Thomas and Tracey

 

My nephew, Sam and I were on a double date with a mother and her daughter. It has been a long while since I have even thought about dating again. Eight years ago I lost my fiancee, Brenda. She was killed by a drunk driver just weeks before our wedding. It took a long, long time to get over her death.

We were having dinner at The Ledbury in Notting Hill. That was Sam’s idea. He googled the best restaurants in London and picked this one because a co-worker had raved about it and the reviews were great. And he wanted to impress our dates.

I could tell by the way they were interacting with each other that Sam and Meghan liked each other. Meghan’s Mom, Nancy was a very attractive and easy going woman. I liked her a lot but I wasn’t attracted to her. And it didn’t help that I was trying hard not to stare at our waitress. She was very pretty–and young. On more than one occasion, our eyes met. And when I placed my order, her gaze seemed to linger on me before she turned away to get the other orders.

“I think she’s sweet on you,” Sam remarked when Nancy left the table to go to the washroom.

“He’s right,” Meghan agreed.

“She’s too young,” I replied.

“She doesn’t think that you’re too old,” was Sam’s quick rejoinder.

“Aren’t you the least bit interested?” Meghan asked.

“What about your mother?” I asked. “I’m supposed to be on a date with her, remember?”

“If you decide that you want to go out with the waitress, Mom may be disappointed but she’ll get over it in no time.”

“Let’s just enjoy our dinner and each other’s company,” I suggested, changing the subject. Just then, Nancy came back to the table.

We had a pleasant evening. Afterwards, we went to a nice, cozy bar for drinks and live music. It was after eleven when we left the bar. While Sam and Meghan went off to a nightclub, I took Nancy home. I was a Christian so going to a nightclub wasn’t an option for me and I could tell that Nancy wasn’t keen on going either. So, we went a walk along the boardwalk because it was such a beautiful night.

We talked about a lot of things. She told me about her husband, Jackson who was a cop. He died in the line of duty. Meghan was their only child. I told her about Brenda. And then we showed each other photos of our deceased ones.

As we walked back to the car, Nancy said to me, “I had a really, really great time tonight and I really, really like you, Thomas, but I don’t think I’m ready for another relationship right now. I still haven’t quite gotten over losing Jackson.”

“I understand. This is the first time I’ve been on a date since Brenda died.”

As I held the door open for her to get in, she looked up at me and said, “I think you’re ready for another relationship. I saw the way you looked at our waitress. You were attracted to her. And who can blame you? She’s a lovely girl, not just in looks but in personality. Don’t let her age stop you from asking her out.”

I smiled and reaching for her hand, I gently squeezed it. “Thank you.”

Outside of her flat, we said goodnight. She reached up and kissed me on the cheek. “Take care of yourself, Thomas.”

“Thanks, Nancy. You take care yourself too.”

“I hope things work out between Sam and Meghan. He’s a wonderful guy.”

“I hope so too because Meghan’s a terrific girl. Goodnight, Nancy.”

“Goodnight, Thomas.”

As I turned and walked towards the lift, I made up my mind that I would have dinner at the restaurant again tomorrow evening. Hopefully, I would get the same waitress and if not, I would make sure that I got a chance to talk to her. As soon as I got home, I took a quick shower and went to bed.

As Providence would have it, I got a table and the same waitress waited on me. I could tell that she remembered me. She smiled as she came over. “Good evening,” she said, “You’re dining alone this time.”

I nodded and smiled. “Yes, I am.”

“I guess you really liked the food.”

My eyes met hers directly when I said, “I came back because of the food and the service.”

She smiled shyly. “Thank you. Would you like Cranberry Juice?” It was what I had ordered the last time. I was flattered that she remembered.

“Yes, thank you. What’s your name?”

“Tracey.”

“I’m Thomas.”

“I’ll be right back with your Cranberry Juice, Thomas.”

“Thank you, Tracey.” I watched her walk away. She was breathtaking. I found it hard to concentrate as I studied the menu. I didn’t want to order the same dish as last night. I decided that when she came back I would ask her what she recommended.”

She came back a few minutes later and set the glass of Cranberry juice on the table. “Have you decided what you would like to order or would you like a few minutes more?”

“Everything looks so good. I can’t decide. What would you recommend?”

“Do you eat fish?”

“Yes, though not as often as I should.”

“Try the Cornish Cod.”

“I will, thanks, Tracey.” I closed the menu and handed it to her. “What time do you stop working?”

“Around 10.”

“When you finish work, could I take you out for a cappuccino?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“Good. I’ll wait for you at the entrance.”

“I’ll be right back with your order.”

After she left, I glanced at my watch. It was nine o’clock. I had an hour to finish my dinner. When it came it smelled and looked amazing. I couldn’t wait to tuck into it.

Tracey smiled that lovely smile of hers and said, “Enjoy your Cod.”

“I will,” I assured her and I did. It was the best fish dish I’d ever tasted. I savored every morsel. I skipped dessert and asked for the bill. I left her another big tip. When she came over to take it, I reminded her that I would be waiting at the entrance of the restaurant for her.

“I’ll be there in about five minutes,” she promised before she disappeared.

I got up from the table and left the restaurant which was almost empty. It was another pleasant night. I was a little nervous about going out with Tracey because she’s the first woman I can see myself in a relationship with since Brenda.

About five minutes later she came through the doors. She was wearing a red top and a knee length denim skirt. We walked to my car. On the drive over to the cafe, we talked about her. Her parents were Nigerian and they came to England when she was a baby. She’s an only child and is living with her parents until she graduates and gets a job. Next year is her last year at Cambridge. She’s working part-time as a waitress.

“I thought of volunteering at an orphanage this summer but I found out that most of the children in orphanages aren’t even orphans. Unsuspecting parents are sending their children to orphanages believing they will have better access to food, shelter and an education. That decision which was supposed to be temporary becomes a permanent. When they go to the orphanages they are turned away and sometimes, their children are at the windows seeing this. It makes me so mad that parents and their children are being kept apart so that those who run these orphanages can profit from their misery. Some of those children are sold into slavery, illegally adopted or remain in the orphanages where they are mistreated and abused. I have heard of cases of children being rented for a short stay and are used to tug at the heartstrings of tourists and volunteers, who feel compelled to open up their hearts and wallets to help.”

To say that I was shocked at what she was telling me is an understatement. “Isn’t there anything that can be done to help these poor children and their families?” I asked.

“I found out just recently that a task-force was launched to encourage well-meaning UK tourists and volunteers to stop visiting overseas orphanages. They know that tourists and volunteers mean well and that they want to help these children whom they believe are orphans but the task-force believe that by raising awareness they can safeguard the children’s futures. I have created a blog to speak out against Orphanage Tourism and to raise awareness. I’ve met students on campus who were in these orphanages and they have shared their stories with me which you will find on my blog.”

“What’s the name of your blog? I would like to check it out.”

A Second Childhood. They were robbed of their first when they were taken away from their families and we want to make sure that they have a second childhood outside of orphanages and in their homes again.”

I made a mental note of the blog’s name. We arrived at the cafe. After we were seated and placed our orders, I asked her, “Would you or one of the students you mentioned be willing to come to my church one Sunday and speak to the members about Orphanage Tourism?”

“Sure. Just tell me when and I will be happy to come and bring one of the students with me.”

Over cappuccinos, she asked me questions about myself. When I told her about Brenda, she reached out and touched my hand. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I can’t imagine what you must have gone through. I know that this is a cliche thing to say but she’s in a better place now.”

“Yes, she is.”

“The one thing that comforted me when I lost my grandparents is that one day, I will see them again.”

“Are you a Christian?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

I was relieved although, I have a feeling that even if she weren’t, I would still want to date her. “How do you feel about dating a man much older than you?” I asked.

“I don’t have any problem with it.”

I smiled and covered her hand with my other one. “Tomorrow evening I would like to take you out for dinner.”

She smiled. “Sounds good.”

We spent the rest of the night talking about all sorts of things and by our third date, I knew that I was going to spend the rest of my life with her.

While this story is fiction, orphanage tourism is not. It’s a real problem facing children in countries like Nepal, Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar, Uganda, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Kenya. Children are not for sale. They belong in loving homes. Tourists and volunteers mean well but they are perpetuating a nefarious industry which is profiting from the most vulnerable in our societies–children.

Join the fight against orphanage tourism by not volunteering at or visiting or giving donations to orphanages when you travel abroad. Australia linked the visiting and volunteering at orphanages overseas to modern slavery. Be aware that not all children in orphanages are really orphans.

Sources: The Telegraph; ABTA;

Finding Joy in Jesus

The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you – Jeremiah 31:3

Imagine you are a South Asian woman.  Every day is a struggle and a challenge to survive.  All you know is oppression from the day you were born until the day you die.   As a girl child, your birth is not celebrated.  You feel unwanted and are constantly reminded that you should have been born a boy.  You are neglected, mistreated, abused or abandoned.  As a young girl, you are abducted and forced into a life of prostitution which increases your risk of dying from AIDS.

If you are a widow, you are blamed for your husband’s death.  His family and your community shun you and you are forced to fend for yourself.  You are forced into an inhumane existence.   You are completely alone, with no one to support or care for you.  Life is too hard.   There is no help.  There is no hope.  Only despair, misery and pain.  What’s the use?  Tens of thousands of widows end their lives just to end the pain.

If your dowry is not enough, your husband can douse you with kerosene and set you on fire.  I have read horror stories of women being set on fire by their husbands or in-laws because of their dowries. A woman’s life is not worth anything.  It’s hard to believe that there are countries where it’s not safe to be a woman.  It can even be fatal.  Women who survive infanticide because of gender are forced to live in a society which denies them rights to equality, respect, education, etc.

Being a woman in South Asia is unimaginable and unbearable for many and it is not surprising that the suicide rate is up to 21 times higher than the world’s average.  Life for these women is a never-ending cycle of misery, hopelessness, degradation and rejection.  These women need to know that there is hope.  They need to know that there is a God who values them.  To Him they are precious.  They were fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you – Jeremiah 1:5

Imagine the joy these women will have when they hear about Jesus for the first time through Gospel for Asia’s ministries.  Help them find hope and joy in a Savior who loved them so much that He gave His life for them so that one day they could spend eternity with Him.  They need to know that they are worth a price far above rubies.  They need to know that although there might have been silence in their homes on the days they were born, there was a joyful noise in heaven.

Women missionaries have been bringing the message of love and hope to the women of Asia.  It is crucial that women minister to women because of the Asian culture.  Women are more comfortable around other women.  Gospel for Asia has trained, dedicated women missionaries who are willing to risk their lives to share the love of Jesus Christ with millions of women who still need to hear the Good News. These heroic women missionaries are willing to risk persecution, beatings and imprisonment because they are passionate about giving hope to women who have lived in despair for so long.  They want to offer hurting women healing and encouragement.  They want to bring the Savior’s light and love into their dark and uncaring world.  Many Asian woman have had their lives transformed but there are still so many who are still waiting.

Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning – Psalm 30:5

Help Gospel for Asia send more missionaries to those who are perishing without knowing about Jesus and His love.  Find out how at this link.   Help bring joy to a woman in Asia.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Gender-Selective Infanticide

Over 50,000 baby girls are aborted every month in South Asia – just because they were girls – Gospel for Asia

According to writer and gender-activist Rita Banerji,  “Females are being killed in India at every stage of life, before and after birth, only because they are female”  It has been said that the three deadliest words in the world are “It’s a girl”.  The birth of a girl is not celebrated.  It leads to infanticide or trafficking.

UNICEF states that the killing of baby girls has reached genocidal proportions. It is a practice that has gone on “in central India for a long time, where mothers were made to feed the child with salt to kill the girl.” Various other gruesome methods of murder are employed, many dating back to the 18th Century: stuffing the baby girl’s mouth with a few grains of coarse paddy causing the child to choke to death is one, poisoning, using organic or inorganic chemicals, drowning, suffocation, starvation and breaking the spinal cord, as well as burying the child alive.

What possible reasons could families have for murdering their baby girls?

  • Extreme poverty.  The inability to afford raising a child.
  • The dowry system.  This practice was supposed to have been abolished but it still exists.  Poorer families in rural regions fear being unable to raise a suitable dowry and being socially ostracised.
  • Children conceived from rape
  • Deformed children born to impoverished families
  • Unmarried mothers not having reliable, safe and affordable birth control
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Low income
  • Lack of support coupled with postpartum depression

A girl is seen as an economic burden to her family–an unwanted expense while the boy is seen as their source of income.  What about the women who have generated income for their families through the use of a sewing machine?  Girls can be and are sources of income for their families. All they need is to be given the opportunities.

The girls are murdered for two reasons–the dowry, as mentioned earlier and the unwillingness of their families to marry them to men from a rival caste/tribe.  Parents would rather murder their daughter than to allow her to marry someone from a lower caste.  And the girls who survive are mistreated and neglected.  They are unloved, uneducated and kept at home where they are forced to do household chores.  For them the future is bleak and hopeless.

From the time they are born, South Asian women face pain, rejection, cruelty, suffering and discrimination.  The Veil of Tears:  Hope is on the Way is a documentary film which gives us a glimpse into the lives and hearts of these women for whom adversity is the norm.  Take a look at the behind scenes video of “Veil of Tears:  Hope is on the Way”.

I was deeply affected when Natalie Grant shared what she saw when she went to the Red Light District in Mumbai.  Little girls as young as 5 were for sale.  She and her husband had an opportunity to tour a brothel where they saw tiny rooms with beds lined up and one of them had a rope tied at the end of it.  At first she was hesitant to ask about this but when she did, she was told that there was no daycare . These were working women but there was no where for them to drop off their children.  “This woman has her 18 month old daughter that she tetters to the end of the bed while she’s forced to work so that she knows where she is.  These are the things my husband and I say wrecked us for life”  As a mother, can you imagine working in a brothel and having your child right there in the room with you?  Yet, women are forced to turn to prostitution i order to take care of their children.  And there is no one who will take care of their children while they work.

On CBN, Natalie shared another heartbreaking story, “I was walking down the street in Mumbai, in broad daylight, when my eyes locked on a little girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, peering out of a cage, looking at us on the street below. It was beyond my imagination.  I’ll never forget that moment. That was her life. Every day people walked by, and they didn’t even notice her.”

Can you imagine you or your daughter being kept in a cage like an animal and people are just walking by as this is nothing out of the ordinary?

When we see how these girls and women are treated by society, we realize that the problems we face are nothing compared to what they have had to endure.  This why God has brought their stories to our awareness so that we can tell others.  We can be the voice of the voiceless.

“Veil of Tears” tells the stories of women who are just like every other woman in the world, except that these women are brutalized, they’re despised, they’re persecuted culturally, simply because they are women and this has been going on for generations – Kenny Saylors

Thankfully, there is hope.

…God is restoring dignity to the women who have been utterly just downtrodden – Kyle Saylors

And God is not just changing their hearts, He’s changing their lives.  He’s changing their everyday lives – Kenny Saylors

We can bring hope to the girls and women of South Asia–the hope they can find only in Jesus by supporting the Veil of Tears film.  Here are ways you can make a difference.  Take action today. Get the word out about the plight of women in Asia.

The most overwhelming part of the whole trip was visiting a village and seeing women who had been restored and seeing what true hope actually does in the life of someone that it actually can make them new, that no matter how broken, no matter how desolate, there is still hope – Natalie Grant

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; World and Media; Wikipedia; Counterpunch

International Day of the Girl

On my twelfth birthday, I sat on the cold ground in a corner of a dark room with my knees drawn up to my chin and my arms wrapped around them as the tears rolled down my dirty cheeks.   I couldn’t sleep.   I didn’t want to sleep because I was afraid that he would come back and hurt me again.  It really hurt down there.   Why did he hurt me?  Did I do something bad?  I can’t tell anyone.  He said that no one will believe me.  I can’t tell my mother.  She will beat me if I tell her that my father hurts me.

Sometimes I want to run away but I don’t know where I could go.   Sometimes I wish I was never born.  Sometimes I wish I could die.

One day my father got very ill and a week later he died.  I wish I could say that I was sad but I wasn’t.  I thought to myself, “He will never hurt you again.”  My mother didn’t seem sad either. She and my father didn’t love each other.  They used to fight a lot.  Sometimes he beat her when he was drunk.  Now it was just her, my two brothers and me.   Life did not get better after my father died.  I was still treated badly and beaten.  I worked hard while my brothers played.  Life was hard and unfair.  But what could I do?

Then, one day, three women came to our village.  One of them came to our home.  She had a kind face.  Her name was Sister Hope.  She spoke to my mother.  She talked about Jesus.  I was curious about this Jesus but didn’t want to ask any questions in front of my mother.  My mother had her gods so she wasn’t interested in this new God Sister Hope told her about.  Sister Hope smiled and left.  I was outside doing my chores.   She saw me and she came over to me.  She smiled and asked me my name.  She invited me to walk a little of the way with her.

As we walked, I asked her many questions and she answered them.  She told me about the Bridge of Hope Centre.  It sounded like a place where I would like to be. It was my chance to leave home, at least for a while.  I asked her if she could speak to my mother.

I went to the Bridge of Hope Centre once a day—in the afternoons.  The staff was so kind and caring. I was not used to that.  I was used to being abused, neglected and mistreated.  My father abused me since I was five years old.  My mother never loved me because I am a girl.  She loved my two brothers.  Sometimes I wished that I were a boy so that my mother would love me and my father wouldn’t hurt me.

It was not easy at first. I was not doing well in my studies.  I was still hurting inside.  Sometimes I found it hard to concentrate but Rashmi who taught me was very patient with me.  One day, she gently asked me to share my story with her.  I found it hard to talk about it so I drew pictures.  When she saw the drawings, she looked really sad.  I could see the tears in her eyes. That surprised me.  No one had ever cried for me before.  No one had ever felt sorry for me.  When I was at home, I was all alone.  I had no one to share my pain with.  No one cared.  No one asked me anything.  I didn’t matter to them.  But here, I did.

After she put the drawings aside, Rashmi reached out and held my hands.  She looked me straight in my face and said, “I’m so sorry that you went through such pain but I want you to know that you have a Father who loves you.  He saw you suffering and that is why He sent me to you. He loves you with an everlasting love.  He knew you before you were even born.  He knows that you are still in pain and wants and comfort you.  He wants to pour out His love on you if you will let Him.”

When I heard that I had another Father who loved me and wanted to take care of me, I began to cry.  I cried for a while.  Rashmi sat there, holding my hands.  Then, I stopped crying and felt better.  The heavy feeling that I had was not there anymore.  I felt God’s love fill me.  It felt warm.  That is the moment when I gave my heart to God. My work began to improve.

Rashmi taught me from the Bible.  I learned more about God and how much He loved me.  I learned that He gave His Son, Jesus so that I could have eternal life.  I had a Father who wanted what was best for me and who wanted to give me everything I needed.  He would never hurt, mistreat or neglect me.  He promised that He would always be there, watching over me and protecting me.  He was the father and mother I never had.

Jesus became my Friend.  He filled me with a peace that I never had.  He is always there.  When I read about how kind He was to the Samaritan woman, I knew that He would be kind to me too even though I am a girl.  I knew that Jesus didn’t love me less because I am a girl.  He had friends who were women.  He didn’t reject women and I knew that He wouldn’t reject me.

My mother noticed the changes in me. I was no longer sad. I was singing as I did my chores. I tried to tell her about Jesus but she didn’t want to hear about it. She even said to me, “If I hear another word about this Jesus of yours, I will stop you from going back to the centre.” I didn’t talk to her about Jesus after that but for weeks I prayed every night that she would want to know about Him. Weeks went by and then one morning she came to me. She looked scared. “I had a dream last night,” she said. “I was at the river doing laundry when I saw a bright light around me. Out of the light I heard a voice say to me, ‘forsake your gods and follow Me.’ I was afraid but the voice sounded kind so I asked, ‘who are You?’ The voice said, ‘I am Jesus.’ Then He told me again to forsake my gods and follow Him. Tell me about this Jesus.”

I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say at first. God had answered my prayers. Jesus had revealed Himself to my mother. I told her all that I knew about Jesus. Then Sister Mary came to study the Bible with her. My mother accepted Jesus and our lives have changed. We get along better now.

Now I am 15 years old.  I have been going to the centre for three years.  I love it here.  I want to be a teacher so that I could tell other girls about Jesus.  I want to tell them that it doesn’t matter that they are girls.  Jesus loves them.

This story is fictitious but it is the reality for many girls in South Asia.  Many are abused, neglected, mistreated and unloved simply because they are girls. Some run away from home and end up on the streets where they end up begging, forced into child labor, exploited or trafficked or some of them end up in a Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.

From the time they are born, they are mistreated, solely because they are girls. A girl cannot carry on the family name nor aptly provide for her parents when they get old. Additionally, her parents will likely have to go into debt to pay her marriage dowry. Because of this, she is seen as a burden to her family and not a blessing – Gospel for Asia.

Thankfully, some girls who still live at home like the one in this story are invited to the Bridge of Hope Centre while others like Manjulika are placed in Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.  Read her story.

International Day of the Girl is a global and annual event initiated by the United Nations to raise awareness of the plight girls around the world.  This year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.”

There are nearly 600 million girls aged 10 to 19 in the world today, each with limitless individual potential, however they are disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. Between inequities in secondary education to protection issues, adolescent girls are uniquely impacted and should benefit from targeted investments and programmes that address their distinct needs. Investing in adolescent girls can have a formidable ripple effect to create a better world by 2030. On this International Day of the Girl, join us in highlighting the unique challenges and potential of adolescent girls – UNICEF.

This is our opportunity to highlight the needs and rights of girls.  Girls face discrimination because of their gender.  They face barriers to education, opportunities to make a living, child-marriages and poverty.   The sad reality is that when we invest in girls, “we create a brighter and safer future for everyone.  When girls are educated, healthy and informed, they are able to lift themselves, their children and communities out of poverty” (Because I Am a Girl).  Girls matter!  They should be celebrated, empowered and encouraged not abused, misused, neglected or exploited.   Invest in a girl today!

There are girls out there who don’t know that there is a God who created them in His image and that they are precious in His sight.  He rejoiced when they were born.  Pray that He will send missionaries to their homes and rescue them from their private hell.  Pray that boys and girls will find refuge at Gospel for Asia supported Children’s homes. Help programs like Bridge of Hope, a children’s program, where they help with the children’s education, provide them with food, medical care, tutoring, clothing, and show them the love of Christ.  Pray that many of these girls and their families will be led to Christ who has the power to “give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death–to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Galatians 1:4).

Celebrate the power and potential of girls!

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; UNICEF; Because I am A Girl