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

Honesty in Relationships

Were you honest going into your marriage? I just started reading the book, What Every Wife Wants Her Husband to Know by Annie Chapman.  One husband complained that his wife had changed the rules after they got married.  She behaved one way before they got married and a completely different way after they got married.  Before they got married, she didn’t have a problem going hunting with him.  Weather was not a factor or the time of day or the terrain too tough.

However, after they got married, she stopped going hunting with him altogether.  It seems she was willing to do whatever was necessary to win him and end up at the altar. Once she had accomplished that, she didn’t see the need to impress him anymore.  It turned that he too changed since they got married.  Chapman says, “When we win our spouses with one kind of behavior and then change the rules after the marriage vows are spoken, we have practiced deception” (page 20).

Granted things change after we have children.  We are not free to do the things we used to do when we were dating but arrangements can be made.  If we are truly serious about preserving our marriage, we would do whatever it takes to do so.  We can have the kids sleep over at their grandparents or have a babysitter come over and we go out for dinner or to the movie or spend a romantic weekend at a hotel.

If you are engaged to be married, ask yourself if you are marrying him for love or for another reason.  I know some women marry because they don’t want to be lonely or it’s convenient or they don’t want to end up a spinster.  I have a cousin who obviously wasn’t marrying for love.  On the day of her wedding, she said about, “The next time I get married…” She hadn’t even walked down the aisle as yet and she was thinking about her next wedding?!?  Not surprisingly, this first marriage did not last.  Things had gotten pretty bad between her and her husband after they got married.  Once she even called the police on him.  He is now in a new relationship and she is unmarried.  Thankfully they didn’t have any children.

As I mentioned before, some couples get along nicely until they get married.  One or both of them change and the real person comes out.  Had she seen this side of him or he seen this side of her, the marriage would never have taken place.  Consider your feelings and motives before entering into marriage.  Be honest with yourself and your intended.

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Nepalese Woman Finds Hope

“The Lord has blessed me in such a wonderful way that He has provided shelter, food, special care and attention through His people,” Shiuli says.

What does a 14 year old know about being a wife and a mother?  She should be in school getting a good education.  At 14 most girls aren’t even allowed to date.   Most girls are not thinking about marriage and if they were, it would be an event which would take place in the distant future, when they are older and ready to make that kind of commitment.  Their parents do not arrange their marriages.  They marry whom they choose.  They marry for love.

In some countries, it is considered statutory rape when an adult has relations with a girl 16 years old or younger.  In other countries, young girls are given in marriage.  Nepal is one of these countries.  In fact, child marriages are the norm there.

Child marriage is a global problem which affects millions across the world but especially girls in South Asia. The Government of Nepal has signed many international instruments designed to tackle this problem and has passed a law forbidding child marriage but has found it difficult to eradicate the phenomenon due to weak enforcement and low levels of awareness – World Vision, Nepal.

It’s a problem that continues to persist in Nepal.  According to a report on the website for Girls Not Brides, “As is often the case elsewhere, child marriage is more common in rural areas than urban areas, and rates are particularly high in the hilly and mountainous regions. In certain ethnic groups, the rate of marriage before 15 can reach 83.1%. Castes also play a role, as lower caste girls are generally under greater pressure than higher caste girls to marry while still at school.”

This is the case of Shiuli, a young Nepalese woman.  Shiuli grew up  in a quiet mountain village of central Nepal with her family and friends nearby.   Life changed and hardship began for Shiuli when at the age of 14 her parents arranged her marriage to a man named Tarun.  After they were married the couple moved to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.  It must have been hard for Shiuli to be away from her family and friends.  She was in a strange city with a husband she hardly knew.

Tarun found a job in the carpet industry.  At a later date Shiuli began working there as well.  In the following years, the couple had three daughters.  Then, Tarun became sick and never recovered.  He died.  After seven years of marriage Shiuli was left alone to raise three daughters and struggle to care for them and herself.  She had no one to help her.  Her family was miles away.  She was in a big city, living among 700,000 people and things only got worse.

Desperately poor and unable to provide for her children because of lack of money, Shiuli was forced to do something no parent should ever have to do–watch her youngest daughter starve to death.  As a mother, my heart breaks for Shiuli.  I can’t imagine the pain she must have suffered as she watched helplessly as her daughter died, unable to do anything about it and the toll it must have taken on the other two girls.  Shiuli worried that she would die and leave her two daughters helpless and defenseless against abuse.  She had been through enough calamities.  She couldn’t wait for any more to hit her.  There was nothing anyone could do to help her so she had to do something.  She needed answers to her problems so she went searching.

She figured that religion was the answer.  To her there was little difference between the religion she had grown up in and the other two major ones.  She went to several religious centers and offered the little money she had along with other sacrifices to the gods, hoping for a response but none was forthcoming.  She sought the help of different religious figures, hoping to find peace but it was all in vain until one day visitors came to her workplace.

Three women missionaries told Shiuli that they were followers of Jesus Christ and they explained to her who Jesus was and His sacrifice on the cross.  Shiuli listened to them and their kind words brought her the answers she had been searching so desperately for.  She poured out her heart to them, sharing her sad story and they in turn shared God’s love for her and His plan to free her from her burdens.  The words of these three women filled Shiuli with the peace that had long been evading her.  She knew she could take refuge in Jesus who had brought His peace into her life which had been beset with hardship and unimaginable pain.

The missionaries found her a church where she could connect with other believers and learn more about the Lord.  She accepted His offer of peace and is growing in the Lord at a church supported by Gospel For Asia (GFA) with the help of the pastor and other women missionaries supported by GFA.

Shiulu went looking for answers and peace but found none in her search.  Jesus came to her through the three missionaries and gave her all that she needed and more.  Sometimes we go searching but sometimes the Lord sends His servants to find us.

I thank Jesus and the missionaries who have turn this young woman’s life completely around.   “The Lord has blessed me in such a wonderful way that He has provided shelter, food, special care and attention through His people,” Shiuli says.

If you want to see other women like Shiulu find the answers they are searching for and be led to Christ, sponsor women missionaries.  In South Asia, many women like Shiuli need someone they can turn to who can tell them about the God they can take refuge in but in some societies cultural restrictions prevent women from talking to male missionaries.  So, they can only be reached by other women.  Help change another woman’s life.  Give her hope.  Sponsor a woman missionary.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest – Matthew 11:28

Shiuli’s story is one of inspiration.  No matter how hard life becomes and how helpless we may feel, there is always hope.  No matter how long it takes, we will find the answers we are searching for.  We will find that wonderful peace only Jesus Christ can offer us.

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Source:  http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/nepalese-woman-finds-hope-amidst-great-loss/; http://www.wvi.org/nepal/publication/child-marriage-nepal; http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/nepal/

 

Don’t Be a Sluggard

Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.
How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep—
11 So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man – Proverbs 6:6-11.

Natalie was watching TV while her mother was busy cleaning the house.  It was the weekend and Natalie wanted to relax.  She had had a busy week at school.  She needed a break.  She sat on the sofa with her feet on the coffee table flipping channels with one hand while the other reached into the bowl on her lap to stuff her mouth with popcorn.  It occurred to her that she should be helping her mother but she didn’t feel like getting up.  She was quite comfortable where she was.

The phone rang but Natalie didn’t stir.  The call is probably for Mom anyway, she thought.  She heard her mother rush from the kitchen where she was mopping the floor to answer the phone.  Twenty minutes later, the annoying drone of the vacuum was heard.  Natalie turned up the volume to drown it out.

“Natalie!” her mother marched into the room and grabbed the remote.  Natalie jolted upright on the sofa.  She hadn’t heard her mother come into the room, of course.  “Turn that thing off and get up off that sofa and help me around this house.”

“But, Mom–” she started to protest, but was cut off.  Her mother was incensed.  Her face was red.

“I’m tired of you doing nothing around this house.  You are twelve years old now.  It’s time you started to take on some responsibilities.  As of today, you will not be a loafer, lounging about the place while I do all of the work.  Someday you will be some poor man’s wife and you will have to learn how to take care of him and your home.  No daughter of mine is going to be a lazy good for nothing who can’t be of any use to herself or anyone else.  Men don’t like lazy women.  If you want to be a wife and a mother, you have to learn to do things–starting now.”  She grabbed her arm and pulled up.   “I have a list of things for you to do, starting with cleaning up your room.”

Natalie grudgingly did what she was told.  For twelve years her mother had done everything around the house and she had liked it like that but now she was forced to do things now.  She had never cleaned her room.   A heavy sigh left her lips as she thought of the mess waiting for her.  She always depended on her mother to clean her room, cook, and take care of her and her Dad.  She didn’t like having to do household chores.  Her friends didn’t do household chores.  They would laugh if they knew or worse–feel sorry for her.  She felt like getting out of there and going to the mall but she knew that was a bad idea.  She would be grounded for sure and her mother might dump even more work on her.

As she climbed the stairs, she thought, “This stinks.  I’m going to marry a rich man so I won’t have to do any of this stuff.”

Twenty years later, Natalie smiled as she remembered her foolish dream.  She was married now but not to a rich man.  He was a manager at a small trucking company and they had two children.  Believe it or not, Natalie was a housewife.  She loved taking care of her family.  She was a terrific cook and was always looking for new recipes.  She loved to bake.  Just the other day she baked some brownies which were all gone now.

As she took a breather from her chores, she took up her Bible and sat down at the kitchen table.  She opened it to Proverbs 6.  She read it slowly.  She could relate to it.  The writer compared the ant, who was hardworking and industrious to the sluggard.  She had been the sluggard.  Lazy and idle–always making excuses.  She hated work.  When she wasn’t at school, she like to spend most of the day watching TV or hanging out at the mall with her friends.  If it hadn’t been for her parents she would not have done well in school.  Her father had always pushed her to study and work hard.  If she had her way, she would have preferred to skip school but that was definitely not an option.  Now she was encouraging her children to work hard and bring home the good grades.

She was especially thankful to her mother who transformed her from a sluggard into an ant.  It hadn’t been easy at all.  It was hard to go from being lazy to being hardworking.  There were quarrels, lots of tears but neither she nor her mother gave up.   Thanks to her mother, she learned the valuable lesson that a girl had to become a woman first before she could be a wife and mother.  She had to learn how to be responsible.   After reading Proverbs 31, it had become Natalie’s quest to become like the woman mentioned in it.

Just the other day her mother had said to her, “Nat, you have done very well for yourself.” She could see the pride in her mother’s face and that meant the world to her.   “Thanks, Mom,” she replied, giving her a hug.  “I learned from the best.”

Natalie is teaching her daughter how to be a woman so that one day she will be a wife and a mother just as her mother taught her.

She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all” – Proverbs 31:27-29

Mothers, it is very important that you teach your daughters and sons how to be responsible.  Girls, at an early age, should learn how to cook and clean.  One of my co-workers knew how to keep a home as early as nine years old.  I personally regret not learning how to cook when I was growing up.  My mother did not teach me and I didn’t take any interest in learning.  I am in my forties and I am still learning my way in the kitchen and how to keep a home.  Mothers, you will be helping your daughters when you teach them how to take care of themselves and the families they will someday have.  Don’t wait for them to show an interest–they might never do that.  You take charge and do what you need to do.  One day they will thank you.

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Inspiring Story from Kenya

I read this inspiring story and just had to share it.

A Life of Influence

Elizabeth Kimongo was born into a traditional Maasai family in Kenya. In her culture girls are expected to marry soon after their twelfth birthday. Women have little to say about their lives, but Elizabeth refused to leave school to marry. She had a dream.

While home for vacation before starting high school, Elizabeth learned that her father had arranged for her to marry an older man. With her mother’s blessing, she escaped and returned to her Adventist school.

During high school Elizabeth took her stand for Christ and later was baptized. When she told her mother that she wanted to study at the Adventist university, her mother encouraged her to go.

Elizabeth is majoring in agriculture, a field that will help her teach her people how to preserve their land and provide a better life. She works on campus and receives some scholarship funds to help her pay her school fees. Sometimes she must take a semester off to work full time to earn the money to continue her studies.

Elizabeth’s example has helped her younger sisters stay in school and avoid early marriage. Her father, once angry that his daughter would refuse to marry the man of his choice, now accepts her decision. But he pressures her younger sisters to marry this man. Elizabeth encourages her sister to walk close to God and continue their studies to make a better life.

Elizabeth urges other Maasai girls to study hard and trust in God. “Don’t allow life’s circumstances to steal your life away,” she says. “Satan wants to destroy you. You must trust God and not let Satan have his way.”

Elizabeth is old enough now that her community will not force her to marry. They accept her as an adult woman who can make her own decisions. “I want to teach my people by example how to produce better crops for a better life,” she says. “The village has given me a piece of land that I use to plant crops so that my fellow villagers can see for themselves the success they can have by following my example.”

Elizabeth is grateful for Adventist schools that have prepared her to live a life of influence among her Maasai people. Our mission offerings and Thirteenth Sabbath Offerings help these schools reach young people in all walks of life, including Maasai girls in the heart of eastern Africa. Thank you.

Elizabeth Kimongo will soon complete her studies and return to her village to work for her people and share God’s love among them.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  info@adventistmission.org   website: www.adventistmission.org

It takes great courage to follow Jesus Christ and to stand up for your faith.  At times it costs people their relationships with family, friends, their jobs or even their lives.  For this young Kenyan woman, following Jesus was worth whatever the cost it took to do so.  She knew that God had bigger plans for her life than entering into marriage she didn’t want.  Education was more important and God’s help and her mother’s support, she was able to achieve what she set out to do.  As a result she could now be a blessing to her community and a role model for young girls and women.  God, through Elizabeth, was showing the Maasai people that He can do marvelous things among them and give them a bright future.

Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  Like Elizabeth we too can make a difference in our community and reveal God’s love in the process.  You too can be a beacon of hope.  Don’t let fear, insecurity, opposition, doubt or Satan prevent you from pursuing your dream.  Continue to put your faith and trust in God and watch Him do wondrous things through you.

Tall as the Baobab Tree

I learned about Tall as the Baobab Tree from Human Rights Watch.  This film is about a teenage girl who is determined to rescue her 11 year old sister from an arranged marriage.  Coumba and Debo, sisters who are the first from their family to attend school.  What will happen to Debo’s education if she becomes a child bride?  According to Girls Not Brides, “Child brides usually drop out of school and are denied the opportunity to complete their education, significantly reducing their ability to earn an income and lift themselves and their children out of poverty.”

Evidence shows that girls who marry early often abandon formal education and
become pregnant. Maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth are an
important component of mortality for girls aged 15–19 worldwide, accounting for
70,000 deaths each year (UNICEF, State of the World’s Children,
2009).

Education is key for these girls.  It helps them to avoid early marriage and to fulfill their potential.  Education is the tool they need to advocate for their rights and make them invaluable to their families and communities.  In the words of Greg Mortenson, “Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community.”  Educate the girls instead of selling them in marriage.  They are more valuable educated than not.

Check out the trailer.

 

To find out more about this film and its director, visit the website at http://tallasthebaobabtree.com/

To learn more about child brides and the places where the practice is prevalent, visit the Girls Not Brides website.  Children should be allowed to be children.  Girls should be allowed to marry when they are of age and are ready.  They should be allowed to marry the men of their choice.  Until then, they should be allowed to attend and stay in school.  Read about the testimonies of former child wives here.

I hope that after you watch the trailer Tall as the Baobab Tree and read the facts about child marriage, that you will be motivated to take action.  It is time to act.  This widespread practice has been going on for far too long and needs to be stopped.  It violates the rights of girls and forces them to take on roles they are not at all ready for.  Marriage is for adults not adults and children.  As a community we need to stand up and defend the rights of those who are being exploited–especially if they are our children.

Source:  http://www.unicef.org/protection/57929_58008.html