Mary is in her mid-twenties, and like many Central Asian women, has experienced much loss and rejection. She feels she has little hope for the future, with her life choices being dictated by others. As a foreigner, she finds me a ‘safe person’ to confide in, as I have no reason to use information ‘against her,’ the fear of which causes many to bury their hurt and become depressed.

Mary lives with her younger brother and his wife, and her younger sister (another sister is already married). Their mother died when Mary was around 15, leaving them as ‘orphans’ as their father had already divorced their mother, re-married, and moved away (although he still visits). Their mother’s sister took responsibility for them out of duty, but Mary said, ‘she doesn’t love us.’ As such, a marriage was arranged for Mary (as is common) before she was 20, but lasted only six months before her husband divorced her. She suffers from epilepsy, and although she takes medication she occasionally has fits and his family considered her too big of a risk to have around children. So she had to come home in ‘shame.’ (Culturally a woman’s place is in her father’s or husband’s house, with the extended family; it is rare for a woman to live alone).

Her aunt then found an older, previously-married relative to marry her (no-one will take a ‘ruined’ woman as a first bride), but, he clearly felt forced into the match, as the marriage was never consummated and after two weeks she was again ‘divorced.’ Although some years ago now, Mary still feels the rejection keenly, living in a society that says you are nothing if you are not married, especially if you don’t have children. Despite being fairly pretty and able to do most of the housework, she asks, ‘what man would have me now?’

As believers in Christ, we have so much hope to hold out to women like Mary. A hope that says, Jesus accepts you, no matter who you are, or what your background. A church that welcomes you as a sister, even if you are not related by blood. A gospel that proclaims that Jesus is the true husband, waiting for his undefiled bride, purified by his blood shed on the cross, whom he loves unconditionally. Please pray for Mary and many women like her, that they might open their hearts to this truth and be able to enjoy true hope and peace, and a place in the loving family of God.