Shades of Love

For the first time in his life, Maxwell was in love. The problem was–his family wouldn’t approve.  Why?  The object of his affection was a very dark skinned Nigerian woman.  He was a light skinned black man with blue eyes whose parents were light skinned blacks from Barbados.  He always had a weakness for dark women although to please his parents, he dated the light skinned ones.  This woman was absolutely stunning but he knew that his family wouldn’t see past her color.  Even his friends when they saw him checking her out at the party where they met, they told him, “Man, she’s way too dark.  There are so many gorgeous black women here to choose from and you had to pick out the darkest one.”

Of course, he ignored them and walked up to her, his heart racing with nervousness and excitement.  She turned and it seemed like his heart stopped.  This close she was even more breathtaking.  Her beautiful eyes mesmerized him and her skin looked smooth and flawless.  The black cocktail dress hugged her perfect body and the strappy black sandals she wore accentuated her long and shapely legs.  She wore a jeweled choker around her slender neck.

“Maxwell,” he said, holding out his hand.

She put her hand in his.  “Adaolisa.”  They shook hands.

“That’s a pretty name.  What does it mean?”

“God’s daughter.”

“Adaolisa, you’re a very beautiful woman.”  I think you’re the most beautiful woman here.

She smiled.  “Thank you.  And you’re a very handsome man with the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen.”

He blushed.  “Thank you.  I detect an accent.  Where are you from?”

“Nigeria. I moved from Lagos to London when I was seventeen to attend university.  I stayed with my aunt until I graduated and found a job.”

“You speak English very well.”

“Actually, English is my first language and the official language of Nigeria.”

“Have you been back since you left?”

“Yes.  I visit my family every Christmas.”

“Are you here alone?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  You came with your friends.”

So, she had noticed him long before he approached her.  That pleased him.  “Why don’t we get something to eat and then find somewhere to sit?” he suggested.

“All right.” They went over to the elaborate buffet table and helped themselves to the spread.  They went out on the terrace, found a corner where there were a couple of chairs and sat down.

“Which university did you go to?”

“Cambridge.”

“Now I wish that I went there instead of Oxford and then we would have met sooner. Why did you study at Cambridge?”

“Education.”

“How you like living in England?”

“I don’t mind it because I love my job and I have a lot of friends.  What really bothers me, though, is the prejudice that exists among blacks.  The lighter skinned women, especially, turn up their noses at me and they get upset when their men look at me.  I think too, that they don’t like me because I’m African.”

Maxwell shook his head.  “It’s a shameful thing when prejudice exists within the black community,” he said.  “Growing up in Barbados, I was exposed to bigotry.  My sister was bullied because she wasn’t dark enough and I watched light skinned children ridicule the dark skinned ones.  Many times I got into fights standing up for myself, my sister and my friends.  There was a girl who lived next door to my grandparents whom I liked and I used to hang around her.  My grandfather who was much lighter than me didn’t approve and used to say to me, ‘She’s too dark.’  He told me that all the men in our family married light skinned women so that the next generation would be lighter.  I loved my grandfather but I was ashamed of his ways.  Unfortunately, my parents are the same way.  When I was a teenager I used to date light skinned girls to please them but that changed when I went to university.”

“So, your parents wouldn’t be pleased to see you talking to me,” she commented.

“No, they wouldn’t be.  But it doesn’t matter.  I’m a grown man.  I like you Adaolisa and I want to get to know you better.”

“It’s sad to see blacks discriminate against each other.  It only polarizes the communities.”

“It does.  And it polarizes families too.  My younger brother married a German woman whom our parents welcomed with open arms and they dote on their Caucasian looking grandchildren.   My sister, however, is somewhat of a disappointment to them because she fell in love with and got engaged to Omar, a Senegalese man.  It doesn’t matter that he’s a great guy, loves her and treats her like a queen, all my parents see are his color and his nationality.”

“There are many shades of love.  Your brother chose one shade and your sister another.  All that matters is that they’re happy with their choices.”

He stared at her, admiration glinting in his eyes.  Not only was she beautiful but she was wise.  He knew he had found a treasure tonight.

They changed the topic and talked about other things until it was time to leave.  “May I give you a lift home?” he asked, hopefully.

She nodded.  “Yes, thank you.  I’ll be right back.”

After she left, he rejoined his friends.  “Where have you been, Man,” Trevor asked.

“He’s been with the Nubian,” Colin chimed in.

“So, are we still heading over to the Road House to catch the game?” Nigel asked.

“I’ll pass,” Maxwell told them.  “I’ll see you guys at the game on Friday.”

“He’s brushing us off because of black beauty.”

“Her name is Adaolisa.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I don’t like to keep a lady waiting.”  He turned and walked away, his heart and steps quickening when he saw her standing there, waiting for him.

That was two years ago and now, here they were on their way to see his parents before they went to their favorite restaurant where he was going to propose to her.  It didn’t matter to him what his parents thought.  He was madly in love with this woman and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.  She looked exquisite in the dark red dress with the spaghetti straps.  Unable to resist, he reached over and caressed her shoulder with his knuckles.  “Are you nervous?” he asked when she looked at him.

“A little,” she admitted.

“Don’t worry, I will be there.   As soon as I see that things are getting uncomfortable for you, we will leave, okay?”

“Okay.”  She seemed to relax and a slight smile tugged at her mouth.  She turned to look out of the window.

Five minutes later, they were pulling up in front of a very charming cottage nestled among climbing rose bushes.  He held her hand as they walked up the driveway.  When they were standing on the step in front of the door, he turned to her and asked, “Ready?”

She nodded.  Her grip on his hand tightened imperceptibly.

He rang the doorbell and waited.  It opened and his father stood there.  “Hello, Son,” he said, shaking Maxwell’s hand.  Then, his eyes shifted to Adaolisa.  “Good evening,” he said, extending his hand.

Adaolisa shook his hand.  “Good evening.”

“Please come in,” he said, stepping aside.  His manner toward her was polite but there was no warmth.  “Your mother is in the living-room.”

After they removed their shoes, they went to the living-room.  His mother was sitting by the fireplace.  She stood and went over to hug him.  “It’s good to see you, Maxwell,” she said.  “It has been a while.” When they drew apart, she looked at Adaolisa.  “How do you do?” she sounded a bit stiff although she shook her hand.

“I’m fine, thank you,” Adaolisa replied.  “What a lovely home you have.”

“Thank you.  Won’t you sit down?”

“Mom, we could only stay for a little while,” Maxwell told her as he sat down on the sofa next to Adaolisa.  “We’re going out for dinner.”

“Maxwell mentioned that you’re from Nigeria.”

“Yes, I’m from Lagos.”

“Do you have any family here?”

“Yes, an aunt.  The rest of my family is in Lagos.”

So, far so good, Maxwell thought, beginning to relax when his mother said abruptly, “Maxwell, may I have a word with you?  Excuse us,” she said to Adaolisa before standing up and leaving the room.

Maxwell looked at Adaolisa.  “I’ll be right back,” he promised.  He got up and left.

His mother was standing in the hallway.  “Let’s go into the kitchen,” she suggested and led the way.

When they were alone in the kitchen, she asked, “Are you serious about this girl?”

“First of all, she’s a woman not a girl and yes, I’m very serious about her.  I’m head over heels in love with her.”

“But what do you really know about her?”

“I know enough about her to want to marry her—”

His mother looked aghast.  “Marry her?”

“Yes.  I’m going to propose to her tonight over dinner.”

“But, she’s African.”

“So?”

“Why couldn’t you find yourself a nice Bajan woman or even an English woman?”

“So you object to Adaolisa because she’s African?”

“Yes and she’s too dark.”

Maxwell tried to remain calm.  “Do you have any idea how damaging it is to a child when they are treated differently because they are dark?  I knew someone at university who told me that when she was a child, the teacher gave her a black crayon instead of a brown one to color a drawing of herself.  She transferred to a different school because of the bullying but she still had to deal with verbal abuse from other black students.  How could you stand there and look down at Adaolisa because she’s not your idea of what is beautiful?  It’s not the color of her skin that makes a woman beautiful, it’s her character.  I brought her here to meet you because I hoped that once you got to know her, you would set your prejudices aside but clearly I was wrong.  I’m going to marry her regardless of what you say or think.  You’re welcome to come to the wedding if you like.  Now, it’s time for us to go.  Goodbye, Mother.”  He turned and walked away from her.

He was quiet on the ride over to the restaurant.   Then, turning to her, he said regretfully, “I’m sorry about the way things turned out.  I foolishly hoped that my parents would come around and accept you.  I know my mother is set in her ways but I thought that my father would be more forthcoming but aside from greeting you at the door, he said nothing to you all the time we were there.  And when I came into the living-room after talking to my mother, he wasn’t there.  You were sitting there all by yourself.  I was so upset that I had to get out of there”

She reached out and placed her hand on his thigh.  “Let’s not dwell on what happened.  We have the rest of the evening ahead of us.  Let’s enjoy it.”

“All right,” he said.  “Let’s enjoy the rest of our evening together.”

They ended up enjoying dinner.  The conversation flowed and there was a lot of laughter.  Just before they ordered dessert, he reached out and covered her hand, his eyes intent on her face.  Swallowing hard, he began the speech he had rehearsed over and over since the moment he knew that he was going to marry her.   “Adaolisa, words alone can’t express how I feel about you.  From the moment I first saw you, I knew that you were the one for me.  You took my heart and my breath away.  When I look at you, I see the woman I love, the woman I need and the woman I’m meant to be with.”  He reached into his breast pocket and took out a box.  Releasing her hand, he opened it and removed the ring.  It was an exquisite Rose Gold Leaf diamond engagement ring.

She stared at it in wonder and when her eyes lifted to his face, they were moist.  “It’s beautiful,” she murmured.

“It will look even more beautiful on your hand,” he replied huskily.  “Will you marry me, Adaolisa?”

She nodded.  “Yes, Maxwell.” The tears were rolling down her cheeks now as she watched him slide it onto her finger before he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.

“I love you, Adaolisa.”

“I love you too, Maxwell.”

They raised their glasses in a toast and over dessert, they made wedding plans.  In May of the following year, they got married in an elegant but simple ceremony.  Her family was there.  His brother and his family were in attendance as well as his sister and her husband, Omar.  Noticeably absent were his parents.  Fortunately, that didn’t put a damper on the nuptials.

After a two week honeymoon in the Maldives, they moved into their new home, a half-hour drive outside of London.  Nine months later, they welcomed their first child—a girl with beautiful olive skin and her father’s eyes.  As Maxwell held her in his arms, he remarked, “She’s beautiful like her mother.”

“She’s another shade of love—our love for each other.”

 

Source:  Dazed Digital; Felix Online; Nation News; Barbados Free Press; Fluid London; University of Cambridge; Global News; Pinterest; Ben Garelick; Harper’s Bazaar

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Persecuted for Their Faith

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven – Matthew 5:10

I have been aware of how much the church has been persecuted in different parts of the world through emails from Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  I have read many heartbreaking stories but I will share two of them.  A Christian woman named Mariam was expelled from her home by her husband who had militant Muslim views because she refused to renounce her faith.  At the time Mariam was pregnant and due to give birth soon.  She had to be cared for by church members.  In 2012 when she became a Christian, her Muslim family provoked an attack, forcing her to live on the streets.  Mariam is from the Ivory Coast which has seen an increase in violence since November 2010.

In Pakistan a teen died after being set on fire.  He was approached by two men who asked him about his religion.  After Nauman told them that he was a Christian, they proceeded to beat him.  He tried to run away but they followed him and doused him with kerosene and set him on fire.  Unfortunately, his attackers wore masks so there is little hope that they will be caught.  And it doesn’t help that the authorities show little interest in further investigation.

I thought that what these people experienced in their countries was bad but Ivory Coast and Pakistan are not even part of Gospel for Asia’s list of the top 10 countries where Christians are persecuted.  Life for Christians in these countries is simply horrendous.  First up is North Korea.

North Korea is the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. Christians are tortured, imprisoned and murdered. Private, non-state-sanctioned religious activity is prohibited. Anyone discovered engaging in clandestine religious activity is subject to arrest, torture or even public execution – Voice of the Martyrs – North Korea.

Yang was a Christian woman who became a follower of Jesus while she was still living in North Korea. Watch her incredible story of pain and hope.

“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

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam is known for being one of the worst places when it comes to women’s rights and religious freedom.  According to VOM Canada, it is one of the most oppressive nations in the world for Christians.

Religious freedom is nonexistent, and leaving Islam is punishable by death. Non-Muslims are not permitted to become citizens of Saudi Arabia, and no places of worship other than mosques are permitted in the country. All non-Muslim religious rituals and materials are banned. Converts from Islam to Christianity are rare, and converts have been executed for the offense. Anyone who performs mission work or converts a Muslim faces jail, expulsion, lashing, torture or execution. Non-Muslim worship, even private worship for foreign Christians, is prohibited, and Saudi religious police have been known to raid homes where expatriate workers were worshiping – Voice of the Martyrs – Saudi Arabia.

In September 2014, a house church in the city of Khafji was raided and 28 people were arrested, including children. Bibles and musical instruments were also seized. The worshippers, mostly expatriate workers from South Asia, were held overnight and released the following day, apart from a leader of the group who was held for another night – Church in Chains.

Can you imagine receiving 200 lashes and two years in prison if you are from Saudi Arabia and 300 lashes and six years in prison if you are from another country?  In 2012, two men, one Lebanese and the other Saudi Arabian were charged with brainwashing a Saudi woman into becoming a Christian.  These charges were levelled against them by the woman’s family.  The woman, known as the “girl of Khobar” is living in Sweden where she has been granted asylum.  She wasn’t brainwashed, she chose to become a Christian (Church in Chains).  Watch as she and another Saudi share their testimonies.

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” – John 8:36

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not recognize any Afghan citizens as being Christians, nor are Afghan citizens legally permitted to convert to Christianity. Although there are no explicit laws that forbid proselytizing, many authorities and most of society view the practice as contrary to the beliefs of Islam. There is only one legally recognized church in Afghanistan and it is located within the diplomatic enclave, and not open to local nationals.  Muslims who change their faith to Christianity, are subject to societal and official pressure, which may lead to death penalty. However, there are cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith, secretly declaring his/her apostasy. In effect, they are practising Christians, but legally Muslims; thus, the statistics of Afghan Christians does not include Muslim apostates to Christianity – Wikipedia

I read that the growing number of Christians in Afghanistan is causing great concern among the Muslim leaders and they are calling on President Hamid Karzai to “limit the number of aid workers and Christian missionaries coming to Afghanistan” to keep Afghanis from converting to Christianity.”  Apparently this all started when a TV station in Kabul reported the conversion of several Afghans to Christianity and broadcasted photos of them praying and being baptized.  This sparked an outrage and a call to convict believers under the Sharia Law which decrees that anyone who leaves Islam and converts to another religion that person will be executed – Christian Headlines.  The Afghan Christians have no church building where they can go because the last one was destroyed two years ago.  They are completely underground now and are risking their lives to meet in homes.

This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life – Psalm 119:50

The situation of religious freedom for Christians has seriously deteriorated under the influence of the establishment of the Islamic State in large parts of Iraq. In June 2014, a strict version of Islamic law was implemented in the area the militants of Islamic State hold. Christians were forced to convert, flee or pay a tax for religious minorities. As a result, many Christians fled. Moreover, the broader Iraqi society is turning more Islamic, with increased social control on women wearing a veil and observance of Ramadan. Christians most affected by persecution are converts from Islam. However, in areas held by radical Islamic groups all Christians are under great pressure – Open Doors USA

A family of four was forced to flee Iraq because of militants and a man for questioning the Quran.  Read their stories.

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’ – Isaiah 41:10

Last year a Somalian believer was dragged outside of her home and murdered by a group of armed men. Anyone who tried to rescue her was shot at.  Her parents witnessed this terrible tragedy.  If a Somali was discovered to be a follower of Jesus, that person was going to face certain death not only in Somalia but in neighbouring countries where they are forced to flee as refugees.  According to one VOM source, “In Somalia, they kill you if they just find a piece of literature” (VOM USA).  My thoughts are with this young woman’s family and I pray that they are leaning on Jesus and trusting Him to strengthen them each day.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You – Psalm 9:10

Maldives is one of the least evangelized countries in the world. The 0.2% figure for Christians refers to expatriate Christians. Citizens of the Maldives are automatically Muslim, and non-Muslims may not become citizens. The open practice of any religion other than Islam is forbidden. Maldivian believers are carefully watched. They suffer ostracism, mockery, incarceration and even torture. Christians cannot meet or read the Scriptures openly. Expatriate believers have been expelled, especially after sharing their faith – VOM Canada.

Citizens of the Maldives who convert to Christianity lose their citizenship and risk torture. Expulsions of Christians occurred several times in the last 10 years (Wikipedia).

In his presidential campaign the current President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen promoted himself as a saviour of Islam. “Think for yourselves, do you want Islam in the Maldives or do you want to allow space for other religions in the Maldives,” he said in an election speech.  In his speech on Maldives Conversion to Islam Day, he told the citizens, “We should also be very vigilant of foreign influences attempting to weaken our religious faith” (The Diplomat).  Clearly, things for Christian believers in Maldives is not going to change any time soon.  Let’s lift them up in our prayers that they will remain strong and steadfast until the Lord returns.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you – 1 Peter 5:10

It has been said that Mali has always been a dangerous place for Christians.  Christians who have fled are afraid to return and those who return find their properties occupied by Muslims.  There is no normal church life for Malian Christians in the north and those living in the south feel threatened by the Islamic groups in the north (source:  Open Doors).  Read about a pastor who escaped a deadly plot in Mali.

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil” – 1 Peter 3:12

Imagine risking your life to tell others about Jesus in a country where religious freedom is on the decline. Watch this compelling video of a Iranian woman named Padina who was about to commit suicide but God intervened.

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” – John 8:12

Yemeni citizens are not allowed to convert to Christianity (or other religions). Converts from an Islamic background may face the death penalty if their new faith is discovered. Converts from Islam also encounter opposition from extremist groups, who threaten “apostates” with death if they do not revert to Islam. Proselytizing of Muslims is prohibited – VOM Canada

How frustrating it must be to have to hide your new faith or face possible death if it is discovered.  Please pray that your Yemeni brothers and sisters will be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).

Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD – Psalm 31:24

I received a prisoner update of an Eritrean man named Mussie Eyob who has been in prison since 2011. He was arrested because of his faith and his desire to share the Gospel with others.  Mussie became a Christian in 2008.  Three years later, while he was living in Saudi Arabia, he went to a mosque where he spoke about Christianity.  He was arrested on February 12, 2011.  It is a capital offence to proselyte in Saudi Arabia.  Praise God, He intervened through the appeals from various human rights groups and individuals.  Mussie was deported to Eritrea.  You can read his story here and see how you can reach out to him and his family.

It is ironic that as the people of Eritrea celebrated 24 years of independence in March 2015, religious freedom for Christians is still a concern.   According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the greatest shortcomings in religious freedom are felt by minority groups such as evangelical Christians.  So once again, in 2015,  USCIRF holds to its position that Eritrea is to be designated as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act.

In the wake of their independence, Eritrean Christians had to flee to Ethiopia to escape their hardships where they continue to boldly share their faith.  “They are actually seeing many from (various) religious backgrounds — Muslim and Orthodox — enter into a personal relationship with Jesus” says Greg Musselman, a spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.

“Today, you’ve got anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 Christians there who are imprisoned in shipping containers or military camps because of their faith.”  Can you imagine dealing with torture, acts of cruelty, random arrests and detention without charges? Musselman believes that these practices are as a result of the government’s belief that evangelical Christianity is “western” and is linked with the CIA (ERITREA: Refugees Boldly Testify of Christian Faith; Source: Mission Network News).

It is encouraging to know that despite the ban on their religious activities, the imprisonments and persecutions, the Eritrean Christians are holding on.  They have this assurance that they are not alone and that they are fighting the good fight which will carry them through these fiery trials.

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life – Revelation 2:10

If you are moved to pray for the Christians in these countries, find out how at this link.

“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Voice of the Martyrs Canada; Open Doors; Church in Chains