I decided to do a short series of interviews with young people in Bahrain. I wanted to document their stories and experiences of growing up in the Middle East. This is the first.
Lakshmi Achary is a 17 year old girl, who was born and raised in Bahrain. Believe it or not, she’s never left this desert island. She has two older brothers and one younger sister. Born to an Indian father and a Sri Lankan mother, Lakshmi was raised with very strong Hindu beliefs. In fact, her family back in India was involved in working at the temples. Growing up, they prayed to many idols and believed in lots of superstitions.
Her family faced some hardships while she was a child. Her dad had to return to India for some time, and Lakshmi had to leave school. During some of these challenges, Lakshmi began to question some of the family beliefs. Did praying to idols really accomplish anything? She wasn’t sure. It didn’t seem to produce any results, but what was the alternative?
Things started to change when a friend invited her older brothers to a youth meeting at church. There they heard about Jesus and became Christians. Coming from a strict Hindu family, this was not allowed. The sisters knew about their change of heart, but it wasn’t discussed in the family. Little by little, Lakshmi began to wonder about this change in her brothers. She remembers one time when she was very sick, and one of them offered to pray for her. She was amazed that he could speak to God so freely and that he could ask for her to get well. Her brother began to share more about what he was learning about God and Jesus. The biggest shock for her was learning that Jesus loved her so much. This just didn’t make sense–she was a stranger to him; how could he love her so much? It wasn’t long before Lakshmi and her younger sister became Christians too. Together, the brothers saved up to buy Lakshmi a Bible. All of the children were believing Christians, but Christianity was still not allowed in their home. They would sneak out of bed at night and read the Bible together after their parents had gone to bed. They prayed late into the night and learned worship songs together. Through these secret late night meetings, all four began to grow in their faith. They prayed that their parents would also come to know Jesus. Praise God that their prayers were answered! From a simple invitation from a friend, Lakshmi’s entire family converted to Christianity.
The family began attending church together. In church, Lakshmi was a bit taken aback by what she saw. She expected it to be a joyful place, a place where people were alive and excited about God. Instead it seemed like the people acted as if God were dead. But not everything in church was negative. Lakshmi came to love worship. She is now a member of the church worship team. She loves the openness that comes through worship and the opportunity to hear God speak. She wants to see more youth worshiping in the church and around Bahrain. She has recently begun leading worship in the youth group, and her love for God and worship is very apparent.
As much as her life changed though becoming a Christian, it wasn’t without its challenges. When she was 16, she went back to school. It was a very eye-opening experience. She remembers feeling lost and confused. Being in a place with so many different people with different beliefs, she began to wrestle with what it meant to live as a Christian. It was hard being a Christian at school. How do you treat your friends or how do you react when someone hurts you? She had never had to deal with these questions before. Through journaling and talking with youth leaders, she began to find answers to these hard questions.
Now Lakshmi is looking towards the future. She doesn’t know what it holds, but she wants God to direct her. She’s interested in art and design as well as doing hair, so maybe she will do something with that, but she’s just praying now and waiting to see where God leads. In the meantime, she is working at an after school tutoring center, singing on the worship team, and creating fantastic art.