Feature

Yane’s Story

A follower of Christ takes a stand

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For generations the Jarai people of northeastern Cambodia have lived in fear under the power of harmful traditions surrounding childbirth. Even Jarai who know Jesus continue to live according to the group’s customs. Yet one young wife and mother courageously broke her ties to tradition.

A New View of Parenting

Yane, a Jarai, is in her early twenties. When she was pregnant with her fourth child, Yane and her husband, Hert, opened their home three days a week to my wife, Chanthan, and me as we studied the Jarai language and practiced speaking.

Hert and Yane are the most open-minded young couple in the village. He is the men’s leader in the Jarai churches and is well-respected in the village of Blang. Hert and Yane often ask us about faith and life in general. One night they asked us to pray for Yane because her due date was a week away.

Our conversation led us to discuss biblical principles about parenting. This led us to Psalm 127: “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.” We talked about the importance of raising children, especially when they are little. They are vulnerable to disease and can easily fall into harm’s way, like the five-year-old girl from the area who fell into a well and died.

We told Yane and Hert how important it is for a pregnant woman to eat well so she will have milk for her baby. These ideas were new to them. The Jarai tradition dictates that a pregnant woman needs to cut down her eating to keep the baby small so she will have an easy delivery. Because there are no medical facilities nearby and no access to caesarian sections, a pregnant woman’s greatest fear is a large baby she won’t be able to deliver.

Yane’s sister-in-law lost a baby about six months ago, just a few days after she gave birth. This was her second baby to die. Because she did not have milk for the baby, the newborn was fed sugar water, a common practice among Jarai mothers.

Disease also is a big problem for newborns. There is no sanitation in the village. Pigs are raised under the houses and roam everywhere—dropping their manure all over. By 8 a.m. all the pig droppings disappear as children step in and run through the filth. And mosquitoes carry deadly diseases from the pigs to the newborns.

Bed of Coals

As Yane and Hert prepared for the arrival of their fourth child, they had followed Jarai tradition by placing a pile of charcoal and a bamboo bed under their house. The tribe says that women who have just delivered a child must stay on a bamboo bed with a charcoal fire constantly burning under it to promote their long-term health and beauty. Even if the outside temperature is 95 to 100 degrees, the charcoal is kept going. This process continues for three to six weeks.

In addition, the new mother is kept on a strict diet of roasted salt and rice. It is believed that some types of vegetables and meat will cause the new mother to die suddenly. Since the Jarai are unsure exactly which of these foods are harmful, women who have just given birth are forbidden to eat any vegetables or meat. We have seen many mothers and babies suffer from lack of nutrition and heard Jarai women beg their husbands for food.

After many days of discussion, Hert and Yane came to understand that the heat and smoke of the traditional charcoal bed are harmful to the mother and her baby. They also learned that a mother needs to eat good food in order to have milk for her infant.

A Bold Decision

In a dramatic step of faith, Hert sold the charcoal and five bags of soy beans to set aside money for good food for Yane. They asked us to pray with them that the Lord would take their fear and keep Yane safe during delivery. Yane’s mother warned the couple that if anything went wrong, she would blame her daughter and son-in-law.

The women in the village kept their eyes on Yane. She had told them of her decision and declared boldly that if she died, she would go to heaven to be with the Lord.

A few days later, Yane gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy. Yane was up on her feet in a week and did chores around the house. All the people were surprised to see Yane in church the following week. She gave testimony of how God protected her and gave her plenty of milk for Timothy. As she was speaking, her milk began to leak and soaked her shirt.

Yane told us that she was the first woman among all the Jarai who did not follow the traditional way. Hert and Yane love Jesus and are committed to serving Him with all their hearts. Young Timothy is a peaceful child who hardly cries at night.

Recently, Yane’s sister in-law, Ban, came to my wife to ask for advice. The young woman is early into her pregnancy and wants to follow in Yane’s footsteps. Please pray that God would give Ban good health and protect her baby. Pray also for Chanthan and me to be sensitive to the Jarai culture while freeing people from harmful traditions. We need discernment and wisdom as we live and teach among our Jarai brothers and sisters.

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