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.”

Black and white photo of mixed couple

Source:  Get Your GuideQuotesWomenOne

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Young and Divorced

It was hard to believe that

this was the same man she

married.  They had started

off so strong.  They were told

that they were too young to

get married but they believed

that they were ready.  Their

love was strong enough to

weather any storms that

would appear on the

horizon.  Or so she thought.

Then the honeymoon was

over and the troubles began.

 

First there were little dis-

agreements here and there

then they evolved into

bitter quarrels which ended

in stony silence.  They made

up after a while but the

damage had been done.

The love they once felt

for each other no longer

inhabited their hearts.

It was time to call it

quits.  The love had gone

and bitterness had taken

its place.

 

There was no hope of reconciliation.

Divorce was the only course

of action.  How she hated to

admit that everyone was

right.  The signs had been

there before they got married

but she had ignored them.

Now, she was paying dearly

for her mistake.

 

She filed for the divorce.

How she hated divorce.

It was like a stain upon

her life.  At age twenty-five,

she was a divorced woman.

How sad.  How degrading.

She was the first member

in her family to be divorced

a distinction she would have

gladly not have borne.

 

Now she must return to the

single life.  Single life as a

divorced woman.  What a

frightening thought.  She

packed her bags and stood

on the threshold, the open

door leading to a life, a future

without him.  She would

face what was out there

and this time, she would let

wisdom guide her.

 

Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom – Proverbs 4:7 

 

blonde woman looking out

Rescued

She came from Niger, a place notorious for child marriage.

Her name is Abayomi which means “she brings me joy”.

She was only 14 when her parents insisted that she got married

Abayomi was filled with horror.  She had heard stories of  girls

as young as seven years  old being sold into marriage.

She didn’t want to get married–yet.  And when she did she

wanted it to be her decision.  She wanted to go to school and

study to be a doctor.   Her pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

A year passed and she was set to marry a man twice her age.

She had a wedding dress and the dreaded day was approaching.

There seemed to be no hope.  She thought of running away but where

could she go?  She couldn’t stay here.   She  thought of the horrible stories

she heard of young girls losing their lives when their parents married  them

of because they were having children when they were too young.  She didn’t

want to end up like them.  She didn’t want to die in childbirth.

 

No.  I’m going to fight this, she resolved.  She continued to refuse the

arranged marriage until her father cancelled it.  And to her surprise,

he encouraged her to join UNFPA’s Action for Adolescent Girls programme.

When Abayomi went to the programme, she met other girls who had left

school to marry and some were even pregnant.  She was happy that she had

escaped the same fate.  She had her father to thank  for that.  What had made

him  change his mind after he had been so adamant?

 

She learned that he had met a Christian who told him about Jesus.   Curious, she

asked him what he knew about Jesus.  He explained that Jesus would not have

wanted him to force her into doing something against her will.  Then, he gave

the Gospel of John booklet the man had given him.  After everyone else had

gone to bed, she read stayed up to read the Gospel.

 

As Abayomi read how Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from

being stoned to death, she realized that she too had been rescued from a

terrible fate.  She felt the tears spill down her cheeks and sliding off the

bed , she knelt on the floor.  “Thank You, Jesus,” she prayed.  She decided right

there and then to give her heart to One who had seen her plight and had come

to her aid.

 

Abayomi continued with her education and is currently in medical school.  She

is also encouraging other girls to say no to child marriage.  And her parents have

changed their views of forced marriage.  They believe that she should have the

right to choose her own husband and to marry when she is ready.

 

Nigerian Girl

Sources:  UNFPA; The Telegraph; BBC

Words of Life

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path – Psalm 119:105

Right now I can walk into any bookstore and buy a Bible.  There are so many to choose from.  There are Bibles for men, women, teens, children and couples.  They are in different languages.  And there are different versions.  You have Study Bibles, Devotional Bibles, Life Application Bibles and even Spiritual Warfare Bibles.  Then we have audio Bibles, online Bibles.  The list goes on and on.  Some of us have more than one Bible.  Some churches give out free Bibles.

Bibles are available in most countries but not to new believers in Asia.  Many of them don’t own a Bible.  It’s hard for us to imagine not being able to read our Bibles everyday.  It’s where we go when we want to know more about Jesus or to grow spiritually and deepen our walk with Him.  We can use our Bibles for personal or group studies, witnessing and worship.  Believers in Asia aren’t able to do any of these things.  Can you imagine going to church and no one has a Bible, not even the pastor?

Try to imagine how different life would be for you if you didn’t have a Bible.  Now think of the believers in Asia who don’t have God’s Word to guide them daily in their spiritual lives.  Imagine not being able to share the Word with others.

The Bible is more than a book.  It is the living Word of God.  It brings hope, encouragement, light and joy to those who read it.  It is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).  It protects us from the attacks of the Devil.  It was the Word of God that Jesus used three times to defeat Satan in the wilderness.  It reveals who God is to us.  We learn about His will for our lives.  We have the Gospels which tell us about Jesus and His ministry.  It is from the Bible that we learn that, “…God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

The Word of God teaches us what our responsibilities are to God, society, authorities and our neighbors (Romans 12).  It gives us instructions on how to keep ourselves from conforming to the world (Philippians 4:8; Galatians 5:15).  It shows us how we can follow Jesus’ example when it comes to prayer, our relationship with God and how we treat others.  The Bible is our guide to right living and right thinking.  God speaks to us through the Word.

We go to the Bible when we have questions and doubts.  It addresses our fears and encourages us.  Paul explained why the Scriptures are so important in the believer’s life.  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living;  thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 Complete Jewish Bible).  The Bible is a must have for every believer.

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.

Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life,
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.

Help to bring the wonderful words of life to South Asia.  Find out how here.

Source:  Gospel for Asia

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

141d40db-6e51-4e95-a166-517ca74673a5

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

A Mother’s Hope

Children are our future.  It is our responsibility–no, it should be our mission to provide them with the tools that will enable them to have the future that God meant for them to have.  It is every mother’s hope to see her child rise above adversity, poverty and all the social ills that would oppress and impede progress.  Every mother has a right to believe that her child can have the life that she wants for him or her.  Nothing is impossible, especially when God is involved.  Mothers, keep the faith.  Teach your children to dream big and to reach for the stars. 

It’s every mother’s hope for her child to have a bright future.  It was Hannah’s hope that if God were to bless her with a son, he would serve the Lord all of his life.  What a wonderful prophet Samuel turned out to be!

While I was carrying my son, I tried to imagine what he would look like.  I dreamed that he would have huge dark eyes in a sweet face.  I was right.  I will never forget the day in the hospital when he looked up at me with those big beautiful eyes.   My heart melted, of course.  I wanted him to have the best that life could offer.   I wanted to keep him safe and care for him as best as I could with God’s help.  I am blessed to have a husband who is a terrific father and role model for our son.

My son is seven years old now and nothing has changed.  My hopes for his future are still the same.  My husband and I want him to have the best education we can afford so that he can grow up and be whatever he wants to be.  We encourage him to work hard.  I tell him that there are children in other parts of the world who cannot go to school because their parents cannot afford to send them or in some families only one child is able to go to school and it’s usually the boy.  I tell him that he has so much to be thankful for.  He lives in a house and has his own room while there are children who live in poverty.

Growing up, to me, my mother was very strict, more so than my father.  I remember once I wrote a very steamy story that somehow ended up in her possession and I knew I was in big trouble.  I was going to get a spanking from my father so I had to think quickly.  I wrote another story and when the opportunity came, I switched it with the other one.  You can imagine her surprise when she gave my father the letter and didn’t get the reaction she expected.  When she read it, she saw that it was a different one.  I don’t know what happened after that but the only thing that mattered to me at the time was that I didn’t get a spanking.  Over the years, my mother and I became very close.   I was very happy when I became a mother and watched as she held her only grandchild in her arms for the first time.  It wasn’t until I was older that she said, “You have your own life to live.”  Perhaps one day I may say that to my son although a part of me doesn’t want him to grow up.  No matter how old he is, he will always be my baby.  I take great comfort in the fact that God has great plans for his life.

It’s not easy being a mother.  It’s especially hard for the mothers in Asia who are struggling to provide for their families.  Imagine your children growing up illiterate, uneducated?  Education is the key to alleviating poverty, illiteracy and saving children from social evils like child labor and prostitution.  Children are God’s gifts and should be valued.  They are not worthless as some would have them think.  They are precious and deserve the best.

Although greater involvement by fathers – in all countries and cultures – is one of the most fundamental priorities for improving the care and upbringing of children, it is in practice the mothers who are the principal providers of care. And the first thing to be said is that however much a mother may love her children, it is all but impossible for her to provide high-quality child care if she herself is poor and oppressed, illiterate and uninformed, anaemic and unhealthy, has five or six other children, lives in a slum or shanty, has neither clean water nor safe sanitation, and if she is without the necessary support either from health services, or from her society, or from the father of her children.

The situation for mothers in South Asia sounds very dismal but true to His nature, God has found a way to reach out to them and their children.  Gospel for Asia has a wonderful program which can change the despair of the mothers in Asia to hope.  It can change the lives of children.  Bridge of Hope has helped more than 72,000 children so far and as a result thousands of families have found faith in Christ.  We can help a mother in Asia to have a Happy Mother’s day by sponsoring her child.  She can see her child get an education, receive a regular medical check-up, wear clean clothes and eat a daily meal.

Nothing pleases me more than to watch my son head into school each morning with his father, carrying a lunch bag and wearing his nice, clean and ironed uniform.  I know that he is going to school to learn so that one day, he will have a career and a future.  One day, he will be taking his kids to school too.  How grateful do you think a mother in Asia would be to see her child walking to school because someone decided to step in and make her hope a reality?

I encourage you to sponsor a Bridge of Hope child in honor of his or her mother.  Make this a Mother’s Day a very special one for a woman in Asia.  Give her the gift of hope–the hope of seeing her child have a great future.

Hope is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of a waking man – Pliny the Elder

Hope is the anchor of our souls. I know of no one who is not in need of hope – young or old, strong or weak, rich or poor – James E. Faust

Sources:  Gospel for Asia – MothersHope Quotes; Unicef

Eleanor Roosevelt

Earlier this month when I was reading about African American women who made a difference so that I could feature them in the special issue of Notes to Women newsletter, one name kept popping up–Eleanor Roosevelt.  I promised myself that I would do a little writeup on her.  And here we are.

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world” (http://www.udhr.org/history/biographies/bioer.htm).

She basically believed that charity begins at home.  And she reminds me of something a friend once said to me.  “The difficulty in following Jesus’ command is that we often pick and choose who we decide is our neighbour. We see our neighbour as the starving, AIDS infected person in the Third World or the orphan in a war torn country, needing our love and care but often perceive the homeless in our community as undeserving of our love.”

Eleanor’s childhood was a dreadfully unhappy one.  Her father was an alcoholic who was disowned by his family. Her mother, renowned for her beauty, was distant from her daughter whom she nicknamed “Granny” because she seemed to her old-fashioned. After Anna Roosevelt died of diphtheria in 1892, Eleanor, age eight, was raised by her maternal grandmother. She rarely saw her father thereafter, and he died of drink in 1894 when she was ten. These traumatic experiences affected Eleanor for life and she would harbor a constant yearning for unconditional love (http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/roos-elex.htm). 

Life didn’t improve much when when Eleanor married Franklin, a distant cousin and they had six children.  Eleanor had to deal with her overbearing mother-in-law who apparently told her grandchildren that their mother only bore them.  She tried to control Eleanor, making her daughter-in-law feel utterly dependent.  

Then Eleanor found out that Franklin was having an affair with Lucy Mercer, her secretary.  She offered him a divorce, but he declined for the sake of his political career and because his mother threatened to disinherit him if he did.  He and Eleanor never shared a bedroom after that, but their working relationship was respectful, for the time (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FranklinDRoosevelt).

Eleanor Roosevelt was the first First Lady to be more politically active, involving herself in causes like Civil Rights.  Perhaps it was because there was lack of charity in her own home that made Eleanor want to reach out to her community.   From early adulthood Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated herself to liberty, justice, and compassion for all.

Racial injustice came to her attention only after she reached the White House.   By that time, she was already active in promoting other groups’ causes. Before she married Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1905, she worked with the immigrants at the Rivington Street Settlement House. During World War I she helped improve conditions for US servicemen.When Franklin fell ill, leaving him crippled, she once again found herself standing up for someone whose value to society was doubted, this time her own husband. The 1921 experience deepened her concern for society’s unaccepted. Later the same decade she began her work promoting women’s causes. Women had just gained the right to vote, and Eleanor encouraged them to make the most of that right and run for office. 

After leaving the White House, Mrs. Roosevelt found herself more free than ever to promote equal rights for African Americans. During her final years she continued fighting as hard and fearlessly as ever. On at least one occassion, the Secret Service warned her not to keep a speaking engagement on civil disobedience. The Ku Klux Klan had put a price on her head and the Secret Service said they could not guarantee her safety. Undeterred, she traveled with another lady and her revolver. Such was her determination, independence, and courage right up to the year she died.

Mrs. Roosevelt was not always successful, even despairing at times of making any progress at all. And not every one of the causes she championed, such as the United Nations, turned out to be all that she hoped. But she used every ounce of her influence, charisma, and political capital for the causes in which she believed. Right or wrong, she fought zealously and courageously, and in most cases the world is a better place because of those fights. This zealous First Lady’s support moved African Americans’ cause ahead by decades
 (http://www.blackhistoryreview.com/biography/ERoosevelt.php).

Eleanor Roosevelt came a long way from being an unhappy child and dependent woman to becoming a champion for women’s and civil rights.  She was committed to what she believed in.  

Be inspired by this remarkable woman who endured so much but in the end gave so much because she cared about the rights of others. 

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one

Eleanor Roosevelt