Gifts Thankfully Received

Thanksgiving has come and gone in Canada and the United States.  Many of us enjoyed delicious turkey dinners with our families and reflected on all that we were thankful for.  We were thankful that we have shelter, jobs, families and friends.  Just recently many people got laid off from their jobs.  Those of us who still have jobs are very thankful especially as the Christmas season is fast approaching.

As Christmas draws near, we think about the gifts we will get for our loved ones and friends and plan our menus.  It’s a fun and a stressful time. We decorate our homes and set aside one evening just to wrap presents to put under the Christmas tree.  We are thankful for the most wonderful time of the year.  We are thankful for God’s greatest Gift to us–His beloved Son, Jesus.

Sadly, it’s during this time of the year when we are reminded that not everyone is as blessed as we are or has much to be thankful for.  Imagine that it’s Christmas time but you are not in the holiday spirit because you are overworked and it’s a constant struggle every day to provide meals for your family. You’re working hard but have nothing to really show for it.  You can’t give your children education or clothes.  This is how life is for many people in South Asia.  Each day is a struggle for them. They don’t live–they just exist.

Imagine how thankful you would be if you were to receive a simple gift that would help you and your family.  Gospel for Asia offers lots of wonderful gifts in their Christmas Gift Catalog.  Gifts like chickens, sewing machines, rickshaws and Bibles are not only a great source of income for people who are living in poverty but they are a means by which the love of Christ can be demonstrated in tangible ways.  Since 2007, the gifts from GFA’s Christmas Gift Catalog have helped over 736,000 impoverished families in South Asia.

I thought of which gift I would be thankful to receive and came up with two.  The pull cart and a bicycle.

With a pull cart I can sell fruits, vegetables, clothing or handcrafted items so that I can provide for my family.  This is a legitimate way for a poor person to make a living.  I would be able to give my child an education and give faithfully to the church.  I can even share the Good News about Jesus with people as they buy the goods  I am selling.  I don’t have to worry about renting a cart.  Having my own cart saves me time and I can take home all of what I earn.  Having my own cart will be a testimony to my neighbors and relatives that God takes care of those who put their faith and trust in Him.

I love to ride.  In Guyana I used to ride a lot.  It was a fun way to get around.  Good exercise too.  If I were living in South Asia, I would love to own a bicycle.  If I received one as a Christmas gift, I would use it to reach more villages and tell them about Jesus.  The Bible talks about how “beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15).  Imagine how much faster I can share the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things if I had a bicycle!

This Christmas think of the many lives in South Asia that will be changed through the Christmas Gift Catalog.  Think of how thankful you would be to receive one of these gifts.  Take a look at the Catalog here and prayerfully consider each gift.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver – 2 Corinthians 9:7

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Dhal Ni Pol Blog

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Clean Water: It Has So Many Benefits

Did you know that today 750 million people around the world have no access to clean water?

Just last night I gave my six year old son water to drink.  It was cold, clean water.  What a blessing and privilege it is to be able to drink clean water.  I cannot imagine what it would be like not to have access to clean water.  Yet, almost half the people in South Asia live with that sobering reality.   Mothers are forced to give their children dirty water to drink.  Can you believe that every minute a child dies from a water related disease?  And to make matters worse the people living in rural areas have to deal with open defecation and the lack of sanitation.  65% of them have no access to a toilet.  Yet, here in North America, the majority of us have access to more than one toilet in our homes.

We have clean water at our disposal to wash clothes, cook, bathe, etc.  I have seen images of women going to rivers to wash their clothes.  In rural India, women and girls are largely responsible for collecting the water and household sanitation so they spend most of their time fetching water, walking for hours.  This prevents many girls from going to school and exposes them to increased violence as they travel rural areas in search of water.  They are malnourished due to regular contact with contaminated water.

I grew up in Guyana so I know what it’s like not to have running water in the home and having to fetch water.  However, unlike the women and girls in India, my family and I didn’t have to walk for hours everyday.  We had a pipe in our yard and that’s where we drew our water from.  And not having running water in the home didn’t happen too often and didn’t prevent me from going to school.  Compared to the people of South Asia, I lived a privileged life even though I wasn’t convinced of that during those times when we had no electricity or running water for hours.

In South Asia, living without clean water carries health and safety risks.  In story, Water From the Rocks, the villagers used water from a pond for their crops and their cattle and to wash their clothes.  They even used it to bathe but unfortunately this caused itching and swelling.  Seeing this motivated Pastor Dayal to ask his leaders if they would be able to drill a Jesus Well in Nirdhar’s village. Thanks to the generous donations toward Jesus Wells through Gospel for Asia, they could.

208e0741-0ef9-483e-b4b2-0959321e4007The villagers were incredulous, and one of them, could hardly believe that a well could be built in the hilly area where they lived.  He feared that there might be hindrances too but nothing is impossible for the mighty God whom they served.  God knew what they needed even before they prayed in faith, asking Him to provide the water they so desperately needed.

Despite their skepticism, the local team the pastor hired to drill the well, went ahead with the project until they finally hit water.  God had come through for the villagers.  They had their well.  That meant clean water for cooking, drinking, washing and bathing.  Today fresh water flows abundantly in the Jesus Well, relieving the itching and swelling the villagers had experienced from the water in the pond.

We never thought a well would be drilled in our village. But the true need of this village was met by Gospel for Asia. We are truly thankful for it – Nirdhar

Jesus delivered Nirdhar from evil spirits and an entire village from thirst and so much more.  We have a Lord and Savior who loves us and wants to provide for our basic needs. What affects us affects Him.  He takes a personal interest in our lives.  What a comforting thought.  Through Jesus Wells, Gospel for Asia can share the unfailing love of the One who gave His precious life for them.

On World Water Day and everyday, let us give thanks to God for the clean water we are blessed to have at our disposal and to purpose in our hearts to never take this essential source of life and sustenance for granted.  Think about the men, women and children who still don’t have clean water and how you can help them by donating to Jesus Wells.  You can find out more about Gospel for Asia’s Clean Water ministry here.

Clean water has so many benefits.  It means that a mother doesn’t have to worry about her child getting sick.  It means that a woman doesn’t have to travel for hours with her daughter to fetch contaminated water and it means that a girl doesn’t have to miss school.  Clean water means changed lives.
World Water Day 2015

Sources:  The Water Project; Gospel for Asia Canada

Water

World Water Day is Saturday, March 22, 2014.  It is held annually on March 22nd to raise awareness of the importance of freshwater and the sustainable management of freshwater resources.  Water is essential.  People, animals, plants need it.

I live in a country where I have access to clean water.  I can drink filtered water, bottled water or boiled water.  When my five year old son is thirsty, I can give him filtered water from our fridge.  I grew up in Guyana, South America and there were times when we had to draw water from the tap in the yard in order to bath but it had fluoride or chlorine to kill impurities.   “The amount of chlorine is carefully measured to be the lowest possible amount needed to keep the water free of germs. In some places fluoride is also added. It has been found to help prevent tooth decay. Some natural water sources already contain fluoride so this step is not always included”  (Water Purification, Guyana Water Incorporated).

Imagine living in a community where there is no clean water for you to drink, cook, wash or bath with.  Your only two options are to die of thirst or to get sick or die from dirty water.  These are the grim choices that men, women and children are forced to make in Asia.  They don’t have the privilege we do of having clean tap water.  As a result illnesses caused by dirty water kill more people each year than war and violence.  One of nine people worldwide don’t have access to clean water and many of them live in South Asia.

Gospel for Asia has combated this problem of clean water by digging Jesus Wells and providing BioSand Water filters to people across South Asia who have no access to clean, fresh water.  This simple act of providing wells for people who are starving for clean water that there is a Savior who loves them and wants them to be healthy and safe.  Many are putting their trust and faith in Him.

It was this faith in Christ that brought upon Chandrabhan and his family intense persecution from their community.  They were blocked from drawing water at the public well.  This all began when Chandrabhan’s daughter decided that like her parents, she wanted to follow Christ much to her husband’s chagrin.  Furious Nadir recruited religious fanatics to storm into his in-laws’ house to remove his infant son from his mother’s care.  He had decided that he didn’t want his wife to return home with him after all.  He just wanted their son.

The group of men who accompanied Nadir beat the family and demanded that they renounce Jesus Christ.  Chandrabhan sustained a serious blow to the head as his son-in-law forcibly removed his son from the house.  Nadir’s wife Laghuvi watched as the ambulance took her family away while the welfare of her son weighed heavily on her mind.

Chandrabhan came home with 12 stitches but his troubles were just beginning.  When word spread in the village of what had happened, the victims became the villains.  The villagers accused him and his wife of placing their religion above the well being of their daughter, Laghuvi who had filed for a divorce.  Some wondered, “What is there in Jesus more than an son-in-law?  Don’t they care about their daughter’s life?”

In spite of the persecution and their neighbors’ opinion that their actions were foolish and even cruel, Chandrabhan and his family continued to trust God.  This led to friends cutting their ties, declaring, “If they don’t want to compromise with their daughter’s life, we will not have fellowship with them.”  Through it all, the Friend who sticks closer than a brother was there for the family.

Not satisfied with isolating them, the community took their vendetta a step further by blocking them from the pubic well.  If any family member approached, they were met with scolds.  The closet place they could go to for water was at a school over half a mile away and they couldn’t draw enough for themselves and their livestock.  This was their punishment for receiving the Living Water.

“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 the midst of this turmoil, the Holy Spirit impressed upon Chandrabhan’s heart to ask his pastor about getting a well that would be open to everyone.  After the pastor talked this over with his leaders, a year later, a well was drilled behind Chandrabhan’s house.

The Jesus Well turned things around for this family who had suffered for their faith.  They were no longer condemned by their community but appreciated and respected.  The family welcome their neighbors to the well and more than 30 families use it regularly.  And at the Jesus Well, over buckets of water, some people have come to know about Christ and His unfailing love just by talking to the man they once saw as a villain.

In the wake of persecution, isolation, condemnation, Chandrabhan and his family reflected the love of Christ which dwelt in their hearts by wanting to share their well with others.  They shared their faith with those who had not yet received the Living Water.  The Jesus Well not only restored the family’s reputation but it changed lives forever.

Sadly, Laghuvi still hasn’t seen her son or her ex-husband but the Lord has come through for her by blessing her with a new husband who shares her faith.  With Jesus at the center of her life, she will experience indescribable joy.

Do you want to see God transform lives in hostile villages as He did in Chandrabhan’s village?  You can by providing a Jesus Well to an entire community for $1,000.  You can donate to Jesus Wells.  People are thirsty.  In the village of Chaitaly, a woman whose illness of 12 years baffled doctors, the local well was running low and the people were dying from dehydration and waterborne illnesses.  They were desperately searching for a fresh source of water and rationing the little they could find.  Read how the Lord brought healing to Chaitaly and miraculously provided clean water for these villagers.  You can demonstrate the love of Christ through the Jesus Well so that not only will people draw water from the well but they will draw near to the One who provides it.

A Jesus Well provides pure water for an entire village full of thirsty people for only $1000.  With clean water, the health of the people improves significantly.  Through the provision of clean water, villagers are open to hearing about the God who loves them and provides for their needs.

Join Gospel for Asia in this wise investment of drilling a well for only $1000.  Help the people of Asia who are living without clean water and dying from water related diseases.  Help save children under five in the world from deaths caused by diarrhea.  Save the women around the globe who spend millions of hours a day collecting water.  You can make a difference.  With your help, Gospel for Asia can continue to deliver clean, disease free water to families across South Asia. Help open people’s eyes to a God who has not forsaken them but is revealing His love, power and provision through Jesus Wells.

   

Sources:  www.gfa.org/water; http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/her-husband-kidnapped-their-son; http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/a-village-starving-for-water; http://www.gwiguyana.com/?q=node/31

Violence Against Women in Guyana

I saw on the news on Friday, November 23, 2012 that Chris Brown had to cancel his concert in Guyana because of women’s rights groups and opposition lawmakers who said Brown would not be welcome in Guyana three years after his assault of Barbadian superstar Rihanna.

Growing up in Guyana I was never knew that there was such a thing as domestic violence or violence against women.  I didn’t know a lot of things until I came to North America.  Perhaps these things existed in the little South American country I called home for fifteen years but it was kept quiet.  People did not talk about their problems publicly like here in North America where people talk so freely about very personal things on television on talk shows.  When  I was in Guyana, we didn’t have television but we had the radio and the movie theaters to entertain us.   I saw movies where women were brutally raped and sometimes killed.

Domestic violence in Guyana is widespread.  The NGOs report a widespread perception that some police officers and magistrates could be bribed to make cases of domestic violence “go away.” The government also does not prosecute cases in which the alleged victim or victim’s family agreed to drop the case in exchange for a monetary payment out of court. NGOs assert the need for a specialized Family Court.

Domestic violence is a problem in all regions of the country. Enforcement of the domestic violence laws is especially weak in the interior, where police do not have as strong a presence and courts meet only once a quarter.    Fortunately, there is help and shelter for victims of domestic violence.  Help and Shelter was founded in 1995 to work against all types of violence, especially domestic and sexual violence and child abuse.  Since its inception it has become a recognised leader in the fight against violence in Guyana, particularly in the areas of domestic, sexual and child abuse.  On their website they make the following statements:

  • Studies of domestic violence in Guyana estimate that between 1 and 2 in every 3 women are victims. We also know that domestic violence against children, against the disabled and against the elderly is endemic
  • Help and Shelter’s mission is to is to work towards the elimination of violence in all its forms by helping to create a society where attitudes to use of violence and practices of violence have been transformed
  • In a client base of over 8,000 persons, 85% are female and 80% victims of spousal abuse

A June 2012 article published in Stabroek News stated that  the 2000 study, which was carried out with the support of the University of Guyana and the University of the West Indies, found that Guyana had one of the highest rates of domestic violence among the Common wealth Caribbean, and that nearly 40 percent of women had experienced domestic abuse (17 June 2012).  A 2010 UN Development Programme (UNDP) survey on citizen security, in which over 11,000 male and female adults in 7 Caribbean countries were interviewed, found that approximately 17 percent of respondents in Guyana had been subject to punching, kicking, of other physical violence by an adult household member, in comparison to the region-wide average of 10.9 percent (UN 2012, 11, 29).

Sources indicate that domestic violence incidents in Guyana are becoming more violent (Stabroek News 17 June 2012) and the number of deaths as a result of domestic violence was increasing in both 2009 (ibid. 17 Feb. 2009) and in 2012 (Help and Shelter 27 Sept. 2012).  According to staff members at Help and Shelter, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury in Guyana for women between the ages of 15 and 44 (Stabroek News 20 Feb. 2011).  Yet, according to the article from UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency, there are problems with the Government, the police and the judicial system.  The police receive training in domestic violence, there is concern that despite the training, the police are still “not very effective” in handling cases of domestic violence.  Women’s rights organizations complain that the police response to domestic violence cases is “unsatisfactory”.

Similarly, the courts’ response to victims of domestic violence is deemed as “unsatisfactory”.  The Guyana Chronicle reports on the sentences meted to perpetrators of domestic violence, including: a sentence of six-weeks imprisonment to a man who threatened to stab the mother of his child in the abdomen (1 July 2012); a sentence of seven-days imprisonment to a man who threatened his reputed wife (20 Apr. 2012); and a fine of $15,000 Guyanese dollars [C$72.61 (XE 3Oct. 2012)], with the alternative option of 10 days imprisonment, to a perpetrator who assaulted the mother of his children (26 June 2012).  Courts were faulted for allowing many of the perpetrators who killed their partners as a result of domestic violence to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter instead of being charged with murder (Stabroek News 15 Apr. 2009).  There were instances where magistrates applied “inadequate sentences after conviction” (US 24 May 2012, 13).

According to a representative of Red Thread, some lawyers were “inhumane” towards victims, and some magistrates do not believe that the Domestic Violence Act is part of Guyanese law (Stabroek News 2 Apr. 2012). The Minister of Human Services reportedly included magistrates among those in need of greater sensitivity towards domestic violence and gender equality (Stabroek News 23 May 2010).

The treatment of violence against women sounds all too familiar.   In India, the government is in-effective when it comes to preventing violence against women.  New Delhi is known as the “rape capital”.  The people of India are rising up now in the wake of the tragic death of the 23 year old woman who was gang raped on the bus by six drunk men.  India’s response in the fight against violence against women has inspired many others, says US playwright-activist, Eve Ensler.  She was in India to address a press conference for her One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign and said after the brutal incident, the “good men around” have also realised that they need to stand with women to fight for the issue because it is not only a women’s issue.  Read more 

It’s time to take action.  Tell the government of Guyana to do something!  Women should not be afraid to report rapes because of fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence.  It’s time to start punishing those guilty of rape and domestic violence.  It’s time to protect women.  A life free of violence is everyone’s right.  It’s time for the government, law enforcement and the courts to take off the band-aid and address this problem.

We can do something to help.  We can educate ourselves and help to raise awareness.  Here are some brochures that you can download and share with your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.  Get the word out–enough is enough.  We want to end violence against women not just in Guyana and India but everywhere.

We can all take responsibility for helping to bring about change, and keeping our friends and colleagues safe from domestic violence”
— Charles Clarke

“For most of recorded history, parental violence against children and men’s violence against wives was explicitly or implicitly condoned. Those who had the power to prevent and/or punish this violence through religion, law, or custom, openly or tacitly approved it. …..The reason violence against women and children is finally out in the open is that activists have brought it to global attention.”
— Riane Eisler

“It’s not enough for women to speak out on the issue – for the message to be strong and consistent, women’s voices must be backed up by men’s.”
–Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Michigan

2006_domestic_violence

Sources:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2012/11/23/chris-brown-guyana.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_violence_in_Guyana; http://www.hands.org.gy/; http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/50aa28bf2.html; http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca:8080/RIR_RDI/RIR_RDI.aspx?id=454212&l=e; http://www.demerarawaves.com/index.php/201205253877/Latest/rape-domestic-violence-largely-unchecked-in-guyana-us-report.html