Living With Illiteracy

…more than 250 million women in Asia who are illiterate. Young girls might be denied an education or are too poor to receive one, and they suffer their whole life because of it.   A woman who can’t read faces many difficulties. She isn’t able to keep her children safe because she can’t read warning labels. She’s vulnerable to being cheated in the marketplace for lack of basic math skills, and she can be taken advantage of through bad contracts she doesn’t understand – Gospel for Asia

My son likes when I read to him.  At bedtime, he curls up next to me, snuggled against the pillows, while I read a Bible story.

Reading is one of my favorite past-times.  Ever since I was a little girl, I was always reading.  Every time you saw me, my nose was buried in a book.  I read books, magazines, comics, plays.  My love for reading led to my love for writing.  If I wasn’t eagerly turning the pages of a romance novel, I was writing short stories.  Nowadays I read mostly religious books and of course, my Bible.

How different my world would have been if I had grown up illiterate.  I can’t imagine not being able to read to my son or study my Bible.  Yet, this is the reality that Jeni experienced.  Poverty prevented her from attending school.  Sadly, many children take education for granted.  As a child Jeni would have loved the opportunity to go to school and learn.  Education is such a blessing.  It opens so many doors.

Living with illiteracy was hard for Jeni.  It robbed her of the joy of reading for herself and to her children.  She couldn’t read newspapers to keep up with current events.  She couldn’t write grocery lists, reminder notes or read street signs.  Can you imagine trying to get around the city when you can’t read the names of the streets or buildings?  Try to imagine not being able to help your child with his or her homework or a school project or read a report card, not to mention birthday and Mother’s Day cards.

When Jeni became a grandmother, her illiteracy weighed more on her.  “Sometimes my grandson and granddaughter asked me to help with their school homework, but I did not know what to do” she said.  Shame and embarrassment filled her because she couldn’t read or sign her own name.  Help and hope were just around the corner…

When Jeni was suffering from pain in her shoulders which the doctor’s couldn’t treat, she met a Christian from a local church who invited her to attend a worship service.  Jeni accepted.  When she shared her pain with a congregation of believers led by Gospel for Asia-supported pastor Ajay, they  joined together to lift her up in prayer to the Great Physician.  God set Jeni free from the pain several doctor visits and treatments could not cure and she grew to love Him.  She worshipped Him, rejoicing in His love, mercy and compassion.  God was about to set her free from something she had lived with most of her life…

Jeni could not read the Bible and discover the wonderful promises of God and teachings of Jesus.  Upon learning about her illiteracy, three Gospel for Asia-supported women missionaries serving the congregation encouraged her to join the literacy classes they taught for women in the community.  Words of encouragement helped Jeni to overcome her shyness and her eagerness to learn took over.  God was giving her the desires of her heart.  She persevered in her lessons and other women in the community saw her progress.  At her encouragement, these women joined the classes.  Soon other women joined too.  Not only were these classes unlocking the door of literacy but they were discovering the love of Christ.

In six months Jeni could read and write.  She was no longer living with illiteracy.  The door was permanently closed and a new door of opportunities had opened for her.  Her daughter was thrilled for her.  “I am very happy that my mother is able to read and write now by the help of women missionaries. These days, she is able to negotiate with the shopkeepers and writes her signature,” she said.  And now Jeni can read to her grandchildren and help them with their homework–things she couldn’t do for her own children.

Jeni thanks God for ending the struggle with illiteracy which she had endured for most of her life.  “Today,” she declares, “I am proud to say I am not illiterate.”

What a happy end to Jeni’s story.  You can help another woman to have a happy ending too by donating toward Gospel for Asia-supported Women’s Literacy today.  Help those struggling with illiteracy to discover the God who wants to free them and the Saviour who loves them.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,  And forget not all His benefits – Psalm 103:2

jeni

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Service

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Peter’s Mother-in-Law Healed

14 Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. 15 So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them (Matthew 8:14, 15).

Imagine that your son-in law has guests over but you can’t join them because you are not feeling well.  You are feeling terrible because you have a fever.  Then, the doctor comes and gives you something that gets rid of the fever.  You’re feeling better.  Would you get up and serve dinner or remain in bed?  Most of us would choose the latter.  However, Peter’s mother-in-law got out of bed and served Jesus and everyone in Peter’s house.

Why did she get out of bed to serve them?  Perhaps, it was her way of thanking  Jesus for healing her .  She was feeling better now so she didn’t want to stay in bed.  She wanted to be up and about, serving up delicious food for the guests to enjoy.

How do we respond when we are feeling better after a bout with an illness?  Do we go about our daily lives as usual or do we find ways to serve the Lord because we are thankful to Him for healing us?

Everyday you wake up feeling well, give thanks and “serve the LORD with gladness” (Psalm 100:2).

Baby in Dumpster

When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the LORD will take care of me – Psalm 27:10

For most parents, it is love at first sight when they see their newborn.  Not so for baby Jansi.  When her father saw her, instead of feeling love toward her, he felt shame.  As he looked down into that tiny face, he didn’t see a beautiful baby.  He saw a baby who wasn’t pretty,  was too skinny and not looking right.  The doctor concurred that she was abnormal.  Jansi’s father didn’t want an abnormal baby nor did his wife.  Filled with disgust, he threw the 2 day old baby in the dumpster and the couple walked away, not looking back nor shedding a tear.

Baby Jansi lay in the garbage, wailing until two arms reached into the dumpster and drew her out.  Those arms belonged to a woman named Pranaya Chopra.  Pranaya worked as a tutor to help the children with their academics at Gospel for Asia (GFA) supported Bridge of Hope center.  Pranaya learned through preaching at Church and reading the Word that children are a gift from God.   It was Pranaya’s sister who had Jansi and when Pranaya discovered she and her husband had tossed their newborn daughter into the dumpster, she went and found her.

Pranaya took the baby girl home with her and named her Jansi.  Pranaya and Jansi’s grandparents cared for her and nursed her to health.  To the Jansi, Pranaya was “mother.” Pranaya was there when the little girl crawled and when she became a toddler.  She was there every step of the way, showing this abandoned child how much she loved her.  When Pranaya got married, Jansi remained a part of the family, even when the couple had a child of their own.  For Pranaya, “It is a great blessing for me to adopt my sister’s daughter into my family.”

When Jansi became school-aged, she was enrolled in Bridge of Hope.  School work was difficult for Jansi but with the help of the staff, she soon improved.  Jansi thrived and her biological parents saw how well she was doing and their attitude toward her changed.  They wanted her back.  They saw their daughter the way God and Pranaya did–a precious gift to be loved and cherished.  It made it easier for Pranaya when she and her family had to move away.  She knew that Jansi would be well cared for and safe with her parents.

Jansi lives with her parents and two younger siblings.  She continues to attend Bridge of Hope center where she is learning about Jesus’ love for her and doing well in her studies.  Her mother attends the monthly parents’ meeting at Bridge of Hope where she hears about Jesus.  What a wonderful end to what started out as a very sad story.  Although baby Jansi was discarded by her parents, God had plans for her life.  He rescued her from the dumpster and placed her in the care of a woman who loved her as if she were her own daughter.

This story has taught me that we must never discard anyone because of their appearance, gender, culture or race but love them as Jesus does.  He died for them too.   He died for the unloved, unwanted, abandoned and rejected.  It is His desire that they too may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10).  Thanks to Him, Jansi is now enjoying a life filled with hope and joy and tremendous blessings.

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb – Psalm 139:13.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Letting Go

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Matthew 19:16-30

The rich young ruler went to Jesus because he knew that something was missing in his life. When you find that you are lacking something in your life or you have questions that you can’t seem to find the answers to, what do you do?  Do you go to Jesus?  This young man did.  He went to Jesus for the answer to his question, “…what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

After Jesus mentioned some of the commandments which the young man kept from his youth, the young man asked Him, “what do I still lack?” He realized that keeping the commandments was not enough.  Jesus told him what the problem was and gave him the solution.  “If you would be perfect, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow Me.”  When the young man heard this, he was sad and he went away because he had many possessions.  He wanted to know how to inherit eternal life but was not willing to do what was necessary.   He placed more value on his riches than on God’s kingdom.

What are you unwilling to let go of even if it costs you your salvation?  What is hindering you from completely submitting to Christ?  What you are holding on to instead of letting go of so that you could take up your cross and follow Him? Is it a lifestyle, a cherished sin, a relationship, an addiction?  Don’t make the same mistake as the young ruler did.  Don’t believe that going to church every week, being involved in church ministry or community service will be enough to get you into the kingdom.  There is nothing we can do to inherit eternal life (Ephesians 2:8, 9).  A total commitment to Christ is what is needed.  You need to let go of whatever is taking the place of God in your life and in your heart.

The rich young ruler had two choices–God or riches.  He chose the latter.  Are you willing to leave all for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom as the disciples did?  The reward for doing so far outweighs any riches or material things you may accumulate here on earth.

Pray for Rain

 

Please pray for rain to fall in Fort McMurray, Alberta to put out the fire that has destroyed homes and devastated lives.  There is the heartbreaking story of a firefighter who lost his teenage daughter in a crash.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.   Another story had a happy ending.  A wedding dress was destroyed in the fire just days before the wedding but, thanks to the kindness of strangers, the bride has a new dress and is getting married tomorrow in Toronto.  Pray for the people who lost their homes, had to be evacuated and the firefighters who are battling the fire.

The response to the crisis in Fort McMurray has been incredible.  Donations have been pouring in.  Canadians have donated over $11 million to the Red Cross.  Among the agencies working to help the displaced is ADRA (Adventist Development Relief Agency) Canada.  ADRA Canada joined together with the Alberta Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to purchase a disaster response vehicle which has been filled with supplies to be delivered to those affected by this disaster.  Local Alberta churches will provide volunteers and local families have opened their homes to the displaced.  ADRA Canada has also partnered with GlobalMedic to send hygiene kits containing toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and a towel to 2,000 people.

If you are interested in helping ADRA in their work in Fort McMurray, please make a donation to their Emergency Relief fund at http://www.adra.ca/donate/.

Mental Health Crisis in India

More than 50 million people in India suffer from a mental illness.  In 2011, India recorded the highest rate of major depression in the world at 36 per cent.  According to doctors, roughly 10 per cent of India’s population suffers from depression – MGMH

 

Women with mental illness are treated as less than human.  They are dumped, abandoned and abused.  If there are any signs of mental illness, a woman is put in a mental hospital with no chance of getting out.  Men can go back home while women are there for life.  In the following video, we meet a woman whose husband had her institutionalized although she had no history of mental illness.  Here’s a story of a mentally ill woman whose husband built a case against her so that he could get custody of their children after divorcing her.

It is not surprising that women suffer from depression at higher rates than men.  They have to deal with gender inequality, violence, lack of paid employment, lack of education, excessive spousal alcohol use and poverty.  Mothers are blamed for the birth of a female child and many face pressure to have male children.  Women are diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life, oftentimes, following the birth of their children.  The children are often removed from the ill mother’s care and this results in further distress for her. Indian women have higher rates of suicide than women in most developed countries and a higher rate of suicide compared to men in India.  Depression is one of the most common reasons for suicide among Indian women.

Mental health in India carries with it a stigma, especially if the person suffering from mental illness is a woman.  According to MGMH (Movement for Global Mental Health), in rural India, it is common to see people taking their children to temples and faith-healers instead of hospitals and doctors, especially in cases of mental health.  Mental health was something that was talked about in hushed tones.  Thankfully, it is no longer being swept under the rug.  People are coming forward.  Deepika Padukone stunned her fans last year when she admitted that she suffered from anxiety and depression.

At the time the news broke, she was one of the most sought after actresses in Bollywood. It took tremendous courage for her to disclose her illness, especially since people diagnosed with mental illness face discrimination.  Deepika has since launched the Live Love Laugh Foundation to raise awareness about mental health issues and as a result many celebrities were inspired to come out in the open and address the need to talk about mental health.  Varun Dhawan admitted that he was depressed during the making of Badlapur and Honey Singh revealed that he has been undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder.

Sadly, those living with mental illness are victims of a cruel fate.  They are often locked away and stripped of their basic human rights in state-run institutions that are under-staffed. In an article, titled Mentally Ill Suffer a Horrible Fate in India posted on the site for Deutsche Welle (DW), most state run mental hospitals are in deplorable conditions. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that out of the 43 government mental hospitals in India, less than half a dozen are in a “livable” condition”.

There are doctors in charge of these hospitals who have no business being there.  “These doctors don’t understand the intricacies of a psychiatric illnesses and the comprehensive care the patients require,” said a psychiatrist working in a state-run mental hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

And in the midst of the crisis of hospitals not providing the conditions and care the patients need, are quack healers who are profiting from this.  According to a study by Dr. Shiv Gautam, former superintendent of Jaipur Mental Hospital, 68 per cent of the mentally ill are taken to faith healers before a psychiatrist.  “The reason, besides superstition, is that most general medicine doctors fail to diagnose psychiatric illness,” Gautam said. “A mentally ill patient displays symptoms which superstitious people believe are paranormal,” he added. “Such patients are tortured, chained and used for extracting money from their families.”  Hema, who was suffering from Schizophrenia was believed to have an evil spirit.  Her family took her to Datar Sharif Dargah where she spent a year locked up.  It wasn’t until her condition deteriorated that she was brought to Dr. Gautam.  In 15 days, she began to improve and a month later she was normal.

In other cases, the mentally ill are subjected to one of these horrific ordeals:  whipping, caning, inhaling burnt chili smoke, having their eyes smeared with chili paste or having their eyes branded with red, hot coins.  There are laws banning this practice, however, many dargahs and temples keep the patients chained.  Some of them spend the rest of their lives like this.  In 2001, 26 patients perished in a fire at a dargah in a coastal village because they couldn’t escape the blaze since they were chained.  What a horrific and senseless tragedy.

Families of mentally ill people opt for dumping them.  This means that they are dumped into an asylum where the conditions are not fit for a human.  When an illegal asylum was raided, they found thirty-five men and six boys living in inhuman conditions.  The stench from their unwashed bodies and the excrement drove neighbors to alert the health department.  Naked and chained inmates were discovered, dumped there by their families after they paid the asylum owner.  Some of these poor souls were found crawling in their excrement, some even consuming it.  On their bodies were marks of torture.  Some had surgical scars on their backs, leading to allegations that the asylum had links to kidney theft.  78 patients had entered the asylum but only 41 were found during the raid.

Other patients are dumped in jungles or forests ranges.  Their families pay lorry drivers to drop them.  Women and children are among these victims and in some cases, the females are raped by the drivers before being dumped.  Social activist Murugan S. who has rescued countless mentally ill people from the streets, cautions us not to judge the families by calling them cruel.  Instead we are to examine what forced them to take such extreme measures.  He believes that system needs to change.

Part of the solution is raising awareness.  The suffering of the mentally ill has been brought to our attention. It is out in the open.  The next thing that needs to be done is to show the superstitious and fearful society that mental illness is nothing to run away from or to be ashamed of.  The person suffering from mental illness needs love, support and most importantly, proper care so that he or she can live a normal life.

The government needs to put something place to ensure that patients are placed in reputable, sanitary facilities that will provide the care that they need and to ban the operation of illegal asylums and the practice of dumping.  Quack healers should be banned from profiting from other people’s suffering.  Husbands should not be allowed to institutionalize their wives if there is no record that they have mental illness.

No one wants to be mentally ill but it is a reality for many people and what they need is to know that they have a platform where they can talk about what is happening with them. Here in Canada, we have Bell Let’s Talk, a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across the country. It has done so much to fight the stigma of mental illness and encourage people to get involved in educating themselves and others.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that something will be put in place in India so that attitudes toward mental illness would change and those suffering from it will have a platform where they would not be judged, dumped, abandoned or discriminated but supported and be treated with dignity and open minds.  In the meantime, let’s keep talking and raising awareness.

Talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness – Bell, Let’s Talk

 

Sources:  Vice News; Movement of Global Mental Health; Wikipedia; Deutsche Welle