New start tree

Escaping an abusive marriage led me to Jesus

Jo Chauhan was brought up a Hindu – but even as a young teenager she knew an arranged marriage was not for her.

Born into an Indian family in Gujarat, Jo Chauhan always struggled to fit in.

Brought up a Hindu, she found her religion a heavy burden to bear, but it was the marriage arranged by her parents that was to be the tipping point. 

Jo was about three when her father won a scholarship to work in the UK and moved the family to Leicester. At school, Jo was introduced to Christianity and the love of Jesus, and it began to make her think.

In fact, from the age of 13 Jo repeatedly had the thought that a day would come when she would have to tell her parents that she was going to marry outside the Hindu culture

She also had a strong feeling that she would have to tell them she would be changing her religion too.

Jo had no idea where these thoughts came from, but she certainly knew that if they ever became a reality it would be considered a serious dishonour to the whole family and would lead to trouble.

Abusive marriage

Leaving school, Jo decided not to further her education but to find work. Securing a position at the famous Walkers crisp factory, she happily worked there for several years, but dark clouds were looming on the horizon.

When she was 21 her parents arranged for her to marry the son of another Hindu family, also from India. The couple were allowed to meet up at the family home for about ten minutes, and the decision was made.

Jo had no say in the matter, or in the wedding arrangements. Less than twelve months later the couple married.

Jo was never happy, and her arranged marriage lasted just eleven months. Jo and her new husband were totally incompatible.

In fact, even her family and her husband’s family were at odds. It was a marriage full of conflict right from the outset.

Moving to live with her husband and his family in London, Jo felt more of a ‘servant-cum-slave’ than a wife, and she was often subjected to physical abuse.

Jo’s father knew things were tough and told her if she wanted to come back home she would be welcome. He also told her if she was ever in physical danger she should immediately phone 999. And in the end that’s exactly what she did. 

After another beating from her husband Jo managed to get to the phone and call the police. Her husband snatched the phone from her and hit her again, but she had managed to tell the police where she was.

Suddenly, there was a loud knock on the front door. This was her opportunity, Jo thought, and she bolted from the kitchen through the hallway to try to get the door open.

The police were there, but as Jo tried to open the door her husband slammed it shut refusing to let the police in. A standoff began, and it was only under the threat of arrest that he eventually allowed them in.

The police intervened and moved Jo to a safe place just in time – as they were leaving, the rest of her husband’s family turned up.

Jo’s parents took her back to the family home in Leicester, and after just one phone call she never saw or spoke to her former husband again.

Building a new life

Jo eventually went back to work at Walkers, but it wasn’t long before her family were arranging another marriage. She was determined this wasn’t going to happen, and life became increasing difficult at home.

She somehow managed to save enough money for the deposit on a little house, and started building a new life for herself.

At work Jo was a part of a group of friends who would occasionally go out together, and this is where she met Ron. They really liked each other, and it wasn’t long before they decided to get married.

Jo’s teenage premonitions were coming true – she was going to have to tell her family she planned to marry a man outside the Hindu faith.

Learning about Jesus

What’s more, Ron was a regular in church, and Jo started to go along with him every Sunday, learning about Jesus Christ, and the God of the Bible.

The minister of the church spent time with Jo answering the many questions she had, and the more she learned about Jesus, the more she became enthralled. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead and lives today was a complete revelation to her.

Jo was captivated by the fact that Jesus wanted to be a real friend to her. She discovered he wanted to walk with her, and talk with her and give her a fresh start.

If anyone needed a fresh start it was Jo... she made the decision to become a Christian by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ into her life as her personal Lord and Saviour.

The start of reconciliation

Marrying outside her parents’ culture and leaving Hinduism behind created a serious backlash, and she was virtually cast out by her family.

Nearly 30 years later there is some family reconciliation but it has been a long journey.

Jo says, “From the day I put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, my life changed. In fact, when I met him, I was totally transformed beyond all recognition, and all for the better.

“When it comes to religion I know what it is; I was steeped in it.

“However, one thing I have discovered is that knowing God has got nothing to do with religion – at the end of the day, it’s about having a personal relationship with God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what matters.”

Jo married Ron and today they are members of New Springs Elim church in Loughborough, where they serve together in the food bank ministry. They also have one adopted daughter, Lima.

 

First published in the October 2021 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered to your home.

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