Florence

She sat at a small table outside of the local cafe set in the maze of

streets near Piazza Antinori.  One could get lost in Florence but won’t

mind at all.  It was a beautiful, bustling and exciting place.  There was

so much to see.

Around her mingled the sound of dishes cutlery, the clink of

glasses as people toasted each other and the voices and laughter

of tourists and locals alike.  She heard French, Spanish, English, Italian.

Whiffs of cappuccino, hot bread and pasta filled the air.  It was early

afternoon.  She had spent the morning visiting the Duomo and the

Antinori palace.  Now she was at this little cafe buzzing with locals,

and enjoying a glass of wine after having delicious Ravioli, drinking

in the friendly ambiance around her as she watched couples, friends,

students on summer break and the locals walk by.

This was her first time in Florence.  She loved it.  She loved the

cobbled streets, the history, the people and of course, the food.

She will definitely stop by this delightful cafe again and try their

Beef tagliata.  Hopefully, she would get a table inside.  Not that

she minded eating on the sidewalk.

This was her first trip alone.  Usually she traveled with her

Sister, June.  June got married a couple years ago and her life

was not wrapped up in her husband and their two children.

No plans for Travel any time soon.

She signed.  Being alone in a city like Florence wasn’t so bad.

She could get used to it.  She could just lose herself in the maze

of streets that now seemed to be beckoning her.

She finished her wine and grabbing her handbag, she

got up and headed to the nearest street.

 

This trip could be her own personal adventure.  Who knows….what

could happen in the city of love…

woman in Florence

Sources:  Tripadvisor; Antinori Palace

Valued by God

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Luke 15:8-10

Just recently I watched the movie, “The Wedding” with Halle Berry.  There was a scene when she went to the beach for a swim.  She took off her engagement ring and put it in her blouse.  When she went back, she couldn’t find it.  Frantic, she felt around in the sand and when her fingers closed over, her face filled with joy and relief.  The ring was precious to her.

In this parable a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.  She could have easily have been happy that she still had nine coins but that one coin meant a lot to her.  She went to great lengths to find it.  She lit a lamp, swept the house and searched diligently for it.  She searched and searched until she found it.  When she found it, she was so happy that she had to tell her friends about it.  She wanted them to share in her joy.  She had lost and then found she valued.

It is the same with God.  He doesn’t stop caring for the person who is lost.  It is His will that that the lost person repents and returns to Him.  When this happens, He rejoices.  He welcomes the person joyfully and celebrates.  It should be the same for us.  We should be celebrating, not complaining when the lost is found and returns to the church.  We were once lost too and God sent someone to find us, a friend perhaps as in my case, or a loved one or neighbor or co-worker and there was celebration in heaven that day when we were found.  We are of great value to God.  We are precious in His sight.  Like the woman with the coin, He will not give up on us.  He is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Do you know someone who has stopped attending church?  Have you reached out to that person?  Ask God to help you to demonstrate love, acceptance and genuine concern for this former church member.   Remember this person is valued by God.

Pray for the Persecuted

Answer:   In the same way pizza is very common in the United States, persecution is very common in other parts of the world.

Imagine that you live in a country where being a Christian is dangerous.  Imagine your neighbors, friends or family members turning against you because you have accepted Jesus as your Lord.  This happened to a college student in Kyrgyzstan She was brutally beaten by her brothers and sister.  They had invited her over for a visit with the intention of forcing her to renounce her faith.

Jesus said that believers would be persecuted just as He was but what would you do in the face of persecution?  Would you be able to stand strong, no matter what the cost?  Would you be steadfast like Daniel and his three friends or would you be discouraged like the prophet Jeremiah?  What about the families of those who are persecuted and martyred for their faith?  Just recently I read an article of an Ugandan woman who was killed for her faith.  Her attackers had gone to the house looking for her husband and when they saw that he wasn’t there, they seized her.  She and her husband had eight children.  A month ago, her husband’s brother was murdered for his faith.  Her 13 year old daughter witnessed her mother screaming and crying for help as she was dragged out of the house.  She was hacked to death by her Muslim attackers because she had converted to Christianity.  Before they seized her, they said, “Your husband has followed the religion of his brother, and we had warned you people to stop these activities, but our message has landed on deaf ears.”

Can you imagine seeing your mother being brutally attacked and your father coming home to find her lying in a pool of blood?  How hard it must be for the families of those who are killed for their faith.  This woman’s husband remains steadfast in his faith, trusting God to protect him and his children.  His prayer is, “May God give me the courage to continue sharing the love of Christ to those who are lost, as Jesus said we should love our enemies.”  Let us pray for this father who will not let anything or anyone hinder him from sharing the Gospel to the lost.  May we ask God to put a hedge around him and his children.

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter – 1 Peter 4:16

In North America Christians are still free to worship and share their faith.  People can freely approach us and ask us questions and we can talk them, give them literature to read and not have to worry about being thrown into jail, on charges that we are evangelizing people or drawing them away from their faith.  It has been two years since Pastor Saeed Abedini was imprisoned for his Christian faith and for charges levelled against him for evangelizing and attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam. We can accept or raise funds for church ministry without fear of being imprisoned unlike Pastor Tandin Wangyal.

Many persecuted Christians often feel isolated and alone, since they are unable to fellowship with other believers. However, prayers from Christians half a world away have brought the same amount of encouragement that fellowship would have for these persecuted Christians. Prayer is vital—not only as a direct line to God, but as a way to encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world – Open Doors

Jesus warns us that we will face persecution, imprisonment, tribulation and even death for His sake.  When we take up the cross and follow Him, we can expect to go through hardship and suffering but there is a crown laid up for us.  And we have this promise, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

On November 1 and 8 or on any Sunday in November, join Christians across the nation in lifting up our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted for their faith.  Stand with them.  Let them know that they are not alone.  Prayer is a powerful tool.  Prayer works!  I was encouraged when I read how prayers for Yana (not her real name) of South Asia.  She was detained by police on false accusations of not repaying her debt to her relative.  Last month, Open Doors sent out a prayer request for Yana’s release.  God heard and answered the prayers.  On October 11, Yana was released.  Continue to pray for Yana who wants to start a business near her children’s dormitory.  Pray that she continues to remain steadfast in her faith and to trust in the God who is faithful.

There is nothing more encouraging for Christians than knowing that their brethren are praying for them.  Gospel for Asia has provided a prayer request list.  As you pray over this list, remember that “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, Complete Jewish Bible).

  • Perseverance and boldness for our fellow believers around the world
  • For the persecutors’ hearts to be softened by Christ’s love
  • For the Western Church to actively intercede on behalf of the persecuted church

 

 

 

O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come – Psalm 65:2

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; IDOP; Christian Headlines

Real Life Hero

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Does God still communicate with us through dreams?  Yes, He does!  Nitya Balji dreamed of a shack by the sewer and when he moved into a slum in South Asia, he recognized it as the one in his dream. God had shown him the place He called him to serve in.  Nitya settled into the slum and dedicated his life to working among the people living there.

What would you do if God called you to a slum?  Would you go?  Jesus said,  “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).  

Well, the harvest can be anywhere–your workplace, school, college or neighborhood or even overseas.  In Nitya’s case, the harvest was in a slum and God sent Him out as a labourer.  Let’s pray that like Nitya, we would be willing to go wherever God sends us.  If Jesus could leave the splendor of Heaven to come here to do the Father’s will, we should be willing to leave comfort and convenience in order to do the same.

As you watch Nitya’s story and see the marvelous work God was able to do through him, consider what God can do through you if you will just allow Him to use you.  Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).  Nitya made a slum his new home so that the people living there will one day dwell in mansions.

Find out how you can help missionaries like Nitya reach the lost with the love of Christ here. Gospel for Asia has a Slum Ministry.  Find out more about it here.

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

Let us strive to be real-life heroes like Nitya so that those whom we reach out to can glorify God.

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Prisha’s Calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now Entering Filth and Fertile Ground

Source:  Gospel for Asia

A Changed Life

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John 4:1-26

When Jesus brings to your awareness a sin in your life what do you do?  The Samaritan woman acknowledged hers.  When Jesus told her to go and fetch her husband, she admitted that she was not married.  Jesus commended her on her honesty.  When there is sin in our lives, we have to face up to it.  We have to call it what it is.  And we don’t make excuses.  Jesus went to let her know that He was aware that she had been married five times before she got into the current relationship.  Perhaps after five failed marriages, she didn’t want to get married again.  She didn’t want another failed marriage.  So, she settled for living common law.  No doubt people gossiped about her.  She probably felt like a scorned woman and that was why she went to the water to draw water at a time when no one else was there.

She might have been surprised to see Jesus and more so when He spoke to her, asking her for a drink of water.  Jews did not any dealings with Samaritans.  And in that day and age it was not customary for a man to speak to a strange woman.  Jesus had no problem doing both.  In His eyes this was a lost soul whom He wanted to save.

No matter what you have done or how others treat you, Jesus wants to have a conversation with you.  He wants to offer you what no one else can–unconditional love,  forgiveness and eternal life.  He will not condemn you.  Like the woman caught in adultery, He will tell you to stop sinning.  And He will help you to change your life.  We don’t know what happened to the Samaritan woman after she went to tell her community about Jesus.  We don’t know what became of her relationship.  However, we do know that her life was never the same after she met Jesus.  An encounter with Jesus should lead to a changed life.  Zacchaeus became a new person after spending time with Jesus.

When Jesus points out sin in your life, acknowledge it, confess it and repent.  He will give you the victory.

In Need of Prayers

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And His children will have a place of refuge – Proverbs 14:26.

The earthquake in Nepal left more than rubble in its wake.  It left heartbreak, loss and uncertainty.

When I look at Drastaa’s weathered face, I see unimaginable pain and devastation.  I see someone who has suffered a crippling loss.  She lost her only grand-daughter.  The girl was only 16 years old.  She had gone in to the forest to gather firewood when the earthquake struck, killing her.  That day when Drastaa woke up, little did she know that her world would be turned upside down and that she would be facing the future alone.

Her life is like a heap of rubble.  She has no idea how she was going to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life.  The odds are stacked against her.  She’s elderly.  She’s a widow.  She can’t work to support herself.  Life for widows in Nepal is hard and they are victims of discrimination, isolation and rejection.  In addition to the stigma that is attached to widowhood, she had to worry about the spreading of diseases because of the unsanitary conditions and the monsoon season which is typically lasts from mid-June to mid-September.  A monsoon can seriously hamper relief and recovery efforts.

“As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).  Pray that Drastaa will receive this comfort and the help she needs to get back on her feet.  Ask God to reveal Himself to her, letting her know that she is not suffering alone.

Nepal Earthquake Survivor Photo

Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; And let your widows trust in Me – Jeremiah 49:11.

Nepal Earthquake Survivor Photo

When the earth started shaking, Tarana’s husband rushed inside their home to look for their children, unaware that they were safe outside. The house collapsed on him, and Tarana is now widowed, caring for five children on her own – Gospel for Asia

When I read about what happened to Tarana’s husband, it brought tears to my eyes.  I was touched by this family’s tragedy.  In a matter of minutes, Tarana’s had lost her husband–she was a widow and her five children had lost their father.   He had gone into their home, risking his life the save them.

What is going to happen to Tarana and her children?  They are homeless.  Their house was reduced to rubble.  Where could they go?  Who would help them?  How is she going to rebuild their lives?

I encourage you to pray for Tarana and her children.  Pray for their protection against disease and danger.  I read that in the wake of the earthquakes, the UNICEF is working with the Nepalese government to stop child trafficking as the organization feared that there was a surge in the number of cases.  According to Tomoo Hozumi, a UNICEF representative in Nepal, “Loss of livelihoods and worsening living conditions may allow traffickers to easily convince parents to give their children up for what they are made to believe will be a better life.”  The traffickers promise education, meals and a better future but in reality, many of these children end up being “horrendously exploited and abused.”

As a widow with no source of income and raising five children, it is possible that Tarana could be approached by traffickers, promising her a better future for her children.  Pray that God will watch over them.  He is now the Father of these children and He will guard them.  “…He will save the children of the needy” (Psalm 72:4).

Drastaa, Tarana and all of the other survivors need our prayers.   Gospel for Asia offers these suggestions for prayer requests:

  • Comfort and hope for those grieving
  • Protection from disease and danger
  • God’s provision and sustenance for relief teams
  • Many to understand Jesus’ love

I applaud the work that GFA Compassion Services teams have been doing.  They “have touched many lives through relief events during the past several weeks. They’ve focused on reaching remote, hard-to-reach villages where many lost homes, possessions, and sometimes loved ones.”

If you feel impressed to reach out to these survivors and you want to find more information on GFA’s relief work in Nepal, please visit http://gfa.org/earthquake/nepal.

Now, my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and let Your ears be attentive to the prayer made in this place – 2 Chronicles 6:40.

Sources:  Global News; The Weather Network; United Nations News; Gospel for Asia