Fearless and On Fire

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O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me – Psalm 30:2

Just recently I read about the leper who went to Jesus for healing.  The man went to Him and said,  “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Living with the disease would have been terrible for this man.  He would have been separated from family and friends and shunned by his community.  When He knew that Jesus was in the area, he had to go and see Him.   He went to Him and fell down at His feet.   He fell on his face.   He had faith that Jesus could heal Him but he wasn’t sure that it was something that He was willing to do.

Jesus looked at this man and was filled with compassion.  He assured him that healing him was something that He was willing to do.  Then, He put out His hand and touched him. Jesus could have easily spoken the words, “be cleansed” without touching him but He chose do both and immediately, the man was cleansed.   It was that personal touch which made the difference for this man who had not had human contact since he got the disease. It delighted Jesus to not only dispel the man’s uncertainty about His willingness to heal him with words but also with a touch.  He followed His declaration with action.  And that leper went away, cleansed, his life completely transformed.

Like this leper, Sanjushree knew, without a shred of doubt that Jesus could heal her. Sanjushree was just nine years old when she first noticed that her fingers started to curl inward.  She didn’t understand why this was happening nor did the her parents nor doctors nor witch doctors they visited in search of answers.  The years went by, Sanjushree’s fingers didn’t straighten out and she kept to herself in embarrassment, only interacting with others when she needed to.  She was afraid that others might catch whatever she had that was disfiguring her fingers.

At 22 Sanjushree got married and had two daughters, however, five years after the marriage, skin lesions appeared on her body.  That was when she realized that she had leprosy.   It was difficult for her to live a normal life.  Her husband and children continued to love her while some of the people in the community became afraid to be around her and cut off all contact with her.  Others, however, didn’t allow the stigma of leprosy to interfere with their friendship with the woman who was kind and helped them to deliver their children.

For more than 40 years Sanjushree lived with a disease which made her suffer emotionally even as she was determined to continue with her life.  She worked by making brooms and cane baskets, catching and selling fish, farming, not letting her gnarled fingers and the other symptoms of the disease prevent her from helping to provide for her family.

One day a friend told her about a nearby church and hospital where people with all sorts of health problems were treated.  This gave Sanjushree hope.  For the first time in her life, she began to believe that she could be healed.  It was there that she first heard about Jesus.  She was treated at the same hospital that was connected to the church.  She attended church and learned more about Jesus.  When she heard that He healed people with leprosy, deep faith sprung up in her heart and she believed that He could heal her, in fact she depended on it.

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD – Psalm 27:14

Sanjushree waited 20 years for God to heal her.  Not once during that time did her faith and trust in Him waver.  She held on to her belief that Jesus could heal her.  Her trust in Him sustained her during those years of waiting.  Then, finally, at the age of 50, she experienced the healing she had prayed for.  Like the leper, she was filled with joy.  She decided that she wanted to dedicate the rest of her life helping the suffering sick.  She could relate to what they were going through and she spent years praying for them and she shared her own struggle with leprosy and God’s miraculous healing.  She spoke of His love and through her prayers, God freed people who were victims of spiritual oppression and various sicknesses.

I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee – Psalm 22:22

Before Sanjushree discovered the God who healed her, she tried to separate herself from the community.  After she was healed, she couldn’t keep silent.  She had to do something.  Like the leper couldn’t keep his healing to himself and went and told everyone what Jesus had done for him, Sanjushree was passionate about sharing His goodness with others.  Whenever she attended church, she took at least one person with her.  She travels to different places, praying for people, helping women to deliver their babies and telling people about the Lord who healed her.  God is using this fearless woman to show people His saving grace.

Sanjushree’s faith and passion for helping others and sharing the Goodness is inspiring.  She is fearless like a lion when it comes to bringing others to the Lord and on fire for Him. Her story is a testimony that God is still in the business of healing.

Join Sanjushree and Gospel for Asia in their mission to share the love of Jesus and bring hope to victims of this disfiguring disease by giving toward the Leprosy Ministry.  Here are ways you can help the ministry:

Pray for GFA’s Leprosy Ministry

Here are five ways you can pray for the work GFA is doing to help leprosy patients.

Donate so Missionaries Can Continue to Help

Your gift to the leprosy ministry enables missionaries to reach these leprosy patients with basic necessities and open the door for them to receive Jesus’ love.

Give a gift to bless leprosy patients.

Raise Funds for the Leprosy Ministry

Start a personal campaign through Gospel for Asia’s myGFA so you can inspire your friends and family to join you in helping leprosy patients in South Asia.

Start a fundraising campaign at myGFA.

Help raise awareness for World Leprosy Day by sharing Sanjushee’s story.

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Source:  Gospel for Asia

Depression

Depression: Let’s talk

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This month, WHO launched a one-year campaign Depression: let’s talk. The goal of the campaign is that more people with depression, in all countries, seek and get help.

Depression is an illness that can happen to anybody. It causes mental anguish and affects people’s ability to carry out everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends. At worst, depression can lead to suicide. Fortunately depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated, will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help.

Depression is a common mental disorder that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries.

Overcoming the stigma often associated with depression will lead to more people getting help.

Talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression.

Perhaps you are suffering from depression or know someone who is.  Here are ways you can get involved:

Posters – WHO has developed a set of posters and handouts to get the campaign started.  The posters can be downloaded here

Handouts – WHO has handouts which provide information on depression to increase our understanding of the condition and how it can be prevented and treated.  The handouts can be downloaded here

Organize an activity – According to WHO, organizing an activity or event is a great way to raise awareness about depression and stimulate action, both among individuals, and on a wider scale. The organization recommends that if you decide to organize an event, to keep the following in mind:

  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • Who are you targeting?
  • What would make your target audiences want to participate?
  • When and where will your activity be held?
  • Should you join up with other organizations?
  • Who will you invite? Are there any well-known figures who could help you achieve your goals?
  • Do you have the resources to achieve your goals? If not, how can you mobilize them?
  • How will you promote your event?
  • Can the media help you achieve your goals? If so, which media should you target?
  • How will you share information about your activities after the event?
  • How will you measure success?

WHO offers other examples of activities that you may want to consider such as: discussion forums, sporting events, workshops for journalists, art competitions, coffee mornings, concerts, sponsored activities ̶ anything that contributes to a better understanding of depression and how it can be prevented and treated.

Share information and materials on social media – Throughout the campaign WHO will be communicating via our social media channels Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WHO/, Twitter https://twitter.com/who @WHO, YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/who and Instagram @worldhealthorganization

The primary hashtag that /WHO is using for the campaign is #LetsTalk but look out for posts using #depression and #mentalhealth as well.

You are encouraged to share WHO’s posts with your own networks, share your own materials and join discussions on issues related to the campaign.

Information about depression

If you are organizing an activity, or developing your own campaign materials, here are some facts and figures that you might want to use:

  • Common mental disorders are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%. Close to 10% of the world’s population is affected by one or both of these conditions. Depression alone accounts for 10% of years lived with disability globally.
  • In humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflict, as many as 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety.
  • Depression increases the risk of other noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease increase the risk of depression.
  • Depression in women following childbirth can affect the development of new-borns.
  • In many countries of the world, there is no, or very little, support available for people with mental health disorders. Even in high-income countries, nearly 50% of people with depression do not get treatment.
  • Lack of treatment for common mental disorders has a high economic cost: new evidence from a study led by WHO shows that depression and anxiety disorders alone cost more than a trillion dollars’ worth of economic loss every year.
  • The most common mental health disorders can be prevented and treated, at relatively low cost (WHO).

It’s hard to imagine that there are people out there who are suffering with depression but are hiding it.  They are putting up a brave front while they are hurting inside.  No one can see the sadness behind their smiles.  We must provide the atmosphere where people suffering from depression will feel safe and comfortable talking about their struggles.  Depression should be talked about and often.  Talking and just letting it all out can be therapeutic and can lead to early recovery.

Healing and Hope

I first heard of the Bridge of Hope program when I became a blogger for the Gospel of Asia Ministry.  I have read stories of children whose lives seemed hopeless until they were enrolled in this program where they were given a chance for a better future.  They were provided with daily meals, regular medical check-ups and a quality education so that one day they would be able to get good jobs and provide for themselves and their families.  And most importantly, they learned about Jesus.

One day an illiterate man went to the Bridge of Hope centre with a strange request. Would the staff there send the “medical doctor named Jesus” to help his sick wife? how did this man know that Jesus could heal the sick?  He learned this from a little boy named Nibun, a first-grader.  Nibun listened as his teachers talked about Jesus healing the sick, delivering people from evil spirits and feeding the hungry.  It was Nibun’s father who came with the strange request.  It was Nibun’s mother who was sick.

The family was poor.  They lived in a mud hut and couldn’t afford to go to a hospital.  Most of the doctors were miles away.  It was too long of a trek on a dirt path through the woods, especially for a sick person.  Nibun’s mother was very ill.  His father tried to do everything he could.  He cried out to his gods to help her but she got worse until she became critical.  It was then that Nibun told his father about Jesus, but the man thought that there was a doctor with that name working at the Bridge of Hope centre.

The staff at the centre responded to the father’s desperate request and went with him to his home.  They talked to the family about Jesus and His love, sacrifice and power to heal.  Then, they laid hands on the woman and prayed to God to heal her. And He did.  The news soon spread throughout the small village and several people came to know the Lord that week and the following week more families placed their faith in Jesus.  Families are attending a local church where they are growing in God’s grace and increasing their knowledge of Jesus.

Many lives were changed because of a little boy who learned about Jesus at the Bridge of Hope centre and believed that He could heal his mother.  This program not only brings hope to children like Nibun but it transforms communities.  It brings the light of God’s love and the hope found only in Jesus Christ to many people.

Love Came Down

He left the glory of heaven to come into our world.  He was willing to rearrange His life so that He could come here and live and walk among us. He traded in His majesty for our humanity.  He left His home to come to a place where He had nowhere to lay His head. He left the adoration of the angelic host to come to a world that did not know Him and to His own who did not receive Him.

He left everything to come into a world that was plunged in darkness, filled with sorrow, sickness, hurt, violence and pain. Why?  Why did He come?  Would you come to a place where you would be rejected, unappreciated, opposed and despised?  He did. Would you reach out to people who are always trying to trap you and challenge everything you say or do?  He did.  Would you wash the feet of the man who would betray you and share bread with him?  He did.  Would you forgive the man who denied three times that he knew you?  He did.  What about those who spat on you, mocked you and wanted you dead, would you forgive them?  He did.

Why would Jesus subject Himself to such improprieties?  It’s simple.  Love.  He did it all for love.  Love for the Father and love for us.

Love filled His heart as He walked the streets, touching, healing and ministering to people.  Love filled His heart as He drove the demons out so that the person was in his right mind again.  Love filled His heart as He gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk and the dumb speak.  It was love that filled His heart when He touched the leper instead of just speaking the healing.  His word was just as powerful as His touch but He chose to touch the untouchable.

It was love which prompted Him to forgive the paralyzed man because He saw the man’s true need.  Everyone saw his physical need but Jesus saw his spiritual need and He responded to it.  It was love that made Him encourage the widow of Nain not to weep before He touched her son’s dead body, giving him life again.

It was love that broke down barriers when He offered salvation to the Samaritan woman at the well and healed the daughter of the Greek woman.  Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans (John 4:9). There was animosity between the two groups.  And women were not highly regarded.  In fact, when a Jewish man started off his day with prayer, he thanked God that he was neither a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.  Gentiles were seen as in a very unfavorable light. They were seen as unclean or common (Acts 10:28).  It was unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with them or go to their homes. So, these two women had two strikes against them–their nationalities and their gender.  Yet, to Jesus these things didn’t matter.  He loved them and wanted to offer them what the world couldn’t.

It was love that made Him call the woman with the bleeding problem, “Daughter” and offer her words of encouragement.  He wanted to assure her that her faith had made her well.  And it was love that made Him look up at the despised tax collector up in the tree and invite Himself to his home for food and fellowship.  It was in love that He reached out the unreachable, the unloved, the discarded, the neglected and the undesirables.  His love knew no boundaries, no barriers.  It was freely given but not always received or returned.

It was love for you and me that made Him endure the insults, the whipping and finally the Cross.  He bore the indignity of being nailed to a tree between two thieves, treated like a criminal although He had done nothing wrong.  Yet, He did all of this so that believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life and that the world through Him might be saved.

Love came down to save a perishing world.

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself – John 12:32

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Sources:  John 1, 3; Christian Courier

At the Mountain

Imagine standing at the foot of Mount Sinai and there were thunder and lightning and a thick cloud on the mountain and the sound of the trumpet fills the air.  In fact, the trumpet was so loud that that you tremble.  You come out of the camp to meet with God at the foot of Mount Sinai which is completely in smoke because the Lord descended on it in fire.  The smoke is ascending like the smoke of a furnace and the mountain quakes.  The trumpet blast becomes louder and louder.

How would you feel?  What would be going through your mind?  Would you be terrified to see the Lord come down upon the top of the mountain?  Would you want to break through and gaze at the Lord at the risk of your life or would you stay as far away as possible, watching the manifestation from a safe distance?  This was the predicament of the Israelites when they camped before Mount Sinai.

Three months after the people left the land of Egypt, they entered the Wilderness of Sinai.  The Lord told Moses to tell them to consecrate themselves for two days, then on the third day, He would go down on Mount Sinai in their sight.  They were warned not to go up to the mountain or touch its base or they will be put to death. Boundaries were set around them which they could not step over.  When they hear the trumpet sound long, they were to go to near the mountain.  God explained to Moses why He was doing this.  “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak to you, and believe you forever.”  The people could not break through the barrier set for them to gaze at the Lord.  Only Moses was allowed to speak to God face to face.

The people were terrified when they saw the thunder and lightning, heard the sound of the trumpet and saw the mountain smoking.  They stood afar off, trembling.  They said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

Moses reassured them, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”  The people continued to stand afar off while he drew near to where God was.

I don’t know how I would have reacted if I were there but I am thankful that today, we can go near God without fear.  Thanks to Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, we can boldly approach the throne of grace.  Jesus made it possible for us to enjoy a loving relationship the same God who descended on the mountain in the wilderness.

God wants us to seek Him.  He promised, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  Do we seek Him or do we stand afar, afraid to get too close?  Do we ask others to talk to Him on our behalf instead of talking to Him ourselves?

Today, I encourage you not to just stand at the foot of the mountain.  Climb it.  God has removed the boundaries that would keep you from Him because of His Son. Don’t let fear or sin or anything keep you from climbing up that mountain to meet your Lord.

Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out (Ezekiel 34:11).

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Sources:  Exodus 19, 20:18-20

Hair Us

I remember a long time ago that I wore my hair in an Afro, or at least tried to, but it was too wispy and my sister had to keep patting it down in place.  Shortly after that, I abandoned the idea and went back to braiding my hair.  Had I gone to school wearing an Afro, I wonder what would have happened. I don’t recall seeing other girls wearing their hair in Afro at school so I have no way of knowing if it would have posed a problem for them.  However, if I were a young black South African student at the prestigious Pretoria girls’ school, formerly attended by whites only, I would be banned from wearing my hair in an Afro or in a natural hairstyle.

In South Africa, girls as young as 13 years took part in a protest to against a clause in the school’s code of conduct which banned wide cornrows, braids and dreadlocks. One girl wearing an Afro stood up to a man. Her defiant look told him that she was not going to allow him or anyone to tell her how she should look.

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Not everyone shared this girl’s courage.  Many were fearful because they knew that they would be policed when they go to school. Others cried as they shared their experiences. One girl said, “I have a natural Afro, but a teacher told me I need to comb my hair because it looks like a bird’s nest.” Another girl said that her mother forced her to cut her hair because she “didn’t want to trouble” at the affluent school.  Students were forced to comb their hair before they were allowed to eat dinner.

Malaika Maoh Eyoh, 17, was  told that her Afro was distracting the other students from learning. Although she now braids her hair, she felt that the comment was aggressive and was among the 100+ young women protesting against the school for allegedly forcing black students to straighten their hair.  After the march of protest, images of it went viral in South Africa and an online petition garnered over 10,000 signatures.  And an independent audit of the school to investigate all claims of racism has been ordered. However, this has not abated Malaika’s anger.  Her experiences of discrimination over the years were still very fresh in her mind.  She recalled one incident when a student was pulled out of class and given Vaseline to flatten her hair.

The discrimination went beyond their hairstyles.  Students were discouraged from speaking African languages.  They were told to “stop making those funny noises” when they spoke in their mother tongue.  Others were compared to monkeys or told that they were too concerned with race and politics to achieve the school’s demand for academic excellence.   Still, others were told that they belonged in the poorly funded schools in the black townships on the outskirts of the city.

Schools are where children are shaped and groomed for life and success.  It is where their confidence is built up and nurtured.  Education is more than learning from books, it is about being sensitive to the feelings of others.  Girls are very conscious when it comes to their looks and they need to know that no matter how they choose to wear their hair, it does not diminish their value.  Banned from wearing her hair natural took one young woman who went to a school in Cape Town years to undo the damage done to her sense of self-love and appreciation for who she was.  It affected another young woman’s confidence in her abilities.

What is a girl to do?  Should she change the way she looks to avoid causing trouble in school or should she stand up for what she believes is her right to wear her hair natural and face discrimination and humiliation?   Well, it looks like the protest struck a chord with many and under pressure from students and parents, provincial Education Minister, Panyaza Lesufi suspended Pretoria High’s hair clause last week. The next step is to end the discrimination at the school.  An online petition has already been signed.

Sources:  The GuardianQuartz Africa; Goats and Soda

The Miracle of Life

For me, the most amazing transformation were the stages of pregnancy.  It wasn’t planned but I was thrilled when I got the news that I was pregnant.   During those 41 weeks, I marveled at the changes of my body and was amazed at the relentless hunger pangs that plagued me.  I was told that I was eating for two when I was actually eating for myself.  The baby took whatever nourishment he needed.  I was curious to see the stages of development so I visited the Baby Centre site to find out, What does your baby look like now?  It was an eye-opening experience.  I couldn’t believe that in nine months, that little tadpole would transform into a baby with beautifully formed limbs, ten toes, ten fingers and a head of hair.  Open day, those tiny lungs would get their first gulp of air.  I couldn’t wait to welcome my baby into the world.

My pregnancy not only changed my life, but it deepened my love and appreciation for the God who had made this possible.   “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).  God’s loving fingers had knitted the life growing inside me.  He clothed him with skin and flesh and knitted him together with bones and sinews (Job 10:11).

I will never forget the moment I first held my son in my arms.  My arms ached to hold him and when the nurse gently lowered him into them, I felt as if my heart would stop beating.  The love I felt as I gazed down into that sweet little face was almost too much to bear.  Tears come to my eyes even I write these words.  At long last I was holding the life that had been covered in my womb (Psalm 139:13).  The transformation was complete.  I was holding the miracle of life in my arms.  I never imagined that I would have a child in my forties.  Yet, there I was holding my first and only child and he was perfect.   He was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).  I made a promise that I would be the best mother that he could ever hope for, with God’s help.

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