A small house made of clay and mud, with only one door as an entrance. No windows, no bathroom, no kitchen, no beds to sleep on—just straw. Only the jungle, lots of fruit trees, and a small stream surrounded the house.
These are Buji Steffen’s memories of home when she was 4 years old. She, her two older sisters, and her mom and dad lived in an isolated jungle region of Ranchi, the capital of the Indian state of Jharkhand in northeastern India.
“We were very poor,” Buji says. “And there were no other people around us except for an older couple who lived on the top of a hill.”
Buji describes her parents as being “really quiet.”
“My dad mostly stayed inside the house,” Buji recalls. “Sometimes I would see my mom outside doing things, but not very often.”
Buji was very close to her sisters. In the mornings they would play in a nearby pasture and eat fruit from the fruit trees. They would also take fruit home to their parents.
Then something happened to her oldest sister.
“One day she just disappeared. I never saw her again, and never found out what happened to her,” Buji says. “She was about 12 years old at the time, so I don’t know whether she was married off or got kidnapped. She was just gone.”
Life, however, went on for the family until the day Buji’s mom became ill. Buji recalls her mom coughing frequently and being nauseated. She also developed sores all over her body. And then, tragically, she died.
“My dad told my sister and me to go to the neighbors’ house and bring the people back with us; so we did. The woman checked my mom and then told us that she had passed away and that she wasn’t going to be our mother anymore.”
“I was so young,” Buji adds, “that I didn’t realize what that meant.”
The neighbors dug a grave next to the house and buried Buji’s mom. But then a second tragedy occurred.
“The very next day my dad died,” Buji says. “I think from a broken heart.”
So the sisters again walked up the hill to the neighbors’ home, and the couple came and buried her dad.
Searching for New Parents
Despite the girls being so very young, the neighbor woman told them, “Children, you need to go to the marketplace, where you will find a new mommy and daddy.”
Buji describes the marketplace as a large outdoor area with open booths, where vendors would come to sell food and merchandise. So she and her sister walked by themselves to the marketplace.
“I don’t know how long we walked,” Buji says, “but when we arrived, my stomach was growling. It’d been a long time since we’d had anything to eat.”
The girls discovered that if they held out their hands, people would give them food.
“I think it was because of the way we were dressed—in ragged, torn clothes,” she surmises.
The girls continued strolling around, looking at everything. And then suddenly Buji’s sister was no longer beside her.
“I didn’t know what had happened to her,” Buji says. “I was so scared. I ran around calling and screaming my sister’s name until the sun began to go down and people were packing their stuff and getting ready to go home—but I couldn’t find her.”
Buji seems to recall someone who looked like her sister walking with a man who was holding her hand and getting onto a train. Whether that was her sister, she doesn’t know for sure. What she does know is that she never saw her sister again.
After the last person had left the marketplace, Buji headed back home by herself. Even though she was alone, there was Someone still caring for her.
“As I was going through the jungle, I clearly remember a huge, bright moon,” she recalls. “It was so bright that I wasn’t scared. It seemed like somebody was leading me back home. Today it reminds me of the Bible text ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ [Ps. 119:105].”
Buji made it safely home, but the next morning the neighbors came to the door and asked, “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at the marketplace finding a new mommy and daddy.”
So she went back.
A Lifesaving Intervention
Buji doesn’t clearly remember what happened after that, but she somehow wandered into the streets of Calcutta, where she was found by Mother Teresa.
“I was later told that when Mother Teresa and the nuns found me, I was almost dead. I was very weak, my belly was big, and I had flies in my ears. I was hospitalized for about six months.”
Every morning while Buji was in the hospital, Mother Teresa would visit her.
“She would talk to me and hold my face and pray for me. Then before she left, she would always kiss my forehead,” Buji recalls.
When Buji recovered, she was transferred to an orphanage, where she met other children and went to school. On Sundays the children attended worship services at a church near the orphanage. Her first encounter with Jesus, Buji says, was at this church.
“The children would sit on the floor, the nuns would sit around us, and the priest was at the front. Behind the priest was a picture of Jesus hanging on the cross,” she says. “I would stare at that picture and wonder, Who is that, and why is He hanging on a cross?”
In time Buji was adopted by a family in Oregon in the United States, but she wasn’t with them very long.
“The father told my mother, ‘We can’t have her here anymore. She needs to move because she’s not learning American culture.’ So I had to leave.”
Buji, however, was soon adopted again.
“God found another family for me,” she says. “The second family that adopted me was a big family. My dad had lots of brothers and sisters. They went to church every week, and when I was about 10 years old, I was baptized into their church.”
Buji says she was very excited about being baptized. She believed in Jesus, but deep in her heart she felt that something was still missing.
“I felt a hole in my heart,” she says, “and I didn’t feel complete.”
As Buji grew older, she began to drift away from her relationship with Jesus and no longer lived a Christian lifestyle. When she was 23, she met a man with whom she fell in love. She then became pregnant with his child.
“I asked him, ‘Are you going to marry me? Are we going to raise this child together?’ He said, ‘No, but I can pay for you to get rid of it.’ I was so devastated and hurt. I looked at him and said, ‘I will have this child with or without your help.’ And I walked away and never looked back.”
After Buji gave birth to her son, Austin, she says that Satan strongly harassed her by tempting her to feel worthless and telling her that she’d messed up her life.
“I felt that no one was ever going to love me again and that I wasn’t going to be forgiven,” she says.
When Austin was 3, Buji and her family moved to Silverton, Oregon, where she enrolled at a local college to study early childhood education. She also grew interested in studying the Bible.
“I read the book of Revelation, and it really scared me. What are these creatures all about?” she remembers wondering. “I prayed, ‘Lord, I know that one day You are going to reveal this to me so that I can understand it.’ ”
The Influence of a Friend
At college Buji became good friends with a woman named Kimberly, who invited her to attend a Revelation Seminar at her church. Kimberly explained they would be studying the books of Daniel and Revelation. Buji agreed to go.
“When I walked into the church, I saw those pictures of the dragon and the other beasts. They looked hideous!” Buji says. “I told my friend, ‘Those are the creatures I was reading about in the Bible! What are they?’ Kimberly answered, ‘We will learn about them. Our pastor will teach you what they are.’ ”
Buji didn’t miss a meeting. At the end of the seminar, 75 people were baptized; Buji and Kimberly were two of those who committed their lives to Jesus.
“I felt that the hole in my heart was beginning to be complete,” she says.
Buji faithfully attended a local Seventh-day Adventist church, where she met another good friend named Betsy. One summer Betsy invited Buji to attend camp meeting with her.
“They had amazing speakers, and I learned so much,” Buji says. “At the end there was a call for those who wanted to be rebaptized or recommit their lives to Christ. Betsy and I grabbed hands, walked out into the river, and got rebaptized.
“When I came up out of the water, I felt overwhelmed. That hole that always made me feel like something was missing was completely filled, and I felt totally at peace.”
Betsy gave Buji books by Ellen G. White to read, such as The Desire of Ages and The Great Controversy. These books helped Buji to grow in her relationship with Jesus and her understanding of Scripture.
“I felt I had to share with others about Jesus, because I just love Him, and I wanted others to know and love Him too.”
Freedom From Guilt
Satan, however, wasn’t done with Buji. She continued to carry guilt for her past life and felt she hadn’t fully confessed her sins to Jesus. “Satan came back with a vengeance, whispering things in my ears,” she says. One night she got down on her knees by her bed and poured out her heart, asking forgiveness from Jesus for her sins. She continued this same prayer for many nights, and then Jesus answered her in a dream.
“In this dream there was a beautiful white light, and it was coming toward me,” Buji says. “I wanted to look up, but I couldn’t because it was so bright, so I kept my head down. Then the silhouette of a figure came closer and closer. My whole body started shaking, and I was crying. He was dressed in this beautiful white outfit, and again I wanted to look up, but the light was too bright. But the next thing I knew, these hands came right up to my face, and I saw them—His pierced hands. Then with this beautiful soft voice that was so gentle, He said, ‘My child, I forgive you. Sin no more.’
“I suddenly woke up, and my whole body was shaking with joy and excitement. I finally got to hear those words that I was forgiven. I got down on my knees and I thanked Jesus—over and over and over. I knew that I was finally free from the grasp of Satan.” “Take everything to God in prayer; hold on to His promises,” she says. “His invitation—with His hands extended to us—is always there. From when I was a child until now, the Lord has never failed me. He will never fail any of us.”
To listen to Buji share her testimony, go to www.meridianadventist.org/past-sermons/item/295.