Healing and Hope

I first heard of the Bridge of Hope program when I became a blogger for the Gospel of Asia Ministry.  I have read stories of children whose lives seemed hopeless until they were enrolled in this program where they were given a chance for a better future.  They were provided with daily meals, regular medical check-ups and a quality education so that one day they would be able to get good jobs and provide for themselves and their families.  And most importantly, they learned about Jesus.

One day an illiterate man went to the Bridge of Hope centre with a strange request. Would the staff there send the “medical doctor named Jesus” to help his sick wife? how did this man know that Jesus could heal the sick?  He learned this from a little boy named Nibun, a first-grader.  Nibun listened as his teachers talked about Jesus healing the sick, delivering people from evil spirits and feeding the hungry.  It was Nibun’s father who came with the strange request.  It was Nibun’s mother who was sick.

The family was poor.  They lived in a mud hut and couldn’t afford to go to a hospital.  Most of the doctors were miles away.  It was too long of a trek on a dirt path through the woods, especially for a sick person.  Nibun’s mother was very ill.  His father tried to do everything he could.  He cried out to his gods to help her but she got worse until she became critical.  It was then that Nibun told his father about Jesus, but the man thought that there was a doctor with that name working at the Bridge of Hope centre.

The staff at the centre responded to the father’s desperate request and went with him to his home.  They talked to the family about Jesus and His love, sacrifice and power to heal.  Then, they laid hands on the woman and prayed to God to heal her. And He did.  The news soon spread throughout the small village and several people came to know the Lord that week and the following week more families placed their faith in Jesus.  Families are attending a local church where they are growing in God’s grace and increasing their knowledge of Jesus.

Many lives were changed because of a little boy who learned about Jesus at the Bridge of Hope centre and believed that He could heal his mother.  This program not only brings hope to children like Nibun but it transforms communities.  It brings the light of God’s love and the hope found only in Jesus Christ to many people.

In the Spotlight

Notes to Women is thrilled to feature In The Spotlight, Julie Marshall, Canadian Spokesperson for the United Nations World Food Programme.

NTW:  Tell us a little bit about yourself.  

Julie:  My job involves briefing the media, raising the profile of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the issue of global hunger within Canada, creating and promoting educational material for universities and schools,producing fundraising, awareness and advertising campaigns, working with our Canadian Ambassador Against Hunger, George Stroumboulopoulos and creating communications material for our private sector partners within Canada.

NTW:  How long have you been with World Food Programme?

Julie:  I have been working in a communications role with WFP for over 9 years.

NTW:  What made you become a part of the organization? 

Julie:  I knew of WFP’s outstanding reputation as the world’s largest humanitarian agency, and I really like the fact that their administrative costs are one of the lowest in the non-profit sector – 90% of donations go directly to WFP operations. 

NTW:  WFP covers a wide range of areas in its fight to combat hunger, is there an area of particular interest for you?

Julie:  I have to say I enjoy visiting WFP school meals programmes.  WFP supplies nutritious school meals to over 18 million children every year.  A meal at school acts as a magnet to get children into the classroom, especially in regions where girls are not encouraged to attend school. Providing a daily nutritious meal and in some cases a take home ration to children helps to keep them in school giving them hope for a brighter future.  I have also seen how buying food locally, benefits local farmers and the whole community and really enhances the sustainability of our programmes.

Julie Marshall

Photo:  Julie at a WFP school meals operation in Honduras.

NTW:  WFP’s vision is a world where every man, woman and child always has access to food in order to have an active and healthy life.  What is your vision?

Julie:  A child’s future should start with zero hunger.  WFP is working to create a world where no one is hungry, freeing children from the effects of undernutrition and helping them achieve their true potential. Every day, thousands of kids die because of hunger. But they don’t have to, because the world produces enough food for everyone. 

NTW:  It is said that empowering women is the first step towards Zero Hunger.  In Ecuador, this seems to be a challenge.  Rural women are illiterate, they earn less than urban women, they work 23 hours more than men, they have suffered some form of gender violence.  The statistics when it comes to abuse among girls in Ecuador are very disturbing.  78 percent suffer from abuse at home, 42% from severe abuse and girls ages between 10 and 15 years have been victims of gender violence, especially sexual abuse. How would WFP help these women and girls who are battling not only hunger but illiteracy, low wages, disproportionate working hours and gender abuse?

Julie:   I visited WFP school meals operations in Ecuador in 2014 and quickly learnt how these meals helped get kids into school, but also helped to support many women in the community. 

I visited a school in the remote community of Pimampiro, where some children walk for hours to school.  When they arrive they are hungry and tired.  The nutritious breakfast of juice and a granola bar and a lunch of rice, vegetables and lentils help them learn and play.  Some of the vegetables are grown, with the help of WFP, in their school vegetable garden and the rest are purchased by WFP from the local small farmers associations, which are run and organized mostly by women.  These associations work closely with WFP and the local government to deliver fresh vegetables to the school every week.  WFP has helped establish farmer’s associations and community gardens  across the region in order to increase the financial and food security of small-holder farmers.

Nancy, a 25 year old, single mom is the president of the local small farmers association in Otavalo, who supply fresh vegetables to the local schools.  Nancy explained to me how WFP and the local government helped to formalize their association, diversified their crops, encouraged women to participate and how working together they now receive a fair market price for their produce.  These women now have a steady income and a standing in the community.

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Photo:  Nancy in vegetable garden

NTW:  Somalia has chronically high malnutrition rates, in fact, one in eight children under five is acutely malnourished.  Please tell us about the nutrition programmes WFP has set up to treat and prevent this problem which is prevalent among young women, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

Julie:  WFP supports food assistance operations to the most vulnerable people, and at the same time is working to help build resilience in the country. We have development operations designed to help hungry people help themselves; emergency operations that provide food to prevent hunger and malnutrition and relief and recovery operations that assist in stabilizing food security and the rebuilding after emergencies. 

The Mother and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) Programme in Somalia helps to prevent malnutrition in children under the age of 2 years. We focus on the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to age 2) because this is the window of opportunity for preventing irreversible damages to a child’s growth and mental development due to poor nutrition. Pregnant and nursing women are therefore also targeted to ensure a good start in life for their children. The women, irrespective of their nutritional status, receive daily supplements of fortified blended food to complement a generally poor diet. In Somalia, the programme is implemented through functional Maternal & Child Health clinics to ensure that women and children receive nutritional support as well as health interventions necessary for healthy growth: immunization, de-worming, treatment of diarrhea and other common illnesses, ante-natal and post-natal medical check-ups, etc. Pregnant or nursing women stay in the programme until delivery and/or when the child reaches 6 months, while children can remain in the programme until they reach 24 months of age.

NTW:  As we all know, education is one way to empower girls in countries where girls don’t have access to it for any number of reasons.  In Somalia, the enrollment rates for primary school-aged children are among the lowest where out of 42% of those who are in school, only 36% are girls..  Share with us what WFP is doing to boost the enrolment rates.

Julie:  WFP school meals encourage children, especially girls, to attend classes, enrollment goes up, attendance is consistently high and with a full tummy both girls and boys can concentrate on their work.  In Somaliland, Puntland and the Central regions, we encourage the attendance of older girls by providing them with a take-home family ration of vegetable oil when the girls attend school regularly.  Keeping them in school longer gives them a better and healthier start to life.

NTW:  In Somalia, unemployment among young people aged 14 to 29 years is one of the highest at 67%.  Tell us about WFP’s Food for Training programmes.

Julie:  Poverty-stricken communities hit by floods or droughts are too busy looking for food to rebuild infrastructure vital for redevelopment.  WFP finds out why a community is hungry and works with the community to rebuild their infrastructure – so they no longer need outside help.  WFP provides food or in some cases cash, in exchange for work making it possible for the poor and hungry to take the first steps out of the hunger trap. 

In Somalia, WFP implemented Food-for-Assets activities for over 12,000 people in Luuq, Dolow and Belethawa.  Through this programme WFP provides food rations to support self-help initiatives, such as building water harvesting structures and canal irrigation. The programme helps meet the immediate food needs of hungry people, as well as preventing communities from resorting to harmful coping strategies, such as selling assets and livestock during an emergency.

NTW:  What changes do you hope to see by the end of this year?

Julie:  A number of our major operations are in conflict areas.  In these areas I hope to see open access to besieged and hard to reach areas in conflict situations, allowing WFP and the whole humanitarian community continued access to all people in need of humanitarian assistance.  Also, Sustainable and predictable funding is needed to ensure that WFP assistance continues, not just in major crisis like Syria, but in seemingly forgotten emergencies were people are still in need but not in the media.

NTW:  What has been your biggest challenge working at WFP?  What has been your biggest achievement?

Julie:  One of the most satisfying parts of my job has been to see the Canadian public becoming more and more engaged in the issue of global hunger and the work of WFP over the years.  It can be challenging to raise funds for a humanitarian crisis that’s been going on for a number of years, like the Syrian conflict, but Canadians and the Canadian Government (who are consistently among our top 3 donors) continue to come through and support our work.

NTW:  Julie, it has been a pleasure talking to you.  Thank you for sharing the work that you are doing through the World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.  I hope this interview will encourage people to get more involved in the fight against hunger.
Julie:  It was a pleasure talking with you.  Anyone can help WFP, just go to wfp.org to find out more about our work or download the#ShareTheMeal app on your smartphone, and .50 cents will provide Syrian children, their mothers and mums-to-be with vital nutrition with a simple tap on their phones.

Gifts Thankfully Received

Thanksgiving has come and gone in Canada and the United States.  Many of us enjoyed delicious turkey dinners with our families and reflected on all that we were thankful for.  We were thankful that we have shelter, jobs, families and friends.  Just recently many people got laid off from their jobs.  Those of us who still have jobs are very thankful especially as the Christmas season is fast approaching.

As Christmas draws near, we think about the gifts we will get for our loved ones and friends and plan our menus.  It’s a fun and a stressful time. We decorate our homes and set aside one evening just to wrap presents to put under the Christmas tree.  We are thankful for the most wonderful time of the year.  We are thankful for God’s greatest Gift to us–His beloved Son, Jesus.

Sadly, it’s during this time of the year when we are reminded that not everyone is as blessed as we are or has much to be thankful for.  Imagine that it’s Christmas time but you are not in the holiday spirit because you are overworked and it’s a constant struggle every day to provide meals for your family. You’re working hard but have nothing to really show for it.  You can’t give your children education or clothes.  This is how life is for many people in South Asia.  Each day is a struggle for them. They don’t live–they just exist.

Imagine how thankful you would be if you were to receive a simple gift that would help you and your family.  Gospel for Asia offers lots of wonderful gifts in their Christmas Gift Catalog.  Gifts like chickens, sewing machines, rickshaws and Bibles are not only a great source of income for people who are living in poverty but they are a means by which the love of Christ can be demonstrated in tangible ways.  Since 2007, the gifts from GFA’s Christmas Gift Catalog have helped over 736,000 impoverished families in South Asia.

I thought of which gift I would be thankful to receive and came up with two.  The pull cart and a bicycle.

With a pull cart I can sell fruits, vegetables, clothing or handcrafted items so that I can provide for my family.  This is a legitimate way for a poor person to make a living.  I would be able to give my child an education and give faithfully to the church.  I can even share the Good News about Jesus with people as they buy the goods  I am selling.  I don’t have to worry about renting a cart.  Having my own cart saves me time and I can take home all of what I earn.  Having my own cart will be a testimony to my neighbors and relatives that God takes care of those who put their faith and trust in Him.

I love to ride.  In Guyana I used to ride a lot.  It was a fun way to get around.  Good exercise too.  If I were living in South Asia, I would love to own a bicycle.  If I received one as a Christmas gift, I would use it to reach more villages and tell them about Jesus.  The Bible talks about how “beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15).  Imagine how much faster I can share the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things if I had a bicycle!

This Christmas think of the many lives in South Asia that will be changed through the Christmas Gift Catalog.  Think of how thankful you would be to receive one of these gifts.  Take a look at the Catalog here and prayerfully consider each gift.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver – 2 Corinthians 9:7

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Dhal Ni Pol Blog

Family Finds Hope and Joy

And a little child shall lead them – Isaiah 11:6b

This photo is of a smiling family.  They have a very good reason for the expressions of joy on their faces. The children belong to Bridge of Hope, Gospel for Asia’s children’s ministry.  At Bridge of Hope, the children receive more than an education.  They receive daily meals, medical care and the love of Jesus.

At Bridge of Hope as children learn about God’s love in practical ways, they share the message with their families.  Can you imagine what it is like for a family living in poverty to find hope and joy in the love of Jesus?  They learn that there is a Savior whose desire is for them to know Him and to have a relationship with Him.

How wonderful it is when a whole family accepts Christ as their Savior.  You can help to make this possible by supporting Bridge of Hope.  To find out how, click here

Together we can bring hope to children and their families and transform communities.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Living in Slums

I told them that even if their situation seems like a mountain, God is mightier than the problem – Nitya

Can you imagine being so poor that you live in a shack made of cardboard and plastic?  What if you had to struggle daily just to survive?  Imagine sharing a shanty with ten other families because you and your family can’t afford your own space?  This is the reality for people in India who dwell in slums.

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In India, slums are growing rapidly.  Millions are living in extreme poverty and everyday is a struggle for survival.  They are trapped in a world filled with desperation and hopelessness.  Open sewage, polluted water, lack of healthcare, illiteracy, superstition and diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDs are some of the problems they face.  It is a constant battle for them to find or keep a job.  No job meant that they would have to beg, scavenge or turn to prostitution.  It’s worst for them if they were too sick or too old to work because there was no social agency to help them to survive.  This is why many of them turned to alcohol for solace.  When the men drowned their sorrows and fears in alcohol, their wives and children were left to fend for themselves.  One woman who was a tailor had to work outside because there was not enough room in her tiny hut.

People should not be living like this.  And this is why God had to intervene.  He did so through a man named Nitya.  Nitya had a dream about a shack by the sewer.  And he moved into one!  How many of us would leave our nice, comfy, clean homes and families to live in a slum among complete strangers?  Nitya had no reservations.  Why?  He knew that God had called him to serve in the slums.  Sometimes the harvest is in places that we normally wouldn’t imagine ourselves going but when God calls us to go, we go.  Nitya made his home among the slum dwellers and through his actions, demonstrated God’s love and acceptance.

In Nitya’s eyes, these people were God’s children.  God called him and is calling others to share the Good News of Jesus with people who are hurting and are shunned by society.

Watch this video of Nitya–a real life hero who has a true servant’s heart.

God transformed the lives of the people in the slum. Darkness gave way to light and despair turned into hope.  When Nitya found out that children were unable to go to school because their parents could afford to send them, he started a Bridge of Hope centre.  At the centre, children learn about Jesus, receive quality education, medical care and daily meals.

Nitya also began holding worship services.   At first the attendance was low due to lack of interest but now more than 40 people attend.  At each service Nitya teaches them from the Bible and prays for them.  Thankful for the hope they have found in Jesus, believers take part in Communion to remember the great sacrifice He made for them.

One couple’s lives changed dramatically, thanks to the church.  Achal and Malika used to follow their traditional gods and Achal beat Malika but one day she slipped into a coma.  Nitya, his wife and other believers prayed for her and she was healed.  When Achal and Malika saw the Lord’s power, they gave their hearts to Christ.  Today they are among His faithful followers.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” – Romans 10:14, 15

The Goa slum is home to the illegal prostitution trade.  Life seemed hopeless for the people there until a Gospel for Asia missionary team began to visit the area, bringing hope in the form of Gospel literature.

 As I went through the photo gallery of Team Ministers of Slum Area, tears came to my eyes.  It drove home the fact that there are people out there who will gladly accept the Good News if only there were people to share it with them.  These photos touched my heart.

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“Most of the people they meet are open to the Gospel message. Almost immediately they become engrossed in reading the literature.”

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“After he told them the Good News, many raised their hands, indicated that they wanted to follow Jesus. John is the pastor of a GFA-supported church in this area of Goa. He is overjoyed to see so many from the slum become part of the Body of Christ.”

Find out more about Gospel for Asia’s Slum Ministry and see how the work they began in 1999 is still impacting the masses of “desperate people who have no means whatsoever to better their situation or escape their surroundings.”  Share Nitya’s story and take a look at the photos.  Pray for the slum dwellers and the missionaries of the Slum Ministry.  Ask God how you can help.

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Children Find Hope

Gospel for Asia’s children’s ministry, Bridge of Hope, helps bring hope to many children in South Asia. Currently, more than 72,000 children are enrolled – Gospel for Asia

I have heard and read so much about the Bridge of Hope program and the wonderful work it has been doing to transform the lives of children.  At the centre, children receive quality education, healthcare and nutritious meals.  They are in a safe and loving environment where they learn Bible verses, stories and songs which tell of Jesus’ love.

My son attends a Christian school where they learn Bible verses, read stories and sing songs.  He has his own Bible which he reads at school and takes with him to the chapel.  Some Saturdays we worship together.  He enjoys singing songs and listening to me read stories from the Bible.  He enjoys watching Bible movies and drawing pictures of animals and people from the Bible. There is nothing more incredible than seeing children come to know and love Jesus.  I have often told my son that God likes it when he prays to Him and that He smiles when he sings. There is nothing more precious than to hear the sweet voice of a child as he or she praises the Lord.

Bridge of Hope is a wonderful place for children.  Jesus is at the centre of everything the staff does. Sharing the message of His love is their highest priority.  This love is expressed in practical ways and the children in turn take the message home to their families.  The centre also offers Parent training sessions which are an integral part of their program.  The Gospel is shared and lives are changed.  In homes where the Gospel was initially met with resistance, hearts were opened to receive it, thanks to witness of national missionaries.

I encourage you to read more about the Bridge of Hope program and to consider what you can do to help Gospel for Asia bring hope to the children of South Asia and their families.

There is nothing more powerful than prayer.  Programs like the Bridge of Hope needs your prayers. Here are some requests to get you started:

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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