Friends

They started out as friends.

Talked for hours on the phone.

Went out for pizza or to the

movies when they didn’t have

any other plans.  Some

Saturday nights they would

order in spicy Thai food

while watching classic or

foreign movies.

 

They didn’t know exactly

when their feelings for

each other began to

change.  Perhaps it was

the afternoon when they

went to the amusement

park and rode on the

carousel.

 

She held on to the pole

laughing as Tony tried

to take a photo of her.

Then, on the spur of the

moment, he leaned forward

and kissed  her.  It seemed

perfectly natural but she

was no longer laughing.

When the ride stopped

and he helped her

down, their eyes held

for a long moment.  They

were very close to each

other and his hands were

still holding her by the

waist.  Her legs were

a bit wobbly and she

held on to him for a

while longer until she

no longer needed the

support.

 

When they were

standing outside of

the park and away

from the crowd, he

stopped and pulled

her aside.  “I’m sorry

about just now,” he said.

“I shouldn’t have kissed

you.  I hope you’re not

angry with me.”

 

“I kissed you back,” she

said.   “Where do we

go from here, Tony?”

 

He moved closer, his

expression serious

as his eyes searched

her face.  “Where would

you like us to go, Nicole?”

 

She reached up and

kissed him.  “Does this

answer your question?”

she asked minutes

later when she drew

back to look up

at him.

 

“Yes, it does” he said.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Famished,” he replied, rubbing

his stomach.  They laughed.

“I am in the mood for

some Penne arrabiata.”

“So am I,” he agreed, reaching

for her hand and lacing his

fingers through hers

as they walked to

their favorite Italian

bistro.

 

That was two years ago.

Now they were engaged.

Their wedding was in

two months.  Before going

on their honeymoon, they

planned to go back on

the carousel ride–where

for them, the journey from

friendship to romance began.

 

 

black and white couple

 

Women Beggars in India

The Bible has told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  In fact, Jesus said that one day He will say to those who helped those in need, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’ (Matthew 25:34-36).

It is hard to go to a place like India and see a woman on the streets, begging with a child in tow and not do something about it.   She is dressed shabbily, perhaps bare feet, her face dirty and in her arms is a sleeping infant or a toddler with a dirty face, runny nose and big eyes looking at you as his mother holds out a thin, dirty hand for money.  Your heart melts and you reach into your handbag or your money belt to take out some money to give her.  It’s impossible for you not to help this mother and her child.  You give her the money and she takes it and goes way.  Your heart feels light.  You have done a great thing.

 

It’s a common sight in India to see a dirty looking woman carrying a child in her arms.  If you are driving, you see them at the traffic light and when you stop, they come to your car and bang on the window. Sometimes it’s a little boy with a runny nose.   You will find them in the railway stations, metro stations, tourist attractions, in temples and in areas where there are crowds.  People who see them are moved to give them money.  Sometimes they shoo them away.

 

It is perfectly normal for people to beg in a country where there is so much poverty.  In fact, begging has become one of the most serious social issues in India in spite of rapid economic growth.  This has led to the growth of beggars in the country.  Most of them come from Bangladesh and some are from India. The problem is that not all of the beggars are legitimate.  The few who are real are those who are handicapped because they are unable to work, they are old or blind or they need money for basic needs.  Many live far below the poverty line and have been forced to beg in order to survive.

 

There are entire families who are begging on the streets and in temples because their income is not enough.  The children are unable to go to school.  Poverty is very real in India and begging is the only way the people can earn their livelihood.  Unfortunately, begging has become a big scam in India. Travel India Smart warns people who plan to visit India that if they are approached by a women carrying a baby and begging for money not to give her any money.  These women make the babies look pathetic to appeal to the public’s sympathy.

 

In an article, Travel India Smart says that when one woman takes a rest, she hands the baby over to other women who continue to walk the streets in the hot sun, carrying the baby.  Babies are rented out from beggar to beggar.  As a mother, I can’t imagine how a mother could allow her baby to be used like this.  Maps of India says that sometimes the babies are drugged for the entire day so that they look sick and can be easily carried from one area to another by the young women beggars.

 

These beggars want money.  One beggar said that the baby she was carrying had just been fed and she would prefer money.  In Mumbai, a child or a woman beggar approaches a visitor, wanting some powdered milk to feed a baby.  The woman would take the visitor to a nearby stall or shop which happens to sell tins or boxes of the milk.  The milk is pricey and if the tourist hands over the money for it, the shopkeeper and the beggar split the proceeds between them.  The beggars rent babies from their mothers to make them look credible and they carry these sedated babies who are draped limply in their arms and claim that they don’t have any money to feed them.

 

When confronted by a woman beggar and a child, what do we do?  In an article written in Go India, Sharell Cook, suggests that it is best to ignore the beggars.  It may sound harsh but by not giving them what they want, you are taking the necessary step toward abolishing beggary.  It is something that has become a menace to society.  It is exploiting the compassion of those who want to help those in need.  It is making it difficult for the real beggars.  Babies and children are being exploited.  And gangs are profitting from begging.  Some beggars have gone as far as deliberately maiming and disfiguring themselves just to get more money.

 

Something has to be done to stop this epidemic.  One suggestion is that charitable organizations use their clout with governments to ban beggars from using babies.  Another suggestion is that the Indian government continues with its measures to alleviate poverty.  For our part, people can help to stop this problem by not giving money to these beggars.  Instead, they are encouraged to visit a temple and give alms to the beggars there.

 

Tips for giving to Beggars are:

  • If you really want to give to beggars, give only 10-20 rupees at a time and give them when leaving a place not when you arrive or you will be mobbed.
    • Try to give to those who perform a service, such as small children who dance or sing
    • Give to those who are elderly or crippled.

 

God wants us to show compassion to those who are in need but He doesn’t expect us to help those who would take advantage of our charity and exploit others for their greedy gains.

 

Avoid giving to women with babies because the babies are usually not theirs.  The best thing you can do is to not give anything to the beggars.  If everyone were to stop giving, then these gangs and all those who are profitting from begging will be put out of business.  They will have no choice to work and earn an honest living.  And visitors can enjoy a hassle free vacation.

 

indian_beggar_woman

Sources:  Map of IndiaTravel India SmartGo India

Healing and Hope

I first heard of the Bridge of Hope program when I became a blogger for the Gospel of Asia Ministry.  I have read stories of children whose lives seemed hopeless until they were enrolled in this program where they were given a chance for a better future.  They were provided with daily meals, regular medical check-ups and a quality education so that one day they would be able to get good jobs and provide for themselves and their families.  And most importantly, they learned about Jesus.

One day an illiterate man went to the Bridge of Hope centre with a strange request. Would the staff there send the “medical doctor named Jesus” to help his sick wife? how did this man know that Jesus could heal the sick?  He learned this from a little boy named Nibun, a first-grader.  Nibun listened as his teachers talked about Jesus healing the sick, delivering people from evil spirits and feeding the hungry.  It was Nibun’s father who came with the strange request.  It was Nibun’s mother who was sick.

The family was poor.  They lived in a mud hut and couldn’t afford to go to a hospital.  Most of the doctors were miles away.  It was too long of a trek on a dirt path through the woods, especially for a sick person.  Nibun’s mother was very ill.  His father tried to do everything he could.  He cried out to his gods to help her but she got worse until she became critical.  It was then that Nibun told his father about Jesus, but the man thought that there was a doctor with that name working at the Bridge of Hope centre.

The staff at the centre responded to the father’s desperate request and went with him to his home.  They talked to the family about Jesus and His love, sacrifice and power to heal.  Then, they laid hands on the woman and prayed to God to heal her. And He did.  The news soon spread throughout the small village and several people came to know the Lord that week and the following week more families placed their faith in Jesus.  Families are attending a local church where they are growing in God’s grace and increasing their knowledge of Jesus.

Many lives were changed because of a little boy who learned about Jesus at the Bridge of Hope centre and believed that He could heal his mother.  This program not only brings hope to children like Nibun but it transforms communities.  It brings the light of God’s love and the hope found only in Jesus Christ to many people.

Faith that Works

Slide1

James 2:14-17

If a church member were to come to you for help, what would you do?  Would you say to him or her, “Don’t worry, God will provide”?  What if God sent that person to you?

James is telling us that when people come to us for help, we ought to do what we can.  Words of faith will not do them any good.  But faith accompanied by works would benefit them greatly.  James mentions two needs that a person may have–clothes and food.  You simply can’t see a person naked and hungry and send them away hoping and praying that things will work out.  What good is your faith if you didn’t use it to help that person?  When you see a need, don’t miss an opportunity to exercise the faith you say you have.  Perhaps you can provide only one of those needs but that’s fine.  What you cannot provide, someone else could.  Perhaps a friend or another church member could help.  You pick up the phone and call.  Let the person who came to you see your faith in action.  Words will bring that person little comfort if they are not followed by actions.  It’s a matter of don’t tell me you care, show me.

If someone came to you for food and a place to stay but you can’t provide either, don’t send him or her away.  Invite the person in.  Have faith that God will show you what to do.  Perhaps, He will bring to your mind two people.  One will prepare a meal for the person.  You take the person over to that friend’s house and while he or she is being fed, you call another friend who has a spare room.   Faith is no good to you or anyone else if it is not a faith that works.  Faith that is all talk and no action is worthless.  As James rightly said, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

 

God Provides

Slide1

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.

Sin or Die

I lost my husband but God is here to take care of me.

Geeta was married to an abusive man who was also a drunkard.  He earned 200 rupies per day from a manual labor job but gave her only 20 rupies per day to buy and cook food.  He spent most of his earnings on his drinking. The money he gave her from his earnings was not enough for her to cook the kinds of meals he expected.  He beat her horribly every night with a cricket bat and Geeta asked herself why she was married to this man.  One day he disappeared and never came back.  She was left to raise two children.  She got a job but most of the money went towards paying for the rent so that most times she and her children went with hungry.  She managed to get a new job in a hotel which paid better but she still had to struggle.

As I listened to her story, I couldn’t believe the horrors this poor mother had to go through.  She lived in the slums, on a hill near the forest and the hut was made of sticks and plastic tarps.  She was terrified because tigers came out of the jungle at night and there was nothing to keep them from attacking her and her children.

One of her friends gave her a Gospel tract and told her about Jesus, the Saviour who could protect her from danger.  Geeta didn’t waste any time reaching out to Him.  She prayed and asked Him to protect her and her children from the roaming tigers and He did.  After this Geeta went to her friend’s church and soon gave her life to Jesus.  He began to work in her, transforming her and people noticed.

Geeta’s story shows us that becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that our problems will go away.  In fact, Geeta reached a point where she had to make a terrible decision. Her boss owned the room she and her children were staying in.  He wanted sexual favours from her.  How could she do what he wanted?  She was once married. She was a mother.  She was a Christian.  If she didn’t do what he wanted, she and her children would be thrown out of the room.  With nowhere to go, she and her children would be out on the streets begging in order to survive.

During one of her darkest moments, Geeta thought it would be better to face death than face these horrible choices, but when she learned of a neighbour whose suicide left his wife and children begging in the streets, she realized that she could not do that to her children.  And the prospect of her precious daughter becoming a sexual prey to evil men when she grew up filled her with horror.  She had to protect her daughter.

When faced with these choices–become a prostitute, live on the streets or die, Geeta chose to pray.  She trusted Jesus to rescue her from this hopeless situation and He did.  The day before she was supposed to move out of the room, Gospel for Asia came to her rescue and helped her to stay another month while providing food for her and her children.

Thanks to God, Geeta and her children don’t have to beg in the streets in order to survive.   She could stay in the room for a while longer until she could find something better.  What a happy ending to this story.  Geeta did the right thing.  She obeyed God’s Word by choosing not to sin and God came through for her.  She reached out to Him in prayer, trusting Him to deliver her and He did. Now she doesn’t have to choose between sin and death.

If you want to learn more about what Gospel for Asia is doing for women like Geeta who face extremely difficult situations, visit their website.  Find out how you can help to improved the conditions for women who are shunned by their families and abandoned children who are forced to beg in the streets.

Geeta mentioned Bridge of Hope where her children received an education.  Find out more about this program and what you can do to help break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy.  You can make a difference in the lives of women like Geeta and provide a future for abandoned children.

Bridge of Hope

When your child comes to you and says, “I’m hungry,” you stop whatever you are doing and you find something for him or her to eat.  Sadly, children in South Asia are crying out, “I’m so hungry, but there’s no food. Not even in the garbage.”  For many of them hunger, poverty and mistreatment have become a way of life.  No child should go without food or face a future without hope.  Thankfully, God has heard their cries and has provided help and hope through Gospel of Asia’s Bridge of Hope program.

Parents across Asia struggle to provide for their families. Children grow up illiterate, uneducated and taught they are worthless. More than 20 million boys and girls are trapped in social evils like child labor and prostitution in order to support their family.

Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope turns these situations around for good. Children are educated and nurtured. Families experience Christ’s love. More than 60,000 children have been helped so far and thousands of families have found faith in Christ as a result.

I encourage you to take a few moments and watch the Bridge of Hope video and see how children across Asia are being rescued.  Find out more about the program at http://www.gfa.org/sponsorachild/

You too can make a difference.  You can give hope to a child and enable Jesus Christ’s love to reach a family in Asia.  You can bring hope to those in despair and help to those in need.  Sponsor a child today so that he or she could have a bright future and experience the love of Jesus.  May God bless you as you help these children.

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