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

A Mother’s Hidden Legacy

Naomi was a Christian.  She grew up praying to Jesus as a Friend and reading the Bible so that she could get to know Him better.  So great was her love for God that it was natural to believe that when she had children, she would pass on her faith to them.  However, things didn’t turn out quite as she expected.

Naomi’s parents arranged her marriage and although the wedding was held in the church and followed all the Christian traditions, her husband was of a different religion.  Can you imagine being in Naomi’s shoes?  You were raised to love the Lord.  You look forward to going to church and worshipping Him in His sanctuary with others who share your faith.  Then, one day, you are forced to stop going to church because your husband won’t allow you.  And to make matters worse…your husband is an alcoholic.

Shortly after the wedding, Tarak’s alcoholism reared its ugly head.  He had a steady job as a truck cleaner but spent the money he earned on drinks or cigarettes.  As a result it was a struggle just to have the bare necessities.   The struggle only increased when they had Oppilmani and Sadhya, born two years apart.  Now Naomi had two growing children to feed not to mention providing them with clothing and education.   Overwhelmed, she was compelled to reflect on her life before she got married.  With a penitent heart she began to pray.

She didn’t tell Tarak that she repented of her neglect of God or that she was praying for the family’s restoration.  She didn’t tell him that she was praying for him–that he would stop drinking.  Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Naomi to keep these things to herself?  How she must have longed to tell her family about Jesus and how only He could help them.  Then, hope came in the form of Gospel for Asia Pastor Zaafir when  he came to their village.  God heard her prayers and He sent help.

Naomi began to speak to Pastor Zaafir frequently and began attending church again.   As she grew in the Lord, Pastor Zaafir helped her to enroll Oppilmani and Sadhya in the local Bridge of Hope center.  This proved to be a blessing for the children.  They excelled in their studies and learned about Jesus.  How it must have brought joy to their mother who had dreamed of telling them about the Friend she had since she was a child.

The joy was short-lived, however.  Tarak’s animosity returned and he began to verbally abuse his wife when she attended church and insisted that the family follow his religion.  In the wake of this new wave of opposition Naomi attended church less but refused to stop going altogether.  All the while she continued praying for her family even as they were about to face a crisis…

…pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Tarak’s years of drinking and smoking finally began to take a toll on his health.  What began as asthma quickly turned into something very serious and unmanageable.  How terrifying it must have been for his family when he began vomiting blood.  He couldn’t eat anything.  However, the waves of nausea and the vomiting didn’t stop Tarak from continuing to drink alcohol.   Within a few days, he was taken to the hospital where doctors determined that he had a serious lung infection.  If he didn’t have an operation he would die.  What was the family to do?  For years Tarak had spent his income on alcohol.  There wasn’t enough money for the operation.

Naomi and the children, went home, bracing themselves for a future without her husband.  The children continued to attend the Bridge of Hope center but it didn’t take long for the staff to notice that something was wrong.  When they inquired, Oppilmani told them about his father’s condition and that the family couldn’t pay for the surgery.  The staff offered words of encouragement and hope.  They assured the boy that Jesus could solve his problems and then they decided to visit the family.

The coordinator of the centre went with two social workers and GFA’s pastor Bahurai to the family’s home where they saw an alarmingly thin Tarak who looked much older than his age of 35 years.  The group shared God’s Word and encouraged the family to ask for His mercy.  The Lord spoke to Tarak’s heart and the father confessed his wrongdoings to God.  From that moment on, there was a transformation.  Naomi no longer faced opposition from her husband and she was free to regularly attend prayer meetings.  She, the pastor and other believers prayed for Tarak’s healing.  He began to recover slowly and he opened his heart to the God who was healing him.

Tarak no longer insisted that his family worship his god or protest his wife’s church going.  Instead he brought the children to church.  It took a life-threatening illness for Tarak to know the true God.

God had answered the prayers of a mother who had known Him all of her life.  She had turned back to Him after she was forced to neglect Him–knowing that He was her only Source of comfort, hope and deliverance.  God heard the prayers of a wife who wanted her husband to stop drinking.  He heard the prayers of a mother who wanted her children to worship the true God and go to school.  He heard the prayers of a woman who wanted to free her family from their struggles.

The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective – James 5:16

What a wonderful end to this story.  A man once opposed to wife’s God had embraced Him.  Oppilmani and Sadhya who once worshipped a traditional god was now worshipping the Creator.  They will continue their family’s legacy by raising the next generation to serve the God who had brought them hope amidst adversity.  As for Naomi, she watched the Lord do amazing things for her family.  “Jesus turned our trouble into happiness,” she said, “and we are ever thankful to Jesus.”

You can help to do amazing things for other families like Naomi’s by sponsoring Bridge of Hope children.  Your sponsorship will open the door for children to share Christ’s love with their families.  If you are interested in learning more about Bridge of Hope visit this link.

I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, For You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities – Psalm 31:7

 

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

God Provides

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Psalm 104

Last week Sunday my family and I watched The Great Migration, part of BBC’s Nature’s Great Events series narrated by David Attenborough. It was set in the Serengeti.  Each year the Serengeti grasslands are teeming with wildebeest and zebra, making it a paradise for the predators that live there.  As long as these animals were around, the lions were able to eat and feed their young. The Ntudu pride flourished when prey was around but they were soon to experience hardship.

There are times in our lives when there is plenty.  We have all that we need.  We have nothing to worry about.  Life is great.  Then, the tough times come.  For the lions it was when the wildebeest left for greener pastures leaving them behind to struggle to find enough food for their hungry young.

The lions got so skinny, you could see their ribs and bones protruding from their skin and a couple of them were mangy. There was no water to drink.  The earth was parched because there was no rain. Some of them died because they hadn’t eaten for months.  It was sad to see.  During our tough times, it seems like no relief is in sight.  We don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We become discouraged.  We lose hope. How must the lion pride have felt as they became emaciated and watched the number of cubs dwindle to two.  We might think that they are just animals but animals experience pain and loss too.  I will never forget the cub who lingered by her brother’s side after he had died or the mother who left her cub in her sister’s care before she went off somewhere and died.

As a parent, I can’t imagine seeing my child starving and not being able to feed him. I can’t help but think of Hagar when she and Ishmael were sent away.  The water ran out and when Hagar thought that Ishmael might die from the lack of water and food, she put him under a shrub and sat some distance from him, saying to herself. “Let me not see the death of the boy.” She sat opposite where he was and wept.  It was at that moment when God intervened.  He does not give us more than we can bear.  He heard the cry of Ishmael and responded.  He opened Hagar’s eyes so she could see the well.  She drew water from it and gave it to her son.  God hears our cries and He responds.

Just when it seemed like things could not get worse for the lion pride, the rain came.  It was a welcome sight, seeing the big droplets as they fell on the predators.  Then the wildebeest and zebra returned. Once again, the grasslands were teeming with life.  God was providing for them.

These all wait upon You, that You may give them their food in due season.  When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, they are filled with good food (Psalm 104:27, 28).

When you  are going through tough times, wait on the Lord.  Trust in Him and in due season, He will bring you through the storm.

Gender-Selective Infanticide

Over 50,000 baby girls are aborted every month in South Asia – just because they were girls – Gospel for Asia

According to writer and gender-activist Rita Banerji,  “Females are being killed in India at every stage of life, before and after birth, only because they are female”  It has been said that the three deadliest words in the world are “It’s a girl”.  The birth of a girl is not celebrated.  It leads to infanticide or trafficking.

UNICEF states that the killing of baby girls has reached genocidal proportions. It is a practice that has gone on “in central India for a long time, where mothers were made to feed the child with salt to kill the girl.” Various other gruesome methods of murder are employed, many dating back to the 18th Century: stuffing the baby girl’s mouth with a few grains of coarse paddy causing the child to choke to death is one, poisoning, using organic or inorganic chemicals, drowning, suffocation, starvation and breaking the spinal cord, as well as burying the child alive.

What possible reasons could families have for murdering their baby girls?

  • Extreme poverty.  The inability to afford raising a child.
  • The dowry system.  This practice was supposed to have been abolished but it still exists.  Poorer families in rural regions fear being unable to raise a suitable dowry and being socially ostracised.
  • Children conceived from rape
  • Deformed children born to impoverished families
  • Unmarried mothers not having reliable, safe and affordable birth control
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Low income
  • Lack of support coupled with postpartum depression

A girl is seen as an economic burden to her family–an unwanted expense while the boy is seen as their source of income.  What about the women who have generated income for their families through the use of a sewing machine?  Girls can be and are sources of income for their families. All they need is to be given the opportunities.

The girls are murdered for two reasons–the dowry, as mentioned earlier and the unwillingness of their families to marry them to men from a rival caste/tribe.  Parents would rather murder their daughter than to allow her to marry someone from a lower caste.  And the girls who survive are mistreated and neglected.  They are unloved, uneducated and kept at home where they are forced to do household chores.  For them the future is bleak and hopeless.

From the time they are born, South Asian women face pain, rejection, cruelty, suffering and discrimination.  The Veil of Tears:  Hope is on the Way is a documentary film which gives us a glimpse into the lives and hearts of these women for whom adversity is the norm.  Take a look at the behind scenes video of “Veil of Tears:  Hope is on the Way”.

I was deeply affected when Natalie Grant shared what she saw when she went to the Red Light District in Mumbai.  Little girls as young as 5 were for sale.  She and her husband had an opportunity to tour a brothel where they saw tiny rooms with beds lined up and one of them had a rope tied at the end of it.  At first she was hesitant to ask about this but when she did, she was told that there was no daycare . These were working women but there was no where for them to drop off their children.  “This woman has her 18 month old daughter that she tetters to the end of the bed while she’s forced to work so that she knows where she is.  These are the things my husband and I say wrecked us for life”  As a mother, can you imagine working in a brothel and having your child right there in the room with you?  Yet, women are forced to turn to prostitution i order to take care of their children.  And there is no one who will take care of their children while they work.

On CBN, Natalie shared another heartbreaking story, “I was walking down the street in Mumbai, in broad daylight, when my eyes locked on a little girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, peering out of a cage, looking at us on the street below. It was beyond my imagination.  I’ll never forget that moment. That was her life. Every day people walked by, and they didn’t even notice her.”

Can you imagine you or your daughter being kept in a cage like an animal and people are just walking by as this is nothing out of the ordinary?

When we see how these girls and women are treated by society, we realize that the problems we face are nothing compared to what they have had to endure.  This why God has brought their stories to our awareness so that we can tell others.  We can be the voice of the voiceless.

“Veil of Tears” tells the stories of women who are just like every other woman in the world, except that these women are brutalized, they’re despised, they’re persecuted culturally, simply because they are women and this has been going on for generations – Kenny Saylors

Thankfully, there is hope.

…God is restoring dignity to the women who have been utterly just downtrodden – Kyle Saylors

And God is not just changing their hearts, He’s changing their lives.  He’s changing their everyday lives – Kenny Saylors

We can bring hope to the girls and women of South Asia–the hope they can find only in Jesus by supporting the Veil of Tears film.  Here are ways you can make a difference.  Take action today. Get the word out about the plight of women in Asia.

The most overwhelming part of the whole trip was visiting a village and seeing women who had been restored and seeing what true hope actually does in the life of someone that it actually can make them new, that no matter how broken, no matter how desolate, there is still hope – Natalie Grant

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; World and Media; Wikipedia; Counterpunch

A Sewing Machine

And let your widows trust in Me – Jeremiah 49:11b

I had an aunt who used to sew on the side and a co-worker who sews her own tops and dresses. My mother had a sewing machine but I don’t remember seeing her use it.  Growing up it never occurred to me to learn how to sew.  I was more interested in reading romance novels.  If I were among the poor of Asia, knowing how to sew would come in very handy.

For the poor of Asia, sewing is not just a hobby; it is an opportunity to earn a livelihood for their family.

For one widow, sewing was her lifesaver.  Unable to feed her family, she cried out to God in desperation and He answered her prayer through a sewing machine.  Watch her amazing story.

I was moved by her story.  She turned to God in her greatest need and He came through for her.  As God usually does, what He provided was beyond what she expected.  And in response to His faithfulness, she was faithful in returning a tithe of what she earned.  The sewing machine was not only the source of her income which she used to feed her family but it was her opportunity to share her testimony with others.  As a result her neighbors wanted to know more about the God who had given her the sewing machine which changed her life and the lives of her children.

It’s remarkable how God used something as simple and basic as a sewing machine to answer this widow’s prayers.  And He is using sewing to bring joy to other women.  In South Asia, there are sewing centres where they receive daily devotions, counseling, prayer and fellowship while attending a four-month sewing course which will equip them with the skills they need in order to have a better future.

Imagine the joy of a woman living in poverty in India, who is able to sell the beautiful garment she has created, to feed her family or help put a roof over their heads. Imagine the greater joy she felt upon hearing those beautiful words of Jesus for the first time through the sewing/tailoring ministry established in her village, where she learned to sew and establish her business – Christian Aid Mission

The widow reminded me that it is always best to wait upon the Lord.  She thought of remarrying but decided against it because it would not have been the best thing for her children.  She put their needs before her own.  She turned to God instead.  She followed Solomon’s advice, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding ; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs  3:5, 6).   Even in her moments of despair and desperation, she held on to her faith and leaned on the Rock, trusting in His love and compassion.  And her prayers were answered in the most wonderful and unexpected way.

I pray that we will have the faith of this widow who didn’t cave the temptation to solve her problems by herself.  Too often we try to do things on our own instead of seeking God in prayer and waiting for Him to act on our behalf.  Faith and reason prevailed in this widow’s case.  She didn’t have to depend on a new husband to care for her.  Instead she could depend on Almighty God who would be a Father to her children.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you – Matthew 7:7

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Christian Aid Mission

Prisha’s Calling

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven – Matthew 5:16

I read Prisha’s story and was touched by the love and compassion she and the other women missionaries showed the people of Punya Basti.  The village was ready for harvest but there were no labourers until God sent Prisha.  She had heard about Punya Basti.

The residents lived in squalor, with no electricity, running water or toilets.  Can you imagine living in such conditions? Although most of the villagers left for months at a time to find low-paying work and beg in other areas, they were still unable to feed their children three meals a day.  They couldn’t afford to sent them to school.  Amidst the squalor, alcohol and drug abuse were major concerns.  Fights frequently broke out.  Animal carcasses and burning waste littered the place, creating a stench so horrific that made outsiders drive recklessly through the village just to get away from it.  Outsiders looked down on the villagers because of their low caste and lack of hygiene and education.

The outsiders remind me of the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ time.  No doubt they would have avoided this village like it were a plague.  They would never set foot in it.  They would put as much distance between themselves and it and condemn the people instead of having compassion on them.  What about us?  We might feel sorry for the people but are we willing to do something to help to change their circumstances?  If God were to call us to go to such a place and minister to the people and share the Gospel, would we be willing to go?  Would we find excuses like Moses? Or would we run in the opposite direction like Jonah?

What would Jesus do?  I think it’s fair to say that He would go into that village and stay with the people.  And I also think the apostle Paul would do the same.  Sometimes God calls us out of our comfort zone and sends us to places we would never dream of going but there are people there who just need someone to show that they care.

Prisha was called to go to Punya Basti.  She knew that no one else wanted to go.  Even as she might have had misgivings about being able to stick it out, she agreed to go.  Her leader suggested that she commute to the village from a safer nearby village where she would have more comfortable accommodations but Prisha refused.  She wanted to live among the villagers.

I don’t want to stay in a different place.  I want to stay in the midst of them, in the village, so I can understand their feelings . . . and they can understand the love that we want to show them.

How many of us would have been tempted to stay in the safer village and be more comfortable? Prisha wanted to be able to relate to the people so living apart from them was out of the question. Jesus went to those who were downtrodden, outcast, rejected and lost.  He was criticized for being with them.

No one said that it would be easy.   Thing were pretty bad.  The people rarely had baths or washed their clothes.  Just last night my son asked me if he had to take a bath.  If he had his way, he would skip bathing altogether.

Once Prisha’s landlord offered her and her fellow Sister of Compassion a glass of water.  Prisha was shocked when she looked at it.  It smelled so bad that they couldn’t drink from it.  This was not surprising because Gospel for Asia Pastor Hoob Kumar who served the village, mentioned that the women cooked and ate food out of dirty vessels.

Realizing the magnitude of what lay in front of them, Prisha and her co-worker spent their first week in prayer and fasting.  Then they found ways to help the villagers.  They started by sweeping out the village’s filthy drains.  At times, Prisha was overwhelmed by the filthiness of Punya Basti but she and the seven Sisters of Compassion who joined her resolved to embrace the villagers and share in their lives.   There are times when we feel overwhelmed and this is the time when the enemy will attack us but God gives us the strength to carry on.  He who calls us will equip us and will be with us.

Slowly we understood that if we don’t get to know them closely, we won’t be able to have relationships with them – Prisha.

The Sisters of Compassion helped the local women with their chores, took care of their babies and ate the food offered to them.  Can you imagine eating tortoise and mongoose?  Most of us would refuse to eat that but Prisha and her fellow workers didn’t.   Eventually, they earned the people’s trust. The villagers began to listen to and follow their advice.  The drinking and fighting stopped. Women once barely clothed, embarrassing Prisha were now dressing modestly.  They began to cook in healthier and cleaner ways.  The children started going to school and the Sisters of Compassion taught them how to bathe, brush their teeth, comb their hair and dress neatly–things that we and out children do everyday.  Great changes were happening in Punya Basti!

The Sisters were embraced by the villagers who began to see them as family because of the love these women had shown them.  Others had scorned them but these Sisters had shown them that there is a God who loved them and wanted to transform their lives.  It was not long before the people decided to follow the God who had sent the Sisters to them.  The love of Jesus permeates the village that had once been steeped in squalor, violence and discord.  They had received physical and spiritual cleansing.  The once filthy ground was now fertile.

Today, the vast majority of Punya Basti’s residents, numbering more than 1,000, proclaim faith in Jesus. Even when half of the village is away traveling for work, more than 200 people gather to worship Jesus each week, ready to learn more about the God who cared enough to send His daughters to live among them.

This story really inspired me.  A village that seemed beyond hope and redemption was transformed by a young woman who obeyed God’s call.  Through her and her fellow Sisters of Compassion, God reached out to the villagers, showing them that there is a better way.   She reflected God’s love and they responded.   I pray that when God calls us to serve Him in areas that others don’t want to go to, we will be like Prisha and simply obey.

Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me” – Isaiah 6:8.

If you are interested in learning more about the work of Sisters of Compassion, watch this http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1” target=”_blank”>video.

Now Entering Filth and Fertile Ground

Source:  Gospel for Asia