Don’t Be Silenced

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Matthew 20:29-34

This morning my son and I read the story of the two blind men who were sitting by the side of the road when they heard that Jesus was passing by.  Can you imagine, Jesus passing through the town where you lived?  A crowd is flanking him.  These two men realized that the opportunity of a lifetime is here and they were going to take full advantage of it.  Who wouldn’t?  So, they cried out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David.”

The crowd warned them to be quiet.  Can you believe that?  These poor men were blind.  We don’t know for how long.  They weren’t born blind.  Could you imagine what it must have been like for them?  One day their world was plunged into darkness.  They couldn’t see the faces of their friends and families.  They couldn’t see the trees swaying gently in the breeze or the clear blue sky or the sunlight that warmed their faces.  How they must have longed to regain their sight.  Put yourselves in their shoes.  Imagine not seeingca the faces of your children or the beautiful flowers whose fragrance fills your nostrils.  Imagine losing your sight and living the rest of your life in darkness.  That would be the fate of these men, had Jesus not passed that way.

Being blind meant that these men couldn’t work.  They had to beg for bread now.  They were probably begging by the side of the road when they heard that Jesus was there.  They had heard about Him and what He had done for others.  They believed that He could help them too.  So they cried out to Him in faith.  And when the crowd tried to silence them, they cried out louder.  They refused to keep quiet.  How could they when the answer to their prayers was right there?  In stubborn faith and boldness, they cried out, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David”.

I love the following three words, Jesus stood still.  They had gotten His attention.  Actually, they had His full attention now. He called them to Him and they went.  How their hearts must have been pounding with excitement.  Jesus had heard them and was calling them over to Him.  Wow.

Jesus asked them kindly, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  They said the words that were burning in their hearts, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.”  When Jesus looked at them, He was filled with compassion.  Here were two men standing in front of Him, anxiously waiting for Him to give them their sight.  They were trembling in anticipation of the miracle they knew that only He could perform.  And then they felt the touch.  They felt His fingers on their eyes and immediately they felt a difference.  When He removed His hands, they opened their eyes.  And the first thing they saw was Jesus’ face.  What a sight to behold!  Could you imagine seeing the Saviour’s wonderful face?  Tears of joy must have poured down their faces as they stared at His smiling face.  Joy filled their hearts and they gave their lives to Him that very instant.  They followed Him.

When God places an opportunity within your reach, grab it.  Don’t let others discourage you.  Ignore the naysayers, the doubters and step out in faith.  If you are hurting cry out to Jesus.  He will hear you, stop and call you to Him.  Don’t be silenced.  Cry out.

He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them – Psalm 145:19

In Need of Prayers

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And His children will have a place of refuge – Proverbs 14:26.

The earthquake in Nepal left more than rubble in its wake.  It left heartbreak, loss and uncertainty.

When I look at Drastaa’s weathered face, I see unimaginable pain and devastation.  I see someone who has suffered a crippling loss.  She lost her only grand-daughter.  The girl was only 16 years old.  She had gone in to the forest to gather firewood when the earthquake struck, killing her.  That day when Drastaa woke up, little did she know that her world would be turned upside down and that she would be facing the future alone.

Her life is like a heap of rubble.  She has no idea how she was going to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life.  The odds are stacked against her.  She’s elderly.  She’s a widow.  She can’t work to support herself.  Life for widows in Nepal is hard and they are victims of discrimination, isolation and rejection.  In addition to the stigma that is attached to widowhood, she had to worry about the spreading of diseases because of the unsanitary conditions and the monsoon season which is typically lasts from mid-June to mid-September.  A monsoon can seriously hamper relief and recovery efforts.

“As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).  Pray that Drastaa will receive this comfort and the help she needs to get back on her feet.  Ask God to reveal Himself to her, letting her know that she is not suffering alone.

Nepal Earthquake Survivor Photo

Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; And let your widows trust in Me – Jeremiah 49:11.

Nepal Earthquake Survivor Photo

When the earth started shaking, Tarana’s husband rushed inside their home to look for their children, unaware that they were safe outside. The house collapsed on him, and Tarana is now widowed, caring for five children on her own – Gospel for Asia

When I read about what happened to Tarana’s husband, it brought tears to my eyes.  I was touched by this family’s tragedy.  In a matter of minutes, Tarana’s had lost her husband–she was a widow and her five children had lost their father.   He had gone into their home, risking his life the save them.

What is going to happen to Tarana and her children?  They are homeless.  Their house was reduced to rubble.  Where could they go?  Who would help them?  How is she going to rebuild their lives?

I encourage you to pray for Tarana and her children.  Pray for their protection against disease and danger.  I read that in the wake of the earthquakes, the UNICEF is working with the Nepalese government to stop child trafficking as the organization feared that there was a surge in the number of cases.  According to Tomoo Hozumi, a UNICEF representative in Nepal, “Loss of livelihoods and worsening living conditions may allow traffickers to easily convince parents to give their children up for what they are made to believe will be a better life.”  The traffickers promise education, meals and a better future but in reality, many of these children end up being “horrendously exploited and abused.”

As a widow with no source of income and raising five children, it is possible that Tarana could be approached by traffickers, promising her a better future for her children.  Pray that God will watch over them.  He is now the Father of these children and He will guard them.  “…He will save the children of the needy” (Psalm 72:4).

Drastaa, Tarana and all of the other survivors need our prayers.   Gospel for Asia offers these suggestions for prayer requests:

  • Comfort and hope for those grieving
  • Protection from disease and danger
  • God’s provision and sustenance for relief teams
  • Many to understand Jesus’ love

I applaud the work that GFA Compassion Services teams have been doing.  They “have touched many lives through relief events during the past several weeks. They’ve focused on reaching remote, hard-to-reach villages where many lost homes, possessions, and sometimes loved ones.”

If you feel impressed to reach out to these survivors and you want to find more information on GFA’s relief work in Nepal, please visit http://gfa.org/earthquake/nepal.

Now, my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and let Your ears be attentive to the prayer made in this place – 2 Chronicles 6:40.

Sources:  Global News; The Weather Network; United Nations News; Gospel for Asia

Plead for the Widows

They still hope when they die, that their son probably will come and light their pyre.  A son who breaks your legs, a son who hits you so hard that your skull breaks, a son who is willing to put cow dung in your mouth – and yet you want the same son to come and light your pyre. We need to break that mind-set also, somewhere – Winnie Singh, social activist

I was searching the Internet to see what I could find out about the quality of life for widows in India and was shocked.  After losing their husbands, they are faced with a life of begging and destitution.  Some of them are thrown out by family members.  One widow was beaten by the sons she had raised when she asked them for money.  In-laws refuse to help some widows while others can’t go back home because their parents are too poor to take them back.

Widows face discrimination and are dehumanized.  They are called “it” and in some instances, they are referred to as “randi” which means prostitute in Punjabi.  Some of them marry their brothers-in-law because being man’s property protects them from being raped.

A widow is blamed for her husband’s death.  “You are widowed because you did something wrong in your previous life: that is the view in this predominantly Hindu culture,” explains Dr. Leelavathi Manasseh of the Bible Society. “So, whether a widow is from a rich or poor background, she faces blame, mistreatment and rejection by her family. Many are kicked out of their homes and left to fend for themselves and their children, leaving them in a desperate situation.”  It’s worse when a woman loses her husband to AIDS and she tests positive for HIV.  She is met with even more rejection and ridicule.

In Northern India, there is a place called, “Widow City.”  It is the holy city of Vrindavan.  Widows go there because they believe that if you die there, you would be freed from the cycle of birth and death and obtain moksha (emancipation). It is a place where these women can get away from a life of isolation and the society where they have no place or value.  They are there because they were cast out families who don’t want to pay for them or by in-laws who don’t want them to inherit money or property.  They are ostracised by their villages.  They have lost their income.  They are at the bottom rungs of society and are prevented from remarrying.  In Vrindavan, they pray at the temples and beg. Other widows go there, as pilgrims, intending to dedicate their remaining years to serving the deities Krishna and Radha.

Life for a widow is hard.  When their husbands were alive, they were protected but once they were gone, these poor women felt like orphans because they had no one to take care of them or help them.  They were all alone.  Perhaps this is why in the Bible, orphans and widows were always paired together because they were defenceless, society’s vulnerable.  God wants us to plead for the widows.  Defend their rights to a future filled with hope and dignity.  God made it clear that He is “Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans” (Malachi 3:5).

While society sees widows as a curse, God sees broken, abused, mistreated and unloved women whom He wants to enter into a loving relationship with.  Their families don’t want them, but God wants them to be a part of His family.

Like so many widows, Netramani was cast out and left to fend for herself.  “I was completely alone. … No one would give me work so I had to beg. … I had nothing to eat, nothing to wear. I was completely senseless and didn’t know anything. . .”

Watch Netramani’s heart-wrenching story and imagine either you or someone you know lying there, sick and helpless and no one stops to help.

…for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’ – Matthew 25:35-40.  

June 23 is International Widows’ Day, a day when we step into the lives of widows and imagine the desperate places where they find themselves.  Some commit suicide rather than face the shame.  Others turn to prostitution.  Mothers resort to rummaging through the trash in order to feed themselves and their children.  These women don’t deserve to be like this.  You can change this. Through your donations you will make it possible for local pastors to help widows in need, buy them sewing machines, farm animals, or much-needed supplies like winter blankets, water filters and other essentials.  And with your generous gift, these women will have the opportunity to learn about Jesus and His love and compassion for them. To find out more about how you can help, visit http://www.gfa.org/women/widows/

As Christians, we need to demonstrate the love of Christ who reached out to those who were hurting, oppressed and ostracised.  He loved the unloved and valued those whom society deemed worthless. Together let us plead for the widows.  Let us take up their cause.   They have the right to keep their homes, their income and their dignity.  Let us contend with those who mistreat them.  Let us speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.  When we do good to others, we honour God.

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

Sources:  Gospel for AsiaTime.com; Women Under Seige; The Laws of Manu; BBC.com; Cross Map; India: Widow City; BBC News

Nepal Needs Our Prayers

We were on our way to deliver some relief supplies to a more rural area.  We had stopped for a rest, and just as we were getting out of the car, we heard screaming. I said, ‘It’s another earthquake. Run!’ We all ran to the first open space we could find and stayed there until it stopped. People were screaming and crying.

Kathmandu now looks like a ghost town, with only 25 percent of the shops remaining open. People are afraid to enter any buildings. Restaurants are mostly closed. Many have stopped coming into Kathmandu to work. They are too afraid – Raahi, a Gospel for Asia-supported photojournalist in Nepal

Once at my workplace, my co-workers and I experienced a tremor.  It felt it as if someone had taken hold of the building and was shaking it.  It was a scary feeling.  I don’t remember how long it lasted but the memory has stayed with me to this day.  I can’t imagine how terrified the people of Nepal felt when disaster struck them.   My heart breaks when I think of those who have lost their loved ones and their homes.  All around them is devastation, death and despair.  How do you recover from such a violent, destructive force?  How do you pick up the pieces again?  What about the grief that takes hold of you and won’t let go?  How could you get past the pain of losing a loved one–especially a child?

The Nepalese people lived in fear of aftershocks that would bring more destruction and death.  Sadly, their fears came true.  On May 12, Nepal was struck by another earthquake just 17 days after the 7.8 magnitude quake, considered to be the worst since 1934, devastated the country, killing more than 8,000 people and injuring nearly 18,000.     The last time I heard the news, at least 37 people were killed.  According to News sources, 40 people have lost their lives in the aftershock and 1,000 are injured.

The people of Nepal are living in fear, uncertainty and despair.  All they see is utter devastation.  Hopelessness and helpnessness cling to them.  However, God has not forsaken them.  Through the Gospel for Asia missionaries and Compassion Services teams He is ministering to them.  The teams are providing them with food and medical relief. The World Health Organization (WHO) is setting up a new field office in the Gorkha district of Nepal so that they could extend health care to the people.  From the field office they will combine efforts with the Nepalese government and other humanitarian partners who are also setting up operational bases in the city.  WHO and the national authorities will also coordinate land and air support so that they can get the medicines, health care professionals and other life-saving resources as soon as possible to some of the most remote regions impacted by the earthquake.

Care of children and pregnant women is also a priority at the hospital. In a welcome initiative, the emergency medical specialists from Switzerland, deployed as part of the WHO-coordinated foreign medical team surge response, are shifting their skills to looking after these patients, including newborn babies.

“It is very important to take care of the most vulnerable population, and that is the children,” explains Dr Olivier Hagan, of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit, whose team is planning to remain at the hospital for at least one month. “That is why it is so important to focus on them, and to ensure safe deliveries. In the time we have been here, we have delivered 10 babies in the past four days. What this shows is that life goes on.”

Pray for Gospel for Asia, WHO and all of the other humanitarian agencies that are working to help the Nepalese survivors.  Pray for:

  • The people of Nepal to find comfort and help in their time of need.
  • God to protect and shelter His people.
  • Gospel for Asia-supported workers as they minister and bring aid to survivors.
  • Safety for search and rescue teams as they travel.

At times like these, we see the selfless acts of love, compassion and generosity of people.  We see the world reaching out to help the helpless.  And we see God’s grace working overtime.  One story that really touched me was the rescue of a 4-month old baby boy from rubble.  He had been trapped for at least 22 hours.  The Nepalese army had left the site, believing that he had not survived but his cries were heard hours later so they returned and pulled him from the underneath the debris.  God was watching over this child.  He was covered in dust but otherwise unharmed.  He was taken to the hospital and tests showed that he was fine, just dirty and dehydrated.  Imagine the joy his parents must have felt when the soldier brought him to them.   God still works miracles.

Help to bring hope to the Nepal earthquake victims by joining Gospel for Asia in their efforts to bring relief.  Help Nepal to recover and rebuild.  To find out more visit their link.  Continue to pray for Nepal.

And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed – Deuteronomy 31:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; The Guardian; CBC News, WHO; The National Post; abc7

 

 

Kishori’s Story

leprosy-wld-banner“Today, the diagnosis and treatment of leprosy is easy and most endemic countries are striving to fully integrate leprosy services into existing general health services. This is especially important for those under-served and marginalised communities most at risk from leprosy, often the poorest of the poor” (WHO:  Leprosy Today).

I learned about leprosy from reading the Bible and watching the movie “Ben Hur” but always believed that it was a disease of those times.  After watching Leprosy Mission, I realize that it is very much a reality.  I never saw how disfiguring it was until I watched the faces of men, women and children who were living with it.

I was touched when I read the story of Kishori, a woman who was diagnosed with leprosy during her second pregnancy.  Unable to take medications that would restrict the sickness from spreading she watched as the disease disfigured her arms and legs.

For years the leprosy racked her body with pain.  The medication she took hardly reduced her symptoms and the one hour walk to the hospital where she hoped to find relief took four hours because of the excruciating pain in her feet.  The treatment she received brought some relief but the pain returned when the sores did and Kishori found herself sinking into emotional despair.

Kishori was not abandoned by her husband, Manit but their neighbors were cruel and unfeeling and demanded to know why he kept her with him and didn’t send her home to her parents.  Manit insisted that he would not abandon Kishori and reaffirmed his love for her even though she sided with the neighbors and told him that she would go and live with her parents.  She wondered why he was still married to her.  The words of her neighbors cut her deeply and she shied away from being with others.  She lived in emotional and physical agony, feeling neglected and unwanted.

After decades of living the emotional and physical pain of leprosy, Kishori found relief in an most unexpected way.  Visitors came to her door and offered to clean her sores.  She gladly received Pastor Jiva and another missionary into her home and she saw them everyday as they returned to minister to her.  Her feet and arms soon began to heal.

Kishori and her family listened as the missionaries shared how Jesus could completely heal her.  No doubt they shared the story of the leper who went to Jesus and imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed (Mark 1:40-42).

After years, decades of pain and despair, hope became alive in Kishori.  She learned about Jesus who could heal her.  She was encouraged to pray for healing.  She received kindness from Pastor Jiva and the missionaries who continued to visit her and clean her sores. They assured her of Jesus’ love.  As a result of this outpouring of love and compassion, Kishori placed her hope in God.  She and her family are now attending a local church.

This story ends on a very positive note.  Kishori is completely healed of leprosy because of the God in who she had placed her hope and the Jesus whom she had trusted to heal her.  God continues to care for her through the Gospel for Asia’s Leprosy Ministry.  Thanks to this ministry Kishori has received a pair of shoes specially designed for her and other gifts such as mosquito nets, blankets and daily meals.  Life is better for Kishori now.  She is able to care for her family instead of begging on the streets for help.  Her home which was once a place where she hid from society and life, is now filled with laughter and love.

God healed Kishori in body and mind.  He brought hope, love and healing into the life of a recluse.  He showed Kishori that there is a God who cares for her.  Just as her husband could not abandon her because he loved her, God did not abandon her because He loved her.  He sent Pastor Jiva and the missionaries to care for her.

Kishori’s story inspires me.  It reminds me that God cares.  He cares for the neglected and unwanted.  And no matter how long it takes, He will always come through for us.

Help Gospel For Asia to bring hope and God’s healing to another person living with leprosy by visiting their Leprosy Ministry webpage at:  http://www.gfa.org/leprosy.

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Sources:  http://www.who.int/lep/en/; http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/healing-for-the-sores-on-her-soul/

Eleanor Roosevelt

Earlier this month when I was reading about African American women who made a difference so that I could feature them in the special issue of Notes to Women newsletter, one name kept popping up–Eleanor Roosevelt.  I promised myself that I would do a little writeup on her.  And here we are.

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world” (http://www.udhr.org/history/biographies/bioer.htm).

She basically believed that charity begins at home.  And she reminds me of something a friend once said to me.  “The difficulty in following Jesus’ command is that we often pick and choose who we decide is our neighbour. We see our neighbour as the starving, AIDS infected person in the Third World or the orphan in a war torn country, needing our love and care but often perceive the homeless in our community as undeserving of our love.”

Eleanor’s childhood was a dreadfully unhappy one.  Her father was an alcoholic who was disowned by his family. Her mother, renowned for her beauty, was distant from her daughter whom she nicknamed “Granny” because she seemed to her old-fashioned. After Anna Roosevelt died of diphtheria in 1892, Eleanor, age eight, was raised by her maternal grandmother. She rarely saw her father thereafter, and he died of drink in 1894 when she was ten. These traumatic experiences affected Eleanor for life and she would harbor a constant yearning for unconditional love (http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/roos-elex.htm). 

Life didn’t improve much when when Eleanor married Franklin, a distant cousin and they had six children.  Eleanor had to deal with her overbearing mother-in-law who apparently told her grandchildren that their mother only bore them.  She tried to control Eleanor, making her daughter-in-law feel utterly dependent.  

Then Eleanor found out that Franklin was having an affair with Lucy Mercer, her secretary.  She offered him a divorce, but he declined for the sake of his political career and because his mother threatened to disinherit him if he did.  He and Eleanor never shared a bedroom after that, but their working relationship was respectful, for the time (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FranklinDRoosevelt).

Eleanor Roosevelt was the first First Lady to be more politically active, involving herself in causes like Civil Rights.  Perhaps it was because there was lack of charity in her own home that made Eleanor want to reach out to her community.   From early adulthood Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated herself to liberty, justice, and compassion for all.

Racial injustice came to her attention only after she reached the White House.   By that time, she was already active in promoting other groups’ causes. Before she married Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1905, she worked with the immigrants at the Rivington Street Settlement House. During World War I she helped improve conditions for US servicemen.When Franklin fell ill, leaving him crippled, she once again found herself standing up for someone whose value to society was doubted, this time her own husband. The 1921 experience deepened her concern for society’s unaccepted. Later the same decade she began her work promoting women’s causes. Women had just gained the right to vote, and Eleanor encouraged them to make the most of that right and run for office. 

After leaving the White House, Mrs. Roosevelt found herself more free than ever to promote equal rights for African Americans. During her final years she continued fighting as hard and fearlessly as ever. On at least one occassion, the Secret Service warned her not to keep a speaking engagement on civil disobedience. The Ku Klux Klan had put a price on her head and the Secret Service said they could not guarantee her safety. Undeterred, she traveled with another lady and her revolver. Such was her determination, independence, and courage right up to the year she died.

Mrs. Roosevelt was not always successful, even despairing at times of making any progress at all. And not every one of the causes she championed, such as the United Nations, turned out to be all that she hoped. But she used every ounce of her influence, charisma, and political capital for the causes in which she believed. Right or wrong, she fought zealously and courageously, and in most cases the world is a better place because of those fights. This zealous First Lady’s support moved African Americans’ cause ahead by decades
 (http://www.blackhistoryreview.com/biography/ERoosevelt.php).

Eleanor Roosevelt came a long way from being an unhappy child and dependent woman to becoming a champion for women’s and civil rights.  She was committed to what she believed in.  

Be inspired by this remarkable woman who endured so much but in the end gave so much because she cared about the rights of others. 

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one

Eleanor Roosevelt