Broke to Blessed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

man-praying

 

Gifts Thankfully Received

Thanksgiving has come and gone in Canada and the United States.  Many of us enjoyed delicious turkey dinners with our families and reflected on all that we were thankful for.  We were thankful that we have shelter, jobs, families and friends.  Just recently many people got laid off from their jobs.  Those of us who still have jobs are very thankful especially as the Christmas season is fast approaching.

As Christmas draws near, we think about the gifts we will get for our loved ones and friends and plan our menus.  It’s a fun and a stressful time. We decorate our homes and set aside one evening just to wrap presents to put under the Christmas tree.  We are thankful for the most wonderful time of the year.  We are thankful for God’s greatest Gift to us–His beloved Son, Jesus.

Sadly, it’s during this time of the year when we are reminded that not everyone is as blessed as we are or has much to be thankful for.  Imagine that it’s Christmas time but you are not in the holiday spirit because you are overworked and it’s a constant struggle every day to provide meals for your family. You’re working hard but have nothing to really show for it.  You can’t give your children education or clothes.  This is how life is for many people in South Asia.  Each day is a struggle for them. They don’t live–they just exist.

Imagine how thankful you would be if you were to receive a simple gift that would help you and your family.  Gospel for Asia offers lots of wonderful gifts in their Christmas Gift Catalog.  Gifts like chickens, sewing machines, rickshaws and Bibles are not only a great source of income for people who are living in poverty but they are a means by which the love of Christ can be demonstrated in tangible ways.  Since 2007, the gifts from GFA’s Christmas Gift Catalog have helped over 736,000 impoverished families in South Asia.

I thought of which gift I would be thankful to receive and came up with two.  The pull cart and a bicycle.

With a pull cart I can sell fruits, vegetables, clothing or handcrafted items so that I can provide for my family.  This is a legitimate way for a poor person to make a living.  I would be able to give my child an education and give faithfully to the church.  I can even share the Good News about Jesus with people as they buy the goods  I am selling.  I don’t have to worry about renting a cart.  Having my own cart saves me time and I can take home all of what I earn.  Having my own cart will be a testimony to my neighbors and relatives that God takes care of those who put their faith and trust in Him.

I love to ride.  In Guyana I used to ride a lot.  It was a fun way to get around.  Good exercise too.  If I were living in South Asia, I would love to own a bicycle.  If I received one as a Christmas gift, I would use it to reach more villages and tell them about Jesus.  The Bible talks about how “beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15).  Imagine how much faster I can share the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things if I had a bicycle!

This Christmas think of the many lives in South Asia that will be changed through the Christmas Gift Catalog.  Think of how thankful you would be to receive one of these gifts.  Take a look at the Catalog here and prayerfully consider each gift.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver – 2 Corinthians 9:7

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Dhal Ni Pol Blog

God Provides

Slide1

Psalm 104

Last week Sunday my family and I watched The Great Migration, part of BBC’s Nature’s Great Events series narrated by David Attenborough. It was set in the Serengeti.  Each year the Serengeti grasslands are teeming with wildebeest and zebra, making it a paradise for the predators that live there.  As long as these animals were around, the lions were able to eat and feed their young. The Ntudu pride flourished when prey was around but they were soon to experience hardship.

There are times in our lives when there is plenty.  We have all that we need.  We have nothing to worry about.  Life is great.  Then, the tough times come.  For the lions it was when the wildebeest left for greener pastures leaving them behind to struggle to find enough food for their hungry young.

The lions got so skinny, you could see their ribs and bones protruding from their skin and a couple of them were mangy. There was no water to drink.  The earth was parched because there was no rain. Some of them died because they hadn’t eaten for months.  It was sad to see.  During our tough times, it seems like no relief is in sight.  We don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We become discouraged.  We lose hope. How must the lion pride have felt as they became emaciated and watched the number of cubs dwindle to two.  We might think that they are just animals but animals experience pain and loss too.  I will never forget the cub who lingered by her brother’s side after he had died or the mother who left her cub in her sister’s care before she went off somewhere and died.

As a parent, I can’t imagine seeing my child starving and not being able to feed him. I can’t help but think of Hagar when she and Ishmael were sent away.  The water ran out and when Hagar thought that Ishmael might die from the lack of water and food, she put him under a shrub and sat some distance from him, saying to herself. “Let me not see the death of the boy.” She sat opposite where he was and wept.  It was at that moment when God intervened.  He does not give us more than we can bear.  He heard the cry of Ishmael and responded.  He opened Hagar’s eyes so she could see the well.  She drew water from it and gave it to her son.  God hears our cries and He responds.

Just when it seemed like things could not get worse for the lion pride, the rain came.  It was a welcome sight, seeing the big droplets as they fell on the predators.  Then the wildebeest and zebra returned. Once again, the grasslands were teeming with life.  God was providing for them.

These all wait upon You, that You may give them their food in due season.  When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, they are filled with good food (Psalm 104:27, 28).

When you  are going through tough times, wait on the Lord.  Trust in Him and in due season, He will bring you through the storm.

Forsaken and Abandoned

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation – Psalm 68:5

It’s heartbreaking to see how widows are treated in South Asia.  They don’t receive the care, love or support that widows in North America do.  Instead they are blamed for their husbands’ deaths and abandoned by their families.

A widow is stripped of her colorful clothing and forced to wear a white sari because her status has changed from married to widowed.  The glass bangles she wore to let the world know of her marital status are smashed into tiny pieces.  The privilege she once enjoyed as a married woman has been taken away from her simply because her husband died.

A widow is not in control of her own life.  Her eldest son is.  And she is one of the lucky ones if she gets to sleep in a tiny corner of his house.  Can you imagine, you raised your child–cared for him as best as you could with what you had and years later when you are a widow, that child controls your life and treats you like an animal?  I have seen dogs and cats treated better here in North America.  They get to sleep in warm beds.  Yet, we have widows in South Asia sleeping in corners.

Can you imagine your mother, sister, daughter or you being sent out of the family home and forced to work for a few cents a day at a temple or beg on the streets just to survive?  This is the sad reality for widows in South Asia.  They don’t have the skills or tools that would help them to earn a living so they are forced scrape by as prostitutes, beggars or daily laborers.  If they are mothers, their children are forced to work instead of going to school.  Those who wander while their mothers work are vulnerable to abuse.

Widows are shunned and degraded.  Their lives are filled with pain and struggle.  Poverty and hopelessness are burdens they carry everyday.  They need to know that there is a Savior who is willing and able to relieve them of these burdens.  They need to know that He loves them and wants to deliver them from their despair.  They need to hear the Good News.  They need hope.

Widows - Gospel for Asia

I encourage you to open your hearts to the struggles widows face everyday and to pray for them. Pray that they learn about the One who knows every detail of their lives and cares for them.  He doesn’t blame them for their husbands’ deaths.  He wants to provide for them.  He wants to change their circumstances so that they no longer have to beg or degrade themselves in order to feed themselves and their children.   Pray that they will be able to earn an honest living to support themselves and their children.   It would be especially good for the older widows to have their own small businesses.  Pray that their children will be safe and that they get to learn about Jesus’ love through Bridge of Hope centers, Sunday schools and vacation Bible schools.  Widows need to be in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable sharing their struggles, strengthen their faith and foster relationships with other believers.  They find this kind of environment in Women’s Fellowship groups.   Pray for these groups who reach out to widows by visiting them at their homes and inviting them to meetings.  Pray that God will provide them with more opportunities to encourage and share Jesus with these women who are forsaken and abandoned by their families. They have this promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day – 1 Timothy 5:5

Pray for Widows

And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him – Psalm 37:40

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

A Sewing Machine

And let your widows trust in Me – Jeremiah 49:11b

I had an aunt who used to sew on the side and a co-worker who sews her own tops and dresses. My mother had a sewing machine but I don’t remember seeing her use it.  Growing up it never occurred to me to learn how to sew.  I was more interested in reading romance novels.  If I were among the poor of Asia, knowing how to sew would come in very handy.

For the poor of Asia, sewing is not just a hobby; it is an opportunity to earn a livelihood for their family.

For one widow, sewing was her lifesaver.  Unable to feed her family, she cried out to God in desperation and He answered her prayer through a sewing machine.  Watch her amazing story.

I was moved by her story.  She turned to God in her greatest need and He came through for her.  As God usually does, what He provided was beyond what she expected.  And in response to His faithfulness, she was faithful in returning a tithe of what she earned.  The sewing machine was not only the source of her income which she used to feed her family but it was her opportunity to share her testimony with others.  As a result her neighbors wanted to know more about the God who had given her the sewing machine which changed her life and the lives of her children.

It’s remarkable how God used something as simple and basic as a sewing machine to answer this widow’s prayers.  And He is using sewing to bring joy to other women.  In South Asia, there are sewing centres where they receive daily devotions, counseling, prayer and fellowship while attending a four-month sewing course which will equip them with the skills they need in order to have a better future.

Imagine the joy of a woman living in poverty in India, who is able to sell the beautiful garment she has created, to feed her family or help put a roof over their heads. Imagine the greater joy she felt upon hearing those beautiful words of Jesus for the first time through the sewing/tailoring ministry established in her village, where she learned to sew and establish her business – Christian Aid Mission

The widow reminded me that it is always best to wait upon the Lord.  She thought of remarrying but decided against it because it would not have been the best thing for her children.  She put their needs before her own.  She turned to God instead.  She followed Solomon’s advice, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding ; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs  3:5, 6).   Even in her moments of despair and desperation, she held on to her faith and leaned on the Rock, trusting in His love and compassion.  And her prayers were answered in the most wonderful and unexpected way.

I pray that we will have the faith of this widow who didn’t cave the temptation to solve her problems by herself.  Too often we try to do things on our own instead of seeking God in prayer and waiting for Him to act on our behalf.  Faith and reason prevailed in this widow’s case.  She didn’t have to depend on a new husband to care for her.  Instead she could depend on Almighty God who would be a Father to her children.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you – Matthew 7:7

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Christian Aid Mission

Persecuted Church

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake – Luke 21:12

Pastor Samuel was arrested under false charges and imprisoned for eight years.  He was not able to be with his wife or to be a father to their daughter who was only ten months old when he was imprisoned.  In spite of his circumstances, Samuel remained faithful to the Lord, sharing the Gospel with other prisoners.  As a result of his commitment to the ministry to which he was called, many of them chose to follow Christ.

Watch Pastor Samuel’s story and ask yourself if you would respond to this situation with the same kind of trust and faith as he did?   Could you be strong like his wife?  In spite of the tears that overwhelmed her as a result of the pain and loneliness she experienced at their separation, she remained faithful to the Lord and didn’t quit on her husband.

http://www.gfa.org/samuel/

Pastor Samuel is a free man and he plans to continue in his ministry.  Please continue to pray for him and his family.  And pray for other families who may face the same fate.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose – Romans 8:28

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Women of Faith Persecuted

I received this persecution and prayer alert from The Voice of Martyrs Canada.  Imagine your teenage daughter is gang-raped, beaten and her life is threatened because you left Islam?  This is the reality for women who have converted to Christianity.  Their families threaten them, their husbands leave them and they could lose custody of their children.  They are attacked.  During these awful times, it is hard for them to remain strong in their faith and that’s why they need our prayers.  As you read their stories, try to imagine what you would do if you were in their shoes.

UGANDA: Abuse Perpetrated Against ‘Women of Faith’

Sources: Release International, Morning Star News

Pray for the safety of women in Uganda.
Photo: Flickr / CIAT (cc)

A teenager from eastern Uganda, whose parents had converted to Christianity, was gang raped and beaten a few weeks ago. The 19-year-old college student was still receiving hospital treatment nine days after the attack which took place in the Bukedea district.

Three masked men ambushed the young woman as she was returning from her teacher training college on September 19th. They threatened to kill her because her parents had left Islam, then they beat her to an unconscious state. She was discovered by passersby the next day. This attack has worrying similarities to the gang rape of a pastor’s daughter that took place in the predominantly Muslim Budaka district of east Uganda earlier this year.

Meanwhile, also in Budaka, a mother of eight attests that she has been forced to return to Islam, after in-laws threatened to kill her and take away her children. The woman’s husband left her ten years ago because she became a Christian. The discouraged 36-year-old mother is said to be “spiritually troubled” and has asked for prayer that God would restore her to Christ.

Ask the Lord to greatly comfort and heal both of the young Christian women who were raped and beaten. May He protect them from any further harm, and bring needed comfort to their concerned families, strengthening each of them in their faith. In addition, please uphold the abused mother from Budaka who was forced to convert to Islam, praying that she will experience God’s presence, restoration and protection. Ask Him to also protect her children — both physically and spiritually. Let us also be mindful to intercede on behalf of our other persecuted brothers and sisters in Uganda, praying that they will put their trust fully in God, even amid the rising persecution in certain areas — particularly against Christians of a Muslim background.

To post a prayer on behalf of those who are suffering for their Christian faith in other parts of the world, please visit our prayer wall.

We have read in the Bible how believers of the early churches were persecuted, scattered or martyred for their faith.   Jesus warned that we would face tribulation.  He said, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another” (Matthew 24:9, 10).  However, He also gave us this assurance, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (verse 14).  

I pray that these women will not lose their faith and that they will hold on Jesus’ promises.  They each have a crown laid up for them.  Let us pray that they will persevere so that they can receive their crowns.  And it’s encouraging to know that no matter what opposition, tribulation or persecution Christians face, none of these things will stop the everlasting Gospel from being preached to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people (Revelation 14:6).

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? – 1 Thessalonians 2:19