Makena’s Story

D0g88WZXgAMP4QjI’m an only child.  I was 12 years old when my mother died.  My father was devastated.  A Catholic priest told him that I would be better off living in an Italian orphanage where I would have a good Christian education.  The father believed him because he was a priest.  He was a missionary sent to Kenya for a year and he visited our home when my mother was sick.  He prayed over her and when she died, he officiated at the funeral service.  He told my father that he didn’t have to worry about me.  He promised that I would be well taken care of by the nuns who ran the orphanage.

So, after we buried my mother and saying a tearful goodbye to my father, I went with Father Bernardo to a strange country whose language I didn’t know.  I was scared but Father Bernardo assured me that everything was going to be all right.  All I had to do was trust him. and if I had any problems or concerns, I could always talk to him about them.  It wasn’t until we got to the orphanage that I found out that he lived in one of the units on the grounds.

When we got to the orphanage, I was put to work as a domestic hand as well as carer for the younger children in the orphanage even though I didn’t understand a word of Italian.  I was also chosen to clean Father Bernardo’s unit.  He offered to teach me Italian after I finished my cleaning but things changed.  After I finished cleaning his unit,  had to sit on his lap, and while he taught me Italian, he played with my breasts.

I knew what was happening was wrong and I felt guilty because of my religious Priestupbringing.  Father Bernardo knew it was wrong too but he didn’t stop.  Instead, he made me go to confession and pray to God for forgiveness for my sins because I was making him do what he did.  And he threatened me that if I ever resisted his abuse, he would refuse to give me communion the next time I went to Mass.

As I got older, the abuse got worse.  He started to have sex with me.  While I was cleaning, he would get undressed and climb into the bed and wait for me to join him.  I couldn’t refuse because I knew that he would make good on his threat not to give me Communion.  So, I would let him do what he wanted to me, praying that one day it would end.  It was no use telling anyone about it.  Once when I told one of the nuns that I was bleeding down there, she thought I meant that I had my period and she gave me pads.  And Father Bernardo told me that no one would believe me if I told them about us.  They would accuse me of lying and beat me.

I got pregnant three times and all three times I was forced to have an abortion because he refused to use condoms or contraceptives.  I hated him because he was forcing me to commit murder.  As far as I was concerned abortion was murder.  Each time I had one, I cried bitterly in my room and begged God to forgive me.

I wanted to write my father and tell him what was happening to me but Father Bernardo wouldn’t let me to write or call without his permission.  He made sure that somehow he got a hold of my mail and if there was something in it that he didn’t approve of it was confiscated and discarded.  And I wasn’t permitted to leave the grounds of the orphanage or talk to any of the local boys or the even the gardener.  He got jealous and spiteful when I did.  I not only feared him but I began to hate him.  I wanted to run away from him and this horrible place.

One night I opened my Bible to the Psalms and found Psalm 37.  I read it.  These words jumped out at me, “Be still in the presence of the LORD and wait patiently for Him to act.”  I decided to do just that.  I had prayed to Him to rescue me from this private Hell and I know He heard my prayer.  Now, I will wait for Him to do something.

I didn’t have long to wait.  While Father Bernardo was in Rome, I left the orphanage and went to live in a house where I worked as a servant.  I was 18.  The couple with whom I lived were paid an allowance for having me and they had me accompany them on trips as nanny to their children.  Fortunately for me they spoke English, although by then, I knew some Italian.  I was happy living with them.  They treated me very well and I was very fond of their children.

Several times, Father Bernardo stopped by to persuade me to return to the orphanage but I refused.  He was taken aback and after his threats failed, he begged me to go back with him and promised that he would use condoms so that I wouldn’t have to have any more abortions but I told him to leave me alone.  He eventually went away and I never saw him again but he made the mistake of writing me a long letter in which he went off on a tirade.

In it he wrote that no man would want to marry me when he found out that I had been an older man’s lover and had three abortions.  He said that he wasn’t an evil man and that it was my fault that he did the things he did.  He said I bewitched him.  He ended the letter, promising that if I resumed our relationship, he would consider leaving the priesthood and marrying me.  I felt sick to my stomach.

I wanted to tear the letter to pieces and flush them down the toilet but I was impressed to show the letter to the couple whom I was working for.  Shocked and appalled, the man made several copies of the letter.   He mailed one copy to the orphanage, to the church where Father Bernardo did Mass, the Vatican and to the local bishop.  No response was forthcoming but the last I heard of Father Bernardo, he was no longer at the orphanage or at the church.  My employer said that they probably just reassigned him to another church instead of removing him from the priesthood.

I don’t hate him anymore but I trust in the Word of God which says, “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”

user_male_portraitI’m 28 years old now and happily married with two children–a boy and a girl.  My husband, Stefano was the younger brother of the woman whom I was working for.  We met when he drove from Florence to visit the family.  He was very charming and it didn’t take long for him to win my heart.  I wrote to my father about him and he was able to come to the wedding.

It was wonderful seeing my father again.  He looked much older than I remember.  My mother’s death really hit him hard but he has managed to pick up the pieces.  He stayed for a couple of weeks in Florence before flying back to Nairobi.  Next year summer, Stefano, the kids and I will visit him.

I still haven’t told my father about my abuse.  Stefano told me to wait until I feel like I’m ready to do it but I’m not sure I ever will.  Especially not after he said to me as we danced at my wedding, “I’m thankful that Father Bernardo convinced me to let you come to Italy or you wouldn’t have met your young man.”  I don’t want my father to blame himself for what Father Bernardo did to me.

I’m still haunted by the memories and after leaving the orphanage, I have never set foot in a Catholic church.  I have an aversion for priests.   I left the Catholic faith and am now a member of Stefano’s church which is non-denominational.  Stefano had left his faith years ago because of the sex scandals.

There are times when I feel ashamed of what happened and wished that I had done something–anything to prevent it but Stefano told me to stop blaming myself.  Who would have believed me anyway?  It was my word against a priest’s.  With God’s help, I am working through the lingering guilt and the self-recrimination one day at a time.  I still think about the abortions I had and will always regret having them.

This story is fiction but is inspired by true stories of women who were abused by priests as young girls.  One woman was abused for 13 years beginning when she was 15 years old.  There are so many stories of victims suffering at the hands of those who are in positions of trust and millions of people want to know, “what new steps will the bishops take to clean up — or clean out — the church after years of sex abuse scandals?”  The pastoral practice of transferring priest from parish to parish (priest shuffling) has to stop.

Priests suspected of abuse should be removed from their duties/their parishes until there is an investigation into the allegations and once it is proven that they are guilty, they need to be arrested and serve time for their crimes against the innocent.  The Church as a whole has to be held accountable and put policies in place to protect the victims.  Victims should not be treated as if they have done something wrong or be accused of lying.

Anne Barrett Doyle of the research group, Bishop Accountability said that what Pope Francis should do to protect children, is to order the Vatican to release the names of all priests who have been convicted under canon law of abusing minors.  Pennsylvania Attorney-General Josh Shapiro urged local church officials to “cease their denials and deflections” and accept the grand jury recommendations, which include allowing victims to sue the church for abuse that otherwise would fall outside the statute of limitations.  According to Pope Francis, church leaders need to be more concerned about the safety of the children than their own reputations.

No more talk.  No more cover-up.  It’s time for the church to take action and root out priestly sex abuse.

Sources:  The Irish TimesRoyal CommissionKnowing Jesus; USA Today; The Globe and MailWikipedia

Her New God

wishing-tree
Photo by Sue Vincent

She looked at the tree with the scarves, ties and other colorful things draped on the branches and grimaced.  Waste of time.  She saw the items she had put on the tree months ago, believing that the gods would hear her prayers and answer but it was as if they had turned their backs on her.  Her son was still sick.  Nothing worked.  The hospital was too far away and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.  And he was growing worse.

“You haven’t tried Me”.  She looked around, wondering who had said that.  She was alone.  She continued walking, chalking it up to imagination when she heard it again.  “You haven’t tried Me”.

Frightened, she asked, “Who are You?”

“I am the God who created the heavens and the earth.”

The Christian God, she thought.  She had heard about Him.  “I have heard stories about You how You parted the Red Sea and sent bread from Heaven.”

“Yes, and I can also heal the sick.”

She paused and looked up.  “Can You heal my son?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“How?”

“All you have to do is to pray and believe that I can do it and I will.”

She thought about it for a moment.  What did she have to lose?  Her son was sick and her gods weren’t answering her desperate cries for help.  At least this God was talking to her and He wanted to heal her son.  She got down on her knees and prostrated herself on the ground, hands clasped above her head, eyes squeezed shut.  She began to pray and as she did, the words just poured from her lips, accompanied by gut wrenching tears as she pleaded for her son’s life.

When she was finished, a peace she had never experienced before in her life came over her.  She got up and wiping her face, she trudged the rest of the way to the village.  When she arrived, her sister ran out to greet her, her face bright with joy.  “Saanvi!  It’s Jayesh,” she cried, unable to speak because she was so excited.

Saanvi frowned,  “What about Jayesh?” she asked.

“He’s recovered,” her sister said, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards thehut.   “The fever left him and he’s awake.  He’s asking for you.”

Overjoyed, Saanvi burst into the hut and when she saw Saanvi sitting up in the bed, she fell to the ground and began to thank the Christian God.  “You are now my God,” she said.  “When the other gods ignored my cries for help, You heard and You spoke to me.  You healed my son.  You’re my God now.”

By the end of the week, all traces of the other gods were gone.  In their place was a Bible which she had gotten from a missionary visiting her village.  And as for the Wishing Tree, she had no more use for it.  She removed the items she had placed on the branches and burned them.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Wishes for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.

Led by God

Roman was in the park, tying the laces on his running shoes when Janice walked up to him.  He glanced up.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I’m here to see you, of course,” she replied.  “I missed you yesterday.  We all did, especially the kids.  The annual church picnic just wasn’t the same without you there.   As usual it was a fun-filled day of food, games and fellowship.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there but I didn’t feel up to it.”

“Is everything okay with you, Roman?”

He finished tying his laces and stood up, stretching.  “Yes, everything is okay with me.  Is that why you’re here, Janice?  To check up on me?”

“I’m not checking up on you.  I just wanted to come by and see how you’re doing.”

“Well, I’m doing fine.”

“Frances is a bit worried about you…”

“Did Frances send you?”

“No, she didn’t but she called me last night because she was concerned about you and I promised her that I would pop by to see you.”

“Sometimes Frances acts more like my mother than my sister.  She has her own family to take care of.”

“You are family.  And if there is something that is troubling you, you really don’t have to deal with it alone–”

His mouth tightened.  “I don’t need a therapist.”

“I’m not here professionally, Roman, but as a friend.  Please, can we find a bench somewhere and talk?”

“I’d rather not talk about my personal life right now,” he said.

“All right.  We won’t talk about you.”

“What will we talk about?”

“Anything that doesn’t make you uncomfortable.”

“Okay.  There’s a bench over there.”

She followed him to the bench which faced the lake and they sat down.  “This is the second time in five years I have been to Hyde Park.  I had forgotten how beautiful it is.  Do you come here often?”

“Yes.  It’s where I come to relax and unwind and it’s close to where I live.  But, you already know that.  Did you go to my flat first before coming here?”

“Yes.  Frances told me that if you weren’t there, chances were that you were here.”

“What did you hope to accomplish by coming here?”

“Well, I hoped to see you and spend some time with you.”

“What about your boyfriend?  Wouldn’t he have a problem with you being here with me?”

She looked down at her hands.  “Roger and I aren’t seeing each other anymore.”

“How come, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“He’s a non-believer.  I knew that before we started dating but foolishly I believed that I was his best chance for knowing Jesus.  I knew what I should do but wrestled with it for a while because I cared for Roger.  I prayed about it and spoke to my pastor.  He said that any emotional attachment a person had toward another person who is not on the same spiritual page or vice versa, is an unhealthy attachment.  He told me to heed God’s Word about being unequally yoked and end the relationship and move on.  Which I did.”

“When did you break up with Roger?”

“Last month.”

“That’s very recent.”

“Yes.  Sometimes it feels like it happened just yesterday.  I know that it’s for the best, though.  I had no idea that I was doing what Pastor Brown called, missionary dating.”

“What would he call being in a relationship with someone you have doubts about?”

“What sorts of doubts do you have about Jenny?”

“I have doubts that she’s the woman I’m meant to be with.”

“How long have the two of you been dating?”

“Four years.”

“And you still have doubts about whether or not she’s the one you want to spend the rest of your life with?”

“Yes.”  He ran his fingers through his hair.  “I just can’t shake the feeling that this relationship is all wrong for me and that I should get out of it.”

“Any time you have doubts, you need to take notice and deal with them right away.  I once read something that James T. Draper wrote which said, ‘Doubt never means yes and always means no or wait a while: God does not lead through doubt. If you can’t get peace, that is an answer.’   Don’t ignore the signs that are there.  Have you shared your concerns with Jenny?”

“Yes, I have but the doubts are still there.”

“Pray about it.”

He sighed.  “I will.”

She glanced at her watch.  “I’m afraid I have to go now,” she said, getting up.  “If you need to talk some more, call me.”

“All right.  Thanks.”  He watched her as she walked away and then he leaned back against the bench and closed his eyes.  Lord, what should I do about Jenny?  I don’t want to hurt her but I can’t ignore all of these doubts.

He waited for several minutes and then he got his answer.  “Jenny is not the one for you.  It is time to end your relationship with her”.  He opened his eyes and reaching into his pants pocket, he took out his cell phone.  He paused for a moment before punching in the numbers.  It rang a couple of times and then she answered.

“Hi, Roman, I’ve been calling you all morning.  Where are you?”

“Hi, Jenny.  I’m in the park.”  His fingers gripped the phone as he added, “May I come over?  I need to see you.”

“Sure.  You sound a bit funny.  Are you all right?”

“Yes.  I just have a lot of things on my mind.  I will be there in half-hour.”

“All right.  I’ll see you then.”

He ended the call.  He put the cell back into his pocket and stood up.  As he walked out of the park and headed home, he thought about what he was going to say.

That evening, Janice had just finished watching In Touch with Charles Stanley when her phone rang.  She got up and went to answer it.  It was Roman.

“I ended my relationship with Jenny this morning.”

“How did she take it?”

“Not good, I’m afraid.”

“That’s as expected.  How are you doing?”

“Not well.  I feel rotten.”

“It’s never easy to break up with someone you love.”

“Did you love Roger?”

“No.  I cared for him but I wasn’t in love with him.”

“This experience has taught me that loving someone isn’t enough to make the relationship work.  I love Jenny but I can’t be with her because I know that we wouldn’t be happy.”

“My grandmother once said that just because two people love each other it doesn’t mean that they are meant for each other.  The nagging doubts you had about Jenny was evidence that you aren’t right for each other.  I’m sorry that things didn’t work out for you, though.”

“Me too.”

“So, what are you going to do now?”

“Do you remember Lisa Williams?”

Janice knitted her brow.  “Vaguely.”

“She’s one of the mission trip organizers and she invited me to go on a mission trip to Ireland for ten days.”

“Are you going to go?”

“Yes.  I believe that a mission trip is what I need right now.”

“When do you leave?”

“Next week Monday.”

“Well, I hope you have a good trip.  One of the best ways to recover from breaking up with someone you love is to do something entirely new.  Going on this trip is probably what you need to do.  You’ll see new places and meet new people.  Think of it this way, God has called you to partake in His work of transforming hearts and lives in Ireland.”

“Yes, I believe He has.” A pause then, “Thank you, Janice, for being there for me.”

“What are friends for?”

“I’ll call you when I get back.”

“All right.  Take care.”

“Goodbye.”

She hung up and stood there for several minutes then she went back over to the sofa and sat down.

The trip to Ireland provided just the catalyst Roman needed.  God used the experience to take him out of his comfort zone through street ministry and to bring him closer to Him.  His eyes were opened to the love of God spreading to a community of people who knew of Him but didn’t know Him personally.  Ireland was a beautiful place but the highlight for him was sharing the simplicity and beauty of the Gospel message with people.  He hoped and prayed that their hearts would be transformed.

On the flight back to London, he thought about the trip and how thankful he was to have been a part of it.  He remembered the different areas they had traveled to but Cobh stood out for him.  It was a beautiful and colorful town.  He learned that it was the Titanic’s last port of call and visited the Titanic Memorial Garden there in Cobh.  It was also where the survivors and the dead from the torpedoed RMS Lusitania were brought.  A monument was erected to commemorate the tragedy.

As he stood at the Cobh harbor looking at the colorful buildings huddling together facing the water and the boats and St Colman’s Cathedral, one of the tallest buildings in Ireland, looming over the town, he thought about Janice.  He was sure that she would love the place and on the spur of the moment, he bought her a postcard.  He wrote something on it and then dropped it in the mailbox.  He had a feeling that he would be back in London before the postcard arrived.

He glanced at his watch now.  In about an hour they would be arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport.  He was looking forward to being home.  As soon as he got in he was going to relax on the sofa and watch some television.  Although he still thought about her, there were no reminders of Jenny in his flat.  Before leaving on the trip, he had cleaned house, removing photos of her alone, of them together, souvenirs they had brought back from trips and things she had given him.  It was tough doing that but not as tough as severing all contact with her.

He deleted her from his email account, blocked her from Facebook, blocked her cell, home and work numbers.  It had to be a clean and complete break.  Thankfully, they didn’t attend the same church or it would be really awkward and difficult running into her.  He decided that it would be best to phase out her friends from his life as well.  No ties with them or her family or anyone in her circle.  Another clean break.  He would make new friends and reconnect with old ones–have his own social circle.   And as far as dating again was concerned, he wasn’t ready.  He was going to be single for a while.  He believed that “being single is definitely better than being with the wrong person (Hassan Choughari).

Being single felt a bit strange at first after having been in a four year relationship but he got used to it after a while.  He traveled more, got involved church ministry and community service.  His life was busy and fulfilling.  Two years had passed and Jenny was a faint memory.  The last he heard of her, she had gotten married to a guy she met at a Singles’ Retreat.  He was happy for her but it only proved to him that the doubts he had about her were God’s way of alerting him to the fact that she was not the right woman for him and he was not the right man for her.  She was with the person she was meant to be with and he was going to trust God now to show him who the right woman was for him.

Lately, he and Janice were spending more time together.  He enjoyed her company.  They went hiking across dramatic cliff-tops and river valleys with breathtaking views of the white cliffs of Seven Sisters, Beachy Head and the Cuckmere Haven river valley.  They had lunch at The Cuckmere Inn.  Last Saturday they went bowling with Frances and her husband, Ken.

Tonight they were having dinner at a family run Italian restaurant.  “I got your postcard from Budapest yesterday,” Janice told him.  “It must have been nice seeing those grand palaces, cathedrals and art.”

“Yes, it was.  It seems like all of my postcards got home after I did, though.”

She smiled.  “Well, except for the one from Montreal.”

Roman reached over and covered her hand with his, his expression serious.  “Janice, I’ve known you for a very long time and you’ve always been a good friend to me.  When I was going through my struggles with doubts about Jenny, you were there to counsel me.  Lately, we have been spending a lot of time together and during this time, I have developed romantic feelings for you.  I feel such peace when I’m with you.

“There are no doubts or concerns.  Our schedules don’t conflict.  We both have time to go to church, serve God, and enjoy spending time together.  I enjoy being with you.  Thinking of you excites me spiritually and emotionally.  Talking to you is so easy.  I feel so comfortable sharing very intimate thoughts with you.  I feel that I have your undivided attention.  And everyone thinks you’re terrific.  Janice, I want to be in a relationship with you.”

Janice stared at him, her heart was pounding.  She could hardly believe it.  Her prayers had been answered!  “I want to be in a relationship with you too, Roman,” she admitted huskily.

He smiled and squeezed her hand.  “Are you up for dessert?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I keep thinking about that Chocolate fudge cake.”

They began dating from that night and six months later, he proposed.  The wedding took place the following summer.  Frances was her matron of honor and Ken was the best man.  It was a small and intimate wedding.  They honeymooned in the Grenadines.

After a walk on the beach following dinner, they went back to their room with its stunning view of the sea.  They stood facing each other, both nervous and excited at the same time. “I love you,” Roman muttered thickly.  “I waited for more than two years for the right woman and God led me straight to you.”

“I love you too,” she murmured.  “A wise woman once said, wait for the man who waited on the Lord to lead him straight to you.  I waited for you and God led you to me.”

Roman reached out and taking her by the hands, he drew her to him, his eyes dark and stormy with desire.  He bent his head and kissed her.  When he felt her response, his hands released hers to cup her face as he deepened the kiss.  She put her arms around his waist and pressed against him.   The kisses became more passionate and soon, they were tugging at each other’s clothes, wanting to be free and to feel skin against skin.

Picking her up, he carried her over to the bed where in the moon dappled light, they made love for the first time.

Sources:  CBN; Heather Lindsey; Facts and Trends; Huffington Post; Bustle; World’s Missions Alliance; She Knows; Huffington Post; RFWMA; Irish Central; Wikipedia; Self Growth; Pinterest; Walking Club; Belief Net; Nina Andres; Cotton House

The Orphan

“What’s the matter, Honey?” Ralph Forrester asked six year old Janet as she lay there in bed, crying.  He was there to read to read her a bedtime story as usual and was surprised to find her in her present state.  When he sat down on the bed, she sat up and hugged him.  He gently patted her on the back, trying to soothe her until the sobs subsided.  “Now tell me what’s the matter,” he coaxed when she drew back to look up at him.

“Aunt Agnes called me a Gremlin,” she wailed.  “Gremlins are ugly, horrid creatures.”

“They are also very mischievous,” he told her, relieved that it wasn’t anything serious although to her it was.  “Did you get yourself into trouble again?”

She hung her head.  “Yes,” she admitted reluctantly.  “It was my idea to bathe the dog in the bathtub because he was so dirty.  Matthew helped me to put him in the bath.  While I was washing the dog, he went to get a towel to dry him off and that’s when Aunt Agnes walked in.  She was really mad and that’s when she called me a Gremlin.”

“Honey, she was understandably angry because you were bathing a dirty animal in her nice, clean bathtub.  And you must have made quite a mess.”

“She said that I was a bad influence on Matthew.  What does influence mean?”

“It means you make Matthew do things that he wouldn’t usually do.”

She looked contrite.  “I don’t mean to make Matthew do bad things,” she said, “or to get him into trouble.  He’s my best friend.”

Ralph patted her hand.  “I know.  We never mean to get others in trouble but sometimes we do.  I think it would be best for now if you didn’t visit Matthew at the manor.  He could come here instead.  Beth and I will make sure you don’t get into any mischief.”

“I don’t think Aunt Agnes likes me very much,” she said, surprising him.  “Is it because I’m adopted?”

He stared at her.  “Who told you that you’re adopted?” he asked.

“Aunt Agnes.  She told me that you and Beth adopted me when I was a baby.  What happened to my real parents?”

“They died and you were placed in an orphanage.  Beth and I always wanted to adopt a child from Africa. We chose South Africa because we were there once on a mission trip and loved it.  As soon as our application was approved, we went the orphanage where you were.  We loved you the very first moment we saw you.  I remember you staring up at me with those big, beautiful brown eyes of yours and I promised God and myself that I would take very good care of you.  We named you Janet which means ‘God’s gracious gift’ because you were a gift from God.”

She smiled.  “I’m happy that you and Beth adopted me,” she said, hugging him.  Then, she settled back on the pillows and waited for him to read to her.  When he was done, he kissed her goodnight, switched off the bedside lamp and left the room.

Beth was in the kitchen fixing them a pot of tea when he went downstairs.  He went over to the table and sat down.  Beth turned and looked at him.  “What’s the matter, Honey?” she asked.

He grimaced.  “Agnes told Janet that she’s adopted. What right did she have to do so?”

Beth brought over the two cups of steaming tea and after setting one in front of him, she sat down.  “While I agree that it should have been left to us to tell Janet that she’s adopted, it must be obvious to her by now that she’s different.  You remember the other day when she came home from school, very upset because some children had asked her how she could have white parents when she was black.”

“I wish people would mind their own business,” he muttered crossly.  “Janet doesn’t think that Agnes likes her because she’s adopted.”

“There are very few people whom Agnes likes,” Beth said dryly.  “She didn’t approve of you marrying me.  I was a bad influence on you.  It was on account of me that you gave up your rather cushy job to become a missionary.”

“For as long as I live, I will never regret marrying you, becoming a missionary and adopting Janet.  Agnes has always been a controlling woman but she has never been able to manipulate me, though she tried to.  She objected to my marriage, change in career and decision to adopt but her objections fell on deaf ears.  I’m happy with the life I have made for myself and will not tolerate any interference from her.  She’s my sister not my mother.”

“Sometimes, she acts like she has two sons instead of one.”

“Poor Matthew.  She’s always doting on him.  I pity the girl he ends up marrying.  Unless, Matthew and his bride moved far away from Yorkshire and his mother’s influence, they will never get a moment’s peace.”

“I’m very fond of Matthew.  He’s such a loving and considerate child.  No doubt he takes after his father, God rest his soul.”

“Yes, if I had a son, I would have wanted him to be like Matthew.”

Beth looked at him.  “Do you still regret not having children of you own?” she asked. They had tried to conceive but couldn’t.  It turned out that he had an undescended testicle when he was a baby.  He was devastated because he was looking forward to raising a family with Beth.  Beth had pushed aside her own disappointment and sought only to console him.  Several years went by before they considered adopting and six years ago, they welcomed Janet into their lives.

“Yes, sometimes,” he admitted.  “But I have since realized that things happen for a reason.  If we had been able to have our children, that precious little girl upstairs would not be here.  She has brought so much joy in our lives.  I can’t imagine not having her around.  I thank God every day for her.  She is truly a blessing.”

Tears pricked Beth’s eyes and she reached out and covered his hand with hers.  “Yes, she is.”

Twelve years later, they were gathered in the living-room watching and smiling as Janet blew out the nineteen candles on her cake.  Ralph and Beth watched her.  It was hard to believe that it was same girl they had brought home from the orphanage.  She had grown into a lovely young lady.  They watched as she put a piece of the cake in Matthew’s mouth, laughing as he got some of the icing on his nose. “Do you suppose that those two will end up falling in love?” Beth asked in a low voice so that the others couldn’t overhear.

Ralph glanced at her.  “I wouldn’t object if that were to happen but you know Agnes…”

“Yes,” she sighed.  “She will do her best to sever any romantic attachment that may develop between them.”

Just then the doorbell rang.  “I wonder who that could be,” Ralph said.

“I’ll and see who it is.”  Beth hurried from the room and down the corridor to the front door.  She peered through the keyhole and her eyes widened in surprise and delight.  She opened the door.  “Blaine,” she exclaimed, hugging him.  “It’s so good to see you.”

He smiled.  “It’s good to see you too, Beth.”

“When did you get back?”

“Yesterday.”

“Come in.”

He went in and glanced toward the living-room where he heard voices and laughter.  “It sounds like you’re having a party.”

“Yes.  We are celebrating Janet’s birthday.”

“How old is she now?”

“Nineteen.”

“The last time I saw her, she was ten.”

“Yes, well, she’s all grown up now.  Wait till you see her.  Come and let me introduce you to everyone.”

He removed his shoes and followed her to the living-room.  Beth introduced him to Janet’s friends, some of the girls cast admiring glances at him.  He shook hands with Matthew.  “You’ve gotten tall,” he said, grinning.  Matthew smiled.

Blaine’s attention shifted to the girl standing next to Matthew.  “Janet?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

He stared at her. “I can’t believe how much you have changed since the last time I saw you,” he said.

She smiled.  “I’m not a child anymore.  I’m a woman.”

“A young lady,” Beth interjected.  “Are you hungry?” She asked Blaine.

He shook his head.  “I had a late lunch.”

“Would you like a slice of cake?” Janet asked.

“Yes, thank you.”  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.  She had changed so much.  Gone was the little girl with the pigtails who used to follow him around, chatting incessantly about school, beg him to push on her on the swing and give her a piggyback ride.  Standing before him was a very attractive young lady in a pretty blue dress with a smile that melted his heart.

She cut a slice of cake and gave it to him.  “How long will you be staying?”

“Two weeks.”

“Only two weeks?”  She couldn’t hide the bitter disappointment she was feeling.  In the past his visits had been sporadic but she never had to wait for more than a year to see him.  This last time, nine years had passed before she saw him again and it would be for only two weeks.  He was a Management Consultant.  How she wished that he had a different job—one that would not take him out of the country and away from her.  She missed him terribly.  “Will you come again tomorrow?” she asked, hopefully.

He nodded.  “Yes,” he said quietly.  “We have a lot of catching up to do.”

Just then one of her friends pulled her away to take photos and Matthew joined him.  For the rest of the evening, they were apart, mingling with other people and at the end of the evening as things were winding down, he went over to her.  “I’ll be leaving now,” he said.

“You promise you will come tomorrow?”

He nodded.  “Yes.”  He reached down and hugged her.  “Happy birthday, Janet.”

She saw him to the door and stood there watching his tall, slender figure stride briskly to his parked Aston Martin car and climb in.  She waved and waited until the car disappeared before going back into the house.  She couldn’t wait to see him the next day.

He showed up the following afternoon as promised and subsequently every day for the two weeks he was in London.  She would sit there and listen to Ralph and Beth ask him countless questions about his travels, patiently waiting for her time alone with him.  As soon as that time came, she would take him outside where they would spend most of the afternoon.  Once, when they were standing by the swing, he said, “You’re too grown up now for me to give you a piggyback ride, but I can still push you on the swing.  She sat down and laughed as he pushed her.  It brought back memories.  Other times they sat on the deck talking for hours or go for walks.

Then, it was his final evening and they were out in the backyard.  The sun was setting.  It cast an orange glow on them as they stood there facing each other.

He studied her face.  “I must be leaving now,” he said quietly.  “Are you sorry to see me go?”

She glanced up at him.  “Yes,” she answered, surprised that he would ask such a question.  I don’t know when I will see you again.

“May I kiss you goodbye?” he asked, moving closer to her.

She looked up at him, her heart racing.  “Yes,” she said breathlessly.  She lowered her head so that he could kiss her on the forehead like he used to when she was a child.  Instead, she felt his hand under her chin raising her face up so that she was staring up into his.  She watched, mesmerized as he bent his head slowly towards hers and his lips get closer.  Her breathing was quick and unsteady now.  She felt his mouth on hers and readily responded. Blaine’s hands cupped her face as the kiss became more intense.

She clutched his arms, her fingers digging into the fabric of his jacket as she felt herself going weak in the knees.  Eyes squeezed shut as if to blot out the world, she savored her first kiss, wishing that it would last.  It lasted for several minutes and then Blaine drew back, his face flushed.  She reluctantly opened her eyes and looked up at him.  They were both breathing heavily.

“I have to leave now,” he muttered thickly.

“Why?” she asked.  “Why can’t you stay a little longer?”

“If I stay, I will kiss you again.”

“I want you to kiss me again—”

“No,” he groaned, pushing his fingers through his hair, his eyes darkening.  “I can’t.”

She looked bewildered.  “But why?”

“I’m too old for you, Janet.  You need to be with a guy your own age like Matthew.”

“But, I don’t want to be with Matthew or anyone else,” she cried.  “Why can’t I be with you?  You’re only ten years older than me.  You’re not like Maxim DeWinter who was forty-two and married a girl my age.”

“You’re right, I’m not Maxim DeWinter.  I can’t be with a girl so much younger than me.  In September, you will be attending university.  That means you will around people your age.  Sooner or later, you will meet someone, fall in love with him and forget about me.”

She shook her head.  “No, I won’t,” she cried.  “I love you,”

A muscle throbbed along his jaw line.  “You’re infatuated not in love.”

“Do you think because I’m young, I don’t know what love is?”

“I shouldn’t have kissed you,” he said.  “I don’t know what I was thinking.  It was an utterly foolish thing to do–” he broke off when she started to cry.  He pulled her into his arms and held her closely.  “Don’t cry,” he begged, as she buried her face in his chest.

The feel of her body against his was his undoing.  Unable to help himself, he gripped the hair at the nape of her neck and pulled her head back so that he stare down into her wet face before his lips closed feverishly over hers.  Her impassioned response to his kisses inflamed him.  It was no use.  He couldn’t walk away from her now.  She was in his blood and in his heart.

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Sources:  Gov.UK; International Adoption Guide; Evening Standard;  The Guardian; London City Mission

A Changed Life

Christ [redeemed] me, and He will [redeem] you also!

These words rang out loud in the marketplaces.  Myo Zaw made the impassioned plea to the crowd.  He was like Wisdom crying out in the marketplaces and pleading with the people to come her.  Myo’s message was one that the people needed to hear. He was on fire for Christ and he couldn’t hold it in.  It wasn’t always like this.

Before Myo Zaw encountered Christ he was the village drunk who got into fights with people and beat his wife and children.  The people who knew him thought he had gone insane, however, it was not madness that drove Myo to proclaim the message of redemption but the love of God which consumed him like a fire, refusing to be quelled.  He traveled throughout his region, sharing the Word of God, telling people, “how a sinner like me was found by God.”

“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” – Luke 18:27

Within three years, he had visited 100 communities, encouraged by his wife’s letters. In them, she wrote, “If your life can change by Christ, there is no one who cannot be changed by Christ.  So wherever you are going and sharing the Word of God, we are here to pray for you. I believe people will be changed by the love of Christ.”  And she was right about the people.  350 heard the message about Christ’s love, saw how it manifested in Myo’s life and they were changed.

Myo believed that his mission was the share the love of Christ which had transformed his life and that it was God’s will for him to go to a missionary in an area where people were unfamiliar with the Lamb of God.  He and his wife prayed about it and ten years later God sent them to the southern region of their country as Gospel for Asia supported missionaries.

At first when the people in the community learned that Myo and his family were Christians, they wanted nothing to do with them.  They forced the family out of the community.  They threw stones at their home, threatening to penalize anyone who spoke to the Christians and the children faced discrimination because of their faith. Myo and his family were  seen as enemies but in the midst of it all, they saw God’s grace working in their lives, getting them through these trials.  They trusted Christ during their hardships and through the ministering of the Holy Spirit, they learned how to love the people in their new community.

They reached out to the people by showing them movies that they liked to watch, teaching the children songs and caring for them.  When the parents saw the love of the couple for the community, they were amazed and they began to talk to them at the market.  This gave Myo and his wife the opportunity to share Christ’s love with them.  They cared for the sick and took people to the hospital as needed.  When flood waters destroyed homes and livelihoods, the couple and other GFA supported workers helped to provide relief.

Myo visited people and encouraged them by offering words of hope and life in Christ.  Through his actions, he proved that he was a redeemed man.  The love of Christ had transformed him from a drunk and abusive husband and father to a missionary of God.  The same love that had Christ had shown him he wanted to show to others.  Like the apostle Paul, he was filled with a zeal for the Lord who “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Myo realized that greatest weapon is love.  It can transform hearts and lives.  It can destroy the strongholds which beset people who have no knowledge of Christ and kept them in spiritual darkness.  Once the love of Christ is revealed it lives are changed–despair gives way to hope and darkness to light.

Like Myo, ask God to use you to share the love of Christ with others.  Be a light in the world.  Shine for Jesus and let those around you or wherever God sends you know that no matter what state they are in, “He will redeem you also!”

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Source:  Gospel for Asia Canada

World Leprosy Day

Tens of thousands of people in the world suffer from leprosy, a bacterial infection which affects the skin and destroys nerves.  Since the disease affects the nervous system, the affected areas become numb. People suffering from leprosy cannot feel pain and can easily hurt or injure themselves.  These injuries can become infected and result in tissue loss.  I remember reading about a missionary who put one of his feet in a pan of boiling water and didn’t even feel any pain.  It was then that he realized that he had leprosy.

The stigma that comes from having leprosy can be worse than the disease itself.  People with leprosy are outcasts. Their relatives believe that they are cursed.  Their lives are filled with loneliness and pain. People avoid them.  This happened to Balwant.  He was in his 30s when he discovered that he had leprosy.  He had white patches on his leg that itched and then became numb.  

Leprosy, if left untreated, can cause serious damage and leave a person disfigured.  Balwant and others like him feel ostracized and humiliated.  They are denied access to common wells or prevented from participating in festivals because people are afraid of the risk of contagion.  Family members reject them because they don’t want to catch the disease or be socially rejected because of those affected.  Some people even believe that when a person has leprosy he or she is being punished by the gods for past sins.  So, they avoid those who are affected because they don’t want to the wrath of the gods to fall upon them.

Balwant ended up losing his leg because the disease had progressed severely.  The doctors had to amputate his leg at the knee.  This left him weak and unable to work.  To make matters worse, he couldn’t afford to pay for the medical treatments he needed to treat his high blood pressure and diabetes which he had developed.  All of these things began to take a toll on Balwant and he decided that death was the only way out.  It would relieve him of his suffering, take away his shame and lift the burden that caring for him placed on his family.  He thought of hanging himself but he had no strength in his hands or leg.  He decided that he would jump into the well near his house.

It was at this moment of despair, resignation and hopelessness that God intervened in Balwant’s life.  He sent a Gospel for Asia supported pastor and three Sisters of Compassion, specialized women missionaries to Balwant’s community.  After hearing about Jesus and how compassionate He is, Balwant, moved by this, opened up to the pastor and the missionaries and told them all that he was going through and his plan to end it all.

Pastor Daha and the sisters prayed for Balwant and used God’s Word to encourage him.  They prayed for him for many days and his health began to improve.  He felt a peace that was beyond comprehension–the peace only Jesus can offer.  Balwant began to see his life through God’s eyes–precious.

Pastor Daha and the missionaries visited Balwant and his wife regularly.  They showed the love of Christ through simple acts such as fetching water, chopping vegetables and even trimming Balwant’s nails, something he couldn’t do for himself.  Their care and Jesus’ love made Balwant want to live. “I was emotionally weak and thought to end my life,” he testified, “but I found Jesus in the right time.  I thank God that He loves me.”

Sadly, a few months after Balwant found Jesus, he fell ill with jaundice and died.  He was right.  He found Jesus at the right time and one day he will be among the resurrected dead who will spend eternity with the Lord.  On that glorious day when Jesus returns, Balwant will have a new and incorruptible body (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).

Every year, there are nearly 230,000 new cases of people diagnosed with leprosy. About 60 percent of those cases concern people living in India alone. While leprosy is a curable disease, many men, women and even children find themselves abandoned and scorned because of it. Like Balwant, they live with shame and hopelessness as their constant companions. But God is using His servants to give these precious people hope and new life in Him—and you can help – Gospel for Asia

Pray for those who are living with leprosy.  Their world is filled with so much shame and hopelessness. They are abandoned and scorned by relatives, friends and neighbors.  They are lonely and suffer from physical and emotional pain.  Help Gospel for Asia’s Leprosy ministry to bring love and hope filled life to these people.

Pray that, like Balwant, they will come to know Jesus who loves them and longs to heal them just as He did when He was here on earth.  He healed this man who had leprosy on his hands.  His big smile and perfectly fine hands testify that the Lord is still in the business of healing.  Read about how He also healed Radhika, a 19 year old leprosy patient whose husband left her.Pray for Gospel for Asia's Leprosy Ministry

You can help the GFA Leprosy Ministry by praying for:

  • the healing of leprosy patients
  • the missionaries who are going and sharing the Gospel with the leprosy patients
  • more medical personnel to care for and treat the patients
  • the children whose parents have leprosy

This year, for World Leprosy Day, let us join Gospel for Asia in raising awareness about the hopelessness and rejection that many leprosy patients face and the hope, love, joy and acceptance they can find in Jesus Christ.

Two Wheels Are Faster

Help Missionaries go farther, faster with bicycles.  Help them to reach more people in one day for Jesus.

As much as I like walking, I don’t relish the thought of walking everywhere–not even for one day.  I have access to buses, trains, streetcars and taxis.  It’s not a problem for me to go to several places in one day to share the Gospel.  However, this is not the case for a South Asian missionary.

Transportation can be a real burden for many Gospel for Asia supported missionaries who spend grueling hours walking from one village to another.  Check out this video to get an idea of what it’s like not to have reliable transportation like a bicycle and consider how having one would be a tremendous blessing not only to the missionary but to those whom he or she would minister to.

Here are the reasons why having a bicycle would greatly benefit a missionary:

  • Bicycles offer reliable transportation with little cost. You can donate a bicycle for just $110.
  • Missionaries won’t have to waste precious time walking from village to village. By riding a bike, they can minister to more people.
  • Bicycles are easy to repair,making travel consistent and reliable. Parts are readily available and the cost of maintenance is low.
  • When you donate a bicycle, you help take the Gospel to more unreached villages.

Just put yourself in the missionary’s shoes.  Wouldn’t you prefer to travel to three times as many villages to share the love of Jesus?  Two wheels are faster than two feet!  Consider donating a bicycle.

Source:  Gospel for Asia