One Afternoon Break

The first time he saw her, it was on Monday.  She was walking down the street.  In her hand was a red school satchel.  She looked at him as she walked past.  He was sitting on the rail outside of the building where he worked.  It was during his afternoon break which he usually took a half hour earlier.  He was looking in the opposite direction but he could feel that someone was staring at him and he turned his head.  Their eyes met and held.

She couldn’t have been more than eighteen although she looked younger. She was wearing a yellow shirt tucked into a knee length denim skirt and a pair of black low heel sandals.  Her thick hair framed her face.  She was a very pretty girl.  He couldn’t help staring at her.  He knew that there was a high school a couple of blocks away.  Perhaps she was on her way home because it was last three thirty.

He started going for his break at three thirty when he knew that he would see her.  And when she walked by, he smiled and said hello.  He found himself looking forward to seeing her.  Many times, he thought to himself, This is crazy.  I’m twenty-nine years old and here I am, attracted to a high school girl.  Yes, I must be losing my mind.  Yet the thought didn’t prevent him from wanting to see her and get to know her.  He made up his mind that before the week ended, he was going to talk to her.

That Friday, he got his chance.  Since it was the last Friday of the month, he was dressed casually.  As he waited for her, he thought about what he was going to say to her.  He was nervous and excited at the same time.  When, he saw her coming towards him, his heart began to beat fast.  He rubbed his hands nervously together and tried to look calm.

As she got closer, he stood up.  His eyes traveled eagerly over her small frame in the tee shirt and jeans.  “Hello.”

To his surprise, she stopped and said, “Hello.”  Then, she handed him a flyer which he readily took from her.

He looked at it.  It was an invitation to a benefit concert at a church two weeks away.  “Thank you,” he said as he folded it and put it in his pants pocket.  “What’s your name?”

“Staci.”

“Mine is Aaron.”  He held out my hand and she put hers in it.  It was so soft and tiny.

“Do you work here?” she asked, glancing over her shoulder.

He nodded.  “Yes.  I’ve been working here since I left university several years ago.   Are you on your way home from school?”

“Yes.  My school is a couple of blocks from here.”

“Do you live close by?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I have to take the bus to get home.  The bus stop is just around the next corner.”  She glanced at her watch.  “I should go.”

“Don’t go, Staci.  Stay and talk with me for a while.”

“All right.”  She set her satchel down on the pavement and leaned against the rail next to me.  He turned so that he was facing her.  She looked shyly up at him before she looked away.

“Are you a junior?”

“No, I’m a senior.  I’m graduating in June.”

“Do you have a major as yet?”

“Yes.  Computer Science.”

He was impressed.  “Good for you.  You’ll be the first person I know in a field which needs more women.”

“My father always encouraged me to work hard and to believe that I can do anything I set my mind to.  He believed in gender equality.”

“So do I.  Your father sounds like a remarkable man.”

“He was.  It has been eight years since he died.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  Do you have any brothers and sisters?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I’m an only child.”

“What about other family?”

“They’re in Grenada.”

“So, now it’s just your mother and you living here in London then?”

“Yes, but she isn’t well.  She has Multiple Sclerosis.”

He looked alarmed.  “How are you managing her illness while going to school?”

“We have a home care provider who takes care of her.  I take care of cleaning the apartment, the laundry, the grocery shopping and the cooking.”

“How old are you?”

“Eighteen.”

“You’re pretty young to have so much responsibility.”

“I don’t mind.  My mother can’t do those things anymore.”

“You don’t have much of a social life.  Don’t you miss hanging out with your friends?”

“Not really.”

“Do you know how to roller-blade?”

“Yes.”

“Great.  How about you and me rollerblading this Sunday?”

She looked hesitant.  “I’m not sure…”

“Come on.  It will be fun.  And I’m sure your mother wouldn’t mind.”

She smiled.  “All right.”

They talked for a while longer and then she had to go home and he had to return to his job.  They arranged to meet at a park.  “I’m looking forward to seeing you on Sunday,” he said as he gazed down into her upturned face.

“Me too,” she said shyly.  Then, she picked up her satchel, waved at him and hurried off.  He stood there watching her until she disappeared from his view before he went into the air conditioned office building.  He couldn’t wait to see her again.

Sunday came and they went rollerblading and then grabbed something to eat afterwards.  He gave her a lift home.  They saw each other every afternoon during the week and went different places on Sunday.   He didn’t see her sunset Friday to sunset Saturday because it was her Sabbath.  She was a Seventh-day Adventist.  He went to the concert she invited him to and he really enjoyed it.  The following Saturday, he went to church and sat next to her.

Afterwards, she invited him home for lunch.  He met her mother and Maureen, the woman who was taking care of her.  Mrs. Brown’s was confined to a wheelchair.  Looking at her, he could tell that she was once a very beautiful woman.  Her speech was slurred and her voice was so low at times that he had trouble hearing her.  Seeing her hit home how hard it must be for Staci to see her like that.  It was after seven when he left.

He and Staci continued to see each other and he soon realized that he was falling in love with her which just blew his mind.  In two months he was going to be thirty years old.  If his family and friends knew about her, they would strongly object and not only because of the age difference.  He wanted to invite her over to his place but he knew that she probably wouldn’t think that it was a good idea.  They couldn’t be alone.  There would have to be a chaperone present.  So, when they were out on the road, they were at her home.  woman-in-red-shirt-2732990

Then, one day, he had just taken a shower after going to the gym and had barely gotten dressed when his doorbell rang.  He peered through the keyhole and was surprised to see Staci.  When he opened the door, he saw that she had been crying.  He quickly drew her into his flat and after locking the door, he turned to face her, alarmed.  “What’s the matter, Staci?” he asked.

Tears welled in her eyes. “My mother’s dead,” she managed to say before she broke down.

“Oh, Honey, I’m so sorry for your loss.”  He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly as she buried her face in shirt, her body shaking with the sobs.

They stood there like that for several minutes.  When her sobs subsided, she raised her head.  He released her to cup her face between his hands.  He wiped away her tears with his thumbs.  He wanted so badly to kiss her but now wasn’t the right time.

She stared at him, feeling guilty because she was wondering what it would be like to kiss him.  “I’d better go.”

“Let me take you home.”

She didn’t answer but let him take her to his car.  In the car, he held her hand.  When they go to the apartment, she invited him in.  Maureen, her mother’s former caretaker informed her that the funeral home came and took the body away.  “Do you have someone you can stay with?” she asked.

Staci shook her head.

“You shouldn’t be here by yourself, at least not for a while.” Maureen said.

“I’ll manage.”

“Well, if you need anything, call me.”

“I will.”  They hugged and then, Maureen left.

When they were alone, Aaron said to her, “She’s right.  You shouldn’t be here on your own.  Why don’t you come and stay with me?”

Staci shook her head.  “I can’t.  It isn’t right for a single man and woman to be living under the same roof especially when…”

“Especially when they are attracted to each other.  I understand.  Still, I’m not comfortable with you being here by yourself.”

“I’ll be fine.  Besides, people from the church will be dropping by to make sure that I’m all right.”

“Okay, but I too will come by every single day to make sure that you’re all right.”

“All right.”

He stayed with her until late that night.  He and some members of the church helped her with the funeral arrangements.  Her aunt and cousins flew in Grenada the day before the funeral.  They stayed at a hotel because they didn’t want to sleep in the apartment because that was where her mother died.  They stayed for a week and then left.  Staci stayed in the apartment and continued to pay the rent until it was time for her to go to university in September.  She told Aaron that she had decided that she was going to live on campus or nearby where there was affordable student housing until she graduated.  They were sitting on a park bench facing the pond.

He reached for her hands.  “Marry me, Staci” he said urgently.

She gulped.  “Marry you?”

“Yes.”

“Why do you want to marry me?”

“I want to because I love you, Staci.”

“I–I love you too, Aaron.”  Her heart was pounding wildly.  “But, are you sure you want me, a high school senior to be your wife?”

“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.  Marry me.”

“All right.”

He leaned over and kissed her.  When he drew back, they were both breathing heavily.  “We’ll get married and then, you’ll move into my place.  It isn’t far from the university campus.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“I want you to know that while you concentrate on your studies I can take care of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and ironing.”

She shook her head at once.  “No, Aaron.  As your wife, I want to take care of you and our home.  So, on the weekends, I will cook for the week, clean, do the laundry and ironing.  All you have to do is to pick up the groceries.”

“All right but if at anytime you need me to step in and take over, please let me know.”

“I will,” she promised.

“And it’s totally up to you when you want us to start a family.  We can wait until you have finished university and have settled into your career.  We can wait up to ten years if you like.”

She reached up and kissed him on the lips and then, slipping her hand in his, she said, “I prayed that one day I would meet, fall in love and marry a good man and here you are.  God answered my prayer.”

He gently squeezed her hand.  “I always believed that there was a special someone out there for me.  And then, one afternoon you walked into my life.  I believe that some people are meant to be together.”

“And I believe that God brought us together at the perfect time.  I had my mother all of my life and now I will have you for the rest of it.”

“Yes, you will,” he murmured huskily before he kissed her again.

They went for pre-marital counseling with her pastor who initially was concerned about the age difference but his concerns were allayed when he saw how much they were in love and how compatible.  Aaron began Bible Studies with him and was baptized shortly after.

After Staci graduated from high school, Aaron and she got married.  Her cousins, school friends and his co-workers as well as most of the church members were present.  Not surprisingly, his family wasn’t there.  It stung of course, but he didn’t allow it to spoil the wedding or their ten day honeymoon in breathtakingly beautiful Bali.

Source:  National MS Society; Wedding Wire

 

 

Called

Ah, Lord GOD!  Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth – Jeremiah 1:6

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Image by Freepik

When God called me to be a pastor, I was scared.  I felt that at 26, I was too young to be lead the congregation of a megachurch here in Birmingham, Alabama but while I was praying about it, the Holy Spirit brought the calling of prophet Jeremiah to my mind.

He was young too when God called to be a prophet which is a tremendous responsibility and the youth protested because he didn’t feel qualified because of his age.  But God quickly addressed his concerns with these words, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak.  I think what probably cinched it for Jeremiah when the Lord told him him not to be afraid of the people and promised to be with him to deliver him.

I realized that I wasn’t in this alone.  God called me and he was going to be with me just as He was with Jeremiah.  All I had to do was to do whatever He commanded.  I stepped out in faith and showed up at the church I was to pastor and the rest, as they say is history.  I just celebrated my tenth anniversary as pastor and I’m still going strong, thanks to God who not only called me to serve Him but qualified me to do it to His glory.

My experience has taught me that we are never too young of too old to be used by God.  He will equip us for the work He calls us to do and He will be with us every step of the way.  We have nothing to fear or worry about because He promises to be with us.  Like Jeremiah, we don’t have to worry about what to say.  God will give us the words.  He will put the words in our mouths when the time comes for us to teach, share the Gospel or in my case, to preach.  Just trust and obey Him and He will do the rest.

The above is a story of fiction but it was inspired by David Platt, who at the age of 26, was hired to lead the congregation of The Church at Brook Hills, a megachurch in Birmingham, Alabama. He was the youngest megachurch pastor in America at the time.  Like the prophet, Jeremiah, he is a testimony that age isn’t a factor when it comes to serving God.

Source:  Bible Gateway

Do it

Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it – Chuck Palahniuk

Change is a good thing–sometimes.  It takes courage to step outside of your comfort zone and follow your dreams wherever they take you.  You will have the naysayers and doubters on the side lines giving you all sorts of reasons why change isn’t good but it’s up to you if you will let them discourage you.  Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and not because you feel pressured or want to prove something.  If you believe that it’s time for a change, do it.  Don’t allow fear, doubt or what other people say to stop you.

You will know if the change you are making is the right one.  There will be a sense of peace and purpose.  One of my co-workers decided to pack up, leave Toronto and move to Omaha to be with her boyfriend.  She had no reservations because she believed that she was doing what was best for her.

If it’s a career change you are thinking of making, figure out what you want to do before you quit your job.  You can enroll in night school courses.  Once you have found a job in your new career, you can quit your current one and pat yourself on the back for taking a leap of faith.

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This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompts for today’s word, Change.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Sources:  Brainy Quote; Ms. Career Girl; Toronto School District Board

Parenting

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye – Psalm 32:8

From the time we are born, our parents are there to care for us.  We don’t have to worry about anything.  They provide for our basic needs.  As we get older, they offer us guidance and instructions.  We listen to them most of the time because we know that they want what is best for us.  There are times when we want to do things our way and soon learn that our way is not best and can lead us into trouble.

Our parents God’s stewards.  He entrusted them with the awesome responsibility of raising us to be godly examples to others.  It is no different from the parents we read of in the Bible like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jesse and his wife, Zechariah and Elizabeth and Joseph and Mary.  Some of them made mistakes but they trusted in God to help them to raise their children.

God is our Father and like our earthly parents, He takes care of us.  He provides for us, teaches and disciplines us.  Moses told the children of Israel, “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you” (Deuteronomy 8:5).  When God does this, it isn’t pleasant, of course just like when our parents spank us or punish us, it feels terrible.  It’s painful but they do it because it’s necessary.  They want to do away with a behavior or habit that is problematic.  According to King Solomon, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24).  Although it may be painful for us, God’s chastisement is motivated by love.  “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6).

Parents raise their children as best as they can.  They train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).   Some children turn out well while others don’t.  Don’t be discouraged when you’re having problems with your child.  Continue doing your best and pray.  I’ve been having issues with my son lately and this morning when I was worshipping, the Lord put it in my heart to sing, What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  These words spoke to me, giving me comfort and encouragement:

Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Discipline is also an expression of love, although, the child might not think so at the time but in retrospect, he or she will see that their parents acted out of love and for their best interest.  As parents, we are guides, teachers, disciplinarians, stewards and role models.  We have to reflect God’s character if we want our children to be like Him.  Parenting is a huge responsibility but it is also a blessing and a privilege.

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Hymnal Net

Keeping Them Safe

Childhood is the most beautiful of all life’s seasons – Author Unknown

Remember when you were a child how you used to blow bubbles and your face lit up with excitement when you got really big ones?  Oh, the simple things in life that children enjoy.  If only they could remain in their little world of wonder, exploration, discovery and innocence.

As a parent, I wish I could keep my son in a bubble where evil people didn’t exist.  I wish he didn’t have to be told not to talk to or go anywhere with strangers.  Growing up in Guyana, children could play in safety.  When their parents weren’t around, neighbors would watch out for them.  I lived in a bubble. There were so many things I didn’t know about or was exposed to.  I never knew that sexual predators existed or ever heard about pedophilia until I moved to North America.  Maybe those things existed but I wasn’t privy to them and I’m thankful for that because I don’t know how the knowledge would have affected my childish brain.

Is it foolish or naive to want to protect your children from what is out there?  Are we helping them when we put off telling them about the dangers that exist?  There are things I wish I never knew about but would I be any better off living in ignorance?  Is ignorance really bliss?  Not in this age when lack of knowledge and little or no awareness can make the difference between our safety and harm.  Our children need to know that there are dangerous people out there who wouldn’t think twice about harming them or worse…

How do you tell them?  You can do it in such a way that they don’t get scared or anxious.  My ten year old suggests that the parent tell the child a story because a child would rather listen to a story than hear the message spoken plainly.  This reminds me of Jesus who spoke to people in parables when He wanted to teach them valuable lessons.

Other ways to keep our kids safe when they are away from home, school, in the street, the park or playground are colouring pictures, quizzes, activities or stories.  Having your child practice ‘Just say NO to strangers’ rule particularly through supervised role play gives him or her the confidence to deal if a stranger approaches and tries to trick them into getting into a car or pretends to have a lost dog or gift for the child.

To find websites that may help parents, teachers or caretakers to teach children about stranger danger and child protection, please click on this link.  In the News clip featuring Safety Now – Stranger Danger, parents were disturbed to see how a friendly stranger was able to lure some children away to help him to find his lost dog.  At the end of the video, the following tips are given:

  • Don’t take you eyes off the child
  • The child should back away
  • The child should yell and run to a parent

Dr. Phil said that there are steps we can take to protect our kids without scaring them.  Here are the steps:

  • Talk to your kids early and often. Teach them to self-protect. Don’t be afraid that you’ll make them paranoid. Children actually feel empowered when they feel understand that they have the power to protect themselves.
  • Don’t ask children to deal with adult issues. Explain things in terms they can understand, such as good and evil. Don’t share the gory details with them.
  • Tell your kids to avoid strangers. Adults just don’t ask kids for directions.
  • While it’s important for children to respect adults and those in authority, give them permission to act impolite, rude, or scream and yell when they feel that something’s not right. It’s OK for them to make a scene or to yell for help, and let them know they will not get in trouble if they were mistaken.
  • Teach kids to yell with specificity: “This is not my Daddy!” or “Somebody help me!”

The safety of our children is our responsibility.   They have a right to grow up and feel safe.

Sources:  Free for Kids; YouTube; Quotey Quotes; Dr. Phil

A Father’s Wish

The arias which always helped him to relax and enjoy his evenings did nothing to quell the uneasiness plaguing him.  He switched off the radio and the silence which followed was a painful reminder that he was alone.  It was near mid-night and she wasn’t home as yet.  Where on earth could she be?  He had tried calling her cell many times but it was turned off.  When he came home that afternoon, she wasn’t there but he thought nothing of it.  She was probably with her friends or at the library.  However, as it got late and she hadn’t come home or called, he began to get worried.  A couple of hours earlier, he looked across the street and saw a group of young people congregate outside of his neighbor’s home but she wasn’t among them.

He put off calling her friends because he didn’t want to come across as overprotective but eventually, he had no choice.  None of them knew where she was but promised to call him if they heard anything.  He closed his eyes in despair.  Tonight was supposed to be a special one.  He was going to tell her that he loved her but first they were going to enjoy the dinner he had prepared for them.  It was probably cold by now.  Oh, Rebecca, where are you?  Why don’t you call me?  It was not like her to do this.  He was out of his mind with worry.

The last time he felt like this was nine years ago when they were in the shopping mall and somehow they got separated.  One minute she was right there beside him and the next she was gone.  Frantic, he went through the mall, looking for her until finally, he went to the courtesy desk and asked them to make an announcement.

Ten minutes later, the embarrassed and distressed twelve year old showed up.  After hugging her tightly, they left the mall with him holding her hand in a firm grip.  He didn’t lecture her right away because she was visibly upset.  Suffice to say, they never got separated again whenever they went out together.

He would never forget the first time he met Rebecca.  She was eight at the time and it was at the company’s annual summer picnic.  Her father brought her with him that year.  It was two years after her mother died.  She and her father have moved out of the house and to a flat in the old neighborhood where he grew up.  He and her father worked together and over the years, they had become very good friends.  He always used to tell him, “I hope that Becky ends up marrying a good man like you, Noel.”

Rebecca stared up at him with those huge brown eyes and stole his heart.  So, three years later on that fateful day in the hospital when Clyde asked him to become her guardian he said yes.  Clyde died two days later and was buried next to his beloved wife.  Noel took Rebecca home and raised her as if she were his own daughter.  He was thirty at the time.

They had a very close and loving relationship. He took her to museums, concerts, operas, on day trips and the movies.  His life was never the same and he was thankful for that.  She filled his heart and home with such joy.  Whenever they visited her parents’ graves, he would silently thank Clyde for bestowing such an awesome responsibility on him and promised him that he would make sure that Rebecca married a good man.

He knew that she still missed her father, especially when it was his birthday or Father’s Day and she always talked about how conversant he was with movie classics and that it was from him that she developed her love for them.  So, whenever it was her father’s birthday or Father’s Day, they would watch old movies on TCM in his memory.

Things continued in much the same vein until Rebecca turned eighteen.  That’s when his feelings toward her began to change.  It became increasingly hard for him to be around her and not want her.  He continued to kiss her on the forehead as they bid each other goodnight every evening but how he ached to kiss her on the lips.  He considered sending her away to college in Washington, but quickly squashed the idea because their separation would be unbearable for him.  They still spent a lot of time together but he encouraged her to hang out more with people her own age.  At first, she protested, preferring to be with him like old times but he insisted so, she acquiesced.

He remembered one night when she came home from a friend’s birthday party and was aghast at the dress she was wearing.  Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail, she wore makeup, the gold earrings he had given her as a birthday present and the dress–if you could call it that, was short, hugged her figure and had fine straps.  Her cleavage was there for the entire world to see.

His face suffused with color and he took a deep breath before he muttered, “Please go and take off that dress.”

She went and ten minutes later, she was wearing a pair of pajamas, her face was scrubbed clean and her hair fell about her shoulders.  She watched him warily.  “You’re angry with me,” she said.

He dragged his fingers through his hair as he struggled to remain calm.  His heart was racing.  He wasn’t upset with her only but with himself because of his body’s response to seeing her in that dress.  He was relieved to see her in the pajamas because they were a bit loose on her.  “Rebecca, what were you thinking wearing a dress like that?”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I wanted to look good.”

“Wanting to look good doesn’t mean you should expose yourself like that.  That dress was tacky.  You’re a beautiful young woman, Rebecca.  You don’t need to flaunt yourself in order to fit in.  I don’t care if your friends are wearing those kinds of dresses, I only care about you and so, I don’t ever want to see you in a dress like that ever again.”

She nodded.  “All right, Noel.  I won’t dress like that again, I promise.”

“Do you still have the receipt?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.  Tomorrow, I would like you to return it.  I’m surprised they sold it to you.”

“I’ll return it right after school.”  She went over to him, her eyes wide as they met his.  She put her arms around his neck and hugged him, burying her face in his chest.

At first he stood there, stiff as a board, unresponsive and then he put his arms around her waist and hugged her tightly, closing his eyes as strong emotions washed over him like a tidal wave.  After several tortuous minutes, he extricated himself and put a little distance between them, his eyes dark and stormy as they returned her gaze.  “Goodnight, Rebecca,” he said quietly.

“Goodnight, Noel.” She hesitated for a moment and then turned and walked out of the room.  He watched her go.  He had dared not give her the usual kiss on the forehead because he might have ended up devouring her lips instead.

The loud peal of the phone jolted him back to the present and he grabbed the receiver, his heart thudding.  “Hello?”

It was Chloe, one of Rebecca’s friends.  “Hello, Mr. Harding.  I’m sorry to be calling at such a late hour but I thought you might want to know that one of our friends saw Becky talking to a woman right outside of the university campus.  She said they looked like they were having words and then Becky ran off, very upset.”

“Did you friend describe what this woman looked like?”

“She said that she was blonde, stunning and drove a red Porsche.”

His fingers tightened around the phone.  Emma.  “Thank you, Chloe, for calling and letting me know.”

“Has Becky come home as yet?” She sounded very concerned.

“No, I’m afraid not.  When she does, I will have her call you in the morning.  Goodnight, Chloe.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Harding.”

As soon as he rang off from Chloe, he dialed Emma’s number, fuming.

“Hello, Noel.  Why are you calling me instead of coming over?”

He ignored her question.  “Why were you here this afternoon?”

“I stopped by to see you, of course.  Where were you?”

“What do you say to Rebecca?”

“Why what did she tell you?”

“I haven’t seen her since this morning and I’m out of my mind with worry.”

“Well, she’s probably doing this to spite you.  When I came by, she looked at me as if I were trespassing and when I told her that we were seeing each other, she as much as called me a liar.  So, I showed her a photo of the two of us together–you know the one I asked the waitress to take of us when were having dinner at that Italian restaurant? You should have seen her face.  I told her that she was only there because of the promise you made to her father–”

“How dare you tell her that?” he demanded furiously.  “I agreed to be her guardian because I loved her.   She means the world to me.  Damn you, Emma.  Don’t ever show your face around here again.”  He slammed the phone, shaking.  He could kick himself for ever getting involved with her.

He went to the window and looked out, his forehead pressing against the glass.  It was then in a moment of sheer desperation, that he mouthed a silent prayer, his eyes squeezed shut.

“Noel?” a timid voice called behind him.

Swinging around, he found himself staring at Rebecca.  For a moment, he thought it was a figment of his imagination.  Had God answered his prayer that quickly?  In a flash, he was across the room and pulling her roughly in his arms.  “Oh, Rebecca,” he moaned.  “Where have you been?  Have you any idea of the torment you’ve put me through?”  He drew back to stare down into her face.  She had been crying.  Her eyes were red and swollen.  Even now, tears were glistening in them.

“I’m-I’m sorry,” she cried.  “I didn’t mean to worry you but I was so upset this afternoon.  I had just come home from the library when I heard the doorbell.  It was a woman I’d never seen before.  She asked for you and when I asked her who she was, she told me that the two of you had been seeing each other.  I didn’t want to believe her and told her that she was lying.  She showed me a photo of the two of you and I realized that she was telling the truth.  I got so jealous and upset that after she left, I left too.  I couldn’t stay here.  I had to get out and go somewhere–anywhere.

“I went to Daddy’s grave and stayed for a long time, telling him about you and how much it hurt that you were with someone else.  On the day after my eighteenth birthday, I told him that I was in love with you and that I’d loved you since I was eight.  That day when I first saw you, I thought that you were the tallest and handsomest man I’d ever seen.   And you were so kind to me.  Next to my father, you were the only other person I really and truly loved.   I love my mother but I didn’t know her.

“Anyway, I told my father things that I never told another soul.  I know he can’t hear me but it helps to talk about things whenever I visit his grave.  I imagine that he’s listening.  This afternoon being at his grave didn’t help so I left there and went to the park you used to take me to when I was a child.  I sat in the same bench we used to sit on and I wished that you were there so that I could yell at you, let you see how much I was hurting inside.

“After I left the park, I just wandered all over the place, trying to forget about you and her but I couldn’t get the photo out of my mind.  You had your arm around her shoulders and you were smiling.  You looked happy…” her voice broke and a sob rose from her throat.  Tears fell afresh down her cheeks and she tried to push him away.

He caught her hands and held her immobile, his own emotions evident on his face.  “She doesn’t make me happy,” he told her thickly.  “You do.  My life wasn’t complete until you came into it, Rebecca.  You filled it with so much joy.  The moment I met you, my heart belonged to you.  I loved you as a father loves his beloved child but when you grew up, that love changed.  It turned into the love a man has for a woman.  What I’m trying to say, Rebecca, is that I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you–not as your guardian but as your husband.”

She blinked at him.  “You want to marry me?” she asked.

He nodded.  “Yes.”

“Oh, Noel,” she cried, her heart in her eyes which were sparkling now.  She reached up and kissed him on the mouth.

Groaning, he released her hands and cupped her face between his hands as he kissed her passionately, letting go of all the pent up feelings he had kept bottled up inside for so long.  For several minutes, they exchanged hungry kisses and then, he raised his head to gaze down at her, his face flushed and his eyes dark with desire.  “I won’t make love to you now although I want to very badly,” he muttered, breathing heavily.  “I want us to wait until we are married.”

Disappointment clouded her face.  She was on fire and ached for him.  “I don’t know if I can wait,” she admitted, trying to catch her breath.

“We’ve waited for four years, so six months wouldn’t hurt–”

Six months,” she exclaimed.  “That’s too long.”

“That’s when you turn twenty-two,” he reminded her.

“I can’t wait until then.”

“What about three months?”

“Two weeks.”

“A month.”

“What about three weeks?”

He smiled.  “All right, three weeks, it is.”

She smiled because they had reached a compromise.  In three weeks, she was going to marry the man she had loved for most of her life.  “I love you, Noel,” she whispered.

“I love you too, Rebecca,” he replied before he lowered his head and kissed her.

Three weeks later, as they faced each other at the altar in front of their friends and his family, he smiled as he imagined Clyde saying to him, “I got my wish, Noel.  My girl is marrying a good man.”

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.