Love vs Tradition

“You’re such a hypocrite, Kaito” Hana told her brother.  “You object to my relationship with Danny because he’s not Japanese and yet you’re sleeping with Duana, my African American friend.”

Kaito looked up from his laptop, his expression darkening as he met his younger sister’s incensed gaze.  “I don’t have to explain myself to you,” he retorted.  “After our parents died, I became responsible for you.  Danny may be a nice guy but he’s not the right one for you.  You should be with someone like Riku.”

“Riku?  You know very well that I’m not in love with him.”

“That could change.”

“It won’t,” she insisted.  “I’m in love with Danny and he’s in love with me.  I don’t care what you say.  I’m not a child.  I’m not going to marry Riku or anyone else for that matter.”

“Has Danny asked you to marry him?”

“Not yet but when he does, I will say yes.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it.”

“You’re my brother not my father.  You being responsible for me doesn’t give you the right to dictate who I marry or who I love.  Riku is a nice guy. We’ve known each other since we were children but I don’t love him.  I’m not going to marry someone I don’t love just to please you and your love for tradition.  I hope Duana does the smart thing and dumps you.”

His mouth tightened.  “I don’t want to discuss my relationship with Duana with you.”

“You won’t have a relationship with her much longer.  I will see to that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Tonight, we are going out on a date with Danny and his friend, Leshawn.”

What?” Kaito rose to his feet.  His eyes flashed and his fists clenched.  “How could she be going out with someone else while she’s still in a relationship with me?”

Hana watched him.  She never saw her brother act like this before.  He was always so calm and reserved which sometimes annoyed her.  Nothing seemed to faze him and here he was now, like a volcano about to erupt.  “You made it clear that you didn’t want there to be anything serious between you.  You were fine with the way things were–purely physical.”

He dragged his fingers through his hair.  “This guy she’s seeing tonight, has she been out with him before?”

Hana shook her head.  “No, this is the first time and I hope it won’t be the last–”

“Imaimashī!”  He grabbed his keys off the desk and headed for the door.

“Where’re you going?”

“Where do you think I’m going and why do you care?” he retorted before he stormed out of the room.

As soon as he was gone, Hana picked up the phone and called Duana.  “Kaito’s on his way over.  He’s as mad as hell.  I’ve never seen him like this.  I think he’s jealous.”

“You told him about Deshawn?”

“Of course.”

“Oh, Hana.  I didn’t want him to think that I was interested in Deshawn or anyone else.”

“Well, maybe you ought to be.  You can’t continue hoping that things will change, Duana–that Kaito will change.  He’s set in his ways.  He’s been a bachelor for so long that marriage isn’t a possibility right now and if he did get married, it would be to a Japanese woman.  You’re better off moving on.”

“I wish I could but you know I love him.”

“Yes, I know.  He’s my brother and I love him too but I think he’s a jerk.  You deserve better, Duana.”

“Right now I can’t imagine being with anyone else but Kaito.  Thanks for calling, Hana.  I’ll see you later.”

“All right.  Call me on my cell if you need me.”

“I will.”

Hana hung up the phone and left the study.

Duana was about to change out of the white dress she had worn to church when the doorbell rang.  Her heart began to beat faster.  It was probably Kaito.  It was and Hana was right.  He looked furious.  As she slid the latch back, she asked herself why she had allowed her friend to talk her into to going on a double date tonight.

“Hello, Kaito,” she said when she opened the door.  Giannina Oteto

“Don’t hello Kaito me,” he snapped as he brushed past her.  He swung round and faced her as she closed and locked the door behind him.  His eyes were blazing with anger and jealousy.  “How could you go out on a date with another guy when you and I are in a relationship?”

“It–it was Hana’s idea and–”

“I know it was her idea but you didn’t have to agree to it.”

“She called me and told me that you were coming over.  She warned me that you were very angry.”

“Don’t you think I have reason to be?  How would you feel if I were going out for dinner with another woman?”

“I would be angry and jealous,” she admitted.

“That’s how I feel right now, Duana.  The thought of you going out with another guy is making me crazy.”  He reached for her hand.  His expression was drawn and tormented.  “Don’t do it, please.  Don’t go out for dinner with this guy, please.”

She swallowed hard.  “I won’t,” she promised huskily.

He released his breath in a shaky sigh.  “Thank you,” he muttered.

“Why don’t you spend the night?” she asked.  “I didn’t make any dinner because I was going to eat out tonight but we can order in.”

He nodded.  “Yes, I’ll spend the night.”

She smiled.  “Good.  Let me call Hana and tell her that I won’t be joining her and the guys for dinner tonight or any other night.”

He nodded again and removed his jacket as she called his sister.  As soon as she finished the call, he took her into his arms.  “I’m sorry for the way I’ve been,” he said.  “I grew up believing in family traditions and determined to honor them at the expense of Hana’s happiness and my own.  I love you, Duana and tonight when I realized how close I came to losing you, it opened my eyes to what really matters.  When you meet that special someone, making a commitment to him or her is more important than holding onto tradition.  Tomorrow, I will let Hana know that I no longer object to her relationship with Danny.”

Duana put her arms around his neck. “She’ll be happy to hear that,” she told him.

“Yes, she will be,” he agreed.

“I love you, Kaito.”

Kaito lowered his head and kissed her.

“Just because something is traditional is no reason to do it, of course.”Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

Asya Speaks Out

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Photo by Sue Vincent

The magnificent view of the snow-capped mountains and surrounding beautiful landscape which usually filled Asya with peace failed to do so this morning.   There was political uncertainty in Sweden as the anti-immigrant party made historic gains in Sunday’s election.  There was talk of refugees and immigrants being sent back to their countries by those who had no regard for what awaited them.   She knew firsthand what it was like to be torn from the country of refuge and returned to your country of origin.

At the age of 15, her parents took her back to Turkey after she finished ninth grade to marry a man 20 years her senior.  They had three children.  Those were the worst years of her life and she dreamed of returning to Sweden.  Fifteen years later, after her husband died in a work related accident, she returned to Stockholm with the children.

It was a shock for her when she recently saw the brochure offering tips to those who were married to children.  Enraged, she wrote an article on the horrors of child marriage, her own experience and why Sweden needed to be very clear that it wouldn’t tolerate such a practice.  It needed to protect the welfare of its immigrant population and stop worrying about being culturally insensitive.

It was a two page article in which she concluded, “I urge you to think about Beeta, the teenage girl who was murdered by her husband after they arrived here from Iran.  If we hadn’t been so concerned with offending a culture which fosters a practice which, in my opinion, is criminal, she may still be alive.  Instead of being concerned with the culture, protect the individual.  We need to be more responsible for the immigrants whom we let into the country and afford them the same rights and protection regardless of whether or not they are ethically Swedish.”  Her article was published in Stockholm News and was very well received.  Many shared her views and Twitter went viral, calling for the government to do something to end child marriage in a country known for its commitment to child welfare.

Asya turned now to look at the shelter she ran for victims of honor-based violence and oppression.  Most of them were the same ages as her daughters.  She determined that she would continue to fight for them and those who weren’t in her care.  Unlike the politicians and the government, she was going to be morally sensitive to the victims of forced marriages and speak out because as long as child marriage exists it will stand in the way of gender equality.  She had to do this for Beeta and others like her.

Marriage is for adults, not for children.  Children have the right to be children.

This story is based on true events.  Sweden struggles over child marriage and many are calling for the rights of children of foreign backgrounds to be protected.

This story is in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Turning for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Sources:  The Guardian; PsychologyPolitico; Express

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.

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

Women And Divorce

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I have heard a pastor advise couples who are entering into marriage to make up their minds that divorce was not going to be an option.  The Bible says that infidelity is the only legitimate reason for divorce.  And it tells us that God hates divorce.  Marriage was meant to be a lifelong commitment.  It is sacred.  It was the first institution created by God.  It existed before sin came into the world. It was God’s design for mankind.  He created Eve for Adam, the first man He made after no companion suitable for him was found among the creation.  God gave Eve in marriage to Adam and blessed them.

My parents are divorced.  They have been divorced for over twenty-five years.  My father remarried but he is no longer with his second wife.  I remember the day when I was standing in the living-room with my parents and I asked my father to stay.  He was planning to leave home.  The marriage had gotten to the point where he wanted to leave.  I asked him to stay but he had made up his mind.  In retrospect, I am glad he didn’t stay.  I wouldn’t have wanted him to stay on my account.  I didn’t want him to remain in a marriage where he wasn’t happy for my sake.  That would have been unfair to him and selfish on my part.

My mother expressed regret some years ago that she and my father divorced.  She had always hoped that she would be married for life.  I remember how wistful she seemed to be missing out on what would have been their twenty-fifth anniversary.   I know that they had problems in their marriage.  There was infidelity and there were times when the other woman called our house.  I don’t know what caused their relationship to go sour.  My mother was very social because she was a part of her company’s drama group.  She was always attending functions.  My Dad didn’t go with her. They seemed to live separate lives even though they were living under the same roof.  They most likely drifted apart.  My mother didn’t want a divorce but my father did.

What causes people to divorce?  One of my co-workers was married a guy she had known for years.  However, they later divorced because they grew apart.  Another co-worker’s son divorced because he and his ex-wife no longer loved each other.   Here are top 10 reasons why couples get divorced.

I have heard of couples divorcing after fifty years of marriage. How is that possible?   Why would they decide to call it quits after spending so many years together?  Al Gore and Tipper shocked everyone when they announced that they were separating after 40 years of marriage.  The signs were not there–at least they were not visible to the public.  Robert Levenson, a psychologist at the University of California who studies marriage across the lifespan stated, “Though every marriage is different, a divorce after 40 years is unusual.  Most divorces occur early in marriage.”

I was shocked when I heard about the split between Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman after 30 years of marriage.   They separated in 2012 but it looks like they are back together again.  They had split because of Danny’s wandering eye.   While an extramarital affair can be a cause for divorce as in the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, there are other less dramatic factors.

Some relationships have been in decline for decades and finally lose all their juice. A marriage doesn’t usually just blow up. It’s more like a balloon that has been seeping air for a long time. After a while, it’s totally deflated.

Another possibility is that a couple’s issues intensify. Most problems are manageable, but then something sends them into hyperdrive. It could be a change in jobs, health, children’s lives, personal ambitions or any number of other triggers. Whatever balance had been achieved is undermined, and with it the ability to handle the issue and still have a decent marriage (AARP).

I have seen relationships suffer because the woman is focusing most of her attention on the children and not enough on the husband.  I watched a show on OWN where the husband felt neglected by his wife and as a result he had an affair.  His affair, of course, devastated his wife.

No one likes to get a divorce.  No one wants to see their marriage end.  It makes them feel like they failed.  Sometimes, women stay in marriages, suffering in silence because they don’t want to get divorced.  They stay put, hoping that things would change–that they would get better.  Of course, they only get worse.  Other women see divorce as their only option.  I read one story where a man was blown away when his wife told him that she wanted a divorce.  He didn’t see it coming at all.  Weren’t there any signs?

Why do women get divorced?  Here are some reasons:

  • “I hurt all the time because I feel alone and abandoned.”
  • “My husband is no longer my friend.”
  • “The only time he pays attention to me is when he wants sex.”
  • “He is never there for me when I need him the most.”
  • “When he hurts my feelings he doesn’t apologize.”
  • “He lives his life as if we weren’t married; he rarely considers me.”
  • “We’re like ships passing in the night, he goes his way and I go mine.”
  • “My husband has become a stranger to me, I don’t even know who he is anymore.”
  • “He doesn’t show any interest in me or what I do.”

I wonder if some of these marriages would have survived if the women had told their husbands how they felt.   What would you do in their situation?   Are you experiencing one of these things? Have you spoken to your husband about it?  Do you think he would want to go with you for marriage counseling or couples’ therapy?

For Christian women, none of the above reasons would be grounds for divorce.  They go against biblical principles.  Divorce is a matter that is to be taken seriously.  Any Christian woman who is considering is encouraged to pray about it and be open to God’s leading.  If she is concerned about whether or not she has biblical grounds for divorce, she should commit the matter to prayer and study and seek counsel from her pastor and a licensed Christian counselor (Focus on the Family).   “…while there may be some situations in which extramarital sex would create such problems in a marriage that divorce would be better than continuing in an unhealthy or even dangerous relationship, in general it would be better to forgive earlier indiscretions (if accompanied by repentance and present faithfulness) rather than to break up what might otherwise still be a good marriage” (Christian Answers.net).

Are there biblical grounds for divorce?  Yes.

Sexual immorality.  If her husband is guilty of having extramarital sex and is not willing to end the affair and work on saving their marriage.

Husband is a non-Christian.  If a Christian woman is married to a non-Christian husband and he insists on a divorce, there is nothing she can do.  And 1 Corinthians 7:15 states, “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart.  A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases:  but God hath called us to peace”.  The Bible warns about marrying a non-believer.  A Christian woman should never marry someone from another religion or even denomination because it may cause problems and worse if children are involved.

If it is the husband who wants the divorce, the woman can’t stop him through the current divorce laws but she could try to persuade him to consider a legal separation which would give them more time to reconsider the matter.  She is encouraged to, “Pray that God will open the lines of communication between you and your spouse and that He will restore the love in your relationship. And pray for patience and a forgiving spirit. Try to resist the temptation to say angry words to your spouse or do things that would push him or her further away. Restoration does occur even in the most hostile circumstances, but it is more difficult when harsh words have passed between you” (Focus on the Family).

How does divorce affect women?  According to Coaching for Divorced Women, they experience the following emotions:

Anger
During all stages of divorce, you might feel intense anger towards your ex. You may be angry with him for leaving you, for not understanding you or for having an affair. At other times, you may be angry with yourself for not seeing the signs, or for allowing him to hurt you, the way he did. It is important to realize that if his actions are continuing to anger you that you have not let go. Even though anger is one of the common emotional effects on divorce, holding onto pent up anger is not hurting your ex at all. He could probably care less that you are angry. You need to forgive him and yourself for the roles each of you played that lead up to the divorce. Forgiveness is the only thing that can set you free to build a happy and fulfilling life.

Guilt
Women are filled with guilt during and after a divorce regardless if they initiated the separation or not. Guilt is one of the common emotional effects of divorce as you might constantly ask yourself if you did everything in your power to make your marriage work. You might be banging yourself over the head on whether or not you made the right decision. If he left, you could be asking yourself what you did wrong. You may feel guilty that you have disrupted the home life of your children. Guilt serves no purpose. Guilt focuses on past events, which are impossible to change. By learning to let go of the past, you are able to look to the future.

Fear
Many women are terrified during divorce. Fear is one of the emotional effects of divorce that women feel in a variety of ways. There are many faces of fear, including fear of the unknown, the fear of making ends meet, the fear of being a single mom, the fear of what other people will think … and the list goes on and on. An acronym for fear is “False Evidence Appearing Real”. This tells you that fear is something you are making up in your own mind by conjuring up a thousand “what ifs”. When you begin to feel fearful, ask yourself what you are thinking and turn the thought around. For example if you are thinking being a single mom is going to be hard, ask yourself why is being a single mom going to be easy. With practice, the fears will dissipate and you will begin looking forward to a wonderful future.

Anxiety
Anxiety and stress is a mixture of many negative emotions, including fear, guilt and anger. Reduce stress by letting go of the fear and learning to deal with what is happening right this moment. Learn techniques to deal with anxiety such as deep breathing, meditating and exercising. Eating healthy also plays an important role in reducing anxiety. Build structures to support a stress free environment such as getting up earlier to get the kids to the bus stop, or cooking enough dinners to last for a week on Sunday. Take responsibility.

Grief
It is natural to be sad and to be sad when your marriage ends. Grieving over the death of your marriage can be a very painful experience, but it is a healthy response. By allowing yourself to go through the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance you will be able to “let go” and be free to create your own future. Get assistance on dealing with the emotional effects of divorce support during this emotional turmoil.

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Divorce is painful for the couple and children.  It is something God never intended.  Marriage was meant to be a permanent union between a man and a woman.  If you are thinking of getting a divorce make sure this is the right decision.  Sleep on it.  Seek counsel.  If your husband is the one who wants to end the marriage, don’t do what my mother did–try to persuade him to stay.  If he has made up his mind, no amount of begging will change it.  Let him go.  Ending a marriage, especially after so many years together is very, very difficult and it will take time to heal and move on.

Here are some helpful advice that can help you can get you through the end of your marriage financially and emotionally.

Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today? – Mary Manin Morrissey

Sources:  Woman’s Divorce; Marriage Builders; Live Science; Focus on the Family; Live Strong; Coaching for Divorced Women; Christian Answers; Women’s Divorce

Nepalese Woman Finds Hope

“The Lord has blessed me in such a wonderful way that He has provided shelter, food, special care and attention through His people,” Shiuli says.

What does a 14 year old know about being a wife and a mother?  She should be in school getting a good education.  At 14 most girls aren’t even allowed to date.   Most girls are not thinking about marriage and if they were, it would be an event which would take place in the distant future, when they are older and ready to make that kind of commitment.  Their parents do not arrange their marriages.  They marry whom they choose.  They marry for love.

In some countries, it is considered statutory rape when an adult has relations with a girl 16 years old or younger.  In other countries, young girls are given in marriage.  Nepal is one of these countries.  In fact, child marriages are the norm there.

Child marriage is a global problem which affects millions across the world but especially girls in South Asia. The Government of Nepal has signed many international instruments designed to tackle this problem and has passed a law forbidding child marriage but has found it difficult to eradicate the phenomenon due to weak enforcement and low levels of awareness – World Vision, Nepal.

It’s a problem that continues to persist in Nepal.  According to a report on the website for Girls Not Brides, “As is often the case elsewhere, child marriage is more common in rural areas than urban areas, and rates are particularly high in the hilly and mountainous regions. In certain ethnic groups, the rate of marriage before 15 can reach 83.1%. Castes also play a role, as lower caste girls are generally under greater pressure than higher caste girls to marry while still at school.”

This is the case of Shiuli, a young Nepalese woman.  Shiuli grew up  in a quiet mountain village of central Nepal with her family and friends nearby.   Life changed and hardship began for Shiuli when at the age of 14 her parents arranged her marriage to a man named Tarun.  After they were married the couple moved to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.  It must have been hard for Shiuli to be away from her family and friends.  She was in a strange city with a husband she hardly knew.

Tarun found a job in the carpet industry.  At a later date Shiuli began working there as well.  In the following years, the couple had three daughters.  Then, Tarun became sick and never recovered.  He died.  After seven years of marriage Shiuli was left alone to raise three daughters and struggle to care for them and herself.  She had no one to help her.  Her family was miles away.  She was in a big city, living among 700,000 people and things only got worse.

Desperately poor and unable to provide for her children because of lack of money, Shiuli was forced to do something no parent should ever have to do–watch her youngest daughter starve to death.  As a mother, my heart breaks for Shiuli.  I can’t imagine the pain she must have suffered as she watched helplessly as her daughter died, unable to do anything about it and the toll it must have taken on the other two girls.  Shiuli worried that she would die and leave her two daughters helpless and defenseless against abuse.  She had been through enough calamities.  She couldn’t wait for any more to hit her.  There was nothing anyone could do to help her so she had to do something.  She needed answers to her problems so she went searching.

She figured that religion was the answer.  To her there was little difference between the religion she had grown up in and the other two major ones.  She went to several religious centers and offered the little money she had along with other sacrifices to the gods, hoping for a response but none was forthcoming.  She sought the help of different religious figures, hoping to find peace but it was all in vain until one day visitors came to her workplace.

Three women missionaries told Shiuli that they were followers of Jesus Christ and they explained to her who Jesus was and His sacrifice on the cross.  Shiuli listened to them and their kind words brought her the answers she had been searching so desperately for.  She poured out her heart to them, sharing her sad story and they in turn shared God’s love for her and His plan to free her from her burdens.  The words of these three women filled Shiuli with the peace that had long been evading her.  She knew she could take refuge in Jesus who had brought His peace into her life which had been beset with hardship and unimaginable pain.

The missionaries found her a church where she could connect with other believers and learn more about the Lord.  She accepted His offer of peace and is growing in the Lord at a church supported by Gospel For Asia (GFA) with the help of the pastor and other women missionaries supported by GFA.

Shiulu went looking for answers and peace but found none in her search.  Jesus came to her through the three missionaries and gave her all that she needed and more.  Sometimes we go searching but sometimes the Lord sends His servants to find us.

I thank Jesus and the missionaries who have turn this young woman’s life completely around.   “The Lord has blessed me in such a wonderful way that He has provided shelter, food, special care and attention through His people,” Shiuli says.

If you want to see other women like Shiulu find the answers they are searching for and be led to Christ, sponsor women missionaries.  In South Asia, many women like Shiuli need someone they can turn to who can tell them about the God they can take refuge in but in some societies cultural restrictions prevent women from talking to male missionaries.  So, they can only be reached by other women.  Help change another woman’s life.  Give her hope.  Sponsor a woman missionary.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest – Matthew 11:28

Shiuli’s story is one of inspiration.  No matter how hard life becomes and how helpless we may feel, there is always hope.  No matter how long it takes, we will find the answers we are searching for.  We will find that wonderful peace only Jesus Christ can offer us.

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Source:  http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/nepalese-woman-finds-hope-amidst-great-loss/; http://www.wvi.org/nepal/publication/child-marriage-nepal; http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/nepal/