The Precinct

“How’s Viola?” Franco Manetti asked his friend and partner of twelve years, Joe Martin, as he was getting ready to leave for the night.

Joe stopped writing his report to look at him, his expression was one of exasperation.  “Why don’t you ask her out already?” he demanded.  “You’re always asking about her and she’s always asking about you.  You’re not dating anyone and she’s not dating anyone.  Why don’t you two date each other?  Look, the precinct is having its Christmas party is next month, why don’t you ask her to go with you?”

Franco considered his suggestion.  “That’s a great idea,” he said.  “Are you sure you don’t mind me asking your little sister out?”

Joe rolled his eyes.  “If I minded you asking her out, would I be encouraging you to?”

Franco laughed.  “I guess not.  I’m sorry, pal.  I just thought it might be awkward for your partner to be taking your sister out, that’s all.  Well, have a good night.  I’ll see you in the morning.  Say hello to Dora for me.”

“You have yourself a good night too.  By the way, Viola is coming over for dinner at our house tomorrow night.  You’re welcome to drop by.  You can ask her to the Christmas party then.”

“I can’t come by tomorrow, I’m afraid.  I am having dinner over at my parents’ place.  Could I call you instead and talk to Viola?”

“Sure.  She’ll be there until ten.”

Franco pulled on his jacket and grabbed his keys.  “‘Night, Joe.”

“‘Night, Franco.”

On his way home, Franco recalled the first time he met Viola.  It was on a Tuesday, around noon.  She came to the precinct to see Joe.  They were going out for lunch.  He was at his desk doing paperwork when she walked in.  He looked up as she went over to where Joe sat.  Joe was away from his desk.

Franco stared at her.  She was dressed in a black pants suit over a red blouse and her hair was pulled back at the nape of her neck.  For several minutes, he just sat there staring at her.  She smiled and held out her hand.  “Hi, I’m Viola, Joe’s sister.  You must be Franco.”

He got up and shook her hand.  “Pleased to meet you,” he managed to say.  He waited for her to sit down in the chair beside Joe’s desk before resuming his seat.

“Joe has told me a lot about you,” she said.  “You and he have been partners for a long time.”

“Yes, for twelve years.”  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.  She was so beautiful.

“I remember when Joe joined the force our mother was terrified at first.  She feared that he would get shot or killed but Dad encouraged her to have faith.  He told her that Joe was serving God and his community.  It took some time to convince her but now instead of worrying she prays a lot.  What about you?  Did your family have a problem with your choice of career?”

He shook his head.  “My parents were just relieved that I wanted to be in law enforcement instead of ending up like some of the kids I used to hang out with in our old neighborhood.”

He wanted to ask her if she had a boyfriend.  He could hear his mother saying to him, “I hope that before I die, you meet a nice Italian girl and marry her.  Nearly all of your cousins are married and have children.  Guido is married and has blessed your father and me with two grandchildren.  Your little sister, Sophia is married.  You’re the eldest and you’re still single.  What are you waiting for?”

He noticed that Viola glanced at his hand to see if he was wearing wedding ring.  Just then Joe returned to his desk.

“I see that you two have met,” he said with a smile.  He grabbed his jacked and pulled it on.  “Ready?” he asked Viola who was looking at Franco.

She glanced up at her brother and nodded.  As she stood up, she turned to Franco who was on his feet, watching her.  “It was nice meeting you,” she said, smiling at him.  “I hope we see each other again.”

“Me too.”  He watched her walk away, thinking he had just met his dream woman.

As he pulled into his parking space, Franco promised himself that he was going to ask her to have dinner with him on Saturday and then invite her to go with him to the Christmas party.

They were having dinner when out of the blue, his mother asked, “So, have you met a nice Italian girl as yet?”

Franco was about to lift the fork to his mouth but he paused to look over at his mother who was watching him very intently.  “I met a nice girl, Mama,” he said quietly, “but, she’s not Italian.”

She wrinkled her brow.  “She’s not Italian?  What is she?”

“She’s Joe’s sister.  You remember Joe.  I’ve brought him here for dinner once before when his wife, Dora was visiting her parents in Florida.”

“Yes, I remember Joe,” his father said.  “He’s a very nice guy.”

“How come you never mentioned his sister to me before?” Mrs. Manetti asked.

“I did. I told you about the time when she and I first met.”

“Oh yes, but that was last year.  You mean to tell me you haven’t been dating anyone since then?”

“No.  After meeting her, I don’t want to date anyone else.”  He glanced at his watch.  It was eight-thirty.

“Why do you keep looking at your watch?” his mother asked irritably.  “Are you going somewhere after you leave here?”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  I’m going straight home after I leave here.”

“Why do you keep looking at your watch, then?” she insisted.

“Oh, Carmela, leave the boy alone,” Mr. Manetti snapped.  “If he wants to look at his watch, that’s his business.”

“If you must know, Mama, promised Joe that I would call over at his house tonight.”

“Oh.  Eat your spaghetti before it gets cold.”

It was nine o’clock by the time, they finished eating and he helped to clear the table.  He excused himself and went down into the basement to make the call.  Joe answered.  They spoke for a while and then he went to call Viola.  Franco’s heart began to pound.  He was really nervous now.  When he heard her voice, his heart leapt in his chest.  “Hello, Viola,” he said, sounding a bit breathless.  “How are you?  Good.  I’m fine too.  I—I was wondering if you would have dinner with me on Saturday evening.  You would?  That’s great.  I’ll pick you up at seven.  Sure, I’ll take down your address.  Just hold on while I find something to write on.”  He put the receiver gently on the sofa and got up.

He looked around wildly for some paper and a pen.  He saw an old newspaper on the coffee table and a pen beside it.  It was opened to the Crossword section.  Dad, he thought, with a grin.  He tore a piece of paper and grabbed the pen.  He hurried back to the phone.  “Sorry about that,” he apologized.  He wrote down her telephone number and address and put the piece of paper in the breast pocket of his shirt.  “I’ll see you on Saturday.”  He sat down in the sofa and talked with her for a while before he said, “Good night, Viola,” and hung up.

His parents were in the living-room.  His father was watching TV in his favorite chair while his mother was on the sofa mending his shirt.  She glanced up when Franco entered the room.  “How is Joe?” she asked.

“He’s fine.”

“You were on the phone for a long time.” She looked at him, suspicious.  “Are you sure it was Joe you were talking to all this time?”

“Carmela, leave the boy alone.”

Mrs. Manetti clucked her tongue and continued mending the shirt.

Franco sat down on the sofa beside her and spent an hour with them before he left.

“Viola told me that you invited her out for dinner tomorrow night,” Joe said to him the next morning as soon as he sat down at his desk.

“Yes, I did.  I wanted to go out with her before the Christmas Party.”

“Good for you.”

Franco smiled and got to work, although every now and then his mind went on Viola.  He couldn’t wait to see her the following night.

He took her to the River Café, nestled under the Brooklyn Bridge with stunning views of the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty.  They got a table beside a window where she could see the East River.  For the appetizer, they both had the summer salad and for the main course, she had the Organic Chicken while he opted for the Lamb.  And for dessert, they shared the Chocolate Brooklyn Bridge.  The conversation between was easy and they felt very comfortable with each other.  He learned that she was a Community Outreach Coordinator at a government agency in the Bronx and that she was bullied in high-school because of her weight.

“I was overweight,” she said.  “I ate a lot of junk food and spent most of my time sitting around the house, reading or watching TV.  I wasn’t active except when I was doing gym at school.  So, I was teased at school because of my weight and height.  I didn’t fit in with the other girls who were tall and skinny.  In grade ten, I decided that I wasn’t going to change my habits.  I stopped eating unhealthy foods, went on a diet and walked home from school instead of taking the bus.  It worked.  I dropped to and maintained a weight that worked for me.  As you can see, I’m not skinny but I’m not overweight either.”

He looked at her.  “I think you’re beautiful,” he said.

She smiled, feeling a little shy.  “Thank you.”

“We are having our annual Christmas party on December 16 and I was wondering if you would like to go with me.”

“Yes, I’d like that.”

After dinner, they went for a walk, enjoying the warm night air and the views of the bridge over the River.  Then, it was time to take her home.  When they were standing outside of her condo in Queens, he said to her, “I had a great time tonight with you.  Viola, I really, really like you and I want to be in a relationship with you.  Do you feel the same way about me?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I do, Franco.”

He smiled, looking relieved.  “Good.  I’ll call you tomorrow.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  She watched him as he walked away, her pulse racing and her heart pounding.  Things were really looking up now.

They began dating and by the time the Christmas party rolled around, things had gotten very serious between them.  He took her to meet his parents one Sunday afternoon.  Viola was nervous about meeting his mother.  Mr. Manetti was very warm and friendly.  At first, Mrs. Manetti didn’t say much.  She was busy sizing her up.  Then, when the men went out into the backyard, leaving the two of them in the living-room, Mrs. Manetti cleared her throat.

“Come and sit beside me,” she said, patting the empty seat on the sofa.

Viola went over and sat down next to her, trying to act calm when there were butterflies in her stomach.  She turned to look at the older woman who was studying her with those sharp eyes of hers.

“I had my reservations when Franco told me about you,” she began.  “I wanted him to find and settle down with a good Italian woman because my other two children married outside of their culture.  Franco is my first born.  He will always have a special place in my heart.  I want him to be happy.  And I can see that he is very happy because of you.  I can tell that you love him and I know that he loves you.  So, you’re not Italian but as long as you’re good for my Franco, that’s all that matters.”

Viola breathed a sigh of relief.  “Thank you, Mrs. Manetti.  It means a lot to me that you feel this way.”

“Good.”  Mrs. Manetti smiled and patted her hand.  “Now, why don’t I cut you a nice big slice of cake?  I baked it just this morning.”

When Franco and his father joined them a while later, they were chatting as if they had known each other for years.  “It looks like you’ve won over my mother,” he said when they were alone.

“Yes.  She’s a wonderful woman who wants what’s best for her son.”

He reached for her hands and held them, his expression serious as he gazed down into her face.  “You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me.  I love you, Viola.”

“I love you too.”

“Marry me,” he said as he released one of her hands to reach into his pants pocket for the box.  Then, he got down on his knee and opened the box to show her the engagement ring.  She gasped when she saw it.  It was an elegant 3 carat oval shaped diamond.

“Yes, I will marry you,” she replied, her eyes wide and watery.  She watched as he put it on her finger and then he was on his feet.  He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

A short while later, he announced their engagement to his parents.  “This calls for a celebration,” Mr. Manetti said and he disappeared into the kitchen.  He was back with a tray four glasses and a bottle of wine.  After he filled each glass he raised his in a toast.  “To Franco and Viola,” he said.

They all raised their glasses in merriment.  And in Spring of the following year, Franco and Viola got married at her family’s church and had the reception at Prince George Ballroom.  It was a glorious night.  “We never thought we would see Franco settle down,” Guido said to her, laughing.

Sophia said to her, “It’s good to see Franco so happy.  I wish you two a lifetime of happiness.”

“Happy?” Franco asked as Viola and he danced.

“Very,” she replied.

He smiled and then twirled her around the dance floor as his mother watched them, happy to see that her son had finally found and married a nice girl.

Sources:  River Cafe; Marisa Perry; Prince George Ballroom

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A Changed Life

Christ [redeemed] me, and He will [redeem] you also!

These words rang out loud in the marketplaces.  Myo Zaw made the impassioned plea to the crowd.  He was like Wisdom crying out in the marketplaces and pleading with the people to come her.  Myo’s message was one that the people needed to hear. He was on fire for Christ and he couldn’t hold it in.  It wasn’t always like this.

Before Myo Zaw encountered Christ he was the village drunk who got into fights with people and beat his wife and children.  The people who knew him thought he had gone insane, however, it was not madness that drove Myo to proclaim the message of redemption but the love of God which consumed him like a fire, refusing to be quelled.  He traveled throughout his region, sharing the Word of God, telling people, “how a sinner like me was found by God.”

“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” – Luke 18:27

Within three years, he had visited 100 communities, encouraged by his wife’s letters. In them, she wrote, “If your life can change by Christ, there is no one who cannot be changed by Christ.  So wherever you are going and sharing the Word of God, we are here to pray for you. I believe people will be changed by the love of Christ.”  And she was right about the people.  350 heard the message about Christ’s love, saw how it manifested in Myo’s life and they were changed.

Myo believed that his mission was the share the love of Christ which had transformed his life and that it was God’s will for him to go to a missionary in an area where people were unfamiliar with the Lamb of God.  He and his wife prayed about it and ten years later God sent them to the southern region of their country as Gospel for Asia supported missionaries.

At first when the people in the community learned that Myo and his family were Christians, they wanted nothing to do with them.  They forced the family out of the community.  They threw stones at their home, threatening to penalize anyone who spoke to the Christians and the children faced discrimination because of their faith. Myo and his family were  seen as enemies but in the midst of it all, they saw God’s grace working in their lives, getting them through these trials.  They trusted Christ during their hardships and through the ministering of the Holy Spirit, they learned how to love the people in their new community.

They reached out to the people by showing them movies that they liked to watch, teaching the children songs and caring for them.  When the parents saw the love of the couple for the community, they were amazed and they began to talk to them at the market.  This gave Myo and his wife the opportunity to share Christ’s love with them.  They cared for the sick and took people to the hospital as needed.  When flood waters destroyed homes and livelihoods, the couple and other GFA supported workers helped to provide relief.

Myo visited people and encouraged them by offering words of hope and life in Christ.  Through his actions, he proved that he was a redeemed man.  The love of Christ had transformed him from a drunk and abusive husband and father to a missionary of God.  The same love that had Christ had shown him he wanted to show to others.  Like the apostle Paul, he was filled with a zeal for the Lord who “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Myo realized that greatest weapon is love.  It can transform hearts and lives.  It can destroy the strongholds which beset people who have no knowledge of Christ and kept them in spiritual darkness.  Once the love of Christ is revealed it lives are changed–despair gives way to hope and darkness to light.

Like Myo, ask God to use you to share the love of Christ with others.  Be a light in the world.  Shine for Jesus and let those around you or wherever God sends you know that no matter what state they are in, “He will redeem you also!”

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Source:  Gospel for Asia Canada

Clean and Living Water

Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation – Isaiah 12:3

World Water Day

It’s that time of the year again when we raise awareness about clean water, something that is not accessible in some parts of the world.   It is hard to imagine living in a community where there is no clean water for drinking, cooking or washing yet this is the reality for many living in South Asia.  People are getting sick from drinking dirty water.

Women and children are forced to walk hours a day to distant water sources, such as filthy ponds or lakes, and even then the water may be contaminated. Sometimes they know this will bring death and sickness to their families, but they have no other choice – Gospel for Asia

I read two very touching stories.  The first was about Salil who watched his family get sick from the contaminated water from the pond which was their only resource.  He was forced to sell sand at the risk of getting caught and punished because he needed the money to take care of his family.  His meagre income was spent on medicine for them.  However, no matter how hard he worked, it didn’t change the fact that the water was still contaminated and his family was still sick.  The other story is about a husband and wife who were banned from drinking water from the community well because she was accused of performing witchcraft which took the life of another villager.

When I read these stories, I am reminded of how much I have to be thankful for.  I have clean water at my fingertips.  I can drink boiled, filtered or bottled water.  I can tap water for cooking and a washing machine for my clothes.  I don’t have to travel for miles to filthy ponds and lakes to draw water that may be contaminated.  I don’t have to worry about getting sick from the water I drink.  For many of us, clean water is a convenience, an amenity while for so many, it is a treasure.

Both of these stories had a happy ending.  While Salil was struggling to care for his family, God was working to change things for the village through a nearby pastor named Dayakara who was making regular visits to his village.  As he befriend the villagers, Dayakara learned of their water crisis.  Not wasting any time, he and other Gospel for Asia supported workers decided that they were going to help the villagers.  They drilled a well in the centre of the village where everyone would have access.

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Imagine Salil’s surprise when he went home for one of his visits and found his wife and children well.  What happened?   He learned about the well and was overjoyed, but didn’t know who was responsible for it.  One day Salil met Pastor Dayakara and as they talked, Salil realized that this was the man and fellow laborers who were responsible for the bringing the well to his village.  Marvelling at their kindness and compassion , Salil was curious about this God who could pour such love in people’s hearts.

For Madhura and Jaival it was a nightmare not being able to access water from the village hand pumps.  They were banned from doing so by their neighbors and friends because they believed that Madhura’s witchcraft had killed one of the villagers.  For five years the couple had two terrible choices–drink the water and die or don’t drink the water and die.  Then, one day, Pastor Jaanai met them and they were able to pour their hearts out to him.  Burdened to get clean water for the suffering of the villagers , Pastor Jaanai and his congregation fasted and prayed.  Pastor Jaanai told Madhur and Jaival his hopes to get a Jesus Well in their village.  In the village there were 750 people and there were only three hand pumps which were old and damaged.  Only one pump supplied water but it was not enough for so many people.

Madhura and Jaival

Madhura and Jaival began praying in their hearts to this God of love whom the Pastor had shared with them would help them.  Perhaps He would give them what their neighbors had refused to give them.  After many months of earnest prayer, the day that they had all dreamed of, came.  A Jesus Well of their own was drilled and was overflowing with the cleanest water they had ever seen.  God had answered their prayers.  The couple and their community could use the well.  They could wash their clothes, cook their dinners and refresh themselves with the clean water.

Through the Jesus Wells, God had brought joy and healing to two communities.  He had brought a community together.  Although their neighbors had been unkind to Madhura and Jaival, God didn’t exclude them from receiving His blessings.  God’s grace is for everyone.  When Madhura and Jaival saw that the Lord had answered their prayers and had accepted them while others had rejected them, they wanted to receive Him into their hearts and lives.  They wanted the Living Water to dwell with and within them.

Jesus Wells Open the Door for God’s Love – Gospel for Asia

Through the new well in Salil’s village, Salil and his fellow villagers came to understand the love of Jesus Christ.  One of the villagers, Baldev has a remarkable testimony.  Like Salil, he had family to support but had gotten sick from the contaminated water from the pond.  He couldn’t work and as a result, his family suffered.  However, when he began to use the water from the Jesus Well, his sickness went away.  He experienced the same miraculous healing as Salil’s family.  So, it was no surprise that when Salil shared the good news about Jesus with Baldev that he and his family accepted the Lord in their lives.  Now, they have regular prayer meetings in their home, led by Salil.

It’s amazing how God could use something so basic as water to transform the lives of so many.  That’s the God we serve!  If it’s your desire to see many more people come to the saving knowledge of the true Living Water, help Gospel for Asia’s Clean Water Ministry.

When I read these two stories, I thought about my favorite story in the Bible–Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  She went to the well to draw water as usual but on that particular day, she discovered the Living Water who promised her and us, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water that I shall give him will become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life” (John 4:14).  Salil, Madhura, Jaival and their communities drank that water and now their lives are just overflowing with joy.  Praise God!

Thank You, Heavenly Father for bringing hope, joy, healing and salvation to many through Gospel for Asia’s Clean Water Ministry and forever quenching their thirst with the Living Water Who is Christ, Your beloved Son.

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Letting Go

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Matthew 19:16-30

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

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

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

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

In the Spotlight

Notes to Women is thrilled to feature In The Spotlight, Julie Marshall, Canadian Spokesperson for the United Nations World Food Programme.

NTW:  Tell us a little bit about yourself.  

Julie:  My job involves briefing the media, raising the profile of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the issue of global hunger within Canada, creating and promoting educational material for universities and schools,producing fundraising, awareness and advertising campaigns, working with our Canadian Ambassador Against Hunger, George Stroumboulopoulos and creating communications material for our private sector partners within Canada.

NTW:  How long have you been with World Food Programme?

Julie:  I have been working in a communications role with WFP for over 9 years.

NTW:  What made you become a part of the organization? 

Julie:  I knew of WFP’s outstanding reputation as the world’s largest humanitarian agency, and I really like the fact that their administrative costs are one of the lowest in the non-profit sector – 90% of donations go directly to WFP operations. 

NTW:  WFP covers a wide range of areas in its fight to combat hunger, is there an area of particular interest for you?

Julie:  I have to say I enjoy visiting WFP school meals programmes.  WFP supplies nutritious school meals to over 18 million children every year.  A meal at school acts as a magnet to get children into the classroom, especially in regions where girls are not encouraged to attend school. Providing a daily nutritious meal and in some cases a take home ration to children helps to keep them in school giving them hope for a brighter future.  I have also seen how buying food locally, benefits local farmers and the whole community and really enhances the sustainability of our programmes.

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Photo:  Julie at a WFP school meals operation in Honduras.

NTW:  WFP’s vision is a world where every man, woman and child always has access to food in order to have an active and healthy life.  What is your vision?

Julie:  A child’s future should start with zero hunger.  WFP is working to create a world where no one is hungry, freeing children from the effects of undernutrition and helping them achieve their true potential. Every day, thousands of kids die because of hunger. But they don’t have to, because the world produces enough food for everyone. 

NTW:  It is said that empowering women is the first step towards Zero Hunger.  In Ecuador, this seems to be a challenge.  Rural women are illiterate, they earn less than urban women, they work 23 hours more than men, they have suffered some form of gender violence.  The statistics when it comes to abuse among girls in Ecuador are very disturbing.  78 percent suffer from abuse at home, 42% from severe abuse and girls ages between 10 and 15 years have been victims of gender violence, especially sexual abuse. How would WFP help these women and girls who are battling not only hunger but illiteracy, low wages, disproportionate working hours and gender abuse?

Julie:   I visited WFP school meals operations in Ecuador in 2014 and quickly learnt how these meals helped get kids into school, but also helped to support many women in the community. 

I visited a school in the remote community of Pimampiro, where some children walk for hours to school.  When they arrive they are hungry and tired.  The nutritious breakfast of juice and a granola bar and a lunch of rice, vegetables and lentils help them learn and play.  Some of the vegetables are grown, with the help of WFP, in their school vegetable garden and the rest are purchased by WFP from the local small farmers associations, which are run and organized mostly by women.  These associations work closely with WFP and the local government to deliver fresh vegetables to the school every week.  WFP has helped establish farmer’s associations and community gardens  across the region in order to increase the financial and food security of small-holder farmers.

Nancy, a 25 year old, single mom is the president of the local small farmers association in Otavalo, who supply fresh vegetables to the local schools.  Nancy explained to me how WFP and the local government helped to formalize their association, diversified their crops, encouraged women to participate and how working together they now receive a fair market price for their produce.  These women now have a steady income and a standing in the community.

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Photo:  Nancy in vegetable garden

NTW:  Somalia has chronically high malnutrition rates, in fact, one in eight children under five is acutely malnourished.  Please tell us about the nutrition programmes WFP has set up to treat and prevent this problem which is prevalent among young women, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

Julie:  WFP supports food assistance operations to the most vulnerable people, and at the same time is working to help build resilience in the country. We have development operations designed to help hungry people help themselves; emergency operations that provide food to prevent hunger and malnutrition and relief and recovery operations that assist in stabilizing food security and the rebuilding after emergencies. 

The Mother and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) Programme in Somalia helps to prevent malnutrition in children under the age of 2 years. We focus on the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to age 2) because this is the window of opportunity for preventing irreversible damages to a child’s growth and mental development due to poor nutrition. Pregnant and nursing women are therefore also targeted to ensure a good start in life for their children. The women, irrespective of their nutritional status, receive daily supplements of fortified blended food to complement a generally poor diet. In Somalia, the programme is implemented through functional Maternal & Child Health clinics to ensure that women and children receive nutritional support as well as health interventions necessary for healthy growth: immunization, de-worming, treatment of diarrhea and other common illnesses, ante-natal and post-natal medical check-ups, etc. Pregnant or nursing women stay in the programme until delivery and/or when the child reaches 6 months, while children can remain in the programme until they reach 24 months of age.

NTW:  As we all know, education is one way to empower girls in countries where girls don’t have access to it for any number of reasons.  In Somalia, the enrollment rates for primary school-aged children are among the lowest where out of 42% of those who are in school, only 36% are girls..  Share with us what WFP is doing to boost the enrolment rates.

Julie:  WFP school meals encourage children, especially girls, to attend classes, enrollment goes up, attendance is consistently high and with a full tummy both girls and boys can concentrate on their work.  In Somaliland, Puntland and the Central regions, we encourage the attendance of older girls by providing them with a take-home family ration of vegetable oil when the girls attend school regularly.  Keeping them in school longer gives them a better and healthier start to life.

NTW:  In Somalia, unemployment among young people aged 14 to 29 years is one of the highest at 67%.  Tell us about WFP’s Food for Training programmes.

Julie:  Poverty-stricken communities hit by floods or droughts are too busy looking for food to rebuild infrastructure vital for redevelopment.  WFP finds out why a community is hungry and works with the community to rebuild their infrastructure – so they no longer need outside help.  WFP provides food or in some cases cash, in exchange for work making it possible for the poor and hungry to take the first steps out of the hunger trap. 

In Somalia, WFP implemented Food-for-Assets activities for over 12,000 people in Luuq, Dolow and Belethawa.  Through this programme WFP provides food rations to support self-help initiatives, such as building water harvesting structures and canal irrigation. The programme helps meet the immediate food needs of hungry people, as well as preventing communities from resorting to harmful coping strategies, such as selling assets and livestock during an emergency.

NTW:  What changes do you hope to see by the end of this year?

Julie:  A number of our major operations are in conflict areas.  In these areas I hope to see open access to besieged and hard to reach areas in conflict situations, allowing WFP and the whole humanitarian community continued access to all people in need of humanitarian assistance.  Also, Sustainable and predictable funding is needed to ensure that WFP assistance continues, not just in major crisis like Syria, but in seemingly forgotten emergencies were people are still in need but not in the media.

NTW:  What has been your biggest challenge working at WFP?  What has been your biggest achievement?

Julie:  One of the most satisfying parts of my job has been to see the Canadian public becoming more and more engaged in the issue of global hunger and the work of WFP over the years.  It can be challenging to raise funds for a humanitarian crisis that’s been going on for a number of years, like the Syrian conflict, but Canadians and the Canadian Government (who are consistently among our top 3 donors) continue to come through and support our work.

NTW:  Julie, it has been a pleasure talking to you.  Thank you for sharing the work that you are doing through the World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.  I hope this interview will encourage people to get more involved in the fight against hunger.
Julie:  It was a pleasure talking with you.  Anyone can help WFP, just go to wfp.org to find out more about our work or download the#ShareTheMeal app on your smartphone, and .50 cents will provide Syrian children, their mothers and mums-to-be with vital nutrition with a simple tap on their phones.

World Leprosy Day

Tens of thousands of people in the world suffer from leprosy, a bacterial infection which affects the skin and destroys nerves.  Since the disease affects the nervous system, the affected areas become numb. People suffering from leprosy cannot feel pain and can easily hurt or injure themselves.  These injuries can become infected and result in tissue loss.  I remember reading about a missionary who put one of his feet in a pan of boiling water and didn’t even feel any pain.  It was then that he realized that he had leprosy.

The stigma that comes from having leprosy can be worse than the disease itself.  People with leprosy are outcasts. Their relatives believe that they are cursed.  Their lives are filled with loneliness and pain. People avoid them.  This happened to Balwant.  He was in his 30s when he discovered that he had leprosy.  He had white patches on his leg that itched and then became numb.  

Leprosy, if left untreated, can cause serious damage and leave a person disfigured.  Balwant and others like him feel ostracized and humiliated.  They are denied access to common wells or prevented from participating in festivals because people are afraid of the risk of contagion.  Family members reject them because they don’t want to catch the disease or be socially rejected because of those affected.  Some people even believe that when a person has leprosy he or she is being punished by the gods for past sins.  So, they avoid those who are affected because they don’t want to the wrath of the gods to fall upon them.

Balwant ended up losing his leg because the disease had progressed severely.  The doctors had to amputate his leg at the knee.  This left him weak and unable to work.  To make matters worse, he couldn’t afford to pay for the medical treatments he needed to treat his high blood pressure and diabetes which he had developed.  All of these things began to take a toll on Balwant and he decided that death was the only way out.  It would relieve him of his suffering, take away his shame and lift the burden that caring for him placed on his family.  He thought of hanging himself but he had no strength in his hands or leg.  He decided that he would jump into the well near his house.

It was at this moment of despair, resignation and hopelessness that God intervened in Balwant’s life.  He sent a Gospel for Asia supported pastor and three Sisters of Compassion, specialized women missionaries to Balwant’s community.  After hearing about Jesus and how compassionate He is, Balwant, moved by this, opened up to the pastor and the missionaries and told them all that he was going through and his plan to end it all.

Pastor Daha and the sisters prayed for Balwant and used God’s Word to encourage him.  They prayed for him for many days and his health began to improve.  He felt a peace that was beyond comprehension–the peace only Jesus can offer.  Balwant began to see his life through God’s eyes–precious.

Pastor Daha and the missionaries visited Balwant and his wife regularly.  They showed the love of Christ through simple acts such as fetching water, chopping vegetables and even trimming Balwant’s nails, something he couldn’t do for himself.  Their care and Jesus’ love made Balwant want to live. “I was emotionally weak and thought to end my life,” he testified, “but I found Jesus in the right time.  I thank God that He loves me.”

Sadly, a few months after Balwant found Jesus, he fell ill with jaundice and died.  He was right.  He found Jesus at the right time and one day he will be among the resurrected dead who will spend eternity with the Lord.  On that glorious day when Jesus returns, Balwant will have a new and incorruptible body (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).

Every year, there are nearly 230,000 new cases of people diagnosed with leprosy. About 60 percent of those cases concern people living in India alone. While leprosy is a curable disease, many men, women and even children find themselves abandoned and scorned because of it. Like Balwant, they live with shame and hopelessness as their constant companions. But God is using His servants to give these precious people hope and new life in Him—and you can help – Gospel for Asia

Pray for those who are living with leprosy.  Their world is filled with so much shame and hopelessness. They are abandoned and scorned by relatives, friends and neighbors.  They are lonely and suffer from physical and emotional pain.  Help Gospel for Asia’s Leprosy ministry to bring love and hope filled life to these people.

Pray that, like Balwant, they will come to know Jesus who loves them and longs to heal them just as He did when He was here on earth.  He healed this man who had leprosy on his hands.  His big smile and perfectly fine hands testify that the Lord is still in the business of healing.  Read about how He also healed Radhika, a 19 year old leprosy patient whose husband left her.Pray for Gospel for Asia's Leprosy Ministry

You can help the GFA Leprosy Ministry by praying for:

  • the healing of leprosy patients
  • the missionaries who are going and sharing the Gospel with the leprosy patients
  • more medical personnel to care for and treat the patients
  • the children whose parents have leprosy

This year, for World Leprosy Day, let us join Gospel for Asia in raising awareness about the hopelessness and rejection that many leprosy patients face and the hope, love, joy and acceptance they can find in Jesus Christ.

Christians Martyred in Nigeria

This is the latest Persecution and Prayer alert from The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  Sadly, a grandmother and two of her grandchildren were among those who lost their lives.  Please read this story and then visit the Prayer Wall and pray for her surviving granddaughter and the other survivors who have lost their loved ones.  Jesus warned that in the last days, there will be persecution (Luke 21:16-18). As His disciples, we will be persecuted just as He was (John 15:20).  The Bible says, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).  Lift up our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer. We are encouraged to, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also” (Hebrews 13:3).  But, we have a hope that no one can take away.  “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).    May these words bring joy and comfort to our hearts and the hearts of those who are going through much tribulation.

NIGERIA: Villagers Fatally Wounded by Gunmen

Sources: Morning Star News, Release International

Rose died trying to save her grandchildren.
Photo: Morning Star News

Last month, Fulani herdsmen attacked two homes in the predominantly Christian village of Hwak Kwata-Zawan, located near the city of Jos. The militants also raided a nearby compound consisting of Nigerians who had been initially displaced by violence elsewhere in the country’s Plateau state. The total number of fatalities resulting from the raids has reached 15, leaving many more in the community grief-stricken and emotionally wounded.

In one of the village homes, 57-year-old Rose Monday was killed while trying to protect her three young grandchildren from the gunmen. Two of the three children had unfortunately succumbed to their injuries. Their elder sister, five-year-old Anna, who miraculously survived, is receiving treatment in hospital for gunshot wounds. Rose’s daughter (the children’s aunt) added that their remaining relatives are consoled to know that one day they will all be reunited as a family with the Lord Jesus Christ.

The other Christian home that was attacked belonged to Gyang Christopher Choji who managed to escape the raid uninjured. The 58-year-old believer explains that his family members had retired to their rooms when they suddenly heard gunshots at about 8:30 p.m. “When the shooting became intense, and we were under siege, I advised my family that we run out to save our lives,” he further testifies. “I was able to escape, but five members of my family were brutally killed by these gunmen.” The seven other victims that were killed during the raids were from the nearby compound housing.

The gunmen had apparently visited the area earlier that day to survey the village while most of the residents were at church. The militants even had the audacity to ask local children for water while planning their vicious attacks. The resulting raids have left an entire village in a terrible state of shock and greatly traumatized. Church leaders say the attacks of the Fulani herdsmen on their communities constitute a war “by Islam to eliminate Christianity” in Nigeria. Additional reports and informative video documentaries are available at the Nigeria Country Report.

In an area of Nigeria that has experienced so much chaos and pain, may the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit bring the surviving villagers and family members greatly needed peace, healing and hope — along with the assurance that the martyred Christians so dear to them have merely been transported spiritually to their true home in heaven where they are now enjoying the glorious presence of our Lord Jesus in all fullness (2 Cor. 5:8; Luke 23:43). May this truth be especially real for little Anna, as she recovers not only from the physical wounds she sustained as a result of the attacks but, even more importantly, from the emotional and spiritual trauma of witnessing the horrific loss of her loving grandmother and young siblings. Also pray that the calloused hearts of the Fulani herdsmen be radically transformed by the power of the Living God, helping them to realize the seriousness of their crimes against His beloved people prior to that time of reckoning — when they must stand face-to-face before Him on Judgement Day.

To post a prayer on behalf of Christians who are suffering terrible abuses and injustices for their faith, visit our prayer wall.