The Presentation

They met when she was invited by a student to give a presentation on why it was important for women and girls to be educated in countries where they are marginalized and have little or no access to education.  This was her first presentation as an advocate for the rights of women and girls to receive an education and she was nervous.

She stood in front of a auditorium filled with students from grades 8 to 12.  While the student who invited her gave an introduction, she said a little prayer, to calm her nerves and to give her the strength she needed.  She felt a peace envelope her and she smiled as the girl invited her to go to the podium amidst the applause.

She stood there, looking at the faces around her and she began her presentation with one of her favorite quotes, “The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family.”  Then, she shared facts, stories and information about the programs and activities that provided to help eliminate the barriers that women and girls faced in their pursuit of a right to an education.  She encouraged the students to get involved.  She answered questions and at the end of the presentation, she handed out pamphlets and fact sheets.   Many students were eager to get involved and she told them to contact her.

As the students filed out of the auditorium, he went up on to the podium where she was gathering her papers together and putting them into her folder.  She glanced up and her breath caught in her throat.  For a moment, all she could do was stare at him.   He had to be the best-looking man she had ever seen.  None of her male teachers ever looked like this.

He smiled and held out his hand.  “Jordan Hampton.”

“Michelle Johnson,” she said, as she shook his hand.

“I enjoyed your presentation.  Thanks for coming.”

“It was my pleasure and I’m happy that you enjoyed it.”  She was feeling shy and a little nervous because he was still holding her hand and his eyes were fixed on her.

He released her hand then, almost apologetically.  “I am interested in learning more about the kind of work you do,” he said.  “May I get in touch with you?”

“Sure.”  She handed him a business card with her contact information.  She also gave him some handouts.

“Well, I must be getting back to my class,” he said.  “I’ll walk with you to the front entrance.”

“Thank you.”  She gathered her things and followed him out of the auditorium.  They went down the hallway to the front entrance.  At the doors, he turned to her.  They shook hands again and said goodbye.

A couple days later, she received a phone call from him.  “Hi, Michelle.  It’s Jordan.”

Her heart started to beat fast.  “Hi Jordan,” she leaned back in her chair and swung round so that she was facing the window.  It was so good hearing from him.  After meeting him that first time at the school, she hadn’t been able to think of anything else.  She had been looking forward to hearing from him.  “How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you.  How about you?  Have you been giving any more presentations?”

“I’m doing well, thanks.  I have another one next week.”

“Are you nervous?”

“Not yet,” she laughed.

There was a brief pause, then, “I’d like to learn more about what you do—over dinner.”

She sat up.  “Dinner?”

“Yes.  I would like you to have dinner with me tonight, unless… you have other plans?”

She shook her head at once but then realized that he couldn’t see that.  “No, I don’t have any plans.”  And even if she did, she would cancel them, for sure.

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at seven. ”

“I hope you don’t get bored hearing me talk about my work,” she said.

“I won’t,” he promised.  They spoke for a couple more minutes and then the call ended.

He showed up promptly at seven, looking amazing in a white shirt and a navy blue suit.  She was wearing a salmon colored, spaghetti strapped dress which complimented her complexion and her hair was pulled back in a French twist updo.  She smiled when she saw the way he looked at her.  Clearly he liked what he saw.

Dinner was a fun affair.  He started out asking her questions about her work and then questions about herself.  It seemed like he would have been content just talking about her but she wanted to learn about him.  He was a Political Science teacher and had been teaching for fifteen years.  His father was British and his mother, Irish.  He had two brothers and a sister.  He was the second oldest.  When he wasn’t in a classroom, he was on the tennis court or in the gym or reading or spending time with his family and friends.  His favorite movie was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, his favorite book To Kill A Mockingbird was and his favorite song was Hotel California.

They laughed and talked about all sorts of things.  Then, when they were having their dessert, he said, “I have a confession to make.  I heard most of your presentation but I was distracted.”

She frowned.  “Distracted?”

“Yes.  I was distracted by you.  I couldn’t get over how amazing you looked and how much I was looking forward to meeting you.  I waited until the coast was clear and then I came over and introduced myself.  You were even more stunning up close.  I’m surprised I was able to speak.”

She laughed.  “I was a bit tongue-tied, myself,” she admitted.  “I remember thinking that none of my male teachers looked like you.”

He reached over and covered her hand as it lay on the table.  His eyes were serious as they met hers.  “I’d like to see you again,” he said.  “Are you busy on Sunday?”

She usually went to church in the morning and then spent the rest of the day, getting ready for work the next day. “No, I’m not busy then.”

“How about going with me on a lunch jazz cruise on the Thames?”

“That sounds wonderful.”  She had never been on a cruise or on the Thames before.  What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  She couldn’t wait.

He picked up his glass, his eyes holding hers in a steady gaze.  “Here’s to an amazing evening and to many more like it.”

She smiled as she raised her glass.  “Cheers.”

Black and white photo of mixed couple

Source:  Get Your GuideQuotesWomenOne

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Depression

Depression: Let’s talk

depression-lets-talk

This month, WHO launched a one-year campaign Depression: let’s talk. The goal of the campaign is that more people with depression, in all countries, seek and get help.

Depression is an illness that can happen to anybody. It causes mental anguish and affects people’s ability to carry out everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends. At worst, depression can lead to suicide. Fortunately depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated, will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help.

Depression is a common mental disorder that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries.

Overcoming the stigma often associated with depression will lead to more people getting help.

Talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression.

Perhaps you are suffering from depression or know someone who is.  Here are ways you can get involved:

Posters – WHO has developed a set of posters and handouts to get the campaign started.  The posters can be downloaded here

Handouts – WHO has handouts which provide information on depression to increase our understanding of the condition and how it can be prevented and treated.  The handouts can be downloaded here

Organize an activity – According to WHO, organizing an activity or event is a great way to raise awareness about depression and stimulate action, both among individuals, and on a wider scale. The organization recommends that if you decide to organize an event, to keep the following in mind:

  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • Who are you targeting?
  • What would make your target audiences want to participate?
  • When and where will your activity be held?
  • Should you join up with other organizations?
  • Who will you invite? Are there any well-known figures who could help you achieve your goals?
  • Do you have the resources to achieve your goals? If not, how can you mobilize them?
  • How will you promote your event?
  • Can the media help you achieve your goals? If so, which media should you target?
  • How will you share information about your activities after the event?
  • How will you measure success?

WHO offers other examples of activities that you may want to consider such as: discussion forums, sporting events, workshops for journalists, art competitions, coffee mornings, concerts, sponsored activities ̶ anything that contributes to a better understanding of depression and how it can be prevented and treated.

Share information and materials on social media – Throughout the campaign WHO will be communicating via our social media channels Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WHO/, Twitter https://twitter.com/who @WHO, YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/who and Instagram @worldhealthorganization

The primary hashtag that /WHO is using for the campaign is #LetsTalk but look out for posts using #depression and #mentalhealth as well.

You are encouraged to share WHO’s posts with your own networks, share your own materials and join discussions on issues related to the campaign.

Information about depression

If you are organizing an activity, or developing your own campaign materials, here are some facts and figures that you might want to use:

  • Common mental disorders are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%. Close to 10% of the world’s population is affected by one or both of these conditions. Depression alone accounts for 10% of years lived with disability globally.
  • In humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflict, as many as 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety.
  • Depression increases the risk of other noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease increase the risk of depression.
  • Depression in women following childbirth can affect the development of new-borns.
  • In many countries of the world, there is no, or very little, support available for people with mental health disorders. Even in high-income countries, nearly 50% of people with depression do not get treatment.
  • Lack of treatment for common mental disorders has a high economic cost: new evidence from a study led by WHO shows that depression and anxiety disorders alone cost more than a trillion dollars’ worth of economic loss every year.
  • The most common mental health disorders can be prevented and treated, at relatively low cost (WHO).

It’s hard to imagine that there are people out there who are suffering with depression but are hiding it.  They are putting up a brave front while they are hurting inside.  No one can see the sadness behind their smiles.  We must provide the atmosphere where people suffering from depression will feel safe and comfortable talking about their struggles.  Depression should be talked about and often.  Talking and just letting it all out can be therapeutic and can lead to early recovery.

Starvation in Madaya

Many people in the world today are not starving because there is an inherent inability to produce food, they are starving because they are caught in the middle of political fights and blockades that have been used as weapons – Ralph Merkle

I was appalled when I heard about the mother who was giving her 7 month old baby water and salt because there is no food in Madaya, Syria.  Tears came to my eyes when I saw the sunken face of a baby, his large eyes staring at the camera.  This precious, innocent child and many others are starving in Madaya.  Some have died.  This atrocity begs the question:  How could a leader of a country do this to his people?

It’s hard to watch this video but it is something everyone needs to be aware of.

People were forced to live on tree leaves and plants but now that winter has set in there are no more plants and leaves.  Majed Ali, a 28 year old opposition activist, was 114 kilos before the siege and is now 80.  Abu Hassan Mousa, head of Madaya opposition council sees no point in negotiating when children are going without milk.   “What are we going to negotiate over?” he demands.  “Our dead?”  The Syrian people went for months without aid.  In fact, the October was the last time aid was delivered to Madaya.

Seeing the crisis in Syria motivated me to get in touch with Julie Marshall, Canadian Spokesperson of the United Nations World Food Programme.  I wanted to know what people in Canada can do to help and this is what she had to say:

The good news is the first UN convoy will move to Madaya carrying food for 40,000 people for one month will set off as early as Sunday. On Monday, other convoys carrying food should move into the besieged towns of Foah and Kefraya in rural Idlib with WFP food for 20,000 people.  Non-food items, including medicine, specialist nutrition products, kitchen sets, blankets, winter clothing and other supplies will hopefully follow in the next few days.

The last humanitarian supplies reached Madaya on October 17 on an interagency convey – this was enough food to feed more than 19,000 people for one month. The convoy was a result of a locally negotiated agreement reached between the opposition and government to allow access to four besieged communities in Idlib and rural Damascus (Foah, Kefraya, Zabadani and Madaya). Since then, no food assistance or humanitarian supplies have reached these areas.
WFP provides food assistance to over 4 million people displaced inside Syria in both government and opposition-controlled areas every month.  And around 1.3 million refugees in neighbouring countries.

Canada has been one of WFP’s largest donors to our response in the region and we hope the extension of the matching funds, until the end of February will encourage Canadians to donate to organizations like WFP working in Syria.

Canadians can support WFP by donating here: https://give.wfp.org/en/629/?step=country
Also, we launched an app a few months ago called ShareTheMeal which makes it extremely easy to support our school meals for Syrian refugee school children living in Jordan.

It is extremely difficult to see babies starving.  And it upsets me when I see food go to waste when there are people starving everyday.  Let us do what we can to help the people in Syria.  Hunger is a terrible thing and something that we need to fight against.  The starvation in Syria is likened to warfare.  It’s like when Hitler starved the Russian people during the battle of Stalingrad.  Hunger is being used as a weapon to oppress the people and this cannot and should not be allowed to happen.  Let us help WFP and other humanitarian agencies to save the lives of the men, women and children in Syria.

Source:  CBC News; World Food Programme

Finding Joy in Jesus

The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you – Jeremiah 31:3

Imagine you are a South Asian woman.  Every day is a struggle and a challenge to survive.  All you know is oppression from the day you were born until the day you die.   As a girl child, your birth is not celebrated.  You feel unwanted and are constantly reminded that you should have been born a boy.  You are neglected, mistreated, abused or abandoned.  As a young girl, you are abducted and forced into a life of prostitution which increases your risk of dying from AIDS.

If you are a widow, you are blamed for your husband’s death.  His family and your community shun you and you are forced to fend for yourself.  You are forced into an inhumane existence.   You are completely alone, with no one to support or care for you.  Life is too hard.   There is no help.  There is no hope.  Only despair, misery and pain.  What’s the use?  Tens of thousands of widows end their lives just to end the pain.

If your dowry is not enough, your husband can douse you with kerosene and set you on fire.  I have read horror stories of women being set on fire by their husbands or in-laws because of their dowries. A woman’s life is not worth anything.  It’s hard to believe that there are countries where it’s not safe to be a woman.  It can even be fatal.  Women who survive infanticide because of gender are forced to live in a society which denies them rights to equality, respect, education, etc.

Being a woman in South Asia is unimaginable and unbearable for many and it is not surprising that the suicide rate is up to 21 times higher than the world’s average.  Life for these women is a never-ending cycle of misery, hopelessness, degradation and rejection.  These women need to know that there is hope.  They need to know that there is a God who values them.  To Him they are precious.  They were fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you – Jeremiah 1:5

Imagine the joy these women will have when they hear about Jesus for the first time through Gospel for Asia’s ministries.  Help them find hope and joy in a Savior who loved them so much that He gave His life for them so that one day they could spend eternity with Him.  They need to know that they are worth a price far above rubies.  They need to know that although there might have been silence in their homes on the days they were born, there was a joyful noise in heaven.

Women missionaries have been bringing the message of love and hope to the women of Asia.  It is crucial that women minister to women because of the Asian culture.  Women are more comfortable around other women.  Gospel for Asia has trained, dedicated women missionaries who are willing to risk their lives to share the love of Jesus Christ with millions of women who still need to hear the Good News. These heroic women missionaries are willing to risk persecution, beatings and imprisonment because they are passionate about giving hope to women who have lived in despair for so long.  They want to offer hurting women healing and encouragement.  They want to bring the Savior’s light and love into their dark and uncaring world.  Many Asian woman have had their lives transformed but there are still so many who are still waiting.

Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning – Psalm 30:5

Help Gospel for Asia send more missionaries to those who are perishing without knowing about Jesus and His love.  Find out how at this link.   Help bring joy to a woman in Asia.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

The Untouchables

300 million Dalits or “Untouchables” comprise the lowest rung of the still-practiced Hindu caste system. These people are despised, viewed as subhuman, and treated like dirt – Gospel for Asia

A small girl walks barefoot around a half-starved dog lying in her path. She picks her way over garbage and sewer-sodden ground as she approaches the rag hut that is her home. She is unaware that life could be lived any other way. This is a day in the life of a Dalit – Gospel for Asia

What a sad existence for anyone, let alone a child. Children should be running around in a safe, healthy environment without a care in the world. They should not be robbed of their innocence or childhood. As a child, I never knew what poverty was. I had a house with a yard to run around in. I always had food to eat and a warm bed to sleep in. Unlike some countries where girls are not able to go to school, I was. These are things that I will never take for granted and am teaching my son the same.

As children we used to run around barefoot by choice. We had shoes but were more comfortable without them when playing in the yard. We just had to be careful that we didn’t step in anything. Our dogs were well fed. Some had kennels to sleep in while others curled up on the back steps. Here in Canada the stores are filled with different types of dog food and in some cities, children are obese. Yet, we have children like the Dalits who are living in poverty.

I look at this little girl’s dirty, tear streaked face and my heart breaks. In the eyes of her society, she is an untouchable, the lowest of the caste system. When she is older she would be segregated from the community, forbidden from entering a temple, as school and forced to stay outside of villages. People are going to go to great lengths to avoid contact with her. The only work she would be suitable for is the kind of work the rest of society regards as ritually impure such as the removal of rubbish, animal carcasses and human waste. She would do manual work like cleaning the streets or latrines and sewers. These kinds of jobs or activities would pollute her, making her contagious so she wouldn’t have much of a social life.

It seems to me that this little girl and the Dalit population are treated like lepers. Although there were reforms to help them, they still face discrimination. Although some have achieved affluence, the majority remain poor. In Nepal the highest dropout rates are among the Dalits at the primary school level. Dalit students are given scholarships only after they provide photos showing family members working in traditional occupations. Dalit children are discriminated in the state schools and in some instances are required to sit at the back of the classroom. If this little girl were able to go to school, she would be forbidden to touch the mid-day meals and sit separately at lunch. She may be required to eat with specially marked plates. If she goes to high schools, the higher caste students may be advised not to mingle with her. This little girl deserves better than this.

Are you interested in helping this little girl and others like her to have a bright future? Do you want to find out how you can help Gospel for Asia to reach out to them and let them know that there is a God who loves them and in whose eyes they are precious? What about sharing with them a loving Saviour who died for them because He values them and sees them as precious treasures? Then here click on this link and see what you can do to turn things around for the Dalits who are not “dirt” but are clay made by the Potter’s hands.

But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand – Isiah 64:8

Sources: Wikipedia

Religious Freedom At Risk in Nepal

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers1 Peter 3:12

Not so long ago, Nepal was devastated by two earthquakes and as a result lives and homes were lost and now the people face another potential loss that could be just as devastating. They are at risk of losing their religious freedom.

Riots and protests are going on in response to a recent draft of the country’s constitution; a process that’s been in the works since the Nepali monarchy was dispelled in 2007. Many are demanding that Nepal return to its traditional religious roots, while religious minorities fear for their freedom to practice and share their faith if this draft of the constitution goes unchanged – Gospel for Asia

Currently the constitution declares that Nepal is a secular state and protects people’s rights to worship freely.  However, this could change if the government decides to go along with those who are calling for the country to return to its traditional religion.

If you’d like to learn more about the Nepal Constitution and how you can pray, please visit the GFA webpage here: http://www.gfa.org/nepal/constitution/

Pray

Many of us live in countries where we can freely worship. Religious freedom is a right that no one should be denied.  We and our children have the right to go to church and worship God in safety.

Let us pray that the new constitution will allow God’s people to continue to practice and share their faith.  The enemy is fighting to prevent the Gospel from spreading and this is why religious freedom in Nepal is under attack.   We must remember that he is a defeated foe and that God is in control.  Together we can make a difference.  Let us lift up our Christian brothers and sisters in Nepal in prayer and ask almighty God to impart His wisdom on the Nepalese government so that the country remains a place where religious liberty is preserved and protected in spite of those who want to do away with it.

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails muchJames 5:16

The Cruel Cut

Photo:  The Guardian

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

When I read the article in The Daily Mail on Female genital mutilation, I was incensed.  I couldn’t believe the reasons behind this barbaric practice.

  • In some cultures, it is seen as a right of passage into womanhood and a condition of marriage.
  • Some believe that the genitals will be unclean if the female does not have the procedure.
  • There is also a common belief that women need to have FGM to have babies.
  • Religous reasons

Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world and even thought the practice was criminalized in 2008, it still remains widespread.  Up to 92 percent of married women have undergone FGM and most females have the procedure between the ages of nine and 12.  Some have it done earlier than nine years old.  Can you imagine a five year old girl having part or all of her external genitalia removed?  There are no anaesthetics and antiseptic treatments used and FGM is performed with knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades.  This can lead to severe bleeding and infections which can last a woman her entire lifetime.  And it is estimated that 3 million girls are subjected to this barbarism every year in the UK, parts of Africa, Middle East and Asia.  And believe it or not, the procedure is usually done by a woman with no medical background.

Girls are going to grow up believing that their genitals are unclean and only a cruel cut can make them clean and fit for marriage.   What about the infections that they get or what about those who die from the procedure like the 13 year old Sohair el-Batea?  The doctor responsible for her death was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to more than two years in jail.  This was a victory for women but more needs to be done.  FGM is still being practiced.

According to Egyptian Streets, statistics showed that 30% of married women believe that FGM should be banned but more than half were in favor of the procedure for religious reasons.  It’s hard to accept that women would be in favor of such a practice.  It is even harder to accept that they would force their daughters, granddaughters, nieces to go through what they themselves had gone through.  As a mother, I could never subject my daughter to this.  As a woman, I could never bring myself to do this horrible thing to another female.

And which religion would condone this?  God created the human body and He put everything in its place for a reason.  No one has the right to tamper with nature.  How could anyone use religion as an excuse to mutilate young girls and in some cases, babies?  And as far as FGM being necessary in order to have babies, that is ludicrious.  The reality is that FGM can cause infertility and increase the risk of complications in childbirth.

FGM, known as the “cruel cut” needs to be banned the regions of Africa and countries where it is still common.   According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that more than three million girls in Africa are at risk.  Something needs to be done to stop girls and babies from is done in ignorance and in the name of tradition.  Girls should not see the parts of their bodies that is unique to their gender as unclean.  No where in the Bible is female circumcision practiced.  God never intended for girls and women to be circumcised.  It is a man-made procedure and it needs to be outlawed.

I encourage you to watch the video of Leyla Hussein, the founder of Daughters of Eve as she talks to her mother about FGM.    You can visit Leyla’s website to find out more information about FGM and see what you can do to stop this cruel and inhumane practice.

 

 

 

Source:  WHO; The Daily Mail