Free/Pillars #writephoto

pillars

Photo by Sue Vincent

“Mr.  Johnson, how does it feel to be a free man after spending twenty-five years in jail?” a reporter asked Leroy Johnson as he stood in front of the courthouse with its massive pillars.  His mother was beside him.

He looked around at the sea of reporters with their mikes shoved in his face and the flashing cameras and smiled.  “It feels great!” he exclaimed.

Leroy was freed after spending twenty-five years of his life behind bars convicted of a murder he didn’t commit.  He was a free man now thanks to a couple of law students who examined the questionable circumstances surrounding his conviction and got his case opened.    Malcolm Holder, the real killer confessed to the killing.

“Do you feel any resentment toward Malcolm Holder?”

Leroy shook his head.  “Why should I feel resentment toward him?  He came forward and confessed to the killing twice.  The first time he did it was a couple of days after the shooting but he wasn’t arrested.  He tried to do the right thing but nobody listened.  They arrested me instead, an innocent man and sentenced me to forty years in jail with no chance of parole before 2029.”

“Is there anything you want to say to him?”

“Nothing except, that he did the right thing coming forward.”

“Mrs.  Johnson, how does it feel to have your son back?”

Mrs. Johnson smiled.  “It feels wonderful,” she replied.  “After twenty-five years, the Lord finally answered my prayers.  My son is a free man now.”

“Mr.  Johnson, what do you plan to do now that you’re free?”

He put his arm around his mother’s shoulders.  “I’m not thinking that far ahead but right now, I’m taking my Mama to lunch.”

I was inspired to write this story after hearing about the New York prisoner, Valentino Dixon whose conviction was overturned because of an investigation Golf Digest’s Max Adler helped to open.  Valentino was accused of shooting a man back in 1991.  He was arrested and convicted even though the real killer, Lamarr Scott admitted to local media just days after the murder that he shot Torriano Jackson but, he was never arrested.  To read the story, visit here.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Pillars at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

 

Sources:  USA Today; Bossip

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Sing to the Lord

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises – Psalm 98:4

Praising God is something that should be as natural as breathing.  It’s hard to do so, however, when facing trials, problems or challenges, but that is the time when we really need to do it.  I have had an experience when I was feeling down about something and it came to me, no doubt it was the Holy Spirit’s prompting, that instead of focusing on what I was going through, to focus on God instead.  So, I began to praise Him.  I began to sing songs of praise to Him and after a while, I felt so light and upbeat.  The problem which had seemed like a mountain became minuscule until with God’s help, I was able to resolve it.

The apostle Paul is a good example of someone who praised God regardless of what the circumstances were.  Who could forget when Silas and he were in jail and instead of suffering in silence, they began to sing?  Acts 16:25 says But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  God used that moment as an opportunity to reveal Himself.

Suddenly, there was an earthquake, shaking the foundations of the prison and the doors to the jail cells were opened and the chains broken, the prisoners could have escaped but no one moved.  The jailer thought that they had broken out and was about to take his life out of fear of reprisal but Paul assured him that all of the prisoners were there.  And that led the jailer to ask the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Verse 30).  God used Paul’s and Silas’ attitude toward their circumstances to bring about the salvation of the jailer and his family.  And who knows if any of the other prisoners didn’t change too as a result of what they heard and witnessed.

How we deal with adversity will not only affect us but those around us.  Instead of looking down or around, we look up and whatever song the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, puts in our hearts, we lift our voices and sing to our God, Who is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  It will lift our burdens up to Him and bring His comfort down to us.

The Betrayal

Althea closed her Bible and placed it back on the coffee table.  She felt like Judas because she had betrayed Tyson.  Guilt racked her but if she were brutally honest with herself she would admit that what happened between Greg and her was something she had wanted for a very long time–even before she started dating Tyson.

Last night when Greg took her home after working together over time on a pending project, she invited him in to have a hot chocolate.  After he went in and she closed the door, she unbuttoned her coat, with her back to him.  She felt him pull it off her shoulders, discard it then, he pulled her back against him, so that she could feel his hard body pressing into hers while he buried his face in her hair.  She closed her eyes as desire raged through her.  Then, she turned to him, her eyes meeting his in a steady stare.  She reached out and unbuttoned his coat.

His coat was soon disposed of, his tie followed and then, with trembling fingers, she loosened the buttons on his shirt, her heart pounding with anticipation.  She could feel his warm breath on her temple and soon he was shirtless.  Eagerly she ran her hands over his chest and before reaching up and pulling his head down to hers, her fingers gripping his hair as their lips fastened.  His arms went about her waist, pressing her into him as they exchanged passionate kisses.

Several minutes later, Althea drew back, gasping for breath as she dragged off her jacket and everything from the waist up, longing to feel his skin against her.  Greg groaned as she pressed against him, her eyes feverish as they met his smoldering ones and he swept her up into his arms and carried her into the living-room.  They made love on the sofa.  He ended up spending the night and the following morning, they made love again before he left after having breakfast.

Running her hand over the cushion where his head was, she trembled as she recalled how explosive the lovemaking was and it was something she had never experienced with anyone–not even Tyson.  Greg excited her like no man ever did and she wanted to be with him again.  She wasn’t satisfied with having just a working relationship with him.  She wanted more…but what about Tyson?

How could she face Tyson after what she did but how could she stay with him when she wanted Greg?  And what about Greg’s girlfriend, Audrey?  She had completely forgotten about her.  She remembered the first time she met the willowy blonde and her jealous reaction.  It was at one of the company’s picnics.  She was there with Tyson and Greg was there with Audrey.  They were sitting at the table with the director of the company and his wife.  Tyson and she joined them.  She was sitting between Tyson and Greg who introduced them to Audrey.  He and Tyson had met before.

Audrey was what most people would consider to be classically beautiful with her fine features. She was regal and elegant.  When she was introduced to Tyson, she smiled and was very gracious to him but when she was introduced to Althea, she was a bit aloof and the smile on her lips didn’t reach her light blue eyes.  The two women barely said anything to each other and Greg commented on that when they were in the office.  “I couldn’t help but notice that you and Audrey didn’t hit it off.  You’re usually get along with everyone and Audrey too but somehow, you two didn’t warm up to each other.  How come?”

Althea had shrugged and offered him an offhand explanation.  “I guess we can’t always get along with people.”  She couldn’t let him know that she was jealous of Audrey and for some reason Audrey didn’t like her.  Perhaps she sensed that Althea was attracted to her boyfriend.  Women were more intuitive when it came to those things.

“Tyson and I get along even though he’s your boyfriend,” Greg had remarked and she looked at him, quizzically.  His expression was inscrutable.  What does he mean by that? Before she could ask him, his cell rang and he excused himself.  Ever since then, she had been meaning to ask him about the remark but just hadn’t gotten around to it.

The ringing of her phone brought her back to the present and she got up from the sofa to answer it.  It was Tyson.  Heart thudding and hand gripping the phone, she said, “Hello, Tyson.”

“Hi Baby, I tried to get you last night but your machine came on and your cell was turned off.  I thought about coming over but I didn’t want to drop by just like that.”

Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t, she thought.  Or you would have caught me with Greg.  “Tyson, I’m fine.  I was wiped so I must have been sleeping and that’s why I didn’t hear the phone or the cell ring.”  Lying came so easily to her that it startled her.

“Okay.  I called to remind you that we’re going to the Blue Note tonight to see the John Scofield Quartet.  I’ll pick you up at seven.”

She had totally forgotten about tonight.  The last thing she wanted was to be at a jazz club but what excuse could she give?  “All right.”

“Great!  Oh, I invited Greg and Audrey to join us.  I hope you don’t mind.”

Her heart was racing now.  She was going to see Greg.  And Audrey was going to be there.  How was she going to be able to hide her feelings or stop the images of Greg and her making love from popping into her head?  “I wish Audrey weren’t coming,” she said.  “The woman doesn’t like me.”

“Maybe she’s jealous of you,” Tyson remarked.

Althea stiffened.  “Why should she be?” she asked warily.

“You are a gorgeous woman, Althea and you work closely with Greg.  I would be jealous too if I didn’t trust you.”

She closed her eyes as the guilt consumed her.  He trusts me.  I feel like a traitor.  What am I going to do?  I never meant to cheat on him but my feelings for Greg got the better of me.  I was a fool to have a relationship with Tyson when I really wanted to be with Greg but at the time Greg was already seeing Audrey.  Oh, what a mess I have gotten myself into…

“Althea?  Are you still there?”

“Yes–yes.  I–I have to go now.”

“All right.  I’ll see you at seven.”

“See you then,” she replied and hung up, her head throbbing.  She went back over to the sofa and sank heavily down, her brow knitted, frantic about how the evening was going to pan out and that she might do or say something to give herself away.  “Dear Lord, please help me to keep it together tonight,” she begged.

Several hours later when Tyson picked her up, she was composed or appeared to be.  The closer they got to the Blue Note Jazz club, the more nervous she became and by the time they walked into the place, her palms were sweaty and her legs felt like jelly.  Thankfully, Greg and Audrey weren’t there as yet.  It gave her time to collect herself.

It was a nice club.  The atmosphere was casual and intimate.  Their table was situated in such a way that all four of them would be able to get to see the band.   The band had already set up and in ten minutes they were going to play.  She looked up just then and her heart somersaulted when she saw Greg and Audrey approaching their table.  Audrey was wearing a red top with a black pants.  Her hair was pulled back in a chignon giving her an elegant look.  She gave Althea a frosty smile and greeting before she sat down opposite her.

Althea’s eyes shifted to Greg as he sat down beside Audrey and opposite Tyson.  He was dressed in a black dress shirt with black jeans.  He looked so sexy that it was hard for her not to stare.  Their eyes met and she smiled nervously as she greeted him, acting as if they hadn’t seen each other since yesterday at the office.

They ordered drinks, appetizers and dinner and settled down to enjoy the band which was starting up.  As the sounds of jazz filled the air, Althea sneaked a peek at Greg whose head was turned toward the stage and her heart skipped a beat when she caught him looking at her.  She quickly turned away and tried to concentrate on the music and enjoy the dinner but she could feel his eyes on her.

After dinner and during a break, Audrey excused herself and went to the washroom while Tyson went to the bar to order a Club Soda.  Althea had passed on having anything else to drink and was nursing her Cranberry Juice.  Alone with Greg, she couldn’t resist looking at him and her mouth went dry when she saw him looking at her intently.  “You look amazing,” he told her.  “I can’t keep my eyes off you.”

She was wearing a black dress with spaghetti straps and her hair was pulled back at the nape.  “Thank you,” she replied, feeling shy and thrilled at the same time.  “You look incredibly sexy.”

“Althea, I can’t stop thinking about last night and this morning.”

“Me neither,” she confessed.  “What are we going to do?  I feel like such a traitor because Tyson trusts me but I can’t help how I feel about you, Greg.  What happened between us last night and this morning happened because I wanted it to.”

“We have to tell them,” he told her.  “We can’t continue hiding our feelings and pretending that we are happy in our relationships when we’re not.  I want to be with you, Althea.  I’ve wanted it ever since we started working together.”

She stared at him.  “Why didn’t you tell me this before I started dating Tyson?” she demanded.  “I only went out with him because you were with Audrey.”

“I thought you loved Tyson and that’s why I didn’t do anything.  You have no idea how hard it is for me to see you with him.  I like him and we get along but I’m jealous of him because he’s your boyfriend.”

“And I’m jealous of Audrey because she’s your girlfriend.”

“I think she suspects that I have feelings for you.  She didn’t want to come tonight because of you but I managed to talk her into it.  I came because I wanted to see you.  Can I come over later?”

“Yes,” she said.  “We’ll talk more later.” Just then, both Tyson and Audrey joined them.

The band came back and played for another hour.  It was time to leave.  The four of them walked out of the club and to the parking lot.  They said their goodnight and parted.  As Althea walked to Tyson’s Land Rover, she watched Greg and Audrey walk to his Jaguar.  Seeing them together made her decide that she was going to end her relationship with Tyson.  She wouldn’t do it tonight, though.  Tomorrow was Sunday.  On her way to church, she would call him and suggest that they meet in the afternoon at Bryant Park.

It was after ten when she got home and she quickly undressed and took a shower.  She changed into floral print Chemise which flattered her figure and complexion.  Her hair was loose about her shoulders and after dabbing a little of her favorite Ralph Lauren perfume behind her ears, she went into the kitchen.  She just finished pouring hot toddies into two glass cups when the doorbell rang.  Her heart racing, she hurried to answer the door, smiling when she saw Greg’s eyes travel over her.

As soon as she closed the door and locked it, he pulled her into his arms.  “I’ve wanted to do this all night,” he murmured, his eyes restless on her upturned face.  He was wearing a navy blue shirt and blue jeans.  His hair was slightly damp and he smelled really good.

She put her arms around his neck.  “I fixed us some hot toddies.  Let’s sit on the sofa and drink them before they get cold and then…”

He smiled and released her.  “You’re right.  If I kiss you now, I wouldn’t be able to stop.”

They walked into the living-room and while he relaxed on the sofa, she went and got the hot toddies.  She handed him his before she settled down next to him.  She reached for the remote for the stereo and turned it on.  Smooth jazz played in the background.  “I am going to break up with Tyson tomorrow,” she announced quietly.  “I’m going to do it in the park.  I read that a lot of couples call it quits in a park because it’s a public place so not much drama there and it’s quiet and relaxing.  I will call him in the morning to arrange a time when we will meet.  I’m not looking forward to it at all.”

Greg sighed.  “I know what you mean,” he said.  “I broke up with Audrey tonight and it was terrible.  She was hurt and angry.  After she screamed at me and slapped me in the face, she stormed out of the car, slamming the door so hard, I thought the window would break.  I felt like a jerk.  I never meant to hurt her but I should never have gotten involved with her when it was you I wanted to be with.  That was unfair to her.”

“Does she know about us?”

He nodded.  “I didn’t have to tell her.  She figured it out and I couldn’t deny it.”

Althea pursed her lips.  “She must really hate me now.”

“I feel really badly about Tyson.  He’s a really nice guy.  Under other circumstances, we could have been good friends.”

“When he asked me to go out with him I should have turned him down.  It would have been the decent thing to do.  And now, what I have to say to him tomorrow will break his heart and completely destroy his trust in me…” Her voice trembled and tears came to her eyes.

Greg took her toddy and put it and his down on the coffee table.  He put his arm around her shoulder and she rested her head against him.  “I know that you feel badly about Tyson.  Breaking up with someone is never easy.  It can be very painful.  All I can say is that Tyson and Audrey deserve to be with people who will love them in return.”

“You’re right,” she said and brushing the tears away she drew back to look at him. “You and I never meant to hurt them but we can’t help the way we feel about each other.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  “I love you, Althea,” he murmured huskily.  “I have loved you since the first time we met.  I tried to fight it because of Audrey but it was no use.  And those nights when we worked overtime, were torture.  It was hard not to touch you.  Last night my feelings were too strong to ignore.  I wanted you so much.”

“I love you too, Greg.  I fell in love with you the first time I saw you but I didn’t do anything about it because I found out from Krystal that you had a girlfriend.  Seeing you everyday and working late with you was bittersweet.  It wasn’t easy hiding my feelings for you or coming home to this apartment which felt empty and thinking about you, wishing you were here.  You have no idea how often I have fantasized about you and…” her words were smothered against his lips.

The next afternoon, she met Tyson in the park.  Dread filled her as they walked to a bench in a quiet area and sat down.  Taking a deep breath, she repeated the words she had rehearsed on the drive over.  By the time she was finished, he was livid.  “So, when I called you on Friday night and yesterday morning, Greg was there with you?”

“Yes.”

“So, he spent the night.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe this.  When I asked you why you didn’t answer my calls you lied to me.  You told me that you were sleeping but the truth is you and he were doing it on the sofa.  Oh, hell, Althea, I trusted you and you betrayed me.” He jumped to his feet.

“Tyson, I’m so sorry–” she said, rising from the bench.

“I don’t want to hear you say you’re sorry.  You know I had many opportunities to cheat on you too but I couldn’t because I cared about you and besides, when I’m in a relationship I don’t cheat. Last night when we were at the Blue Note having a good time, not once did I suspect that there was anything going on between Greg and you.  But Audrey knew something and that’s why she didn’t like you.  She saw you for the liar and cheat you are.  I’m going to leave now before I say something I will regret.” He looked her over with an expression of disgust on his face before he turned and walked away.

She watched him go and then sat back down on the bench. She sat there for a long time, feeling awful that she had hurt someone so badly. Tyson was a terrific guy who didn’t deserve what she had done to him. She couldn’t blame him if he never forgave her.

After leaving the park, she went straight to Greg’s place.  As soon as he closed the door behind her and turned to face her, she went straight into his arms and clung to him.  “It’s over between Tyson and me.”

He held her tightly.  “It’s better to end the relationship than to continue cheating,” he said.  “We don’t have to sneak around.  We can love each other in the open.”

She drew back to look up at him.  “You’re right,” she agreed.

He bent his head and kissed her, thinking of Bill Russell’s quote: “To love someone is nothing, to be loved by someone is something, but to be loved by the one you love is everything”

 

Sources:  Timeout; Pinterest

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