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It is almost ten o’clock at night and 86 degrees Fahrenheit in Bahirkhanda, India, although the humidity makes it feel nearly 100. Beads of perspiration run down nine-year-old Shristi’s* little brown face as she prepares for sleep. She kneels on a worn cloth spread on the dirt floor of her home and carefully meets her small hands together at her chest, fingers pointed skyward, as she has been taught.

And she prays.

She prays for the things for which she has been told to pray: her studies, her family, her sponsor. She prays that she will learn her Bible verses correctly, and that God will be pleased with her hard work.  She prays that her family and her sponsor will have many blessings from God. Those tasks completed, she begins to pray from her heart.

She thanks God for letting her learn new words at her Bible classes; it makes her feel good to come home and teach her parents something they do not know. In the last month, she has learned the words “baptize,” “smite,” and “faithful.” She prays that God will always let her learn new words.

She prays that her little brother Kishor will keep his dirty little fingers out of her rice tomorrow morning. She always has to go fetch the water and wash her hands before breakfast, so why are his always so dusty? She prays that God will tell her mother to make Kishor wash his hands and eat his own rice.

She prays that she will receive a paper princess doll at the next mail call. She would like one like the doll her friend Daya received two weeks ago from her own sponsor. She knows she will be happy with just a letter, God, but the doll was so pretty. She prays that God will tell her sponsor to send her a pretty paper princess doll.

She prays that the boys at the Center will stop keeping the basketball to themselves. Girls can play basketball, too! She prays that God will smite all the boys.

She prays that God will make more Sundays in the week. She likes going to the Center, but Sundays are holidays, and she likes those more. She would much rather play outside with her friends than sit in that crowded room all day. She prays for God to turn Wednesdays into Sundays.

Her heart nearly emptied, she prays that God will bring rain to cool the air. It is too hot to sleep, and Kishor will toss and turn too much. Five o’clock will come quickly, and then she must fetch the water again.

She prays that God will make the water as light as air.

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My beautiful, clever, Shristi. Her name means “Creation,” and she is a perfect one.

Author’s Note: Of course, I can’t possibly know what goes on in the minds of children half a world away, but I do know this much: In spite of all the adversity they face, at the end of the day, a nine-year-old is still a nine-year-old. Poverty isn’t “poverty” to them; it’s “life;” at least, until they have something with which to compare it. Thus, this post was based on things I do know that are important to Shristi, and on her likes and dislikes. I also referenced this article.

*Names and locations have been changed in this article to protect the privacy of the individuals.
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