Paul’s Example

Upon his arrival at Rome, Paul was placed in a gloomy dungeon, there to remain until his course should be finished. Accused of instigating one of the basest and most terrible of crimes against the city and the nation, he was the object of universal execration – Acts of the Apostles, p.490

Day 4 of the Great Controversy Tour.  She had decided to come on it with her friend.

A lover of Christian history and travel, it was an opportunity she could not pass up. Today’s focus was on The Early Christian Persecutions.  After a buffet breakfast, they visited the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, Titus’ Arch, the Roman Forum and Mamertine Prison.  The ancient prison is located at the foot of the Capitoline Hill in Rome.  According to the travel guide, the Mamertine Prison had two gloomy underground cells where Rome’s conquered enemies were imprisoned and died, of starvation or strangulation.  It was where the apostle Paul was confined.  She paused to take some photos before going inside.  She took a photo of the sign which read the “prison of the Saints and Apostles Peter and Paul.”

As she began to descend into the dark coldness, she thought of Paul being a sick, old man, cruelly thrown in there and friendless, except for Luke and Onesiphorus whose frequent visits cheered him up.  Luke was a great comfort to him because he enabled him to communicate with fellow believers and the outside world.

It was indeed a very gloomy place.  She shivered.  It was from there that Paul was taken to Nero’s vast judgment hall where he pleaded not for himself but for all the people who could still be reached by the Gospel.  From there he was taken to his execution.  It is believed that Peter also spent his final hours in the prison before he was taken to his execution.

As she listened to the tour guide, she tried to imagine what it would have been like for her to be in prison for her faith.  Would she languish and lose hope or would she be like Paul who wrote such encouraging letters from the prison here in Rome to the different churches.  In his letter to the Philippians, he was rejoicing as he shared his experience. He wrote, “But I want you to know, brothers, that the things which happened to me have resulted in advancing the gospel,  so that my imprisonments in Christ have become known throughout the entire palace guard and to all the rest.  And a great many of the brothers in the Lord, having become confident because of my incarcerations, have dared to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14).   He seeing the positive side to all of this.  His adversity brought more people to Christ and his attitude encouraged others.

Could she be like Paul who, although he was in chains, was not chained to his circumstances?  Would her faith hold up?  Then she remembered his words to Timothy: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but everyone forsook me. May it not be charged against them.  But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Timothy 2:16, 17).  Paul was never alone.  God was always present.  

Would God be there for her as He was for Paul?  As if in response to her lingering doubts, Isaiah 43:2 came to her mind, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Peace and comfort filled her heart. She had the assurance that no matter what she will face, God will be there with her just as He was with Paul.

 

Carcere Mamertino-2

Sources:  Sacred Destinations; Bible Hub; Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Roma Today

18 Million Street Children

Imagine that you are discarded, abandoned and abused.  You are forced to beg or turn to drugs.  Imagine being separated from your family.  And if you are a girl, imagine being abandoned by your parents.

These are the sad realities for millions of children in Asia.  They live in the streets where they are vulnerable or fall prey to kidnappers who sell them into bonded labor and the sex trade.  Those who manage to avoid the kidnappers fall into gangs, drugs and alcoholism.  Distrust and pain are their constant companions.  Everyday is a struggle to survive.

I encourage you to watch this video which will help you to better understand the plight of these children and what is being done by Gospel for Asia to change their circumstances and bring them hope.

You can offer these children a safe haven by supporting Gospel for Asia who has a home for runaway and abandoned children.  You can partner with the ministry so it can continue to develop programs to help these children.  You can change their lives forever.  Through your generosity and compassion, you can show them that there is a God who loves them and has not abandoned them.

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up – Psalm 27:10

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Forsaken and Abandoned

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation – Psalm 68:5

It’s heartbreaking to see how widows are treated in South Asia.  They don’t receive the care, love or support that widows in North America do.  Instead they are blamed for their husbands’ deaths and abandoned by their families.

A widow is stripped of her colorful clothing and forced to wear a white sari because her status has changed from married to widowed.  The glass bangles she wore to let the world know of her marital status are smashed into tiny pieces.  The privilege she once enjoyed as a married woman has been taken away from her simply because her husband died.

A widow is not in control of her own life.  Her eldest son is.  And she is one of the lucky ones if she gets to sleep in a tiny corner of his house.  Can you imagine, you raised your child–cared for him as best as you could with what you had and years later when you are a widow, that child controls your life and treats you like an animal?  I have seen dogs and cats treated better here in North America.  They get to sleep in warm beds.  Yet, we have widows in South Asia sleeping in corners.

Can you imagine your mother, sister, daughter or you being sent out of the family home and forced to work for a few cents a day at a temple or beg on the streets just to survive?  This is the sad reality for widows in South Asia.  They don’t have the skills or tools that would help them to earn a living so they are forced scrape by as prostitutes, beggars or daily laborers.  If they are mothers, their children are forced to work instead of going to school.  Those who wander while their mothers work are vulnerable to abuse.

Widows are shunned and degraded.  Their lives are filled with pain and struggle.  Poverty and hopelessness are burdens they carry everyday.  They need to know that there is a Savior who is willing and able to relieve them of these burdens.  They need to know that He loves them and wants to deliver them from their despair.  They need to hear the Good News.  They need hope.

Widows - Gospel for Asia

I encourage you to open your hearts to the struggles widows face everyday and to pray for them. Pray that they learn about the One who knows every detail of their lives and cares for them.  He doesn’t blame them for their husbands’ deaths.  He wants to provide for them.  He wants to change their circumstances so that they no longer have to beg or degrade themselves in order to feed themselves and their children.   Pray that they will be able to earn an honest living to support themselves and their children.   It would be especially good for the older widows to have their own small businesses.  Pray that their children will be safe and that they get to learn about Jesus’ love through Bridge of Hope centers, Sunday schools and vacation Bible schools.  Widows need to be in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable sharing their struggles, strengthen their faith and foster relationships with other believers.  They find this kind of environment in Women’s Fellowship groups.   Pray for these groups who reach out to widows by visiting them at their homes and inviting them to meetings.  Pray that God will provide them with more opportunities to encourage and share Jesus with these women who are forsaken and abandoned by their families. They have this promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day – 1 Timothy 5:5

Pray for Widows

And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him – Psalm 37:40

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Prisha’s Calling

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven – Matthew 5:16

I read Prisha’s story and was touched by the love and compassion she and the other women missionaries showed the people of Punya Basti.  The village was ready for harvest but there were no labourers until God sent Prisha.  She had heard about Punya Basti.

The residents lived in squalor, with no electricity, running water or toilets.  Can you imagine living in such conditions? Although most of the villagers left for months at a time to find low-paying work and beg in other areas, they were still unable to feed their children three meals a day.  They couldn’t afford to sent them to school.  Amidst the squalor, alcohol and drug abuse were major concerns.  Fights frequently broke out.  Animal carcasses and burning waste littered the place, creating a stench so horrific that made outsiders drive recklessly through the village just to get away from it.  Outsiders looked down on the villagers because of their low caste and lack of hygiene and education.

The outsiders remind me of the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ time.  No doubt they would have avoided this village like it were a plague.  They would never set foot in it.  They would put as much distance between themselves and it and condemn the people instead of having compassion on them.  What about us?  We might feel sorry for the people but are we willing to do something to help to change their circumstances?  If God were to call us to go to such a place and minister to the people and share the Gospel, would we be willing to go?  Would we find excuses like Moses? Or would we run in the opposite direction like Jonah?

What would Jesus do?  I think it’s fair to say that He would go into that village and stay with the people.  And I also think the apostle Paul would do the same.  Sometimes God calls us out of our comfort zone and sends us to places we would never dream of going but there are people there who just need someone to show that they care.

Prisha was called to go to Punya Basti.  She knew that no one else wanted to go.  Even as she might have had misgivings about being able to stick it out, she agreed to go.  Her leader suggested that she commute to the village from a safer nearby village where she would have more comfortable accommodations but Prisha refused.  She wanted to live among the villagers.

I don’t want to stay in a different place.  I want to stay in the midst of them, in the village, so I can understand their feelings . . . and they can understand the love that we want to show them.

How many of us would have been tempted to stay in the safer village and be more comfortable? Prisha wanted to be able to relate to the people so living apart from them was out of the question. Jesus went to those who were downtrodden, outcast, rejected and lost.  He was criticized for being with them.

No one said that it would be easy.   Thing were pretty bad.  The people rarely had baths or washed their clothes.  Just last night my son asked me if he had to take a bath.  If he had his way, he would skip bathing altogether.

Once Prisha’s landlord offered her and her fellow Sister of Compassion a glass of water.  Prisha was shocked when she looked at it.  It smelled so bad that they couldn’t drink from it.  This was not surprising because Gospel for Asia Pastor Hoob Kumar who served the village, mentioned that the women cooked and ate food out of dirty vessels.

Realizing the magnitude of what lay in front of them, Prisha and her co-worker spent their first week in prayer and fasting.  Then they found ways to help the villagers.  They started by sweeping out the village’s filthy drains.  At times, Prisha was overwhelmed by the filthiness of Punya Basti but she and the seven Sisters of Compassion who joined her resolved to embrace the villagers and share in their lives.   There are times when we feel overwhelmed and this is the time when the enemy will attack us but God gives us the strength to carry on.  He who calls us will equip us and will be with us.

Slowly we understood that if we don’t get to know them closely, we won’t be able to have relationships with them – Prisha.

The Sisters of Compassion helped the local women with their chores, took care of their babies and ate the food offered to them.  Can you imagine eating tortoise and mongoose?  Most of us would refuse to eat that but Prisha and her fellow workers didn’t.   Eventually, they earned the people’s trust. The villagers began to listen to and follow their advice.  The drinking and fighting stopped. Women once barely clothed, embarrassing Prisha were now dressing modestly.  They began to cook in healthier and cleaner ways.  The children started going to school and the Sisters of Compassion taught them how to bathe, brush their teeth, comb their hair and dress neatly–things that we and out children do everyday.  Great changes were happening in Punya Basti!

The Sisters were embraced by the villagers who began to see them as family because of the love these women had shown them.  Others had scorned them but these Sisters had shown them that there is a God who loved them and wanted to transform their lives.  It was not long before the people decided to follow the God who had sent the Sisters to them.  The love of Jesus permeates the village that had once been steeped in squalor, violence and discord.  They had received physical and spiritual cleansing.  The once filthy ground was now fertile.

Today, the vast majority of Punya Basti’s residents, numbering more than 1,000, proclaim faith in Jesus. Even when half of the village is away traveling for work, more than 200 people gather to worship Jesus each week, ready to learn more about the God who cared enough to send His daughters to live among them.

This story really inspired me.  A village that seemed beyond hope and redemption was transformed by a young woman who obeyed God’s call.  Through her and her fellow Sisters of Compassion, God reached out to the villagers, showing them that there is a better way.   She reflected God’s love and they responded.   I pray that when God calls us to serve Him in areas that others don’t want to go to, we will be like Prisha and simply obey.

Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me” – Isaiah 6:8.

If you are interested in learning more about the work of Sisters of Compassion, watch this http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1” target=”_blank”>video.

Now Entering Filth and Fertile Ground

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Persecuted Church

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake – Luke 21:12

Pastor Samuel was arrested under false charges and imprisoned for eight years.  He was not able to be with his wife or to be a father to their daughter who was only ten months old when he was imprisoned.  In spite of his circumstances, Samuel remained faithful to the Lord, sharing the Gospel with other prisoners.  As a result of his commitment to the ministry to which he was called, many of them chose to follow Christ.

Watch Pastor Samuel’s story and ask yourself if you would respond to this situation with the same kind of trust and faith as he did?   Could you be strong like his wife?  In spite of the tears that overwhelmed her as a result of the pain and loneliness she experienced at their separation, she remained faithful to the Lord and didn’t quit on her husband.

http://www.gfa.org/samuel/

Pastor Samuel is a free man and he plans to continue in his ministry.  Please continue to pray for him and his family.  And pray for other families who may face the same fate.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose – Romans 8:28

Source:  Gospel for Asia

A Missionary for God

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4

Consider the plight of women in South Asia.  Here are some horrifying facts:

  • Young girls throughout Asia are ravenously abducted and forced into a life of prostitution with every agonizing day one step closer to an early death from AIDS.
  • Widows in India bear the blame for their husbands’ deaths. They’re shunned by their communities, rejected by their families and forced into an inhumane lifestyle. Tens of thousands take their own lives just to end the pain.
  • Every year in India, more than 7,000 women are doused with kerosene and burned to death—by their husbands. The wife’s crime: an insufficient dowry.

Suicide rate among women in India is up to 21 times higher than the world’s average.  Lately, the number of incidents of rape have increased following several high-profile cases of young girls being brutally raped in public areas.  According to a global poll conducted by Thomson Reuters, India is the “fourth most dangerous country” in the world for women, and the worst country for women among the G20 countries.

Women in Asia are constantly faced with misery, violence, degradation, rejection, abuse, etc.  Yet, there is hope in the midst of this vicious cycle.  Women missionaries are dedicating their lives to reaching out to these women, bringing the love of Christ to them and showing them that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  One of these beacons of hope is Ruth.  Ruth was once like these women–living a life filled with pain and heartache.  Unloved, unwanted, underfed and forced to work at the age of five simply because she was born a girl.  Her parents had desperately wanted a son after having three girls. Ruth’s father hated her and when she asked him why, he shouted that she should have been a boy.

Ruth’s life changed years later when women missionaries from Gospel for Asia shared the Good News of a God who loved her.  She had never known what it was like to be loved and here these women were telling her about a Father who loved her.  What amazing and wonderful news.  Watch her story here and see how God called her to change the lives of women through missionary work just as He had done for her.

The wonderful thing about Ruth’s story is how God transformed her father, making it possible for her  to have the relationship she had always wanted.  The last time Ruth had seen her father was when she had tried to touch his feet, out of honour and he had kicked her in the face.  After that experience, she left home, not intending to ever go back. While she was at Bible college, preparing to serve God, God was working on her father, changing his heart.  And when the time was right, God brought them together.  It had been three years since she had seen him.  At the train station where he went to meet her, she knelt down to touch his feet but this time, instead of kicking her away, he took her by her arms and lifted her to her feet. And for the first time in her life, Ruth felt her father’s arms wrap around her in a warm embrace.  She felt two arms drawing her to him instead of pushing her away.  She felt loved and accepted.  For Ruth, it felt, “like heaven has come down.”  Yes, heaven had come down.  God had made this precious moment possible.

It was through women missionaries, God turned Ruth’s life around so it is not at all surprising that she responded to His call to be a missionary so that through her, other women could find “triumphant, redeeming hope in Christ!”  As a missionary, she could make a difference.  There was purpose in her life now.  She could go from place to place, sharing her testimony and praying with women and bringing them hope.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope – Jeremiah 29:11

As I watched Ruth in the mission field, I thought of Jeremiah.  When Jeremiah was still in his mother’s womb, God had planned for him to be a prophet.  It’s the same with Ruth.  Before she was even born, God wanted her to be a missionary for Him.  He had a purpose for her life.  Even if her parents didn’t want her, He did.  She was to be a light in the world for women who only knew darkness and despair. She was to be His messenger of hope.

You can help other women find hope and hear the incredible news about a God and a Saviour who love them and would like to change their circumstances.  Sponsor a Woman Missionary

I love to tell the story, it did so much for me; I love to tell the story, for some have never heard

 

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Sources:  Women in Asia; Gospel for Asia

Ruth’s Story

You Should Have Been a Boy!

One of my favorite Biblical characters is Jethro.  He was a wise man, loving father and friend.  He had seven daughters and never once did he ever make them feel unloved or unwanted.  Not so, with Ruth.  Ruth is a young Asian woman who lives in a world where being a girl can stir hatred, abuse and neglect and even lead to death.

As the youngest of three girls in my family, I cannot imagine my father hating me because I turned out to be a girl instead of a boy.  Yet, this was Ruth’s experience.  Her father displayed exceptional hatred toward her until finally she had to find out why.  Why did her father hate her so?  What had she done to stir such toxic feelings in him?  She asked and his response was, “You should have been a boy!” Afterwards, he stopped speaking to her altogether.   Not once did my father ever mistreat me or make me feel unloved or unwanted because he his third child to be a boy and got another girl instead.  I grew up with my father’s love unlike Ruth…

All Ruth knew was hatred.  Both of her parents hated her because before Ruth, the couple had three daughters.   Another daughter meant that the family name will not be carried on, there will not be enough income provided for her parents and it meant another marriage dowry which would sink them into debt.  They were so desperate for a son that they sold one of their fields and gave the money to a priest.  They asked him to pray to his gods so that they could have a baby boy.  They truly believed that they were going to have a boy this time and when they didn’t…

For more of Ruth’s story, watch the video and see how God changes her circumstances from pain and heartache to triumph and in the process, change her father.

Ruth’s story has a happy ending.  Thanks to the women missionaries of Gospel for Asia, she learned that there is a Father who loves her.   God showed her that she has value and He called her to serve Him.  You can help other girls like Ruth—sponsor a woman missionary today.

God’s kingdom will be made up of sons and daughters and we will reign one day as co-heirs with our Lord Jesus Christ who died for everyone.