What is Lacking

The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” – Matthew 19:20

39cb98148e122885e37f25fb6b1994c4All week I got this nagging sense that God was trying to tell me something.  I have been racking my brains trying to figure out what it is.  Finally, I decided to pray about it.  And after I did, a couple of days later, I was impressed to read Matthew 19:16-30.

I opened my Bible and turned to that part of the Gospel and read about the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to get eternal life.  When I finished reading it, I asked God, “Lord, what do I lack?”

He said.  “Your desire to please me.”

“But, I read my Bible everyday, I pray three times a day, I go to church every Sunday and I’m the leader for the Men’s Ministry and I help to feed the homeless every other week.  I share the Gospel with people.  I don’t drink or smoke and I have abstained from sex.  I’m waiting until I get married.  How am I not pleasing you?” I was upset now.  I have done all of these things and He’s not satisfied?

“Yes, you have done all of these things but your lack has to do with your secular work.  You are not working as if you are working for Me.”

“Lord, I’m no longer happy at this job.  The new manager is impossible to work with.  I got offered a new job.  The salary is more and I know that I will get along with that manager.  I can buy a townhouse and trade in my car for a better one.  Lord, You can’t expect me to remain in a job where I’m miserable.”

“I want you to stay right where you are.  I will work things out for your good.  Trust Me.  Work as if you are working for Me and not for your manager.”

My heart was heavy.  I wanted to leave that job so badly and take the other one but I didn’t want to end up like the rich young man who turned down Jesus’ invitation to follow Him because of wealth.  How could anyone give up eternal life for wealth which is temporary and which they can’t take with them when they die?  No, I didn’t want to make a mistake I would possibly regret for the rest of my life.  I sighed.  “Okay, Lord, you win.  I’ll stay at my job.”

I stayed at my job and about a month later, the manager left for some inexplicable reason and was replaced by a woman I used to work with years ago at another firm.  She and I always got along very well so I was happy that she was my new manager.  Still, I work heartily as though I were working for the Lord.  I thanked Him for His goodness and faithfulness toward me after I asked Him to forgive me for not giving Him my best on the job.

You will be pleased to know that when my manager was promoted to Director, I got her job.  This means that I’m earning a bigger salary now–much more than what I would have earned from the other job.  And, I’m engaged to be married.  My fiancee joined the department last year around the same time I would have left.  When we are married, we will move into a townhouse and when we have a family, I will trade in my car for a bigger one.  Yes, God is good.

Like the rich young man, ask God what is lacking in your life and be prepared to make the necessary changes.  Don’t let money or possessions, personal gain or relationships prevent you from completely committing yourself to God.

Ife Gets Jealous

1143538-800wHe was on the beach.  It was a beautiful afternoon.  The sun felt good on his face as he gazed out at the sea.  It was after 4.  In an hour he would see Ife.  Ife.  Right now he wished she were there with him.  They would walk along the water’s edge, holding hands before they went skinny dipping.  And then, instead of getting dressed and heading back to the hotel, they would make love right there in the sand.  His eyes darkened at the thought.

“Hello, Toshiro,” a pleasant voice said behind him.

Startled, he turned around.  It was Emma, the English woman who was staying at the hotel.  She had arrived last week and they had exchanged pleasantries.  Yesterday, she invited him to join her for breakfast and he accepted out of courtesy.  He smiled now.  “Hello, Emma.”

“I hope I’m not disturbing you.”

“No, you’re not disturbing.  You’re more than welcome to join me.”

She sat down beside him.  “It’s really quite beautiful here, isn’t it?  So peaceful.”

“Yes.  That’s why I come here every day.”

“I usually come in the mornings but this morning I couldn’t because I went on a tour to Lake Mburo National Park.”

“How did you like it?” thumb_286003_600_800_0_0_crop

“It was wonderful.  We were taken directly from the hotel and to the park for a boat safari, guided hike, and game drive.  We got to see the animals in three different ways and lunch was included.  I took so many photos.  As soon as I return to London, I’m going to post it to my blog.”

“Sounds like you had a great time.  I’ve never been on a tour even though I have been to Kampala many times.”

“Are you here for business or pleasure?”

“Business.” He explained to her that he was in the Sogo shosha which are Japanese companies that trade in a wide range of products and materials.  He didn’t mention that Sōgō shōsha were among the highest-paying employers in Japan.  “What about you?  What do you do?”

“I’m a Financial Director.  I get to develop and control the company’s annual operating budget to ensure that all financial targets are met and financial advice and guidance to the company’s managers and staff to enable them to achieve their objectives.”

“I can tell that you love what you do.”

She smiled.  “I do.  It’s a wonderful job.  I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

“My sister, Miko feels the same way about what she does.  She works for the Human Rights Organization.  Her specialty is Women’s Rights and she is very passionate about it.”

“Good for her.  The HRN has its hands full trying to eliminate domestic violence, human trafficking, honor killing of women, military rape, and other violent acts committed against women.  I’m thankful that there such organizations exist and am always interested in helping them in what ever way I can.”

Toshiro wondered what she would say if she knew about his arrangement with Ife.  How ironic it was that, for purely selfish reasons, the brother of a human rights advocate, should be exploiting one of the maids working at the hotel where he was a guest.  He got abruptly to his feet.  “I think we should be heading back to the hotel,” he said, glancing at his watch.  It was a quarter to five.  “I have a call to make.”

“All right.”  Emma stood up and followed him up the embankment.

Ife was on her way to the stairs to go up to fourth floor when she spotted Toshiro and the very pretty young English woman walk through the front entrance of the hotel, talking and laughing as they headed for the elevators.  She watched them jealously, making sure that they couldn’t see her.  When they got on the elevator and the doors closed behind them, she turned away, seething.  She was sorely tempted to go straight home instead of up to his suite.  No.  She couldn’t allow her jealousy to cost her her job.

Emma turned to Toshiro, her expression hopeful.  “Perhaps we could have dinner together this evening.”

He smiled apologetically.  “I’m afraid I have other plans.”

“A rain-check, perhaps?”

“I’m sorry, Emma, but I’m already in  relationship.”  When he said that he wasn’t thinking of his girlfriend, Asuka but of Ife.

“Well, whoever she is, she’s a very lucky woman.  It was a pleasure meeting and spending time with you, Toshiro.  Take care.”  She held out her hand.

He shook it.  “It was a pleasure meeting you and being in your company too, Emma.  Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”  She turned and stepped out of the elevator when it reached her floor.

Minutes later, Ife heard the elevator doors open and saw him exit.  He was alone.  Relieved but still miffed, she watched him as he let himself into the suite.  She waited until it was exactly five o’ clock before she walked down the hallway to number 406.

He was on the telephone when she let herself.  “Thank you,” he said before hanging up.  “I asked for a car to pick me up tomorrow morning for my meeting,” he explained.   He walked over to her and would have taken her in his arms but she brushed past him.  Frowning, he asked, “What’s wrong?”

Herieth-Paul2Ife swung around to face him.  “I saw you and the English woman together.”

“I was on the beach and she joined me.”

“What did you do?”

“We talked and then it was time for us to head back here.”

“Is that all you did–talk?”

“Yes.”

“It’s obvious from the way she acted that she’s attracted to you.  What about you?  Are you attracted to her?”

Toshiro caught her by the shoulders.  “No, Ife, I’m not attracted to anyone but you,” he said.  “I think about you every minute of every day and I want you all the time.  You have no reason to be jealous of Emma or anyone else.  You’re the only one I want to be with.  Oh, Ife…” he groaned thickly before he began to kiss her passionately.

Ife’s jealousy went away and putting her arms around his neck, she eagerly responded to his kisses.  After they made love and showered, he ordered dinner which they had on the terrace.  By the time she left, it was almost eight o’ clock.

Miremba was with Mrs. Sato, their next door neighbor.  She always went there when her mother wasn’t there.  Ife didn’t like the idea of her being alone in the apartment.  And besides, Miremba and Mrs. Sato enjoyed each other’s company.  The older woman was teaching her how to speak and write Japanese.  “Mom, are you seeing someone?” she asked as they let themselves into their 1 bedroom studio apartment.

Ife glanced at her, startled.  “Why do you ask?”

“You used to come straight home after work but now you don’t come in until almost seven and you have this faraway look on your face as if you’re thinking about a special someone.  Who is he?  Don’t worry I won’t tell anyone.”

Ife closed and locked the front door before she replied, “This is just between us.  It’s the person who gave me the tickets to the ballet.”

“So, who is he?” Miremba asked.

“He’s a Japanese business man staying at the hotel.”

“He’s Japanese?  Wow.  Several weeks ago, I met Mrs. Sato’s grandson, Kento.  He’s really cute.  When he’s not visiting Mrs. Sato, we call or text each other.  He’s teaching me how to speak and write Japanese.”

“Make sure that you and he are never alone together.”

Yes, Mom.”

“Are you hungry?”

Miremba shook her head.  “No. I had chicken Teriyaki at Mrs. Sato’s.  It was delicious.  So, is it serious between you and this Japanese business guy?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, Mom, I’m sorry that things didn’t work out with Dad but I’m sure he would want you to be happy even if it means being happy with this other guy.”

“What about you, Miremba?”

“I want you to be happy too.” She hugged her mother.

Ife hugged her back, her expression troubled. “Thanks, Baby,” she murmured.

 

Next up is Toshiro Goes to Bunga.

Sources:  Viator; Wikipedia; Human Rights Now Japan; Study in the UK; Institute of Directors

The Proposition

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She really had to go but she was on the the fourth floor.  There was no way she could make it down  to the first floor where the staff toilet was.  Either she wet herself on the way down in the elevator or she used his toilet.  If she got caught she could lose her job but she was desperate.   

She was lucky that she had access to toilets here  at the hotel.  If she were at home or on the road, she would be forced to use a free public toilet but there was always the fear of catching a disease or getting raped. 

I’ll be quick about it.   She dashed into the washroom and closed the door.  She sat on the toilet seat and relieved herself, promising herself that this would never happen again.  Suddenly, the door opened and the Japanese man stood there.  She couldn’t tell which one of them was more shocked and embarrassed.  He muttered something under his breath and quickly closed the door.  She was mortified.  What was she going to do now?  He had caught her red-handed.  If he reported her, she would be fired on the spot.  She needed this job to take care of her daughter.

She got up, pulled her underwear up and the skirt of her uniform down, flushed the toilet and washed her hands.  Slowly, she opened the door and walked into the living-room where he was.  He turned when he heard her.  For several minutes, there was a tense silence.  She went over to him.  Her heart was racing and her hands were trembling.  Fear gripped her. Yusuke Ogasawara

Taking a deep breath, she said, “Sir, please don’t report me.  This is the first time I have used the toilet in any of the suites or rooms.  I couldn’t hold it.  I promise it wouldn’t happen again.  Just please don’t report me.  They will fire me and I need this job.”

He didn’t answer right away but he seemed to be considering what she said.  This close he was extremely handsome.

“Is that the new uniform?” he asked.

“Yes.” Today was the first time she was wearing it.  She liked it much better than the old one.

“What’s your name?”

“Ife Basemera.”

“Are you married, Ife?”

She shook her head.  “I’m divorced.”  She didn’t mention that she had a daughter.

“All right, Ife.  I wouldn’t report you.”

She breathed a heavy sigh of relief.  “Oh, thank you, Mr–?”

“Kobayashi but you may call me Toshiro.”

“Thank you, Mr. Kobayashi for not reporting me.”

“I’m not sure if you will be so grateful once you have heard my proposition.”

Ife frowned.  “Your proposition?”

“Yes.  You’re a very beautiful and desirable woman, Ife.  My proposition is that in exchange for you keeping your job, you and I should get to know each other better.”

Ife swallowed.  “What do you mean?”

He smiled.  “I think you know what I mean.”  And as if to leave no room for any misunderstanding, he reached out and caressed her arm with his knuckles.  Her skin felt soft and smooth.  His eyes darkened on her upturned face.  He removed his jacket and his tie.  “Let’s go in there where it’s more comfortable.” he said, inclining his head backwards, indicating the bedroom which was behind him.

Ife’s heart sank.  She had wanted him to be interested in her but not like this–not just for sex.  Yet, she had no choice.  Either she agreed to his proposition or she was out of a job.  Wordlessly, she nodded and followed him into the bedroom.

An hour later, she got dressed.  He pulled on an expensive silk robe and followed her into the living-room.  “I would like to see you again tomorrow, Ife,” he said, “but at five o’ clock in the afternoon.”

She opened her mouth to tell him that she couldn’t because of her daughter, Miremba but she held her tongue.  Instead, she nodded before quickly slipping out of the suite before anyone could see her.  She finished her rounds until her 8 hour shift was over.  When she got home, she fixed dinner and straightened the place, although she was tired.

This story is fiction but there is a severe toilet shortage in Kampala, one of Africa’s bustling cities.  It is home to 1.5 million people but it has only 14 free public toilets.  Many of these public toilets are dilapidated with walls often smeared with feces.  And on the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, there are no public toilets for around 1,200 people.   Outbreaks of cholera and other water-borne diseases are common and yet authorities in Kampala have not constructed a single public toilet for years, There is an existing plan, however, to set up 200 toilets by 2025 with the support of donors such as the German development agency GIZ.   Until then, this continues to be a sanitation crisis.

There are many people who don’t have toilet facilities in their homes.  And women can’t use the public toilets without the fear of disease or rape.

Tuesday, November 19 is World Toilet Day.  To find out more information and how you can help, visit this link.  This year’s theme is leaving no one behind.

A toilet is not just a toilet. It’s a life-saver, dignity-protector and opportunity-maker. Whoever you are, wherever you are, sanitation is your human right. And yet, today, 4.2 billion people live without safely managed sanitation. How can anyone lift themselves out of poverty without sanitation? We must expand access to safe toilets and leave no one behind – United Nations

Sources: Vice;  Cleantec Innovation; Woman’s DayIndependent; New Vision

Meg’s Story

The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal – Gecko & Fly

thumb_233241_420_630_0_0_portraitI felt guilty.  Guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s gone.  He passed away a month ago from a second stroke.  It happened while I was at the grocery store.  When I got home, there was an ambulance and police cars in front.  Our grand-daughter had called 911.

I feel guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s dead.  Does that make me a heartless person?  It isn’t that I didn’t love him.  The sad thing is that I did.  Even though he didn’t love me, I loved him.  As a teenager, I used to read about unrequited love.  I never thought it would happen to me.  We met in college.  I developed a huge crush on him but he had eyes for my older sister, Elaine but she ended up marrying another boy.  On a rebound, Albert dated me and then married me soon after we discovered that I was pregnant.  We didn’t go on a honeymoon and I had to quit my job as a nurse.

I didn’t know that it was abuse because he didn’t hit me.  If he hit me, I would have left.  No, I didn’t get slapped or punched or shoved or anything like that.  Instead, I got talked down to at home when we were alone or in front of company.  I was embarrassed in public.  I could feel people staring at us and caught the pitying glances of both men and women.  I didn’t want their pity.  I didn’t want them to notice me.  I wanted to be invisible.  I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.  I wanted to be somewhere else.  More often than not, I wanted to be someone else.  I resented my sister Elaine because she had the marriage I wanted.  Her husband, Larry treated her like a queen.  I resented her because I knew that my husband would have preferred to marry her instead of me.  More than once, he said to me, “I married the wrong sister.”

He treated me with contempt.  I could see the disgust and dislike on his face when he looked at me.  And I often wondered why.  Why did he have such an aversion towards me?  I wasn’t ugly.  I was a good person.  I was a good wife to him and a good mother to our kids yet nothing I did seem to please him.  He disrespected me in front of our kids, embarrassed me in front of friends and family and in public and he became very controlling.  He controlled whom I talked to, where I went, my money and allowance.  He made decisions without consulting me, telling me that he was the breadwinner and the man of the house so he was the one was going to make all of the decisions.  I was Anglican but he wanted our kids to be Catholic.  He chose their schools.  I had no say in the matter.

Whenever he got upset, he called me names or criticized my cooking or the way I kept the house or did the laundry or ironing.  After a while nothing I did was good enough.  As the years went by, our marriage relationship was in a dismal state and I was glad when our kids moved out.  I didn’t want them to be subjected to my abuse anymore.  I should have left Albert after the kids moved out but I didn’t.  You see, he suffered a stroke and after spending a week in intensive care, he was moved to a care home to aid his recuperation.  Afterwards, he moved back home and I took care of him.  In spite of everything, I was still his wife.  I did it out more out of obligation than love.

Things didn’t improve as I had foolishly hoped.  He became even more controlling and demanding.  He demanded that I handed over all bank statements, receipts.  He timed my trips and forbade me from non-essential ones.  He belittled me.  He continued to criticize my cooking, housekeeping and appearance.  He accused me of lying about my whereabouts and of cheating on him.  No matter how much I denied it, he refused to believe me.  And he called me a good for nothing liar and cheat.  He even accused me of getting pregnant on purpose so that he had to marry me.  No, he didn’t hit me but his words were more painful and lasting than physical bruises.

If it weren’t for my faith, I would have given up a long time ago.  I kept telling myself that there had to be a light at the end of the tunnel and that God never gave us more than we could handle.  Things couldn’t continue the way they were going.  There had to be an end to this nightmare.  There had to be.  This wasn’t God’s idea of a marriage.  Marriage was a loving partnership between a man and a woman.  Woman was made from a rib from the man’s side which meant that she was his equal not someone he could treat like a doormat.  She too was created in God’s image.  They were supposed to be one–complimenting each other.  One wasn’t more superior than the other.

There were times when I wished I had never met Albert but then I think about our sons.  They are terrific, godly men and wonderful husbands and fathers.  I thank God for them everyday.  They had urged me to leave their father before he had the stroke and I wish I had.

Anyway, my marriage came to an abrupt end when Albert suffered another stroke and died a day later.  When I got home from the grocery store, I saw the ambulance and police cars out front.  I was numb as I watched the paramedics put him into the back of the ambulance.  There were tears on my face but I don’t know if they were tears of grief and sorrow.  My grand-daughter and I followed in my car.  We went to the hospital.  She stayed with me until the evening when her father picked her up.  I spent the night in the hospital.  Early the next morning, they came and told me that Albert was dead.  I called Andrew, our elder son and asked him to tell the rest of the family.  I went home, showered and changed and returned to the hospital.  I asked my daughter-in-law, Sandy to contact the same funeral home where my father’s service was held.

The weeks following were busy with funeral arrangements and other matters.  I was thankful when it the funeral service was behind me.  I wanted to return to some normalcy in my life.  I decided to sell the house because it was too big for one person and it was filled with a lot of painful memories for me.  I moved into a low-rise condo building in a nice neighborhood with a park nearby.  Weeks after moving there, I decided to join the Foster Grandparent Program so that I could help children who have been abused or neglected.  It feels good to bring love and comfort to someone else.

My life is finally what I always wanted it to be.  I’m a widow.  I don’t plan on ever getting married again.  I tried it once and it didn’t work out.  Now, I will just enjoy being a mother and grandmother and being a mentor.  I believe that I’m where God wants me to be right now.  I have recently written a book with the help of Greta, my daughter-in-law who happens to be a best selling author, called, Abuse By Any Other Name, about my experience as an older woman of domestic abuse and the idea that it isn’t really abuse if there isn’t any physical violence.  I want women to know that abuse happens to older women too and that it isn’t okay to stay in a marriage because he isn’t hitting you.  There are other types of abuse.

One of my favorite quotes is:  Don’t let your loyalty become slavery. If they don’t appreciate what you bring to the table, then let them eat alone.  I let my loyalty to my husband blind me to my reality.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.  Don’t wait until one of you dies.

Meg’s story is fiction but there are older women like her who are victims of domestic abuse.  According to The Guardian, more than 10% of women killed by a partner or ex-partner are aged 66 or over but they are the group least likely to leave their abuser and seek help.   For older women, domestic abuse often isn’t physical.  There is emotional, verbal and financial abuse.

Jess Stonefield, a contributing writer outlines the following ways in which older women can take back their power and begin to recognize — and fight — signs of domestic abuse in their lives:

Get real. Familiarize yourself with modern definitions of abuse and be honest with yourself about whether there is abuse in your marriage or partnership. Note the ways it has impacted your life. Name it. Acknowledge it. Allow yourself to grieve the parts of your life you have lost to it.

Speak up. Find a counselor or support group where you can share your story and find empowerment from others who have experienced and overcomesimilar challenges.

Define your options. It’s possible that you don’t feel comfortable choosing divorce or living on your own in this season of your life due to physical or financial limitations. You still have options. For instance, an assisted living community could provide the safety and shelter you need to recover your physical or emotional health. Women’s shelters, Adult Protective Services (APS) or friends and family may also offer short-term solutions. Make a list of possibilities and talk to a trusted friend about which might be best for you.

Get your finances in order. One of the main reasons older women choose to stay in abusive relationships is financial dependence. Many spent a large part of their lives in the role of homemaker and may have no financial savings of their own. Check out these tips for preparing financially before leaving your partner.

Be your own advocate. Repeat this sentence: “I deserve better.” Know that your voice matters. If a health care professional, member of law enforcement or even a son or daughter minimizes the abuse happening in your marriage, do not acquiesce. Be your own best advocate and refuse to take any less than you deserve: a safe, happy life and relationship.

Don’t be the forgotten victims of domestic violence.  Take action.  Protect yourself.

Sources:  The Guardian; Next Avenue; National Institute on Aging; Senior Corps; Gecko & Fly Quotes

Amos’ Story

People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes – Sheila McKechnie 

My name is Amos.  I became homeless because an untreated bipolar disorder.  I lost my job and ended up on the streets.  I was afraid to go to a shelter because I heard so many stories of how dangerous shelters are.  They’re full of drugs and drug dealers, people steal your shoes and there are bedbugs and body lice.  I preferred to take my chances outside of the shelter.  So, I slept on the streets, abandoned buildings and parks.  I didn’t sleep in parks often because at night they weren’t safe and my sleep was often interrupted by the police asking me to move along.

My life changed when I was arrested for stealing food.  I had begged all day but nobody gave me anything.  Usually, I would get at least five dollars in change and I would buy a hot chocolate and a chicken sandwich from Tim Horton’s.  But that day, I was out of luck.  Maybe it was because it was cold and people were anxious to get home.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I was starving and I had to have something to eat.  I ducked into a supermarket and grabbed a loaf of bread from off one of the shelves but I got caught as I tried to make my escape.  I was arrested.

Fortunately for me, the prosecutor and the defense attorney and the judge said that I wasn’t a criminal but I needed help.  They told me to go to a homeless shelter and to get treatment for my bipolar disorder.  I had to go on medication and see a psychiatrist.  I can see now that getting arrested was the best thing that happened to me.  I got treatment and got better.  Thanks to my psychiatrist, I was placed in transitional housing and received job search assistance.  It was at one of their health and wellness activities that I met Vivica, a Christian woman.

She shared with me that she was a battered woman who was forced to choose between staying in an abusive relationship and homelessness.  She wound up on the street and stayed there for a few nights until she went into a church to pray.  One night, she fell asleep in one of the pews and the custodian found her.  He referred her here, a safe place where she received the emotional support she needed.

Just recently, she found out that her abusive boyfriend was arrested for aggravated assault.  He would serve 14 years in prison.  I could see the sadness on her face.  “I hope that he will find God in prison,” she said.  “I will pray for him.”

“Do you still love him?” I asked.

She thought about it for a moment.  “To be honest, I don’t think I ever loved him.  I cared for him and stayed with him because I thought that I could help him but I was wrong.”

“I’m sorry that you wound up with a guy like that.”

“Sometimes we meet up with people who hurt and spitefully use us but they need our prayers.  Something happened to them and that’s why they’re that way.  Maybe he was abused too.”

“I wish I could be as forgiving as you.  I’m still sore with my boss for firing me because of my illness.  I guess I should have been taking my medication and gone for treatment but the medication I was taking was making me sick.  I tried to explain that to him but he wouldn’t listen.  He said that he had to let me go because my mood swings were affecting my co-workers.”

2aada538b73f386fc0c3a5cc2396f9be2“I’m sorry you lost your job.  Didn’t you go and get help?  Maybe see a psychiatrist who would prescribe different medication that might be better for you?

I shook my head.  “No, I thought I could manage it but I was wrong.  I didn’t go for treatment.  I took the medication which was making me sick because I wanted to find another job.  Once I got a job, I was going to see a psychiatrist and get new medication but I couldn’t get a job.  As soon as I told them that I was let go from my last job because I had bipolar disorder, the interview was over.  My rent increased and I couldn’t pay it so I had to leave.  I don’t have family here.  They are all back in East Jerusalem.  I’m the only one who moved to Canada because I wanted a better life for myself.  I was tired of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“So, you’re Palestinian?”

“Well, my father is Israeli and my mother is Palestinian.  So, I’m both.”

“That explains why your name is Amos.  It’s the name of a Jewish prophet in the Bible.”

“I was brought up in the Jewish faith.  Before my parents married, my mother converted to Judaism.”

“So, you’ve read the Bible.”

“The Hebrew Bible called the Tanakh.    It contains only the Old Testament.”

“The Bible I read and study contains both the Old and the New Testaments.”

“I know that Christianity is one of the three major monotheistic religions.”

“Did you know that the first Christians were Jews?”

“I don’t know much about the faith except that they believe in the Trinity and that Jesus is the Messiah.”

“We also believe that salvation is by faith and not by works.”

“I’m curious to learn more about your faith and what you believe.”

She smiled.  “I’ll be more than happy to talk to you about these things.”

“How later after dinner?”

“Okay.  We’ll find a quiet place where we can talk.”

“Vivica, would you go out with me even though I’m not a Christian and am mentally ill?”

She sat down beside me and put her hand on mine.  It felt nice and warm.  “Amos, of course, I would go out with you.  There are so many examples of interfaith couples and your mental illness isn’t something you should apologize for or feel ashamed of.  It doesn’t define you.  You and I have known each other for a while now and I have never treated you differently from anyone else because of your illness.”

“That’s true and I’m really grateful for that.”

“I really like you, Amos and to be honest, if you didn’t ask me to go out with you, I would have asked you.  It’s the twenty-first century.  Women are not waiting to be asked anymore.”

I laughed.  “Good for them.”

“Do you think your parents would object to you dating a Christian woman?”

“They might but I can always remind them that when they were from two different faiths when they met and fell in love but then again , they might be happy for me.”

“Happy for you? Why?”

“Happy because something good came out of all of the bad stuff I have been going through lately,” I replied as I reached for her other hand.  “I got to meet you.”

She was so moved by what I said that she couldn’t say anything.  She just smiled and reaching out, she touched my face.

Out of bad situations, God could bring good into our lives.

Sources:  National Public Radio; Daniel Pitino Shelter; Salvation Army; Solutions Center; Treatment Advocacy Center; York RegionDare2Share; Psycom

Janco’s Story (Part Two)

kult_model_Geoffrey_Camus_209688Five years have passed since I took Nata to the shelter for street children.  A lot has happened within that time.  I’m still handing out tracts but now I’m a Youth leader in my church.  My Mother is back home and she hasn’t touch a drink since she checked into the Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centre.  She is working part-time at a bookstore.

My brother Jacquan is out of prison, a completely changed person.  After my first visit to him, he read the tract I left and was curious to learn more about God and this Jesus who would die for him.  I took other tracts on my next visit and then I learned that the Prison Ministries department had a programme with the prison where my brother was.  Volunteers visited the prisoners, mentor them and study the Bible with them.

Jacquan accepted Christ as his Savior and when he left the prison he was baptized in our church.  Mama and I were there.  He got a job working in the warehouse of a distribution company while studying to become a pastor, believe it or not.  It goes to show you that with God nothing is impossible.  In his free time, he shares his story and the Gospel with kids living on the streets, prostitutes and drug dealers.  Some of them listen and invite him to go again while others curse and threaten him.  He also visits the prison where he had spent ten years of his life to mentor, pray and study the Bible with the inmates.  I never thought I would ever be proud of my big brother but I am.  He was dealing drugs and now he sharing the Gospel.  He was a prisoner and now he’s going to be a preacher.  All he needed was a second chance and God gave it to him.  Now he could spend the rest of his life doing good.

Nata stayed at the shelter until she graduated from high school.  I was there for the ceremony.  She didn’t return home but went to live with a cousin and her family.  While she was at the shelter, I visited her as promised and was relieved to see that she was happy there.  She is going to Wits University now and studying Computer Science.  Good for her because this has been a male dominated field of study all over the world and Africa needs more women computer scientists.

I am no longer working at the grocery store.  I got a job as a Social Media Coordinator at a Christian organization and love every minute of it.  And my work as Youth Leader keeps me busy.  I look forward to teaching Sabbath School, worship, fellowship, our weekly meetings, outreach and recreational outings.  I am in charge of a terrific group of young people.  I learn as much from them as they learn from me.  Tomorrow, is Youth Ministry Day and I have invited Nata to come.  The youth are in charge of entire day’s programme.  I am nervous and excited.  The only thing I am responsible for is introducing the speaker who is none other than my brother, Jacquan.  My best buddy, Gidea offered to do the special music.  He has an incredible voice.  After the service there will be a fellowship meal which I’m sure everyone is looking forward to.

Right now, I’m meeting with the group participating in the service in my flat.  We are going over the details and making sure that everything is in order.  Lesedi has bravely volunteered to teach Sabbath School.  I have no doubt that she will do an outstanding job.  She has the making of a leader.  I am considering making her my Sabbath School Superintendent.  One of these days, I will discuss it with her.

After the meeting is over, I pray and then they leave.  The flat seems very quiet now that they are gone.  I head back into the living-room and turn on the television.  I was about to watch 3ABN when my doorbell rings.  Did one of the youth forget something?  I hurry to the door and look through the keyhole.  It’s Nata.  I quickly open the door.

She stares up at me.  She’s wearing a black top and denim skirt and a red scarf on her head.  “Hi,” she said.  nata

“Hi,” I reply, wondering what brings her to my neck of the woods.  I lean against the door.  I can’t get over how pretty she is.  “I wasn’t expecting to see you until tomorrow.  Have you come to tell me in person that you can’t come?”

She shook her head.  “No, I will be there.  I just came by to thank you in person for being so kind to me and to ask you if you would study the Bible with me.  We don’t have to do it now or here.”

My face brightened.  “Sure, I would be more than happy to study the Bible with you.  We can do so on Sunday in the park just around the corner from here.  Tomorrow when I see you we can decide when and where we will meet.”

She nodded.  “All right.  Thanks, Janco.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Have you been in touch with your parents at all since you left home?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Nata, at some point you need to face them and deal with the issues you have with them.”

She lowered her eyes.  “I’m not ready to do that yet.”

“Okay,” I said.  I didn’t want to push her.  “It’s best to do it when you’re ready.  It’s getting dark, you’d better head home now.  Do you have far to go?”

“No.  My cousin is a twenty minute bus ride from here.”

“Would you like me to walk you to the bus stop and wait with you until the bus comes?”

She raised her eyes to look at me.  “You don’t have to,” she said quietly.

“Wait here,” I said as I leaned away from the door.  I went inside, turned off the television, grabbed my keys and went back.  I closed and locked the door.  “Let’s go.”

We walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus.  There were a couple of other people waiting there.  “Do you still live alone?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“So, you’re not married then?  I don’t see a wedding ring on your finger but I know that most Seventh-day Adventists don’t wear jewelry.”

“No, I’m not married.”

“What about a girlfriend?”

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend.” I was about to ask her if she had a boyfriend but just then the bus arrived.  Lousy timing.  “See you tomorrow, Nata.”

“Good night, Janco.”  She smiled up at me before she turned and joined the small line to board the bus.

I saw her sat beside the window and look out.  She waved as the bus pulled away.  I watched it until it disappeared before I returned to my place.  I was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow.

Saturday came and I was up and about early, anxious to get the day started.  I had a light breakfast, showered and put on a new suit.  Yesterday I had gotten a haircut.  I looked sharp.  I smiled at my reflection before I grabbed my Bible, wallet and keys and left the apartment.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  I put the top down on my car and enjoyed the half-hour ride to church.  Already, the parking lot was filling up.

As I made my way from the parking lot to the front entrance of the church, I was greeted by church members and visitors.  I spent some time chatting with people before I went down into the basement and into one of the rooms to meet with the youth and have prayer with them.  At the back of my mind I was hoping that Nata would come.

Everything went exceptionally well.  I was so proud of my youth group and the special music by Gidea was a sermon in itself.  And speaking of sermons, Jacquan’s message, Set Free, brought tears to my eyes and I saw other people dabbing their eyes.  At the end of the service, many people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the program.  I was very pleased and I shared the positive feedback with everyone who participated.  I hugged Jacquan and told him that I was very proud of him.  When we parted, we were both in tears.  My mother came and whisked him away.  As I was about to leave the reception area and head down to the fellowship hall to have something to eat, I saw Nata.  My heart leapt in my chest.  I was so happy to see her.  I went over to her.

“You came,” I said.  She was wearing a yellow jacket over a floral dress with splashes of yellow in it.  For the first time since I knew her, she wasn’t wearing the red shawl on her head.

“I told you I would,” she said.  “And I’m happy I did.  I was truly blessed.”

“I’m thrilled to hear that.  Are you going to stay and have something to eat and meet some of the youth?”

She nodded.  “Sure.  You look very handsome in your suit.”

I smiled.  “Thank you.  And you look very pretty.  Let’s head on down now.”

We went downstairs to the fellowship hall which was buzzing with lively conversation.  It settled down when the pastor announced that he was going to say a prayer.  He offered thanks and a blessing of the meal and then people were helping themselves to the different delicious looking and smelling dishes.  Nata was in front of me in the line.  After we finished helping ourselves to the food, we found a couple of seats and sat down.  For several minutes we were alone.

“In case you’re wondering, I don’t have a boyfriend,” she said suddenly, startling me.

I felt my face get hot.  “That’s good to know,” I managed to say after a while.

She smiled.  “So, there’s no reason why you and I can’t go out with each other.”

“No, there isn’t.  Are you free this evening?”

“Yes.”

“We can go bowling and then have pizza afterwards.”

“That sounds great.”

Just then several youth joined us.  I introduced Nata to them.  We had a great time, socializing.  By the time we were ready to go our separate ways, Nata had been invited to our next outdoor activity and to attend church the following week.  I dropped her home and I told her that I would be back at six-thirty to take her bowling.

Our first date was a blast and it led to other dates.  We have been dating for almost a year and today we are riding in a cable car to the top of Table Mountain where I will propose to Nata.  I’m nervous and excited but I have no doubt that this is God’s will for my life.  The Lord has opened His hand and poured out so many blessings on my life.  I am so thankful to Him for His love and goodness not only to me but to my family and Nata.  True to my promise, I studied the Bible with her.  Two months ago, she answered the altar call and accepted Christ.  Now she is a baptized member of my church.  Yes, God is good.  He has turned so many lives around.

Sources:  Crossroad Prison MinistriesUPMI; SDA Church; The Conversation

In Every Season…Praise Him

It was on a Wednesday evening when *Dora was listening to Christian music on YouTube.  The artist was someone she had never heard of before until her aunt sent her an email about him.  The songs were very uplifting but the one which really got to her was the one called, Holy, Holy, Holy.  It was so beautiful and so moving that she had to replay it.  When she finished listening to it, she bookmarked the page, closed the window and shut down the computer.  On her way up to the master bedroom to change into her sleepwear, she wondered if *Noah would have liked it too.

By the time she reached the room, she was in tears because it hit her that Noah was no longer around to enjoy or experience anything new.  She was crying so hard that she could barely get undressed and put on her nightwear.  Finally, she had to sit down at the foot of the bed.  The tears almost blinded her.  She felt a deep ache inside.  Through the tears, she cried out to God in her mind, Why did you take my son away from me, Lord? 

 

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Image by 123RF

 

 

Immediately, after she asked that, she was sorry.  She apologized to the Lord and begged for His forgiveness.  She got up from the bed, walked around to the side where she slept and got down on her knees.  Still weeping, she again told God that she was sorry for demanding to know why He had taken her son and asked Him to forgive her.  Then, songs of praise filled her mind and she blessed the Lord’s name.  It was at that moment that she realized that we praise the Lord in tears as well as in laughter, in sorrow as well as in joy and in the valleys as well as on the mountaintops.  In Every Season we praise the Lord.

Job, after he had lost everything in one day, including all of his children, declared, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  The Lord gave Dora and her husband, *Dave, Noah for a time and then he took him away.  It was an exceedingly tragic loss because Noah was their only child but they have the assurance that they will see him again.  With God’s unfailing love and comforting presence, they are able to face another day without their son.

For those of you have suffered a tragic loss, cling to these words of the Lord Jesus, “Blessed are those who mourn do they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

*Not their real names.

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Bible Hub