Love in Tokyo

Kaito Takashi paused outside of the jewelry store before he went inside to look at the different displays of engagement rings.  He was convinced that Tamiko was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.  They met two years ago at a mutual friend’s house party and immediately hit it off.  She was stunning and he enjoyed getting to know her better.  He asked her to have dinner with him and they went to his favorite restaurant the following evening.

After that first date, they began dating.  She was the first girl he had taken home to meet his family.  Yes, things were serious between them and he was going to ask her to marry.  All he had to do was find the ring.  He glanced at his watch.  It was a quarter to six.  He had until half-past six to browse before meeting Hana and her friend, Sally for dinner.

Sally Johnson was in Tokyo for the weekend.  She was staying with her friend and former university classmate, Hana.  On Sunday evening she would take the 47 minute train ride back to Yokohama and to her position as Early Years teacher at Horizon Japan International School.

After graduating from University, she decided to spend the summer in Japan.  She stayed with Hana in Tokyo.  They took day trips to other parts of Japan.  They spent the weekend in Kamakura where Hana’s parents lived.  Sally met Hana’s younger brother and sister.  They all spoke very good English and it was Hana’s father who suggested that she took a job teaching English in Japan for a year.  They taught her basic Japanese.  When she returned to New York, she enrolled in a Japanese language program.  At the end of the year, she applied for a teaching position in Yokohama and got it.

She has been here in Yokohama for two months and was still getting used to the people, the place and the culture.  On the weekends, she visited Hana and they hung out in the city.  Tonight, they were going to meet Kaito, her older brother for dinner.  Sally was looking forward to meeting him.  Hana had recently posted photos of the two of them on her Facebook page and Sally couldn’t get over how good-looking he was.  She realized that it was foolish of her to be into a guy she hadn’t even met and who had a girlfriend.

“Earth to Sally.”  Hana’s voice broke into her thoughts, startling her.  The taxi had stopped and she realized that they had reached the restaurant where they were meeting Kaito.

“Sorry,” she mumbled before getting out of the taxi and stepping onto the sidewalk.  It was a beautiful, balmy evening.  The sun had set but the area where they were was ablaze with lights.  She could see the faces of the people walking by very clearly.  It was then she spotted him.

Hana saw him too and she waved.  “There’s Kaito,” she announced unnecessarily.  And started to head toward him.  Sally followed her.

As they approached, she saw him look first at Hana and then at her.  By the time she was they reached him, she was very nervous and her heart was beating really fast.  He was even more attractive in person.  He looked first at Hana who hugged him and then at her.  Over Hana’s head, their eyes locked.  It was as if time stood still and there were just the two of them.  Everyone and everything faded into obscurity.

And then, Hana was pulling her forward until she was standing right in front of him.  “Kaito, this is my very good friend, Sally.  Sally, this is my brother, Kaito.”

Kaito held out his hand first, his eyes riveted to her upturned face.  “Hello, Sally,” he said in English.

She took his hand and felt a jolt of electricity pass through her, rendering her breathless.  “Hello, Kaito,” she managed to say.  “It’s good to finally meet you.”

His eyebrows arched.  “You speak Japanese?”  He sounded surprised and impressed.

Before she could answer, Hana chimed in.  “Yes, she does.  She took classes in New York and we’ve been teaching her while she was here last summer.  She’s teaching English in Yokohama.”

Kaito hadn’t taken his eyes off her.  “How do you like teaching in Yokohama?” he asked in Japanese.

“I like it very much.  Yokohama is amazing.”

“Did you get a chance to see the Sparkling Fireworks Show?”

“Yes, I did and it was—”

“Guys, can we continue this conversation inside?” Hana interrupted in English.  “I’m starving.”

They went into the restaurant and as they walked to their table, Sally was aware of the attention she in particular drew.  She was used to the locals staring at her, an African American woman.  Kaito sat opposite her and Hana beside him.  It was a nice, cozy place giving one the impression that they were dining in someone’s home.   She liked that their server described each dish as he prepared it right in front of them at the counter.

Over mouthwatering Kobe Beef and Chateaubriand steak and sushi chased down with Sake drinks, they talked.  Sally learned that Kaito was a Risk Analyst at an investment firm.  He helped businesses to determine the amount of financial risks that involved concerning investments and operational costs.  She could tell from the way he spoke that he loved his job and Hana mentioned that it was one of the top ten highest paying jobs.

Throughout dinner, they exchanged glances.  There was no doubt that they were attracted to each other but she kept reminding herself that he had a girlfriend.  Hana didn’t seem to notice anything but Sally couldn’t be sure.  She had to be careful not to give herself away.  After tonight, there was no guarantee that she would see Kaito again.  And in less than a year they would be worlds apart.

“You mentioned that your teaching assignment is a year long.  After it is finished, I guess you will be returning to America?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“She can always come to Japan for the summer or maybe I will go to New York instead.  I haven’t been there since I moved back to Toyko.  Maybe you can come with me, Kaito and you can bring Tamiko.  How is she, by the way?”

Kaito lowered his eyes.  “Tamiko is fine.”

Hana was about to say something when her cell rang.  She flipped it out.  “Hello?” A big smile spread on her face and she announced, “It’s Riku.”  Riku was her boyfriend.  Excuse me.”  She left the table, talking animatedly in Japanese.

Silence settled over the table following her departure. Sally could feel Kaito’s eyes on her and she raised hers.  For several minutes they just sat there, trying not to stare at each other and then he spoke in that low, cultured voice of his. “You did not seem surprised when Hana mentioned Tamiko.”

“Hana had already told me about her.”

“Tamiko has always wanted to go to America.  I too would like to see it.”

“You’ll like it.  New York especially.”

“Yes, I would like to see New York, especially.” His eyes held hers captive when he said that.

She swallowed hard, her heart pounding. “There’s a lot to see,” she muttered breathlessly.

“Is there a man in your life?” he asked quietly.  He held his breath as he waited for her answer.

She shook her head.  “No, there isn’t.”  Did she detect a look of relief on his face?

Kaito expelled his breath.  “Good, because I want to see you again,” he admitted.

“You can’t,” she protested.  “What about Tamiko?”

Before he could reply, Hana returned to the table and sat down.  “Riku wants to take me out,” she said.  “He’s going to be here in ten minutes.  Kaito, do you mind taking Sally back to my place?”

He shook his head.  “No, I don’t mind.”  He looked at Sally who was looking at Hana and thinking, I’m afraid to be alone with your brother because of what can happen between us…

“Thanks, Kaiko.  Don’t wait up for me, Sally.  I’ll be coming in very late.”

Kaiko paid for dinner, brushing aside their objections and they left the restaurant.  After waiting with Hana until Riku arrived, Sally and he walked to his sleek black Jaguar which was parked a little way from the restaurant.  After holding the door for her to get in, he walked around to the driver’s side and climbed in behind the wheel.  She strapped herself in as the engine roared to life and they pulled away from the curb.

“I have a confession to make,” he said.  “Before I met Hana and you for dinner, I was in a jewelry shop looking at engagement rings.”

Sally turned so that he couldn’t see the disappointed expression on her face.  “So, you’re going to marry Tamiko.”

“I was seriously considering it and that’s why I went to shop for a ring but I didn’t see any that I liked.  I was going to continue looking next week but after meeting you, I’m not sure about a lot of things anymore.”

“Do-do you love Tamiko?”

“I thought I did but after meeting you, I’m not sure.”

“Kaito, I don’t want to get involved with a man who’s already in a relationship with someone else and isn’t sure how he feels about her.”

“You’re right, Sally.  I got carried away by my attraction for you.  I put you in a very awkward position and I am sorry.”

“I–I just don’t want to get hurt.”

“The last thing I want to do is to hurt you or Tamiko.”

“I hope you figure out what you want.”

“Me too.”

For the rest of the ride, they spoke about other things and then he was walking her to the door.  Using Hana’s spare key, she opened it.   She turned to face him.  “I would invite you in but I’m afraid of what would happen if I did,” she said.

His eyes darkened.  “Then, I had better leave now.  Goodnight, Sally.”

“Goodnight, Kaito.”  She turned and went inside, closing the door quietly behind her.

Kaito walked away, his mind spinning, his heart racing and his body aching.  I’m attracted to her in ways I can’t explain.  The feelings she stirs in me are the kind you read about in novels.  What am I going to do about her and Tamiko?  All the way back to his place, he tried to figure out what he was going to do.  He cared for Tamiko but he never felt that spark with her.  When he met Sally, there were fireworks.  Even now, he got butterflies in his stomach just thinking about her.  He wanted to see her again so badly he could almost taste it but she wouldn’t have anything to do with him, and rightly so, until he figured out what he wanted.  Somebody was going to wind up getting hurt and he hated himself for that.

He decided that he needed to get away and go to some place where he could think clearly.   He booked a flight to Okinawa where he spent two weeks at a luxury beach hotel.   Early in the mornings, just before the sun rose, he went swimming and then for long walks along the beach afterwards.  He thought about how surprised and disappointed Tamiko sounded when he told her about this trip.  Most likely she wanted to come with him but he explained that he had a lot on his mind and needed to be alone for a while.  They spoke on the phone every other day.

In the evenings he ate dinner and then went up to his room afterwards.  He sat on the terrace with a panoramic view of the sea thinking about Sally.  He wondered what she was doing at that moment.  Was she thinking about him?  Did she want to see him as much as he wanted to see her?  He remembered what she said before they parted company.  “I would invite you in but I’m afraid of what would happen if I did.”  He knew only too well that if he had stayed, he would have lost his head…

He closed his eyes as he tried to imagine what it would be like to make love to her and he sucked in his breath sharply when desire like a raging fire surged through his body.  Agitated, he sprang to his feet and walked over to the rail, gripping it until his knuckles gleamed whitely in the twilight.  He had a decision to make and soon.

Sally was in her room trying to read but she was distracted.  She couldn’t stop thinking about Kaito.  Every time she closed her eyes, she saw his face, his eyes, his lips…Frustrated, she closed the novel and got up.  She walked over to the window and leaned against it, looking out.  Several weeks had passed since the night they met.  She wondered where he was and what he was doing.  Was he thinking about her?

She would never forget the look in his eyes when she told him why she couldn’t invite him in when he dropped her off at Hana’s apartment.  They were ablaze with the same passion that stirred inside her.  She knew that if he had stayed they would have ended up making love and she wouldn’t have forgiven herself afterwards.  He had a girlfriend and until he sorted out whether or not he still wanted to be with her, she had to stay away from him.  It was hard, though.  She wanted so much to see him again.  It was all she could think about.  It was a good thing that she didn’t have his number or she would have been tempted to call him.

Sighing heavily, she turned away from the window just as she heard a knock on the door.  Wondering who it could be, she quickly went to find out.  When she opened the door and saw Kaito standing there, her heart leapt.  For several minutes they just stared at each other.  His eyes were restless on her face and hers eagerly drank in the sight of him.  “Hello,” she finally said in Japanese.

“Hello,” he replied.  And then in English he said, “I had to see you.”

“Come in,” she said, stepping aside so that he could enter.  After closing the door, she turned to face him, her heart racing.  “How are you?”

“Much better now that I’m here with you,” he said quietly.  He couldn’t stop staring at her and he ached to touch her.  “Sally, ever since we met, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you.

“What about Tamiko?”

“That’s why I’m here.  It’s over between us.  After I returned from Okinawa, I went to see her.  I felt awful, especially when she began to cry.  The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt her but I couldn’t help the way I felt about you.  Before I went away, she sensed that there was a change in my behavior towards her but she didn’t suspect that there was another woman until I told her.  I’m glad that nothing happened between you and me before I ended my relationship with her.  It would have been unforgivable.”

“Yes, it would have been.”  She felt sorry for Tamiko because she knew that if she were in her shoes, it would take a very long time for her to get over Kaito.  “Are you hungry?  We can grab something to eat and then go to Yamashita Park.”

He shook his head.  “No, I would rather stay here.” He reached out and pulled her into his arms, his eyes smoldering as they met hers briefly before dropping to her lips which parted invitingly.  Groaning, he bent his head and kissed her.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.  The kisses became very passionate, their breathing harsh and heavy and soon they were tearing at each other’s clothes, anxious to be rid of them and to feel flesh against flesh.  In a matter of minutes, they were under the sheets, making love as the bed creaked in protest.

Hours later, they got dressed and had dinner at a restaurant near Yamashita Park, the seaside park with its long walkway which connected Yokohama’s best attractions.  Afterwards, they went for a walk in the park, holding hands.  It was late when he walked her back to her place and before they parted company, they made plans to see each other the following evening.

Sally stood on the Osanbashi Pier watching the Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks. They were spectacular.  Kaito joined her and she smiled as he handed her the ice-cream.  It had been ages since she had one.  Her engagement ring glinted in the lights that blazed in the sky.  She laughed when she saw that the pink ice-cream was in the shape of an elephant.  Kaito put his arm around her waist and she leaned against him as they watched the fireworks.  It was August.  In late November they were going to get married in Tokyo in the presence of their families, friends and her students.  Hana, of course, was going to be her bridesmaid.

A smile spread on her face as she thanked God for blessing her beyond her wildest dreams.

The smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect, it just means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me withLookup Quotes

 

 

Sources:  Teach Away; Rome2Rio; Hills Learning; Zooming Japan; Yokohama Japan; Culture Trip; Japan Talk; Whisper; Study.com; Career Addict; Boldomatic; The Ritz-Carlton

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National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

national-native-hiv-aids-awareness-day

Courtesy:  Indian Country Today

It was just few days ago when I learned that March was designated as Women’s History Month.  Well, today, an identical thing happened to me which prompted me to put this post together in a hurry.  I found out just a few minutes ago that today is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  I also discovered that my ignorance of the day is not surprising given that it is a little known observance day.  NNHAAD is a day geared toward drawing attention to and building support for HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care among American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian populations.  Here are some facts, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), women account for 29% of the HIV/AIDS diagnoses. 
  • For Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NH/PI) populations given a diagnosis, 78% were men, 21% were women, and 1% were children (under 13 years of age) in 2005.
  • From 2007 to 2010, new HIV infections among AI/NA populations increased by 8.7% (CDC).

While these percentages may seem low, one must remember to take into account the size of these populations compared to more populous races and ethnicities in the U.S. For example, according to the CDC, in 2005 American Indians and Alaska Natives ranked 3rd in rates of HIV/AIDS diagnosis, following blacks and Hispanics. To put this into numbers, the rate of new HIV/AIDS infections in 2008 per 100,000 persons were:

  • 73.7 Black/African American
  • 25.0 Hispanic/Latinos
  • 22.85 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders 
  • 11.9 American Indian and Alaska Native 
  • 8.2 Whites
  • 7.2 Asians

Given that many of these populations live in rural areas, access to health care services can be difficult. Not to mention other roadblocks to obtaining needed services such as language and cultural barriers. Native communities have some of the shortest survival times after diagnosis of HIV/AIDS of all race and ethnicity groups in the U.S.

The report also showed that Native communities are not accessing the much needed care and attention after being diagnosed with HIV.  I also learned that about 26% are living with HIV and don’t even know it.  So, this means that since they don’t know that they have it, they wouldn’t seek medical help.  On the other hand, those who know that they have it, take steps to protect their health and take action to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Thankfully, there are public services like the IHS (Indian Health Service), an agency whose mission is to raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.  Our goal is to assure that comprehensive, culturally acceptable personal and public health services are available and accessible to American Indian and Alaska Native people.  The IHS operates within Department of Health and Human Services.

The IHS National HIV/AIDS Program is committed to partnering with communities to create lasting change in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We provide programs to assist individuals, families, communities, and health care providers to:

  • Understand how HIV is spread, and share knowledge about HIV with others
  • Get tested for HIV
  • Put policies and procedures in place to offer a HIV testing as a routine part of all health care
  • Improve access to care, treatment, and prevention services needed by people living with HIV and AIDS

IHS providers throughout the country are offering screening more often, collaborating with communities to increase education, and offering care or referrals where direct care is not available. We can all help to reduce the stigma within our culture and among health care providers regarding HIV/AIDS.

I was shocked to learn that March 20, 2016 was the tenth anniversary of this annual awareness day.  I wonder how many people out there who even know that it exists.  Awareness, education and access are key.  And I applaud the many dedicated organizations that are currently working hard within the Indigenous communities to break down barriers and to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.   

The theme for 2016 was:  “Hear Indigenous Voices: Uniting the Bold Voices of American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders.” Last year’s was:  theme is “Unity in CommUnity, Stand Strong to Prevent HIV.” On this day, we recognize the impact of HIV/AIDS on American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.  The theme this year is “Unity in CommUNITY: Stand Strong for HIV Prevention.

It is my hope and prayer that long after this year’s National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day passes, that more people will find ways to stand strong for the Native communities.  We have heard the Indigenous voices, stood with them as we recognized that they are impacted by HIV/AIDS and now we must stand strong for prevention.  We have heard the voices, now it is time to be united in the fight to change the tide in this epidemic which discriminates against no one.  The HIV/AIDs is not one group’s or community’s fight but everyone’s fight.

Sources:  Humanitas Global Development; Indian Country Today; Indian Health Service

Drinking With Mom

As parents and stewards of God, it is our duty to provide for, care for and protect our children.  We are to impart wisdom and knowledge to them that will keep them safe and grounded in a world where they will encounter hardships, trials, temptations and challenges.  We are to teach, guide, counsel, encourage and support them.

Most mothers try to be positive examples for their children, teaching them right from wrong and to how to develop healthy habits.  They teach them how to be kind, loving and considerate toward others.  They help their teenagers with their studies and transition into young adulthood.  In fact, they do their best to raise their children to be upstanding citizens of society.  Unfortunately, this was not the case with Sahdev’s mother, Vahini who spent her time drinking with her son.

Alcoholism became Sahdev’s vice.  It consumed him to the point where he spent all of his earnings on alcohol and it his habit grew with such force that his mother was disturbed by it.  She began to wonder if a wife would temper his addiction so she set about looking for someone for him to marry.  She kept his drinking a secret while she arranged marriage between Sahdev and a young woman named Tanu, however, the bride soon discovered the family’s dark secret.  From the beginning of their marriage, she was victim of verbal abuse and brutal, drunken beatings.

Vahini’s hope that marriage would soften her son was squashed but, sadly, she didn’t support Tanu’s efforts to change Sahdev.  This was the opportunity to do what was right for her daughter-in-law and the grandchild that was on the way but Vahini sided with her son.  This only made his alcoholism grow worse, resulting in liver damage.  While Tanu braced herself for raising her child with a drunken father, her mother-in-law tried to find proper treatment for him but two months after his son was born, Sahdev died.

Instead of taking responsibility for her part in her son’s death, Vahini blamed Tanu. Tanu, now a widow with a child, received no comfort or support from her mother-in-law. When Vahini ordered Tanu to leave the house and she refused, she was beaten. Then, faced with raising a 2 month old child and no other options, the young mother returned to her parents’ home in the slums.  This was the last place she wanted to be but her parents comforted her and encouraged her to stay.

Things were tough for Tanu.  She found it hard to find a job to support her son and her family’s social caste limited her to jobs with long hours and low pay.  Thankfully, she wasn’t under any pressure.  Her father was a real trooper, very supportive.  He provided for her and his grandson by working as a daily wage laborer.  When the time came to put Aakar in school, the cost of his education was too much for the family.  And Tanu hadn’t found a good job.  She and her parents struggled to make do with what little they had. Aakar was enrolled in a free city school but the costs for his supplies were tremendous.   And there was the nagging thought that if anything were to happen to Tanu’s father, the family would have nothing at all.

Unless something was done, six year old Aakar would be forced to drop out of school. Help came when Tanu talked to her neighbors about their children’s education.  She learned that they were receiving help from Bridge of Hope, a Gospel for Asia sponsored program.  The program supported, educated, tutored, provided meals and medical care for children from needy families like hers.  Not wasting any time, Tanu enrolled Aakar at the centre.

Their lives changed when the staff not only provided for Aakar’s needs but showed compassion and kindness to him and hope sparked in Tanu.  She saw that there was a very great possibility that her son’s life would turn out very differently from his father’s.

“I can see that my child is improving in his studies and learning good habits through the Bridge of Hope center, ” Tanu said.  “I only wish that my child will grow up to be a good companion and never ever become addicted to alcohol or any kind of bad habits.”

Aakar is off to a really good start.  At Bridge of Hope, God is working through the staff members to give him a better future–one of hope.  Surrounded by people who love the Lord, Aakar stands a better chance of growing up to be a good man who loves the Lord and others.  He has a heavenly Father who loves him.  He never knew his own father whose life was a tragic one because of an evil influence.  Unlike his father, Aakar has a mother who wants what is best for him.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope – Jeremiah 29:11

Thank God for stepping in when things were looking dismal for Aakar and his family. Through Bridge of Hope, God has transformed their lives.  Tanu didn’t know it at the time but the best thing she did was moving back home with her parents.  It was while she was living there, that she experienced the love and mercy of God through a program which offered her son more than an education.  It offered him a chance to have a quality life.  Had she stayed at the home she once shared with her husband, life for her and Aakar would have been unbearable at the hands of her mother-in-law.  God brought them out of that toxic environment and into a place where their lives have changed for the better.

Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You – Psalm 33:22

Tanu’s story has a happy ending but there are other mothers who are struggling to raise their children.  Faced with extreme poverty, their lives are filled with hopelessness.  And many children in Asia never experience what it’s like to have a normal childhood.  Instead, they are faced with situations and decisions that we can’t even imagine or have ever had to deal with.  Please pray that God will intervene in their lives as He did in Tanu’s. And you can help to Aakar and children like him by sponsoring a child.  If you are interested in doing so, click here.  Help to transform a family’s life.

Tanu and Aakar

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia Canada

The Presentation

They met when she was invited by a student to give a presentation on why it was important for women and girls to be educated in countries where they are marginalized and have little or no access to education.  This was her first presentation as an advocate for the rights of women and girls to receive an education and she was nervous.

She stood in front of a auditorium filled with students from grades 8 to 12.  While the student who invited her gave an introduction, she said a little prayer, to calm her nerves and to give her the strength she needed.  She felt a peace envelope her and she smiled as the girl invited her to go to the podium amidst the applause.

She stood there, looking at the faces around her and she began her presentation with one of her favorite quotes, “The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family.”  Then, she shared facts, stories and information about the programs and activities that provided to help eliminate the barriers that women and girls faced in their pursuit of a right to an education.  She encouraged the students to get involved.  She answered questions and at the end of the presentation, she handed out pamphlets and fact sheets.   Many students were eager to get involved and she told them to contact her.

As the students filed out of the auditorium, he went up on to the podium where she was gathering her papers together and putting them into her folder.  She glanced up and her breath caught in her throat.  For a moment, all she could do was stare at him.   He had to be the best-looking man she had ever seen.  None of her male teachers ever looked like this.

He smiled and held out his hand.  “Jordan Hampton.”

“Michelle Johnson,” she said, as she shook his hand.

“I enjoyed your presentation.  Thanks for coming.”

“It was my pleasure and I’m happy that you enjoyed it.”  She was feeling shy and a little nervous because he was still holding her hand and his eyes were fixed on her.

He released her hand then, almost apologetically.  “I am interested in learning more about the kind of work you do,” he said.  “May I get in touch with you?”

“Sure.”  She handed him a business card with her contact information.  She also gave him some handouts.

“Well, I must be getting back to my class,” he said.  “I’ll walk with you to the front entrance.”

“Thank you.”  She gathered her things and followed him out of the auditorium.  They went down the hallway to the front entrance.  At the doors, he turned to her.  They shook hands again and said goodbye.

A couple days later, she received a phone call from him.  “Hi, Michelle.  It’s Jordan.”

Her heart started to beat fast.  “Hi Jordan,” she leaned back in her chair and swung round so that she was facing the window.  It was so good hearing from him.  After meeting him that first time at the school, she hadn’t been able to think of anything else.  She had been looking forward to hearing from him.  “How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you.  How about you?  Have you been giving any more presentations?”

“I’m doing well, thanks.  I have another one next week.”

“Are you nervous?”

“Not yet,” she laughed.

There was a brief pause, then, “I’d like to learn more about what you do—over dinner.”

She sat up.  “Dinner?”

“Yes.  I would like you to have dinner with me tonight, unless… you have other plans?”

She shook her head at once but then realized that he couldn’t see that.  “No, I don’t have any plans.”  And even if she did, she would cancel them, for sure.

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at seven. ”

“I hope you don’t get bored hearing me talk about my work,” she said.

“I won’t,” he promised.  They spoke for a couple more minutes and then the call ended.

He showed up promptly at seven, looking amazing in a white shirt and a navy blue suit.  She was wearing a salmon colored, spaghetti strapped dress which complimented her complexion and her hair was pulled back in a French twist updo.  She smiled when she saw the way he looked at her.  Clearly he liked what he saw.

Dinner was a fun affair.  He started out asking her questions about her work and then questions about herself.  It seemed like he would have been content just talking about her but she wanted to learn about him.  He was a Political Science teacher and had been teaching for fifteen years.  His father was British and his mother, Irish.  He had two brothers and a sister.  He was the second oldest.  When he wasn’t in a classroom, he was on the tennis court or in the gym or reading or spending time with his family and friends.  His favorite movie was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, his favorite book To Kill A Mockingbird was and his favorite song was Hotel California.

They laughed and talked about all sorts of things.  Then, when they were having their dessert, he said, “I have a confession to make.  I heard most of your presentation but I was distracted.”

She frowned.  “Distracted?”

“Yes.  I was distracted by you.  I couldn’t get over how amazing you looked and how much I was looking forward to meeting you.  I waited until the coast was clear and then I came over and introduced myself.  You were even more stunning up close.  I’m surprised I was able to speak.”

She laughed.  “I was a bit tongue-tied, myself,” she admitted.  “I remember thinking that none of my male teachers looked like you.”

He reached over and covered her hand as it lay on the table.  His eyes were serious as they met hers.  “I’d like to see you again,” he said.  “Are you busy on Sunday?”

She usually went to church in the morning and then spent the rest of the day, getting ready for work the next day. “No, I’m not busy then.”

“How about going with me on a lunch jazz cruise on the Thames?”

“That sounds wonderful.”  She had never been on a cruise or on the Thames before.  What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  She couldn’t wait.

He picked up his glass, his eyes holding hers in a steady gaze.  “Here’s to an amazing evening and to many more like it.”

She smiled as she raised her glass.  “Cheers.”

Source:  Get Your GuideQuotesWomenOne

Healing and Hope

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

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

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

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

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

Broke to Blessed

He sat in a corner under the bridge.  It was raining so he huddled against the wall, wrapped in his dingy blankets, trying to keep warm.  He longed for a cup of coffee but he didn’t want to go out into the wet to beg.  From where he sat, he could see the busy street and the heavy traffic.  He watched the people walking to their jobs, schools, slipping into coffee shops or heading down to the subway.    He used to be like that.  He used to be going somewhere.  He didn’t walk though.  He was driven wherever he needed to go.  He used to watch the crowds from the back of a limo, tapping his fingers impatiently as he had to sit in traffic.  While they were out in the cold or rain, he was warm or dry in the limo.  Life treated him very well.  He had it all but then he lost it all…

He started when he saw a van approach and stop.  It sat there for a couple of minutes before the doors opened and two young people emerged.  Slowly, they approached him.  He was not thrilled about this intrusion.  He was never one for socializing.  He only dealt with people when he had to.  His relationships had failed because he was not ready for any commitments and marriage was not on the radar.  He didn’t have any friends—only acquaintances.  He was satisfied with how life was.  It had been lonely at times but he had his millions to keep him comfortable.  Then, he had lost it all through bad investments…

They went under the bridge and stood opposite to where he sat.  The girl smiled at him.  She looked about twenty.  Under the grey hood were wisps of blonde hair.  She was pretty in a simple sort of way.  Not the type he would have been interested in or even considered dating.  Coming closer, she said, “Hi, I am Jenny and this is Mark.  We are with the Hands of Love program.  We are a ministry that provides sandwiches and hot tea to the homeless.”  She reached into the bag she was carrying and took out something wrapped in foil.  Mark had a cup in his hand.  They both held out their hands for him to take what they were offering.

He hesitated.  This seemed a little too good to be true.  He eyed them with suspicion.  He was never one to believe that you get something for nothing.  And he couldn’t believe that people would go to all of this trouble for someone in his situation.  He never lifted a finger to help anyone in need.  He had looked at the homeless with disgust, thinking that they had gotten themselves in that mess and that he wasn’t going to waste his hard earned money on the likes of them.  Little did he know that one day he would be in their shoes.   And here were these two perfect strangers who were offering him something to eat and drink and his old selfish nature was struggling to grasp this reality.  They must want something in return, but what could he possibly give them?  He had nothing.

“What do you want from me?” he demanded, his eyes challenging as he looked at the girl.  Her smile didn’t waver.  She didn’t seem at all put out.  “Nothing,” she assured him.  “I don’t want anything from you.  I am here to show you that you are not alone and that there is a Savior who loves you.”

His expression grew hard.  “Savior who loves me?” he asked.  “Where was He when I lost everything?”  He knew that he wasn’t been fair.  Bad investments got him where he was.  He had had not use for the Bible or Jesus when he was enjoying his millions.  Now that he was broke, he felt an irrational anger toward God.

The girl said to him, “He was there all the time.  It was not His will that you should lose everything and end up here but it is not too late for Him to help you.  All you need to do is trust Him.  I will leave you a Bible and there’s a story that I think you should read.  It’s about the rich young man.”

The rich young man?  His curiosity was piqued.  He wanted to read the story.  “Okay, I will read the story but I would like to have the sandwich and tea now.”  He took the sandwich and tea.  He carefully set the cup down and ripped open the foil.  He hungrily bit into the sandwich.

The girl went over to the van and came back with a small Bible which she set down next to the cup of tea.  “We have to go now,” she said.  “Before we leave, would you like us to pray for you?”

He shook his head.  “No thanks,” was all he managed to say as he devoured the sandwiches.

The young people turned and headed back to the van.  They drove away and he was alone again.

In no time the sandwiches were eaten.  He carefully crunched up the foil and tossed it away.  He wished he had asked them for money.  He was going to be hungry again.  He reached for the cup of tea, savoring the heat against his fingers.  As he sipped the hot liquid, he thought of the two young people, especially the girl, who intruded upon his world.  She was not intimidated by him or discouraged by his rudeness.   Her demeanor had not changed.  Her face was filled with a joy and peace that he had never experienced.  Where did she get it from?  He remembered the Bible she had left and he picked it up.  He saw that she had marked the page where the story of the Rich Young Man was.  Why that story? He wondered.  Why did she pick that particular story?  She couldn’t have known that he was once a rich man could she?

He opened the Bible to Mark 10 and began to read.  When he got to the end of the story, he felt that it was speaking about him.  He had put his millions before God.  His money had become his god.  Then, he lost it all and now he was homeless.   If he had only accepted the invitation to accept Christ, he would not be here.  Was it too late?

“When you seek me, you will find me.  I am always here.”  Those words brought tears to his eyes and he found himself sobbing.

“Lord, forgive me for loving my money more than you.  Forgive me for being selfish and uncaring to others.”  A peace that he never knew existed came over him and he knew that God was there with him.  He was not alone.  His life was about to change again but this time it was for the best.  It had to take becoming broke and losing everything before he would accept the blessings of God.  It was a hard lesson to learn but it paid off.

man-praying

 

Women’s Fellowship

Years ago, I was part of the Women’s Ministry at my church and one of the things I really liked about it was the fellowship.  We would hold programs like “Lunch and Learn” where women would come together at someone’s home and a pastor or a speaker is invited to share a profound message with us.  Then afterwards, we would enjoy a potluck while uplifting Gospel music played in the background.  I have enjoyed the Women’s Ministries’ yearly three day retreats where I was blessed with Friday night vespers, a Sabbath school program and worship on Saturday morning and workshops in the afternoon.  On Sunday we had breakfast and more workshops before we closed the wonderful three day event with prayer.  Women’s Ministries also offer seminars where women come together and share their testimonies.  It’s during these times when women dig into God’s Word, encourage, pray for and fellowship with each other.  Women’s Ministries have truly been a blessing for me and countless of women.

Can you imagine not having a Women’s Ministry or not being able to fellowship with other women?  Nor can I.  It would be hard for the thousands of women all across South Asia not to be able to attend a weekly Women’s Fellowship group.   Through this group, they learn God’s Word, memorize Scripture, pray, reach out and worship the God who reached out to them–Asia’s most unreached group.  God is working to change thousands of lives.

Many of us know what it’s like to fellowship with other believers and how being a part of a prayer group or Bible Study class has helped us in our spiritual growth.  Women in Asia need the same close fellowship as many of them come from families who don’t know Christ.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could find a fellowship group where they can pray and study God’s Word?  Well, you can help to make this possible.  How?  Through prayer.  Gospel for Asia has put together this list of prayer requests:

  • Pray for Women’s Fellowship so that more women can be reached
  • Pray for women to understand Christ’s love and acceptance
  • Pray for more leaders
  • Pray for transformation of lives and families
  • Pray for God to empower women as they share
  • Pray for the Women’s Health Project and the Women’s Literacy Program

Women’s Fellowships are usually led by a woman missionary, a pastor’s wife or a godly believer in the church.  A growing congregation needs someone to lead and mature women are best suited to teach the other women.    Their experience and wisdom will help to guide the younger women.

Likewise, older women should be reverent in behavior, and not be false accusers, not be enslaved to much wine, but teachers of good things, that they may teach the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  and to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored – Titus 2:3-5.

As Christian women, we have duties towards each other.  So, let us encourage one another through prayers, ministries, Bible studies, fellowships and worship.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia