Seldom was Orpah (not her real name) waiting outside our home in the afternoons, along with the fifteen-some children wanting to come inside and play with our daughter’s toys. Rather, she would sit in the grassy field across from our home, guarding her family’s cow as it grazed. I would often watch her through the window. Though she seemed uninterested in us foreigners, something about her caught my interest. Was it her neglected look, or was it her quiet way that sparked my curiosity? I wondered how I could reach out to this young girl.
One day I had an idea. Armed with a needle, material, pattern, and bright-colored thread, I marched across the field. She immediately touched my heart with her gentle, shy, and kind way, but I also sensed her wit and inner strength. Little did I know that day what a beautiful path our friendship would follow, hand-in-hand with the Lord, through the next few years. Orpah became a delightful part of our family. She saw our little girl take her first steps, and our second daughter being brought home to Central Asia as a tiny three-month-old baby, and…often the best and worst of me.
Through the years—through our joys, sicknesses, hardships, and sorrows—Orpah was there, a very good friend, daughter, and sister to us all. My husband came down with a really bad case of hepatitis when I was five months pregnant with our second daughter. We often feared the worst and battled in prayer for his life. Orpah came faithfully every afternoon to help me with what she could. And then there was the time when she chopped wood for our wood stove and misjudged the distance between her thumb and the axe, resulting in the top of her thumb hanging by a piece of skin. Talk about trauma—her fainting on me, with blood all over!
She had a deep love and respect for my husband. During the worst of his hepatitis, with him deathly ill in bed, she would come, sit on a chair in his room, and watch the JESUS film in her language with him. He watched it for language study, but she was deeply stirred by the story—I stopped counting how many times they saw it together. During one of those sessions, tears began to roll down her face. My husband asked her why she was crying.
“I don’t know,” she answered. She ended up praying the sinner’s prayer that afternoon with him. Afterward, her face changed significantly, resembling a soft light beaming. She was changed for God, and ruined for the ordinary, as He formed a path of love through her heart in which to dwell and teach her about Himself. That night we prayed together and sent her home with a Bible in her own language, concerned for what might await her as she would tell her Muslim family that she had become a Christian.
As new-found friends in faith, we would often pray together for one another and various friends and projects. I did not realize then that I was discipling Orpah to be a mother, housekeeper, cook, wife, and someone who would love Jesus and her neighbors—becoming who Jesus made her to be. She did not have an easy life at home with her harsh mother and verbally abusive father. She would often come to our home discouraged and depressed. I became desperate as I felt overwhelmed with my own life’s demands, pressures, and family, besides her walking around with a long face. As always, God knew where He was going with this. I often talked and prayed with her, seeking to instill hope and joy. Then one day we talked about God being our encourager, the One who lifts our depressed souls and strengthens our hearts. The One who speaks life into situations that bring death to our hearts. That inner gentle Voice who whispers words of truth that change our lives for ever.
The next day Orpah burst through the door smiling and talking excitedly. I could hardly keep up with what she was trying to tell me. Normally when her father lashed out at her she would go sit in the pit toilet, far in the corner of their yard, and cry. The night before, she had gone to hide in the toilet and cry her heart out, but this time it was different. She asked God to speak encouragement to her desperate state of mind and hurting heart. She excitedly told me how she asked Him what He had to say.
“I love you, Orpah,” He said. She felt His soft whisper in her heart, stripping away all the pain, guilt, depression, and discouragement. I knew then that she would be just fine if ever we would move away and I would lose contact with her. Jesus was now the Lover of her soul and the One who had made a path through her heart.
She now knows His soft, gentle voice which speaks words of life in moments when all else screams death. What more than this would I want one of my own daughters to know?