Folani’s Story

photo-1553394951-efd4b4aadd2bMy name is Folani.  At the age of 16, I was forced to marry the man who raped me so that I wouldn’t bring shame on my family.  He wanted to marry me but after I rejected him, he raped me.  I told my my mother what he had done to me and she insisted that if he still wanted to marry me that I should consent.  “No other man is going to want you,” she told me.  “Be grateful if Mr. Adebayo still does.”

“But, Mama, he raped me.”

“And whose fault is that?”

I couldn’t believe how unfeeling and uncaring she was.  I wished my father were still alive.  He would have had Mr. Adebayo arrested and charged.  I wished I had older brothers who would make Mr. Adebayo pay for what he did to me.  I wouldn’t want them to kill him, of course.  There are other ways to make a person pay for what they have done without taking their life.

I got no sympathy from my mother or my step-father and when Mr. Adebayo asked their permission to marry me, they consented.  I know he wanted to marry me because he wanted to avoid punishment and prosecution.  He was a government official and he had his “reputation” to think about.  I had no choice but to go along with this.  I had brought my family into disrepute and the only way to preserve my family name and avoid a life of sexual shame was to marry the man who raped me.  This was the only way to prevent the social stigma of pre-marital sex.

The night before the wedding, I cried bitterly.  I didn’t want to marry this man.  I didn’t want to stop going to school.  I had dreams of becoming a doctor but now those dreams were squashed.  I lay in my bed curled up, wishing I could die.  Death would be better than the future.

I married Mr. Adebayo and we lived in his big house on the hill.  He was abusive to me, demanding his rights as my husband.  He struck me when he tried to touch me and I pulled away.  Night after night, I was raped.  I became pregnant but I miscarried because of repeated domestic violence.  Just when I didn’t think I could take any more of the physical and sexual abuse, my husband suddenly died.  I could have run away and left him there in the floor but I called the police.

It turned out that he died from cardiac arrest.  After the funeral, his sister and mother threw me out of the house.  I didn’t return home to my mother and step-father.  I went to my paternal grandmother who let me stay with her.  When I told her all that had happened to me, she cried and prayed over me.

While I stayed with her, she read the Bible to me and told me about God and Jesus.  I listened.  I missed going to school but my grandmother couldn’t afford to send me.  One night, I got down on my knees and asked God to help me.  I couldn’t give up my dream of becoming a doctor one day.  The next day, someone from Camfed came to my grandmother’s house.  They had heard about my situation through its network of former students who had been supported through their education program.  The charity offered to pay my school fees, and provides books, uniforms and sanitary protection.  As my grandmother and I listened, I knew that God had answered my prayers.  Thanks for Camfed has enabled more than two million girls like me to go to school has made my dream of becoming a doctor a reality.

After I graduated from school, I went on to university.  I chose to live on campus but visited my grandmother every weekend.  I thank her for telling me about God and I thank God for coming through for me.  I wish I had run away from home and gone to live with my grandmother instead of marrying Mr. Adebayo but I was afraid that I would bring shame on her.

When I told her this, she reached for my hand and gently squeezed it.  “You wouldn’t have brought any shame to me, Folani child.  What happened to you wasn’t your fault.  A wicked and evil man violated you and to avoid what was due him, he, your mother and step-father forced you to marry him.  You’re free of him now that he’s dead and you are free to live the life God has planned for you.  Now you can become a doctor–the first in your community and family.  Your father would be very proud of you.”

With tears in my eyes, I hugged her tightly.  “Kutenda, Ambuya.”

Folani’s story is fiction but there are true stories of girls who have been forced into marriages because of poverty, economic hardships, difficult circumstances and protection from sexual violence.  Advocates for rape-marriage laws argue that they shield the victim and her family from the shame of rape.  This isn’t true.  This law benefits the rapist and the girl’s family.  The girl has no say in the matter and is forced to marry the man who violated her.  She is forced to drop out of school and forsake her future which only education could make possible and be in a marriage which more often than not is abusive.

I urge you to help Camfed which is changing the lives of girls through education; Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 1300 civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfil their potential; Girl UP which believes that Girls are powerful. Girls have limitless potential. Girls can change the world. And yet in certain places around the world, girls continue to lack access to opportunities; CARE which is working towards gender equality, women’s empowerment, champions among men and boys, and an end to violence against women and Forward, the African women-led organisation working to end violence against women and girls.

Marriage is a choice not something to be coerced into.  Education not marriage should be a girl’s priority.  Marriage is between an adult man and woman not between an adult and a child.  And girls who are raped should be protected by the law and their families and not forced to marry their rapists to save him persecution and jail time or to safe the family face.  Rape is a crime and should be treated as such.

Take action to help girls like Gloria, who was forced into marriage at 12 and a widow twice by the time she was 17, to have an education and a future.  Help them to fulfill their dreams.

Sources:  Wikipedia; UN Women; BBC News; UNFPA

Cause of Death

He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces – Isaiah 25:8

black couple grieving
Photo by Adobe Stock

Less than a  month after our son died, we found out that the cause of death was a “sudden acute severe Asthma attack.”  The attack was so sudden that nothing could have prevented our son from dying.  Knowing that there wasn’t anything we or the paramedics or the medical staff did could have prevented the outcome doesn’t make the pain and sorrow any less.  We still can’t fathom our son dying from Asthma.  He was so full of life and had so much promise and potential.  He had his whole life ahead of him or so we believed.  Yet, at the young age of 11, he died suddenly.

We are still trying to process this loss.  The pain is acute.  We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel right now or the joy that comes in the morning.  Right now we are submerged in sorrow and the weeping comes in waves.  Yet, through it all we have God.  His presence comforts and strengthens us.  During those waves of sorrow followed by a deluge of tears, we cling to Him tightly.  We can imagine Him putting His arms around us and holding us ever so close to His heart.  And Jesus, our loving Lord and Savior, is beside us and in the midst of our grief.  We are not going through this alone.  He is with us just as He was with Martha and Mary during their time of grief when their brother, Lazarus was dead.  We take comfort knowing that just as Jesus resurrected Lazarus, He will resurrect our son so that we can spend eternity with him.

Death is something we will all face but thanks to Jesus and His work on the cross, death will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).  Death along with the grave will be thrown into the lake of fire.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

If you haven’t already, please give your heart and your life to Jesus Christ today.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  He gave His life for you so that when you believe in Him and accept Him as your Lord and Savior, you will have everlasting life.  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

Academic Streaming

“University isn’t the place for you.  You’re better off taking applied courses.  I can recommend some and where you can go to do them.”

When Carol heard these words, she felt as though her guidance counselor had picked her up and tossed her into the sea, leaving her adrift in the waves of emotions of disbelief and anger.  Why disbelief?  The same thing had happened to her sister and cousin.  Both had been told that they shouldn’t bother to apply to university because they wouldn’t be able to cope. And both had gone to university.  Her sister was doing her Masters in Psychology now and her cousin was a professor of Math.   Anger because the counselor told her this without even bothering to pull up her grades.

Carol was an A average student who wanted to go to university and get a degree in Biology.  When she mentioned her plans to the counselor, instead of encouraging her, she told her that university wasn’t for her.

There was a long silence as she tried to process what was happening.  The guidance counselor was busy writing something on a sheet of paper.  When she was done she slid it over to Carol.  “Here you go,” she said.  Carol glanced down at the paper.  It had a list of applied courses and the places where they were offered.

Carol didn’t say a word.  She put her book, papers and pen in her knapsack and got up. She didn’t take the paper.  “Excuse me,” she said and walked out of the office.

When she went home she told her mother what had happened and her mother said, “Don’t worry, Baby.  I will go to the school tomorrow and get you a new guidance counselor.  She did and Carol’s new counselor gave her a list of the best Biology universities in Canada.  She encouraged her with these words, “Now that you have proven to yourself that you have what it takes to succeed, work hard and see all obstacles as motivators to realizing your dreams.”

Carol is now at Queen’s University and loving every minute of it and she plans to get her PhD.   Academic Streaming is a real problem for students like Carol and many are encouraged to “stray away from realizing their full potential” because of racial bias. Carol knew that she was told that university was not for her simply because she was black.  She wants to be an advocate for students who might experience what she did and encourage them not to give up on their dreams.  She hopes the province is doing something to finally end academic streaming so that black children no longer face “an achievement and opportunity gap” in schools.

 

advising-pair

Source:  CBC; Queen’s University; The Toronto Star

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

Women’s Literacy = Women’s Liberty

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
Kofi Annan

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015 was an important day for lots of parents and their children. It was an important day for my family.  It was my son’s first day back to school. This year he will be in grade 2 . It was wonderful seeing parents and their kids filing into the school. The halls were crowded and noisy as we squeezed our way to the gym where the children were to line up before heading to the auditorium for the greeting and morning prayer. As I looked at the children in their uniforms, I thought of how what a blessing it is to be able to go to school.

September 8 was an important day for another reason. It was International Literacy Day, a day first proclaimed as such on November 17, 1965 by UNESCO. It was first celebrated in 1966 and its objective has always been to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. The theme for this year was Literacy and Sustainable Societies and the Day marked the 50th anniversary of the World Congress of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy. It is a day when the world is reminded of how important learning is.

International Literacy Day gives children and communities a chance to rediscover the joys of reading while raising awareness for those without access to education.

Can you imagine being a mother and unable to read your child’s school report or help him with his homework because you can’t read or write?  What if you couldn’t read the Bible or a bedtime story to your child or a Mother’s Day or birthday card?  Sadly, there are women in South Asia who can’t read or write.  Can you believe that over 30% of Asian women are illiterate? In fact, more than one out of every three women in Asia are illiterate!

There is hope, thanks to Gospel for Asia’s Literacy Program.  Through literacy classes held by GFA supported local Women’s Fellowships, women are learning how to read, write, do basic math, some of life’s most basic lessons, and, most importantly, they are learning how to read and study God’s Word on their own.  What a joy it must be to be able to read about a loving God and a Savior who gave His life for them.  And better yet, they can read to their children.

So women volunteered to teach literacy classes to other women. The program expanded into several states and two countries, so a standardized curriculum was developed.

In this day and age, it is hard to believe that there are so many people who still cannot read or write.  Last year, Gospel for Asia supported the work of missionaries who saw International Literacy Day as an opportunity to raise awareness of the value of women’s literacy and to share the Gospel.

Gospel for Asia literacy imageI rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure – Psalm 119:162

Do you want to bring hope to women by helping to make it possible for them to read and study God’s Word?  Find out how you can do so here.  Reading and writing are basic necessities of life that everyone should have.  Women who learn how to read, write and do basic Math will be able to provide for their families.  You will be helping a woman to keep her children safe because she can read the warning labels or from being cheated at the marketplace because she knows basic Math.  Think of how different your life would be if you couldn’t read your Bible, recipes, emails or letters.  Then think of the freedom you enjoy from being literate and how you can help to liberate these women too.

Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens President Bill Clinton on International Literacy Day, September 8th 1994

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia, International Literacy Day, UNESCO


BURKINA FASO: Dozens Killed in Recent Attacks

Sources: International Christian Concern, Barnabas Fund

Village in Burkina Faso - Photo: PIxabay / Imo Deen

A major humanitarian crisis is taking place in the African nation of Burkina Faso, as Islamic militants slaughter innocent civilians and force many others to flee. Estimates indicate that more than 500,000 people have been displaced in the past year alone. Two recent attacks highlight this ongoing violence which is often targeted against Christians.

On January 25th, an attack happened in the village of Silgadji, the same city where a pastor and five others were assassinated last April after refusing to deny their Christian faith. (A report on this previous incident may be reviewed here.)

Armed militia surrounded people in the village market. Separating the men from the women, they ordered the women to leave the village and then proceeded to kill the men. While the final numbers are yet to be determined, the death toll could be as high as 50. According to one contact, the gunmen drove through the town threatening to kill anyone who would not convert to Islam.

On February 1st, at least 18 people were killed in the town of Lamdamol. The unidentified militants arrived late at night on motorcycles and selectively picked out civilians before killing them. One of the victims was Robert Milogo, a Christian nurse who had travelled to the area despite the danger to provide medical assistance.

In the aftermath of these and other attacks, please pray that the Lord will minister greatly needed comfort and strength to the families and friends who are grieving the loss of dear loved ones. Ask Him to protect the Christians remaining in the area, whether they be residents or humanitarian aid workers, and to provide for those who have been forced to flee. May the authorities be able to quell the flow of militants intent on causing violence from entering the country and, with God’s wisdom and guidance, serve as catalysts of His peace and reconciliation throughout Burkina Faso.


SRI LANKA: Pastor Harassed by Mob and Police

Source: National Christian Evangelical Alliance Sri Lanka (NCEASL)

Video - Sri Lanka: Persecution in Paradise
Watch this video to gain a better understanding
of the reasons behind the persecution in Sri Lanka.

As believers gathered for worship in the village of Ihala Yakkura on the morning of February 2nd, a mob of around 150 people, led by Buddhist monks, arrived and disrupted the service by questioning the owner of the premises. The pastor called the police, who were able to maintain peace until the service concluded, even though the mob remained present.

After the service, the pastor went to speak to the monks and the police. During this time, the monks attempted to assault the pastor, but the officers intervened. The attackers insisted that because theirs was a “Buddhist village,” no Christian worship would be allowed. Even though the pastor had been invited by villagers, the police sided with the monks and falsely stated that the church needed state permission to conduct worship activities. After making a formal statement at a nearby police station, the pastor was warned by the officer involved to not re-enter the village due to the threats made against his life.

That evening, the pastor went to the village, taking along his wife, son and eight others. In their attempts to leave the area, they discovered that the road had been blocked. A mob then proceeded to accost the visiting Christians, physically assaulting them and causing damage to their vehicles. After an eventual escape, the victimized believers were able to receive treatment at a hospital. A police report was filed and, the next day, five people were remanded in connection with the incident.

For more information on Sri Lanka, we invite you to watch this informative video report.

Pray for the physical and emotional healing of the Christians injured in the mob attack. Despite the opposition and hostility perpetrated against these followers of Christ, ask God to make a way for His ministry in the village to continue touching hearts and transforming lives. May the opposing villagers recognize the love and joy of Christ reflected in His people and, as a result, come to saving faith in Him. Also intercede for Sri Lanka’s governing authorities that they will justly uphold the rights and freedoms of all citizens.


UKRAINE: Harassment Against Unregistered Churches

Sources: Forum 18, Mission Eurasia

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Luhansk - Photo: Wikimapia / Butilkavodi
Emmanuel Baptist Church, Luhansk
Photo: Wikimapia / Butilkavodi

Leaders of the unrecognized Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine have continued a campaign against unregistered church communities. The pro-Russian leaders of this breakaway region insist on registration for all religious organizations. However, of the 195 organizations registered in 2019, 188 were Russian Orthodox. The remaining seven are either Muslim, Old Believer, Jewish or Catholic. No Protestant churches have been allowed to register.

The ban on worship has taken various forms. Congregations meeting in church buildings have had their utilities disconnected, for officials argue that gas, electricity and water cannot be supplied to organizations that do not officially exist. While those meeting in homes have not faced this threat, all unregistered churches are at risk of police intervention.

Security forces raided a community during their worship service on January 19th. Church leaders were taken for interrogation but released several hours later. On December 23rd, another raid resulted in a fine for the church leader. Similar restrictions apply in the neighbouring Donetsk People’s Republic, resulting in arrests, property seizures and fines. As in Luhansk, registration is required, but has been denied to any groups not affiliated with the Russian Orthodox church.

Please remember these persecuted believers in your prayers as they face oppression for their faith in Christ. May God give them the strength to persevere, the grace to forgive their oppressors, and the empowerment to glorify Him through their Christian witness. In the midst of the volatile political unrest, pray that the leaders of the Luhansk and Donetsk republics will govern with diplomacy, bringing resolution to this conflict with peace and justice.

If you would like to post a prayer of praise or petition on behalf of our persecuted family around the globe, visit VOMC’s prayer wall.