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

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Daya’s Timeline

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up – Psalm 27:10

Daya was like an orphan even though her parents were not dead.  They abandoned her and if it weren’t for her grandmother, she would have been completely alone.  Family life was terrible for her.  Her father beat her mother and then abandoned them both.  Her mother deserted her. Neither parent showed her any love.  There is nothing worse than a child not receiving parental love.

Things didn’t improve for Daya.   With no income, she and her grandmother were forced to beg at bus stops, train stations and shops.  It’s heartbreaking to see an elderly woman, with her grandchild in her arms, begging for something to eat.  The cook for a Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope centre had to be cautious.  He knew that there were beggars who carried small children in order to get larger handouts and they pocketed most of the money for themselves.  He couldn’t tell if this beggar was on the level.  He asked her a question and demanded an answer.  Her response was to break down in tears and pour her heart out.

He learned that the woman was the child’s grandmother and that Daya had once been a happy child until strife tore her family apart.  Realizing that this woman was telling the truth and moved with compassion, the cook invited her to enroll Daya in the Bridge of Hope centre where he would cook the young girl meals.

Daya joined the Bridge of Hope centre lodged between a railway station and a slum. Unfortunately, she stood out from the rest of the children.  She was the poorest of the poor and living in the slums for much of her life, she didn’t know much about hygiene.  She went to class each day in the same dirty clothes.  She rarely had a bath and when she did, she didn’t use soap.

It was not long before some of the parents began to complain about Daya and they pressured the Bridge of Hope staff to drop her from the program.  They didn’t want this dirty child to be around their children.  They threatened to remove their children from the centre if she didn’t leave.

Daya’s future was in jeopardy.  If she was dropped from the program, she would return to the streets as one of the 300,000 child beggars in India.  Somewhere down the road, she would be among the 20 to 30 million boys and girls who are exploited as child laborers.  If it weren’t for her grandmother’s protection, Daya was at risk of becoming one of the 1.2 million Indian children abused as prostitutes.  And worse yet for Daya if her grandmother were to die.  She would be lost and her future would be hopeless.  She wouldn’ stand a chance in a society where evil men preyed on the innocent…

Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is with those who uphold my life – Psalm 54:4

The Bridge of Hope staff remained committed to helping Daya because they knew that God had brought her to them.  They decided to keep her in the program and undertook her hygiene problem.  They scrubbed the 8 year old and gave her new clothes.  By the time they were finished with Daya, you could hardly recognize her.  They continued to teach her and her classmates proper hygiene and other practical life skills.  These wonderful people of God didn’t cave into the demands of those parents who wanted them to expel Daya from the centre.  They followed the example of the apostles Peter and John in Acts 5:29 who, when the council demanded to know why they were continuing to preach in Jesus’ name after being commanded not to, replied,  “We ought to obey God rather than men.”  They had to do whatever was necessary to protect the welfare of this child whom God had rescued from a life on the streets.

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly – John 10:10

Over six years have passed since Daya joined the Bridge of Hope centre.  Instead of dirty rags, she is wearing beautiful dresses given as her uniforms.  She had gone from being a beggar to being blessed.  She had gone from the streets to a sanctuary where she receives an education.  She is not in bonded labor or in a brothel.  She is enjoying liberty in Jesus.  She can realize her dream to be a teacher.  Daya, now 15 years old, has a relationship with a Father who loves her and a Savior who has given her hope and set her free from the social evils which plague young girls like her in South Asia.

Daya’s grandmother has witnessed first hand the love of God as shown through the kindness of the Bridge of Hope staff.  And she too is experiencing that love.

God is using Bridge of Hope to change communities.  More than 60,000 children are finding hope in Jesus through the centres but there are millions of children like Daya out there who are still living in despair.  You can reach out to them by sponsoring a child.  Find out what every Bridge of Hope child receives.

My heart goes out to these children who are robbed of their childhood.  They are unloved, abandoned, exploited and abused.  I was touched by the story of Lakshmi, a nine year old who works in a factory rolling cigarettes.  She is an example of selfless love.  She doesn’t care about playing or going to school–all she wants is to bring her sister home from the bonded labor man.

My sister is ten years old. Every morning at seven she goes to the bonded labor man, and every night at nine she comes home. He treats her badly; he hits her if he thinks she is working slowly or if she talks to the other children, he yells at her, he comes looking for her if she is sick and cannot go to work. I feel this is very difficult for her.  

It would cost 600 rupees to buy her sister’s freedom but for Lakshmi, there is hopeless.  “We don’t have 600 rupees,” she says, “…we will never have 600 rupees.”  600 rupees is only $14.00 US.  This is just one story among over 10 million stories of children who are bonded laborers in India.  Help Bridge of Hope to bring hope to these children.  Pray that God will rescue more of them from the clutches of evil people.   Pray that they will discover that there is a loving God who sees their plight and will intervene.  Pray that they will come to know Jesus.

Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You – Psalm 33:22

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Missing Children

Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue me from their destructions, My precious life from the lions – Psalm 35:17.

There’s nothing worse than when a child goes missing.  All sorts of horrible thoughts go through our minds and we fear the worst.  When I read about Nadish, my heart went out to his mother. His attitude to his schoolwork reminded me of my son’s.  My son is seven and he doesn’t take his education seriously.  He prefers to play and draw although he is very smart.  His father is hard on him because he knows that he has potential and can excel in school if he just gets serious. Nadish’s mother wanted what was best for him and that is why she scolded him.  He was given a opportunity that other children didn’t have–an education in the Bridge of Hope Centre in India.  There are children, like my son who are in good Christian schools being taught by dedicated teachers and they take it for granted.

Like most children, Nadish didn’t liked being scolded.  He ran away from home and found himself in a large city railway station in India.  I can’t imagine how scary it must have been for this nine year old boy.  He must have looked like a waif, surrounded by strange faces in strange surroundings so far removed from the home he shared with his mother.  Perhaps, the enormity of what he had done came rushing over him.  Perhaps he wished he hadn’t run away.  Perhaps he missed his mother and would have preferred being scolded by her than being in that strange and scary place.  Perhaps these emotions are what made him go with the elderly man who befriended him.  Perhaps the man made him feel safe.  Nadish went with him to his home village.

And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light – 2 Corinthians 11:14

Nadish found himself plunged into a world he never imagined he would be.  Forced into slavery, he spent the next two years living as a prisoner and cleaning up animal waste.  I wonder what went through his mind when he was locked in a room near the animals he cleaned up after and got very little food to eat.  Was he wishing that he was home like the prodigal son who wished he was home when he was living in squalor after wasting his money?  Was Nadish wishing that he was with his mother, doing his schoolwork and eating a good meal?  He had left a haven for a hovel.

Meanwhile, Nadish’s mother was beside herself with grief and worry.  She had lost her husband to cancer and now one of her sons was lost too.  The staff at the Bridge of Hope Centre prayed fervently for Nadish.

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the LORD
is against those who do evil – 1 Peter 3:12

God answered their prayers.  Two years after his capture, Nadish and a new boy escaped because their landlord forgot to lock the door to the room where they were held captive.  Nadish had turned twelve years old thirteen days before.  He and the boy ran to the nearest police station and gave evidence against their captor.  Hopefully they were able to arrest him so that he couldn’t enslave another child.

Nadish is now back home with his mother and participating in Bridge of Hope again.  The horror he want through is still with him.   It is a mental struggle for him so he needs your prayers.  Pray that he will be able to concentrate on his schoolwork and catch up on what he missed.

Nadish is one of the more fortunate ones.  He is no longer missing.  He is safe with his family.  There are other children out there.  Some are abducted by strangers and forced into slave labor while others are trafficked and exploited in the sex trade.  Then there are those who are sold to families to work as domestic  help.  This reminds me of Cosette in Les Miserables.  She was forced to work as a domestic and she was under the age of 10.  She was beaten and hardly fed.  The cat was treated better than her.  Meanwhile her mother, Fantine was under the impression that the couple who had her daughter were treating her well.  Fantine died never knowing the truth or seeing her daughter again.

The statistics on missing children are staggering.

  • In India it is reported that 45,000 children are missing each year
  • Close to 13 million children younger than 15 years are in India’s workforce.  This is more than any other country in the world.  Some estimate that the real number is closer to 100 million.
  • In Thailand nearly 1 out of every 10 children between the ages of 10 and 14 are working instead of going to school
  • In Bangladesh, it is estimated that 27 percent of children ages 10-14 are working in hazardous work conditions
  • In Sri Lanka, the fishing industry is one of the most physically punishing forms of child labor, keeping children in slave-like conditions and out of the public eye
  • UNICEF estimates that 4,500 children from Bangladesh are trafficked to Pakistan each year while   thousands more are sent to India and the Middle East.

Thankfully, Gospel for Asia is doing something to stop these atrocities.  They are working among South Asia’s most endangered children.

You can make a difference.  You can give what you can to rescue children on the streets so that like Nadish they can learn about Jesus and be reunited with their families.  Help to rescue a child from the streets of South Asia.  If you are interested in sponsoring a child, check out this link.

Another way you can help is through prayer.  Gospel of Asia offers these prayer suggestions:

  • Pray for children to be rescued, reunited and accepted back into their families.
  • Pray for the physical needs of the children. Most do not get enough to eat, and the physical labor they are forced to do can cripple their bodies. Pray for the Lord to provide for them and protect them from harm.
  • Pray for the girls—and boys—forced to work in the sex trade. Ask the Lord to bring the brothel owners’ and customers’ misdeeds into the light and for the love of Jesus to permeate those dark places.
  • Pray for a radical attitude shift in South Asian society so citizens of these countries will demand an end to the exploitation of children.

Prayer is the most powerful tool we have, let us use it and then watch God do amazing things.

And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him – Psalm 37:40.

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