Broke to Blessed

He sat in a corner under the bridge.  It was raining so he huddled against the wall, wrapped in his dingy blankets, trying to keep warm.  He longed for a cup of coffee but he didn’t want to go out into the wet to beg.  From where he sat, he could see the busy street and the heavy traffic.  He watched the people walking to their jobs, schools, slipping into coffee shops or heading down to the subway.    He used to be like that.  He used to be going somewhere.  He didn’t walk though.  He was driven wherever he needed to go.  He used to watch the crowds from the back of a limo, tapping his fingers impatiently as he had to sit in traffic.  While they were out in the cold or rain, he was warm or dry in the limo.  Life treated him very well.  He had it all but then he lost it all…

He started when he saw a van approach and stop.  It sat there for a couple of minutes before the doors opened and two young people emerged.  Slowly, they approached him.  He was not thrilled about this intrusion.  He was never one for socializing.  He only dealt with people when he had to.  His relationships had failed because he was not ready for any commitments and marriage was not on the radar.  He didn’t have any friends—only acquaintances.  He was satisfied with how life was.  It had been lonely at times but he had his millions to keep him comfortable.  Then, he had lost it all through bad investments…

They went under the bridge and stood opposite to where he sat.  The girl smiled at him.  She looked about twenty.  Under the grey hood were wisps of blonde hair.  She was pretty in a simple sort of way.  Not the type he would have been interested in or even considered dating.  Coming closer, she said, “Hi, I am Jenny and this is Mark.  We are with the Hands of Love program.  We are a ministry that provides sandwiches and hot tea to the homeless.”  She reached into the bag she was carrying and took out something wrapped in foil.  Mark had a cup in his hand.  They both held out their hands for him to take what they were offering.

He hesitated.  This seemed a little too good to be true.  He eyed them with suspicion.  He was never one to believe that you get something for nothing.  And he couldn’t believe that people would go to all of this trouble for someone in his situation.  He never lifted a finger to help anyone in need.  He had looked at the homeless with disgust, thinking that they had gotten themselves in that mess and that he wasn’t going to waste his hard earned money on the likes of them.  Little did he know that one day he would be in their shoes.   And here were these two perfect strangers who were offering him something to eat and drink and his old selfish nature was struggling to grasp this reality.  They must want something in return, but what could he possibly give them?  He had nothing.

“What do you want from me?” he demanded, his eyes challenging as he looked at the girl.  Her smile didn’t waver.  She didn’t seem at all put out.  “Nothing,” she assured him.  “I don’t want anything from you.  I am here to show you that you are not alone and that there is a Savior who loves you.”

His expression grew hard.  “Savior who loves me?” he asked.  “Where was He when I lost everything?”  He knew that he wasn’t been fair.  Bad investments got him where he was.  He had had not use for the Bible or Jesus when he was enjoying his millions.  Now that he was broke, he felt an irrational anger toward God.

The girl said to him, “He was there all the time.  It was not His will that you should lose everything and end up here but it is not too late for Him to help you.  All you need to do is trust Him.  I will leave you a Bible and there’s a story that I think you should read.  It’s about the rich young man.”

The rich young man?  His curiosity was piqued.  He wanted to read the story.  “Okay, I will read the story but I would like to have the sandwich and tea now.”  He took the sandwich and tea.  He carefully set the cup down and ripped open the foil.  He hungrily bit into the sandwich.

The girl went over to the van and came back with a small Bible which she set down next to the cup of tea.  “We have to go now,” she said.  “Before we leave, would you like us to pray for you?”

He shook his head.  “No thanks,” was all he managed to say as he devoured the sandwiches.

The young people turned and headed back to the van.  They drove away and he was alone again.

In no time the sandwiches were eaten.  He carefully crunched up the foil and tossed it away.  He wished he had asked them for money.  He was going to be hungry again.  He reached for the cup of tea, savoring the heat against his fingers.  As he sipped the hot liquid, he thought of the two young people, especially the girl, who intruded upon his world.  She was not intimidated by him or discouraged by his rudeness.   Her demeanor had not changed.  Her face was filled with a joy and peace that he had never experienced.  Where did she get it from?  He remembered the Bible she had left and he picked it up.  He saw that she had marked the page where the story of the Rich Young Man was.  Why that story? He wondered.  Why did she pick that particular story?  She couldn’t have known that he was once a rich man could she?

He opened the Bible to Mark 10 and began to read.  When he got to the end of the story, he felt that it was speaking about him.  He had put his millions before God.  His money had become his god.  Then, he lost it all and now he was homeless.   If he had only accepted the invitation to accept Christ, he would not be here.  Was it too late?

“When you seek me, you will find me.  I am always here.”  Those words brought tears to his eyes and he found himself sobbing.

“Lord, forgive me for loving my money more than you.  Forgive me for being selfish and uncaring to others.”  A peace that he never knew existed came over him and he knew that God was there with him.  He was not alone.  His life was about to change again but this time it was for the best.  It had to take becoming broke and losing everything before he would accept the blessings of God.  It was a hard lesson to learn but it paid off.

man-praying

 

Women’s Fellowship

Years ago, I was part of the Women’s Ministry at my church and one of the things I really liked about it was the fellowship.  We would hold programs like “Lunch and Learn” where women would come together at someone’s home and a pastor or a speaker is invited to share a profound message with us.  Then afterwards, we would enjoy a potluck while uplifting Gospel music played in the background.  I have enjoyed the Women’s Ministries’ yearly three day retreats where I was blessed with Friday night vespers, a Sabbath school program and worship on Saturday morning and workshops in the afternoon.  On Sunday we had breakfast and more workshops before we closed the wonderful three day event with prayer.  Women’s Ministries also offer seminars where women come together and share their testimonies.  It’s during these times when women dig into God’s Word, encourage, pray for and fellowship with each other.  Women’s Ministries have truly been a blessing for me and countless of women.

Can you imagine not having a Women’s Ministry or not being able to fellowship with other women?  Nor can I.  It would be hard for the thousands of women all across South Asia not to be able to attend a weekly Women’s Fellowship group.   Through this group, they learn God’s Word, memorize Scripture, pray, reach out and worship the God who reached out to them–Asia’s most unreached group.  God is working to change thousands of lives.

Many of us know what it’s like to fellowship with other believers and how being a part of a prayer group or Bible Study class has helped us in our spiritual growth.  Women in Asia need the same close fellowship as many of them come from families who don’t know Christ.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could find a fellowship group where they can pray and study God’s Word?  Well, you can help to make this possible.  How?  Through prayer.  Gospel for Asia has put together this list of prayer requests:

  • Pray for Women’s Fellowship so that more women can be reached
  • Pray for women to understand Christ’s love and acceptance
  • Pray for more leaders
  • Pray for transformation of lives and families
  • Pray for God to empower women as they share
  • Pray for the Women’s Health Project and the Women’s Literacy Program

Women’s Fellowships are usually led by a woman missionary, a pastor’s wife or a godly believer in the church.  A growing congregation needs someone to lead and mature women are best suited to teach the other women.    Their experience and wisdom will help to guide the younger women.

Likewise, older women should be reverent in behavior, and not be false accusers, not be enslaved to much wine, but teachers of good things, that they may teach the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  and to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored – Titus 2:3-5.

As Christian women, we have duties towards each other.  So, let us encourage one another through prayers, ministries, Bible studies, fellowships and worship.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Investing in A Child

One sponsor can have an enormous impact in the life of a child in Asia through GFA Bridge of Hope! Their prayers, love and encouragement can make a difference in the lives of children who are constantly derided and told they are worthless by their culture – Gospel for Asia

Nothing is more wonderful than giving a child hope for a bright future.  You can do so by sponsoring a boy or a girl.  In Asia, parents struggle to provide for their families.  Their children grow up illiterate, uneducated and taught that they are worthless.  More than 20 million of boys and girls are forced into child labor and prostitution so that they can support their families.

Thankfully, Gospel for Asia is turning these terrible situations around through their wonderful program, Bridge of Hope.  Children are educated and nurtured.  Families experience Jesus’ love.  So far, the program has helped over 74,000 children and thousand of families have come to accept Christ as their Savior.

Watch this video of a Mom as she explains why she sponsors three children.

Bridge of Hope sponsorship is not just about giving money to support a child in Asia—it’s much, much more. If you decide to pour into a child’s life, you are making a direct impact on the lost in Asia. Your child will have food, clothes, education, and most importantly, your child will learn about Jesus’ love and share it with his or her family and the surrounding community – Gospel for Asia

Read how sponsorship has made a difference in the lives of Daya and Nibun.  As you read their stories, keep in mind that it takes only $35.00 a month to give a child everything he or she needs–such as school supplies, a daily meal, medical check-ups and the opportunity to attend a Bridge of Hope center.  100% or your sponsorship is sent to the field to support your child.

A child could benefit so much from attending a Bridge of Hope center.  The boy or girl you sponsor will learn Bible verses, stories and songs that bring the Gospel to life, learn to read and write, receive a healthy, balanced meal, medical care and learn the habits of good hygiene.

Do you know that when you take care of a child’s physical needs you are also breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, superstition and the bondage of the caste system?  And your love and care of this child will extend to his or her family because the child will take the message of God’s love home. Sponsoring a child will bring hope to the family and even the community.  The Gospel will penetrate hearts that resisted it at first.  You will make it possible for parents to be in the training sessions which are an integral part of the Bridge of Hope program.  You will provide the child and his or her family “a future here on earth and one for eternity”.

I encourage you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child.  Help to bring the message of salvation to a child who has not heard of Jesus.  You can change a life forever.  Invest in a child today.

As cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a far country – Proverbs 25:25

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Forsaken and Abandoned

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation – Psalm 68:5

It’s heartbreaking to see how widows are treated in South Asia.  They don’t receive the care, love or support that widows in North America do.  Instead they are blamed for their husbands’ deaths and abandoned by their families.

A widow is stripped of her colorful clothing and forced to wear a white sari because her status has changed from married to widowed.  The glass bangles she wore to let the world know of her marital status are smashed into tiny pieces.  The privilege she once enjoyed as a married woman has been taken away from her simply because her husband died.

A widow is not in control of her own life.  Her eldest son is.  And she is one of the lucky ones if she gets to sleep in a tiny corner of his house.  Can you imagine, you raised your child–cared for him as best as you could with what you had and years later when you are a widow, that child controls your life and treats you like an animal?  I have seen dogs and cats treated better here in North America.  They get to sleep in warm beds.  Yet, we have widows in South Asia sleeping in corners.

Can you imagine your mother, sister, daughter or you being sent out of the family home and forced to work for a few cents a day at a temple or beg on the streets just to survive?  This is the sad reality for widows in South Asia.  They don’t have the skills or tools that would help them to earn a living so they are forced scrape by as prostitutes, beggars or daily laborers.  If they are mothers, their children are forced to work instead of going to school.  Those who wander while their mothers work are vulnerable to abuse.

Widows are shunned and degraded.  Their lives are filled with pain and struggle.  Poverty and hopelessness are burdens they carry everyday.  They need to know that there is a Savior who is willing and able to relieve them of these burdens.  They need to know that He loves them and wants to deliver them from their despair.  They need to hear the Good News.  They need hope.

Widows - Gospel for Asia

I encourage you to open your hearts to the struggles widows face everyday and to pray for them. Pray that they learn about the One who knows every detail of their lives and cares for them.  He doesn’t blame them for their husbands’ deaths.  He wants to provide for them.  He wants to change their circumstances so that they no longer have to beg or degrade themselves in order to feed themselves and their children.   Pray that they will be able to earn an honest living to support themselves and their children.   It would be especially good for the older widows to have their own small businesses.  Pray that their children will be safe and that they get to learn about Jesus’ love through Bridge of Hope centers, Sunday schools and vacation Bible schools.  Widows need to be in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable sharing their struggles, strengthen their faith and foster relationships with other believers.  They find this kind of environment in Women’s Fellowship groups.   Pray for these groups who reach out to widows by visiting them at their homes and inviting them to meetings.  Pray that God will provide them with more opportunities to encourage and share Jesus with these women who are forsaken and abandoned by their families. They have this promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day – 1 Timothy 5:5

Pray for Widows

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

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Words of Life

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path – Psalm 119:105

Right now I can walk into any bookstore and buy a Bible.  There are so many to choose from.  There are Bibles for men, women, teens, children and couples.  They are in different languages.  And there are different versions.  You have Study Bibles, Devotional Bibles, Life Application Bibles and even Spiritual Warfare Bibles.  Then we have audio Bibles, online Bibles.  The list goes on and on.  Some of us have more than one Bible.  Some churches give out free Bibles.

Bibles are available in most countries but not to new believers in Asia.  Many of them don’t own a Bible.  It’s hard for us to imagine not being able to read our Bibles everyday.  It’s where we go when we want to know more about Jesus or to grow spiritually and deepen our walk with Him.  We can use our Bibles for personal or group studies, witnessing and worship.  Believers in Asia aren’t able to do any of these things.  Can you imagine going to church and no one has a Bible, not even the pastor?

Try to imagine how different life would be for you if you didn’t have a Bible.  Now think of the believers in Asia who don’t have God’s Word to guide them daily in their spiritual lives.  Imagine not being able to share the Word with others.

The Bible is more than a book.  It is the living Word of God.  It brings hope, encouragement, light and joy to those who read it.  It is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).  It protects us from the attacks of the Devil.  It was the Word of God that Jesus used three times to defeat Satan in the wilderness.  It reveals who God is to us.  We learn about His will for our lives.  We have the Gospels which tell us about Jesus and His ministry.  It is from the Bible that we learn that, “…God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

The Word of God teaches us what our responsibilities are to God, society, authorities and our neighbors (Romans 12).  It gives us instructions on how to keep ourselves from conforming to the world (Philippians 4:8; Galatians 5:15).  It shows us how we can follow Jesus’ example when it comes to prayer, our relationship with God and how we treat others.  The Bible is our guide to right living and right thinking.  God speaks to us through the Word.

We go to the Bible when we have questions and doubts.  It addresses our fears and encourages us.  Paul explained why the Scriptures are so important in the believer’s life.  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living;  thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 Complete Jewish Bible).  The Bible is a must have for every believer.

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.

Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life,
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.

Help to bring the wonderful words of life to South Asia.  Find out how here.

Source:  Gospel for Asia

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

Plead for the Widows

They still hope when they die, that their son probably will come and light their pyre.  A son who breaks your legs, a son who hits you so hard that your skull breaks, a son who is willing to put cow dung in your mouth – and yet you want the same son to come and light your pyre. We need to break that mind-set also, somewhere – Winnie Singh, social activist

I was searching the Internet to see what I could find out about the quality of life for widows in India and was shocked.  After losing their husbands, they are faced with a life of begging and destitution.  Some of them are thrown out by family members.  One widow was beaten by the sons she had raised when she asked them for money.  In-laws refuse to help some widows while others can’t go back home because their parents are too poor to take them back.

Widows face discrimination and are dehumanized.  They are called “it” and in some instances, they are referred to as “randi” which means prostitute in Punjabi.  Some of them marry their brothers-in-law because being man’s property protects them from being raped.

A widow is blamed for her husband’s death.  “You are widowed because you did something wrong in your previous life: that is the view in this predominantly Hindu culture,” explains Dr. Leelavathi Manasseh of the Bible Society. “So, whether a widow is from a rich or poor background, she faces blame, mistreatment and rejection by her family. Many are kicked out of their homes and left to fend for themselves and their children, leaving them in a desperate situation.”  It’s worse when a woman loses her husband to AIDS and she tests positive for HIV.  She is met with even more rejection and ridicule.

In Northern India, there is a place called, “Widow City.”  It is the holy city of Vrindavan.  Widows go there because they believe that if you die there, you would be freed from the cycle of birth and death and obtain moksha (emancipation). It is a place where these women can get away from a life of isolation and the society where they have no place or value.  They are there because they were cast out families who don’t want to pay for them or by in-laws who don’t want them to inherit money or property.  They are ostracised by their villages.  They have lost their income.  They are at the bottom rungs of society and are prevented from remarrying.  In Vrindavan, they pray at the temples and beg. Other widows go there, as pilgrims, intending to dedicate their remaining years to serving the deities Krishna and Radha.

Life for a widow is hard.  When their husbands were alive, they were protected but once they were gone, these poor women felt like orphans because they had no one to take care of them or help them.  They were all alone.  Perhaps this is why in the Bible, orphans and widows were always paired together because they were defenceless, society’s vulnerable.  God wants us to plead for the widows.  Defend their rights to a future filled with hope and dignity.  God made it clear that He is “Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans” (Malachi 3:5).

While society sees widows as a curse, God sees broken, abused, mistreated and unloved women whom He wants to enter into a loving relationship with.  Their families don’t want them, but God wants them to be a part of His family.

Like so many widows, Netramani was cast out and left to fend for herself.  “I was completely alone. … No one would give me work so I had to beg. … I had nothing to eat, nothing to wear. I was completely senseless and didn’t know anything. . .”

Watch Netramani’s heart-wrenching story and imagine either you or someone you know lying there, sick and helpless and no one stops to help.

…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.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’ – Matthew 25:35-40.  

June 23 is International Widows’ Day, a day when we step into the lives of widows and imagine the desperate places where they find themselves.  Some commit suicide rather than face the shame.  Others turn to prostitution.  Mothers resort to rummaging through the trash in order to feed themselves and their children.  These women don’t deserve to be like this.  You can change this. Through your donations you will make it possible for local pastors to help widows in need, buy them sewing machines, farm animals, or much-needed supplies like winter blankets, water filters and other essentials.  And with your generous gift, these women will have the opportunity to learn about Jesus and His love and compassion for them. To find out more about how you can help, visit http://www.gfa.org/women/widows/

As Christians, we need to demonstrate the love of Christ who reached out to those who were hurting, oppressed and ostracised.  He loved the unloved and valued those whom society deemed worthless. Together let us plead for the widows.  Let us take up their cause.   They have the right to keep their homes, their income and their dignity.  Let us contend with those who mistreat them.  Let us speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.  When we do good to others, we honour God.

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widowsIs God in His holy habitation – Psalm 68:5.

Sources:  Gospel for AsiaTime.com; Women Under Seige; The Laws of Manu; BBC.com; Cross Map; India: Widow City; BBC News