibility for a six year old. And while Nandini roamed trying to provide for her family, Preya followed close behind. They meant everything to each other as they only had each other. Whatever floor they happened to lay their heads to sleep at night, Preya would snuggle up close to Nandini, and Nandini would hug her tight. That hug was a means to protect Priya from any storm that would threaten her sleep.
One morning as Nandini and Preya were walking the streets, a kind man who ran an orphanage approached them and asked what they were doing and about their parents’ whereabouts. Nandini brought him to their father who was also roaming the streets. The kind man convinced their father (though it did not take much) to allow the girls to come to his orphanage. It’s safe to say that there weren’t any tearful goodbyes. Preya held Nandini’s hand real tight, and Nandini led her into this kind man’s car. This goes against all that we have ever taught our own children: don’t talk to strangers; don’t take candy from strangers; NEVER get into the car of a stranger, but by now, you can understand why those rules didn’t apply to Nandini and Preya. Thankfully, they were brought to a safe home with a roof over their heads and a nutritious meal that didn’t require a transfer of scraps from garbage. That night, Preya and Nandini slept in a bed for the first time in their lives, Preya snuggled up tight against Nandini and Nandini hugging her tightly, to protect her from any storm that would threaten her sleep. Sadly, this would be their last night together.
The next morning, the staff at the orphanage brought the two sisters to a local hospital to receive a medical check-up. By mid-day the results came back, Preya was not well. She had an illness that the orphanage was not equipped to treat. The kind man was informed, and he in turn made a call to BTC and spoke to Devaraj. He asked if we could take care of Preya without telling him about her sister, Devaraj agreed. I don’t know what was all explained to Nandini, but by evening Preya was brought to our home at BTC. For the first night since she could remember, Nandini went to bed, in tears, without being able to hug Preya and protect her; as much as a six year old could protect a three year old from the storms of life. And that night began her plea to the Lord to allow her to see Preya again, a plea that lasted 13 years.
Over these last 13 years, Preya has grown into a fine young lady. At the age of 16 she has graduated from 10th grade (an important level in India). Though not a strong student, she perseveres and works hard. Preya is someone who wears her emotions on her sleeves, Her smile goes from ear to ear, and her tears can fill an ocean! Since she had been separated at such a young age, Preya had almost forgotten that she had a sister.
Last month as I was driving to the office, I received a call from Devaraj. He had received a call from the same orphanage that had called him 13 years ago. It was their new Director. The kind man who ran the orphanage had passed away, and since his death a young lady who had grown up at the orphanage had been inconsolable. All she kept asking through her tears was why after 13 years of praying would God say no to her. She knew that the only connection to her sister had been permanently severed with the death of the kind man. The Director and his wife pleaded with Nandini to stop crying and said that they would do everything they could to find Preya. They began looking through all their records, and they reached out to a woman who had worked at the orphanage around the time the two girls had come in. The woman wasn’t sure but remembered the name of the town where our homes are located. So the Director and his wife and Nandini got in their car and drove to our town and asked around. They got Devaraj’s number and relayed this whole story for him. That is when I got the call.
I brought the Director, his wife, and Nandini to our Academy and had them wait. In the meantime, one of the house moms and I met with Preya, sat her down, and spoke to her. When she learned that she had a sister, that smile came out, the one that went from ear to ear. And then we walked her over to the room where Nandini was waiting.
As soon as Nandini saw her, she knew, and she got up. They were both nervous and I’m sure felt awkward, but they inched toward each other. Suddenly, Nandini lost her inhibitions, grabbed Preya and hugged her tightly, just like she used to when they were young.
Tears fell from Preya’s eyes, big enough to fill an ocean and Nandini hugged her as if she never wanted to let go. This was an embrace of relief and joy, filled with gratitude for having been reunited after the many storms in their lives that had threatened to separate and destroy them. The sisters rejoiced. The rest of us in the room watched in silent tears and gratitude for having been allowed to witness the moment when heaven and earth were moved to answer the desperate cries of a child longing for her little sister.