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

Advertisements

Shackles

As she read the two volume autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, she was reminded of how fortunate she was.  She was a black, educated woman who was able to go to the university of her choice and become what she had always dreamed of.   She and her parents left the West Indies for a better life in America.

 

Her world was so different from Olaudah’s.  He had been kidnapped from his home in the West Indies and taken to Virginia where he was bought by a sea captain, Michael Henry  Pascal, with whom he traveled widely.  Olaudah received some education before he bought his freedom in 1766.  He became an abolitionist, speaking out against the cruelty of British slave owners in Jamaica.

 

Slavery is something she was never going to experience, but she knew what it was like to be treated differently because of the colour of her skin.  She learned that being educated, living in a stylish condo and driving an expensive car didn’t matter to those who didn’t see past her colour.  She still had to deal with being watched or ignored or followed when in certain stores or co-workers looking away as she passed them.

 

Yes, she had her own issues to deal with but they paled in comparison to Olaudah who suffered cruelty and indignity at the hands of those who wanted to keep him and the other slaves in emotional and intellectual shackles.  She was grateful to Olaudah for writing about the horrors of slavery.  It made her more determined to work harder and achieve more.  It was what drove her to pursue her Masters.  Like Olaudah, there were times when she questioned her faith but she has since learned that it is during those tough, challenging times that God has proven that she has the mettle to overcome them.

 

Yes, she had come a long way with God’s help but there was still a long way to go. Little by little she was going to break free from the racist mentalities that would like to keep blacks shackled to the painful past of slavery.

 

“After all, what makes any event important, unless by its observation we become better and wiser, and learn ‘to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God?'” – Olaudah Equiano

 

Cartoon image of woman reading book

 

Sources:  WikipediaBritannica; Daily Kos

 

Investing in A Child

One sponsor can have an enormous impact in the life of a child in Asia through GFA Bridge of Hope! Their prayers, love and encouragement can make a difference in the lives of children who are constantly derided and told they are worthless by their culture – Gospel for Asia

Nothing is more wonderful than giving a child hope for a bright future.  You can do so by sponsoring a boy or a girl.  In Asia, parents struggle to provide for their families.  Their children grow up illiterate, uneducated and taught that they are worthless.  More than 20 million of boys and girls are forced into child labor and prostitution so that they can support their families.

Thankfully, Gospel for Asia is turning these terrible situations around through their wonderful program, Bridge of Hope.  Children are educated and nurtured.  Families experience Jesus’ love.  So far, the program has helped over 74,000 children and thousand of families have come to accept Christ as their Savior.

Watch this video of a Mom as she explains why she sponsors three children.

Bridge of Hope sponsorship is not just about giving money to support a child in Asia—it’s much, much more. If you decide to pour into a child’s life, you are making a direct impact on the lost in Asia. Your child will have food, clothes, education, and most importantly, your child will learn about Jesus’ love and share it with his or her family and the surrounding community – Gospel for Asia

Read how sponsorship has made a difference in the lives of Daya and Nibun.  As you read their stories, keep in mind that it takes only $35.00 a month to give a child everything he or she needs–such as school supplies, a daily meal, medical check-ups and the opportunity to attend a Bridge of Hope center.  100% or your sponsorship is sent to the field to support your child.

A child could benefit so much from attending a Bridge of Hope center.  The boy or girl you sponsor will learn Bible verses, stories and songs that bring the Gospel to life, learn to read and write, receive a healthy, balanced meal, medical care and learn the habits of good hygiene.

Do you know that when you take care of a child’s physical needs you are also breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, superstition and the bondage of the caste system?  And your love and care of this child will extend to his or her family because the child will take the message of God’s love home. Sponsoring a child will bring hope to the family and even the community.  The Gospel will penetrate hearts that resisted it at first.  You will make it possible for parents to be in the training sessions which are an integral part of the Bridge of Hope program.  You will provide the child and his or her family “a future here on earth and one for eternity”.

I encourage you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child.  Help to bring the message of salvation to a child who has not heard of Jesus.  You can change a life forever.  Invest in a child today.

As cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a far country – Proverbs 25:25

Source:  Gospel for Asia

International Day of the Girl

On my twelfth birthday, I sat on the cold ground in a corner of a dark room with my knees drawn up to my chin and my arms wrapped around them as the tears rolled down my dirty cheeks.   I couldn’t sleep.   I didn’t want to sleep because I was afraid that he would come back and hurt me again.  It really hurt down there.   Why did he hurt me?  Did I do something bad?  I can’t tell anyone.  He said that no one will believe me.  I can’t tell my mother.  She will beat me if I tell her that my father hurts me.

Sometimes I want to run away but I don’t know where I could go.   Sometimes I wish I was never born.  Sometimes I wish I could die.

One day my father got very ill and a week later he died.  I wish I could say that I was sad but I wasn’t.  I thought to myself, “He will never hurt you again.”  My mother didn’t seem sad either. She and my father didn’t love each other.  They used to fight a lot.  Sometimes he beat her when he was drunk.  Now it was just her, my two brothers and me.   Life did not get better after my father died.  I was still treated badly and beaten.  I worked hard while my brothers played.  Life was hard and unfair.  But what could I do?

Then, one day, three women came to our village.  One of them came to our home.  She had a kind face.  Her name was Sister Hope.  She spoke to my mother.  She talked about Jesus.  I was curious about this Jesus but didn’t want to ask any questions in front of my mother.  My mother had her gods so she wasn’t interested in this new God Sister Hope told her about.  Sister Hope smiled and left.  I was outside doing my chores.   She saw me and she came over to me.  She smiled and asked me my name.  She invited me to walk a little of the way with her.

As we walked, I asked her many questions and she answered them.  She told me about the Bridge of Hope Centre.  It sounded like a place where I would like to be. It was my chance to leave home, at least for a while.  I asked her if she could speak to my mother.

I went to the Bridge of Hope Centre once a day—in the afternoons.  The staff was so kind and caring. I was not used to that.  I was used to being abused, neglected and mistreated.  My father abused me since I was five years old.  My mother never loved me because I am a girl.  She loved my two brothers.  Sometimes I wished that I were a boy so that my mother would love me and my father wouldn’t hurt me.

It was not easy at first. I was not doing well in my studies.  I was still hurting inside.  Sometimes I found it hard to concentrate but Rashmi who taught me was very patient with me.  One day, she gently asked me to share my story with her.  I found it hard to talk about it so I drew pictures.  When she saw the drawings, she looked really sad.  I could see the tears in her eyes. That surprised me.  No one had ever cried for me before.  No one had ever felt sorry for me.  When I was at home, I was all alone.  I had no one to share my pain with.  No one cared.  No one asked me anything.  I didn’t matter to them.  But here, I did.

After she put the drawings aside, Rashmi reached out and held my hands.  She looked me straight in my face and said, “I’m so sorry that you went through such pain but I want you to know that you have a Father who loves you.  He saw you suffering and that is why He sent me to you. He loves you with an everlasting love.  He knew you before you were even born.  He knows that you are still in pain and wants and comfort you.  He wants to pour out His love on you if you will let Him.”

When I heard that I had another Father who loved me and wanted to take care of me, I began to cry.  I cried for a while.  Rashmi sat there, holding my hands.  Then, I stopped crying and felt better.  The heavy feeling that I had was not there anymore.  I felt God’s love fill me.  It felt warm.  That is the moment when I gave my heart to God. My work began to improve.

Rashmi taught me from the Bible.  I learned more about God and how much He loved me.  I learned that He gave His Son, Jesus so that I could have eternal life.  I had a Father who wanted what was best for me and who wanted to give me everything I needed.  He would never hurt, mistreat or neglect me.  He promised that He would always be there, watching over me and protecting me.  He was the father and mother I never had.

Jesus became my Friend.  He filled me with a peace that I never had.  He is always there.  When I read about how kind He was to the Samaritan woman, I knew that He would be kind to me too even though I am a girl.  I knew that Jesus didn’t love me less because I am a girl.  He had friends who were women.  He didn’t reject women and I knew that He wouldn’t reject me.

My mother noticed the changes in me. I was no longer sad. I was singing as I did my chores. I tried to tell her about Jesus but she didn’t want to hear about it. She even said to me, “If I hear another word about this Jesus of yours, I will stop you from going back to the centre.” I didn’t talk to her about Jesus after that but for weeks I prayed every night that she would want to know about Him. Weeks went by and then one morning she came to me. She looked scared. “I had a dream last night,” she said. “I was at the river doing laundry when I saw a bright light around me. Out of the light I heard a voice say to me, ‘forsake your gods and follow Me.’ I was afraid but the voice sounded kind so I asked, ‘who are You?’ The voice said, ‘I am Jesus.’ Then He told me again to forsake my gods and follow Him. Tell me about this Jesus.”

I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say at first. God had answered my prayers. Jesus had revealed Himself to my mother. I told her all that I knew about Jesus. Then Sister Mary came to study the Bible with her. My mother accepted Jesus and our lives have changed. We get along better now.

Now I am 15 years old.  I have been going to the centre for three years.  I love it here.  I want to be a teacher so that I could tell other girls about Jesus.  I want to tell them that it doesn’t matter that they are girls.  Jesus loves them.

This story is fictitious but it is the reality for many girls in South Asia.  Many are abused, neglected, mistreated and unloved simply because they are girls. Some run away from home and end up on the streets where they end up begging, forced into child labor, exploited or trafficked or some of them end up in a Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.

From the time they are born, they are mistreated, solely because they are girls. A girl cannot carry on the family name nor aptly provide for her parents when they get old. Additionally, her parents will likely have to go into debt to pay her marriage dowry. Because of this, she is seen as a burden to her family and not a blessing – Gospel for Asia.

Thankfully, some girls who still live at home like the one in this story are invited to the Bridge of Hope Centre while others like Manjulika are placed in Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.  Read her story.

International Day of the Girl is a global and annual event initiated by the United Nations to raise awareness of the plight girls around the world.  This year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.”

There are nearly 600 million girls aged 10 to 19 in the world today, each with limitless individual potential, however they are disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. Between inequities in secondary education to protection issues, adolescent girls are uniquely impacted and should benefit from targeted investments and programmes that address their distinct needs. Investing in adolescent girls can have a formidable ripple effect to create a better world by 2030. On this International Day of the Girl, join us in highlighting the unique challenges and potential of adolescent girls – UNICEF.

This is our opportunity to highlight the needs and rights of girls.  Girls face discrimination because of their gender.  They face barriers to education, opportunities to make a living, child-marriages and poverty.   The sad reality is that when we invest in girls, “we create a brighter and safer future for everyone.  When girls are educated, healthy and informed, they are able to lift themselves, their children and communities out of poverty” (Because I Am a Girl).  Girls matter!  They should be celebrated, empowered and encouraged not abused, misused, neglected or exploited.   Invest in a girl today!

There are girls out there who don’t know that there is a God who created them in His image and that they are precious in His sight.  He rejoiced when they were born.  Pray that He will send missionaries to their homes and rescue them from their private hell.  Pray that boys and girls will find refuge at Gospel for Asia supported Children’s homes. Help programs like Bridge of Hope, a children’s program, where they help with the children’s education, provide them with food, medical care, tutoring, clothing, and show them the love of Christ.  Pray that many of these girls and their families will be led to Christ who has the power to “give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death–to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Galatians 1:4).

Celebrate the power and potential of girls!

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; UNICEF; Because I am A Girl

Illiteracy Among Women in Asia

I can’t imagine not being able to read.  It’s my one of favourite past-times.  When I was a child, you could always find me with my face buried in a book.  My love for reading gave birth to my love for writing.

Reading and writing are basic rights which we are entitled to.  Imagine not being able to write your name or read warning labels in order to protect your child. Yet, sadly for over 250 million women in Asia illiteracy is a reality.

It is said that when a girl or a woman is not educated it impacts her but the entire family.  Illiterate women face more hardships and are not aware of their rights.  Literacy is low among women because in most families the boys are sent to schools instead of the girls.   It is believed that educating the girls would be a waste of time because they aren’t going to earning members of their families and they would be leaving home any way when they get married. Poverty, accessibility to the schools and lack of female teachers are also factors in the low literacy rate among women and girls.

Education is exactly what females in India need in order to break the cycle of poverty.  Find out what Gospel for Asia is doing to help by women and girls through their Literacy Program at this link: http://www.gfa.org/women/literacy/.

 

Sources:  Maps of India; Gospel for Asia

Pregnancy At 40 and Older – The Risks

I got pregnant when I was forty and had our son when I was forty-one.  It was a textbook pregnancy.  There were no complications.  I didn’t have to have an epidural and the actual delivery took under fifteen minutes.  The contractions although they were bad, they didn’t last long.  I have heard some horror stories of women being in labor for more than 24 hours.  I couldn’t imagine going through that.

In a couple of months our son will be celebrating his third birthday.  Wow.  Where did the time go?  It seemed like only the other day I was holding him in my arms for the first time.  The pregnancy was an experience I feel truly blessed to have had.  At the time, though, I didn’t want to go through another one.  I didn’t feel mentally or physically or even emotionally up to it.  Before I had my son, I had always planned that when I got married, I would love to have twins–a boy and a girl.  That of course didn’t happen.  God blessed us with a son.  And we have decided that we wouldn’t have more children because of my age.  I am heading toward my mid-forties.  We worry about the risks and are not willing to take them.

I have been adamant about not having a second child but I would have a couple women push me to consider it.  There is one in particular who works in the office cafeteria.  Every time I see her, she manages to bring the conversation around to me having another baby.  I try to change the topic but she is persistent.  I try to tell her that at my age I should not even be considering this but she brushes that excuse aside.  She seems to believe that age is not a factor.  Once when she broached the subject, I had a moment of insanity when I actually wanted to get pregnant again.  Of course when I spoke to my fiance, he snapped me right back to reality.

There are times when I entertain the thought and imagine what the baby would look like.  I like the idea of having a little girl who will look like her Daddy.  But then, I think about the risks.

What are the risks?  Are they worth taking?  I decided to find out via the Internet. 

With today’s medical technology, prenatal care, and well educated doctors women have the best chances ever to become pregnant and have successful pregnancies after age 40. However, the risks are there and women in this age range should be aware of them.

One risk many women over the age of 40 are most concerned with is genetic disorders. As a woman ages her entire body does as well, including her eggs. Many times Down Syndrome results from an older woman’s egg simply not dividing like it might have when the woman was younger. Of course, if you are age 40 or more and you want to have a child you should not let the slightly higher risk of genetic disorders or birth defects scare you. A woman who becomes pregnant at age 35 has a risk of 1 in 365 of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome. That risk increases to 1 in 100 with a woman 40 years of age and approximately to 1 in 40 for women 45 years of age. Any woman who becomes pregnant has a risk of about 3% to have a child with a birth defect. This percentage more than doubles for women over 40, but still the 6-8% risk is still relatively low.

These statistics seem pretty scary to women who are 40 years old or older but want to have a baby. However, the statistics are just that and while one out of ever 100 babies has Down’s Syndrome there are 99 other babies that are perfect. The best thing to do is visit your doctor before you become pregnant. Your doctor will advise you of your risks and give you a plan to help reduce risks. This includes eating healthy, exercising, treating any current diseases or disorders, and simply being as healthy as possible before pregnancy begins. At that point you will be better prepared to have a baby, your pregnancy will go smoother, and you will more than likely have a perfectly healthy baby.

There are tests that can be performed early in the pregnancy to see if your baby has a higher chance of having a genetic disorder or birth defect as well. As long as you work with your doctor and have prenatal care you will more than likely have a healthy baby at age 40 or older (http://www.amazingpregnancy.com/pregnancy-articles/543.html). 

I had these tests done and everything was perfect.  There were no concerns.  For the first five months of my pregnancy I was mindful of having a miscarriage.  I learned that not only is it more difficult to conceive after 40, but that the miscarriage rate increases with both maternal and paternal age, says Michelle Collins, a certified nurse midwife and an assistant professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville. One woman said that she had her first child at 39 but at 43 she was having problems conceiving and had three miscarriages in one year.   (http://www.pregnancytoday.com/articles/healthy-safe-pregnancy/pregnancy-after-40-6175/). 

If you are forty or older and are considering having a baby, talk to your doctor first.  Learn what your risks are and if you are willing to take them.  If after talking to your doctor, you decide you want to go through with it, then start taking the prenatal vitamins, Folic Acid supplements and doing the necessary things.  One person commented, if it is God’s will for you to have a child, it will happen.  He let it happen with two women who were pushing way past 40–Sarah and Elizabeth and they both had healthy baby boys and back  then they didn’t have the medical technology we have today.  If I believed that God wanted to bless us with another child, I would go through with another pregnancy, trusting that everything will turn out just fine. 

If you are a 40 or 40+ year old woman and are serious about getting pregnant again, don’t wait any longer.  Consult your doctor and do what you need to do.  I wish that all goes well for you and your baby.