Loving the Unloved

For I am the LORD who heals you – Exodus 15:26

I read this story and was so touched by this young woman’s love and compassion for others who were experiencing what she once experienced.  When a leprosy patient cried out, “Don’t open my bandage!”, Sakshi revealed her own hands and feet which clearly showed traces of the disease.  She assured the patient the disease was not as result of some sin.  Many people who have leprosy believe that some sin in their lives is the cause.  Sakshi once believed this too.

Sakshi was a teenager when she found out that she had the disease.  As the eldest her younger siblings used to look up to her until she got leprosy.  They abruptly withdrew from her and wanted nothing more to do with her.  Friendless and rejected, Sakshi became depressed and hopelessness drove her to attempted suicide.  Thankfully, her father saved her and encouraged her.  He told her that she was a precious child and urged her to strengthen her heart through the pain and hardship.

“So my papa was becoming so much a comforter to me and he comforted me and even my brother and sister, they used to hate me, and they don’t want to talk with me, they were not in home at that time when I was doing all these things,” Sakshi shared. “So my father, he saw me and he pulled me from there, and he made me understand everything, and after that I became ok.”

After speaking to her father, she gave up trying to end her life but was still experiencing loneliness and it didn’t help that people were blaming her for contracting the disease.  This is similar to what Job himself experienced when he lost his livestock, possessions, servants and children and was covered in painful boils.  He was blamed for what happened to him.  His friends offered him no comfort and told him that he must have committed some evil for all these things to have happened to him.  He was all alone but he clung to his faith in God and God healed him and restored his losses.

Unlike Job, Sakshi had some support but it didn’t stop her from worrying or believing that she had done something to contract the disease.  As time went by, her condition grew worse.  One of her fingers bent in an awkward position and when she experienced terrible pain in one of her legs, the doctors encouraged her to amputate it but she was afraid to do so.  And it was around this time that she met a few Gospel for Asia supported missionaries who encouraged her and prayed for her.  They told her about the about the love of the Healer and Sakshi began to pray in faith and ask Jesus to heal her own body. And her prayer was answered.  Jesus healed her!

After she experienced complete healing, Sakshi decided that she would dedicate her life to serving the Lord and helping others.  She attended Bible college and served in leprosy ministry after graduation.  She made it her mission to reach out to the shunned and the rejected.  “Nobody is there to comfort [the leprosy patients] and to give any kind of encouragement. Nobody wants to love them, hug them or to come near to them to dress them.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4

“By seeing them, I am thinking that I will fill the gap,” Sakshi said. “I will give that love, which they are not getting from their grandchildren and daughters… I will become their daughter, I will become their grandchildren, and I will help them and encourage them and I will love them.”  With the love of Christ flowing through her, Sakshi touched the untouchable and despised by doing simple things such as helping them with housework, giving them hugs, washing clothes and combing hair.  She showed them the love of God and how precious they were in His sight.  He has not forgotten them.  God used her testimony to give them hope.  He does not cast people aside because they have leprosy.  When Sakshi cried out to Him in faith, He heard her and answered.  He intervened when she wanted to end her life and through her father, He spoke “words of life into her weary soul”.

January 29 is World Leprosy Day.  You can make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering from this disfiguring disease by helping the Leprosy Ministry to share the love of Christ and the Gospel.  We hope to see more people like Sakshi dedicating their lives to serving Jesus and bringing others to Him.  Be a part of the ministry which reaches out to people who will hear, perhaps for the first time, about a kind and compassionate Savior who is not afraid to touch and hold them.  He loved the unloved.

Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother – Zechariah 7:9

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Source:  Gospel for Asia

Literacy Saved Her Paycheck

Literacy brings an incredible freedom to women in South Asia; helping them to take care of their families, not be cheated at the marketplace, and be able to read the Bible for themselves – Gospel for Asia

As an avid reader, I can’t imagine not being able to read.  It is one of my favorite things to do.  I loved reading since I was a child.  It led to my other favorite thing–writing.  Being able to read and write can really make a difference.  You can read books, study the Bible, write letters, read recipes, directions, the labels on products in the grocery store and write checks.   These are things that most of us can do but in South Asia, more than 30% of the women are unable to because of illiteracy.

Imagine that you are illiterate and have no opportunity for an education. Imagine the struggles you face as you try to make ends meet while your husband spends your earnings on alcohol.  This was Dayita’s reality.  She came from a village where few girls received an education.  Being illiterate left her with very few options.  She began sewing clothing to ease her family’s financial situation.  Her husband Kaamil deposited her earnings in the bank but she was horrified when she found out that he was withdrawing her money so that he could buy alcohol.  Desperate, Dayita found someone to help her to open her own bank account but managing it proved to be very difficult because she couldn’t read or write.  She was unable to fill out the deposit and withdrawal forms.  She had to rely on others to help her.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble – Psalm 46:1

God saw that Dayita needed help and He intervened.  He sent Ashna and Neha, believers from the local Women’s Fellowship to start a literacy class in Dayita’s area.  Dayita began attending the sessions because she was determined to keep her hard-earned money safe.  To her surprise, Kaamil supported her.  Ashna taught two hour classes on reading and writing from a Bible based curriculum.  Within two months, Dayita could read and write enough to fill out her bank forms.  She is able to deposit and withdraw money on her own now.  She is able to get around because she can read the names of buses and bus stations.  Thanks to the ministry of Ashna and Neha, Dayita is learning about Jesus and starting to believe in Him.

Thanks be to God, who sees all and knows all and is every ready to help those who are in need, Dayita can enjoy the freedom that literacy brings.  Knowing how to read and write, she doesn’t have to depend on others for help.  She can go to the bank and do a transaction any time she wants.  She can travel without worrying about getting lost.  She can also enjoy the freedom that knowing Jesus brings.

If you are interested in helping other women like Dayita, find out how at this link.  Help to free the women of South Asia from the yoke of illiteracy.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

When Sister Mary Prays

Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice – Psalm 55:17

When Sister Mary Prays

Nothing is more powerful than prayer. Sister Mary knows that and that is why she is such a prayer warrior.  After meeting Jesus more than 10 years ago, Sister Mary has shared His love with her community by praying for the sick and suffering.  Sister Mary reminds me of Dorcas who showed the Lord’s love by sewing garments for widows in her community.  God uses humble people like Dorcas and Sister Mary to change lives.  He has used Sister Mary’s prayers to change hearts.  Watch this video to see what made a simple village woman become a powerful witness for God.

God can use you too to change lives.  There are so many people in the world who need our prayers but here is a list provided by Gospel for Asia to get you started:

Widows. The treatment of widows in South Asia is unimaginably horrific.
+ Abandoned Children. Countless children in Asia have been discarded and abused, but they are not forgotten.
+ Asia’s Youth. Did you know that 40 percent of India’s 1 billion people are under the age of 18?
+ National Missionaries. Everyday people who love the Lord and rely on Him for help as they give their lives to further God’s Kingdom.

Find out more ways to pray for South Asia at http://www.gfa.org/pray/people-ministries/

Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4

Sister Mary knows what it is like to suffer and that is why she is telling the sick and the suffering how she personally experienced God’s power of healing.   Is there something that God has done in your life that you would like others to experience too?  Pray about it and watch God work in mighty ways.  Effective, persistent and faith driven prayers can move mountains.  When Sister Mary prays, God hears and He acts.  The same can happen for you.  Go before the throne of grace with your list and with thanksgiving, offer up your petitions and the God who is faithful will hear and attend to them.

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers – 1 Peter 3:12

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

A Mother’s Hidden Legacy

Naomi was a Christian.  She grew up praying to Jesus as a Friend and reading the Bible so that she could get to know Him better.  So great was her love for God that it was natural to believe that when she had children, she would pass on her faith to them.  However, things didn’t turn out quite as she expected.

Naomi’s parents arranged her marriage and although the wedding was held in the church and followed all the Christian traditions, her husband was of a different religion.  Can you imagine being in Naomi’s shoes?  You were raised to love the Lord.  You look forward to going to church and worshipping Him in His sanctuary with others who share your faith.  Then, one day, you are forced to stop going to church because your husband won’t allow you.  And to make matters worse…your husband is an alcoholic.

Shortly after the wedding, Tarak’s alcoholism reared its ugly head.  He had a steady job as a truck cleaner but spent the money he earned on drinks or cigarettes.  As a result it was a struggle just to have the bare necessities.   The struggle only increased when they had Oppilmani and Sadhya, born two years apart.  Now Naomi had two growing children to feed not to mention providing them with clothing and education.   Overwhelmed, she was compelled to reflect on her life before she got married.  With a penitent heart she began to pray.

She didn’t tell Tarak that she repented of her neglect of God or that she was praying for the family’s restoration.  She didn’t tell him that she was praying for him–that he would stop drinking.  Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Naomi to keep these things to herself?  How she must have longed to tell her family about Jesus and how only He could help them.  Then, hope came in the form of Gospel for Asia Pastor Zaafir when  he came to their village.  God heard her prayers and He sent help.

Naomi began to speak to Pastor Zaafir frequently and began attending church again.   As she grew in the Lord, Pastor Zaafir helped her to enroll Oppilmani and Sadhya in the local Bridge of Hope center.  This proved to be a blessing for the children.  They excelled in their studies and learned about Jesus.  How it must have brought joy to their mother who had dreamed of telling them about the Friend she had since she was a child.

The joy was short-lived, however.  Tarak’s animosity returned and he began to verbally abuse his wife when she attended church and insisted that the family follow his religion.  In the wake of this new wave of opposition Naomi attended church less but refused to stop going altogether.  All the while she continued praying for her family even as they were about to face a crisis…

…pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Tarak’s years of drinking and smoking finally began to take a toll on his health.  What began as asthma quickly turned into something very serious and unmanageable.  How terrifying it must have been for his family when he began vomiting blood.  He couldn’t eat anything.  However, the waves of nausea and the vomiting didn’t stop Tarak from continuing to drink alcohol.   Within a few days, he was taken to the hospital where doctors determined that he had a serious lung infection.  If he didn’t have an operation he would die.  What was the family to do?  For years Tarak had spent his income on alcohol.  There wasn’t enough money for the operation.

Naomi and the children, went home, bracing themselves for a future without her husband.  The children continued to attend the Bridge of Hope center but it didn’t take long for the staff to notice that something was wrong.  When they inquired, Oppilmani told them about his father’s condition and that the family couldn’t pay for the surgery.  The staff offered words of encouragement and hope.  They assured the boy that Jesus could solve his problems and then they decided to visit the family.

The coordinator of the centre went with two social workers and GFA’s pastor Bahurai to the family’s home where they saw an alarmingly thin Tarak who looked much older than his age of 35 years.  The group shared God’s Word and encouraged the family to ask for His mercy.  The Lord spoke to Tarak’s heart and the father confessed his wrongdoings to God.  From that moment on, there was a transformation.  Naomi no longer faced opposition from her husband and she was free to regularly attend prayer meetings.  She, the pastor and other believers prayed for Tarak’s healing.  He began to recover slowly and he opened his heart to the God who was healing him.

Tarak no longer insisted that his family worship his god or protest his wife’s church going.  Instead he brought the children to church.  It took a life-threatening illness for Tarak to know the true God.

God had answered the prayers of a mother who had known Him all of her life.  She had turned back to Him after she was forced to neglect Him–knowing that He was her only Source of comfort, hope and deliverance.  God heard the prayers of a wife who wanted her husband to stop drinking.  He heard the prayers of a mother who wanted her children to worship the true God and go to school.  He heard the prayers of a woman who wanted to free her family from their struggles.

The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective – James 5:16

What a wonderful end to this story.  A man once opposed to wife’s God had embraced Him.  Oppilmani and Sadhya who once worshipped a traditional god was now worshipping the Creator.  They will continue their family’s legacy by raising the next generation to serve the God who had brought them hope amidst adversity.  As for Naomi, she watched the Lord do amazing things for her family.  “Jesus turned our trouble into happiness,” she said, “and we are ever thankful to Jesus.”

You can help to do amazing things for other families like Naomi’s by sponsoring Bridge of Hope children.  Your sponsorship will open the door for children to share Christ’s love with their families.  If you are interested in learning more about Bridge of Hope visit this link.

I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, For You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities – Psalm 31:7

 

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Compassion in time of Devastation

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble – Psalm 46:1

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Imagine what it would be like to have your home and livelihood destroyed by a natural disaster. This is what happened to the people in the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh when their homes were destroyed by Cyclone Phailin, one of the biggest natural disasters of 2013.

Jyotiranjan and his family were evacuated to a nearby school building where they waited for Cyclone Phailin to sweep through their village in Odisha.  Jyotiranjan recalls, “That night we did not sleep. The whole night we watched and wondered when the cyclone would be over.  When it stopped at 3 a.m., we went back to our house and found that it was destroyed and everything was lost.”

Officials estimated that the cyclone would cause extensive damage to the homes.  More than 800,000 homes were destroyed.  Jibu and his family lost their home and all of their belongings. How devastating it is to lose your home and all of your possessions.  When I watched news on natural disasters, it is heartbreaking to see the people crying because their homes which held so many precious memories were reduced to rubble.  They had lost a big chunk of their lives and they feel helpless and hopeless.

We can only imagine how Jihu must have felt when he lost his home and how thankful he was when he and his family received a home as part of Gospel for Asia’s Phailin Housing Project. He was moved to tears.  “We are a very poor family.  No one was there to help us when we lost everything during Phailin,” he said.  Even our own relatives did not help us.  But I am so happy that GFA helped me.  I am so grateful to the church.”

Gospel for Asia had provided homes for Jyotiranjan and 140 other people.  “We never expected a house to be rebuilt for us,” he said.  “Really, I am very glad, and I want to express my gratitude to God.”

Kalei lost her small cottage after Cyclone Phailin ravaged her village.  Thanks to the help of Compassion Service teams and those who provide relief, she was able to receive food.  She has since been able to rebuild her life in a new home.  “We were not able to rebuild a house (for ourselves, especially one) made of bricks and cement,” she said.  God, through GFA Compassion Services, blessed her with a new home.

Kalei stands in front of her new home with her daughter and grandson.

In addition to rebuilding homes, Gospel for Asia provided some of the survivors with sewing machines, carpentry tools and tin roof sheets so that they could earn a livelihood since their belongings were washed away.   Having new homes and earning a living has helped many of these families to experience firsthand, God’s love and mercy.  They survived Cyclone Phailin and now they were rebuilding their lives with His help.

I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works – Psalm 9:1

It is encouraging to see how God’s people shine like lights in the darkest hours.  Through acts of love and compassion, they bring hope and comfort to many.  Through their actions, they reflect the love of Jesus.

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If you would like to help Gospel for Asia in their work to reconstruct homes for those still in need, click here.  Together we can help to rebuild lives.  Together we can make a difference.

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; BBC News

In the Driver’s Seat

Imagine waking up every weekday, going along the same route and meeting up with trouble. You are doing your job and following rules but you are disrespected, yelled at, called names and threatened. This is the kind of day *Susan has every week as she goes along her bus route.

On several occasions when I have ridden on the bus there have been problems. Students get on the bus and do not show proper id. They come up with all sorts of excuses and hold the bus up. The driver sticks by the rules. She refuses to budge even though the students are arguing with her and a few of the passengers are siding with them. One man even said, “Why don’t you let them on? It’s obvious that they’re students.”

Others grumble because they don’t want to be late for work. They fail to realize that it was not Susan who was delaying them. The students are unwilling to pay the fare. They refuse to abide by the rules. They want to have their own way.

Would they try this with another driver? They probably think that because Susan is a woman she would be lenient. When they realize that she is no push over, they resort to profanity, name-calling and then stomp out of the bus.

On the morning of November 3 when the bus pulls up and I see Susan behind the wheel, my heart sinks. I wonder what trouble lay ahead for this poor woman. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. About five minutes after we pull away from my stop we get to the third bus stop where Susan waits for a few minutes like the other bus drivers do.

After glancing at her watch, a woman decides to approach Susan. She leans over and says something to her. Gradually low voices are raised and pretty soon there is a shouting match. The woman is angry with Susan because she thinks she is running behind schedule. This is not the case.

The bus scheduled to come earlier was either late or simply did not show up. This has happened before. Susan tries to reason with the woman but to no avail. The woman returns to her seat and after a few more angry remarks, she simmers down. The bus moves off and the rest of the trip is uneventful.

When we get to the station I am impressed to go over to Susan. I say to her, “Don’t let them get to you.” She assures me that she wouldn’t and that she is simply doing her job. As I turn away, she calls out to me, “Thanks. I really appreciate this.” I tell her to have a good day and leave.

God wanted me to lift up this hard-working, dedicated public servant who has been put down too many times because she refuses to break or bend the rules.

A year has passed and I no longer see Susan. Maybe she had enough and asked to be put on another route. Please keep drivers like Susan in your prayers. And ask God to soften the hearts of the difficult people they have to deal with.

*Susan is not her real name.

 

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A Father’s Vow

“If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” – Judges 11:30, 31

I read this story again today and it filled me with sadness.  Jephthah was a mighty man of valor but was driven out of his home by his step-brothers because his mother was a harlot. He went to the land of Tob where he fell into the company of worthless men he went raiding with.

When the nation of Amnon made war against Israel, the elders of the Israelite people went to Jephthah for help.  He reminded them of how they had treated him and wanted to know why they were now seeking his help.  They promised him that if he would fight for them, they would make him their head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.  Jephthah agreed.  He went with them and they made him their head and commander.  Before he went to war, Jephthah gave the king of Ammon the opportunity to call a truce but he refused to listen.

God’s Spirit was upon Jephthah as he advanced toward the people of Ammon.  It was at this time that he made a vow to the Lord.   The Lord delivered the people of Ammon into his hands.  When he returned home after his great victory, his daughter came to meet him, happy to see him and and he was devastated.  He had made a vow to the Lord that whatever came out of his house to meet him when he returned from fighting the Ammonites, will be the Lord’s.  It never occurred to him that his daughter, his only child, would be the one to come out to meet him.

When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.”

So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.” Then she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.”  She had accepted her fate.

For two months she and her friends bewailed her virginity on the mountains.  And at the end of the two months, she returned to her father and he honored his vow to the Lord.  She never knew a man.  She remained a virgin until she died.  Jephthah never had any grandchildren.

How sad it must have been for this young girl who like most girls dreamed of one day falling in love and getting married.  She would never know the joy of being a wife and a mother.  If a man showed any interest in her she would have to reject him.  How it must have been hard to see her friends get married and have children.  She may have held some of those children in her arms, knowing that she would never be able to have any of her own.  It is said that it became a custom in Israel for the daughters of Israel to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days each year.

I can’t imagine how her father must have felt, seeing his only child live the rest of her life a spinster because of a foolish vow he had made.  The vow as not even necessary.  The Spirit of the Lord was with him.  God would have given him the victory anyway.  What should have been a celebration for father and daughter turned into a tragedy.  His victory came at a great cost because of a vow he had made in order to guarantee that victory.

Be careful when you made a vow to the Lord or anyone.  Consider what you are doing first.  Make sure you can live with your decision.  Don’t make promises that you may regret keeping.

If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth – Numbers 30:2.

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