Love Came Down

He left the glory of heaven to come into our world.  He was willing to rearrange His life so that He could come here and live and walk among us. He traded in His majesty for our humanity.  He left His home to come to a place where He had nowhere to lay His head. He left the adoration of the angelic host to come to a world that did not know Him and to His own who did not receive Him.

He left everything to come into a world that was plunged in darkness, filled with sorrow, sickness, hurt, violence and pain. Why?  Why did He come?  Would you come to a place where you would be rejected, unappreciated, opposed and despised?  He did. Would you reach out to people who are always trying to trap you and challenge everything you say or do?  He did.  Would you wash the feet of the man who would betray you and share bread with him?  He did.  Would you forgive the man who denied three times that he knew you?  He did.  What about those who spat on you, mocked you and wanted you dead, would you forgive them?  He did.

Why would Jesus subject Himself to such improprieties?  It’s simple.  Love.  He did it all for love.  Love for the Father and love for us.

Love filled His heart as He walked the streets, touching, healing and ministering to people.  Love filled His heart as He drove the demons out so that the person was in his right mind again.  Love filled His heart as He gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk and the dumb speak.  It was love that filled His heart when He touched the leper instead of just speaking the healing.  His word was just as powerful as His touch but He chose to touch the untouchable.

It was love which prompted Him to forgive the paralyzed man because He saw the man’s true need.  Everyone saw his physical need but Jesus saw his spiritual need and He responded to it.  It was love that made Him encourage the widow of Nain not to weep before He touched her son’s dead body, giving him life again.

It was love that broke down barriers when He offered salvation to the Samaritan woman at the well and healed the daughter of the Greek woman.  Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans (John 4:9). There was animosity between the two groups.  And women were not highly regarded.  In fact, when a Jewish man started off his day with prayer, he thanked God that he was neither a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.  Gentiles were seen as in a very unfavorable light. They were seen as unclean or common (Acts 10:28).  It was unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with them or go to their homes. So, these two women had two strikes against them–their nationalities and their gender.  Yet, to Jesus these things didn’t matter.  He loved them and wanted to offer them what the world couldn’t.

It was love that made Him call the woman with the bleeding problem, “Daughter” and offer her words of encouragement.  He wanted to assure her that her faith had made her well.  And it was love that made Him look up at the despised tax collector up in the tree and invite Himself to his home for food and fellowship.  It was in love that He reached out the unreachable, the unloved, the discarded, the neglected and the undesirables.  His love knew no boundaries, no barriers.  It was freely given but not always received or returned.

It was love for you and me that made Him endure the insults, the whipping and finally the Cross.  He bore the indignity of being nailed to a tree between two thieves, treated like a criminal although He had done nothing wrong.  Yet, He did all of this so that believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life and that the world through Him might be saved.

Love came down to save a perishing world.

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself – John 12:32

jesus-with-people

Sources:  John 1, 3; Christian Courier

Mental Health Crisis in India

More than 50 million people in India suffer from a mental illness.  In 2011, India recorded the highest rate of major depression in the world at 36 per cent.  According to doctors, roughly 10 per cent of India’s population suffers from depression – MGMH

 

Women with mental illness are treated as less than human.  They are dumped, abandoned and abused.  If there are any signs of mental illness, a woman is put in a mental hospital with no chance of getting out.  Men can go back home while women are there for life.  In the following video, we meet a woman whose husband had her institutionalized although she had no history of mental illness.  Here’s a story of a mentally ill woman whose husband built a case against her so that he could get custody of their children after divorcing her.

It is not surprising that women suffer from depression at higher rates than men.  They have to deal with gender inequality, violence, lack of paid employment, lack of education, excessive spousal alcohol use and poverty.  Mothers are blamed for the birth of a female child and many face pressure to have male children.  Women are diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life, oftentimes, following the birth of their children.  The children are often removed from the ill mother’s care and this results in further distress for her. Indian women have higher rates of suicide than women in most developed countries and a higher rate of suicide compared to men in India.  Depression is one of the most common reasons for suicide among Indian women.

Mental health in India carries with it a stigma, especially if the person suffering from mental illness is a woman.  According to MGMH (Movement for Global Mental Health), in rural India, it is common to see people taking their children to temples and faith-healers instead of hospitals and doctors, especially in cases of mental health.  Mental health was something that was talked about in hushed tones.  Thankfully, it is no longer being swept under the rug.  People are coming forward.  Deepika Padukone stunned her fans last year when she admitted that she suffered from anxiety and depression.

At the time the news broke, she was one of the most sought after actresses in Bollywood. It took tremendous courage for her to disclose her illness, especially since people diagnosed with mental illness face discrimination.  Deepika has since launched the Live Love Laugh Foundation to raise awareness about mental health issues and as a result many celebrities were inspired to come out in the open and address the need to talk about mental health.  Varun Dhawan admitted that he was depressed during the making of Badlapur and Honey Singh revealed that he has been undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder.

Sadly, those living with mental illness are victims of a cruel fate.  They are often locked away and stripped of their basic human rights in state-run institutions that are under-staffed. In an article, titled Mentally Ill Suffer a Horrible Fate in India posted on the site for Deutsche Welle (DW), most state run mental hospitals are in deplorable conditions. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that out of the 43 government mental hospitals in India, less than half a dozen are in a “livable” condition”.

There are doctors in charge of these hospitals who have no business being there.  “These doctors don’t understand the intricacies of a psychiatric illnesses and the comprehensive care the patients require,” said a psychiatrist working in a state-run mental hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

And in the midst of the crisis of hospitals not providing the conditions and care the patients need, are quack healers who are profiting from this.  According to a study by Dr. Shiv Gautam, former superintendent of Jaipur Mental Hospital, 68 per cent of the mentally ill are taken to faith healers before a psychiatrist.  “The reason, besides superstition, is that most general medicine doctors fail to diagnose psychiatric illness,” Gautam said. “A mentally ill patient displays symptoms which superstitious people believe are paranormal,” he added. “Such patients are tortured, chained and used for extracting money from their families.”  Hema, who was suffering from Schizophrenia was believed to have an evil spirit.  Her family took her to Datar Sharif Dargah where she spent a year locked up.  It wasn’t until her condition deteriorated that she was brought to Dr. Gautam.  In 15 days, she began to improve and a month later she was normal.

In other cases, the mentally ill are subjected to one of these horrific ordeals:  whipping, caning, inhaling burnt chili smoke, having their eyes smeared with chili paste or having their eyes branded with red, hot coins.  There are laws banning this practice, however, many dargahs and temples keep the patients chained.  Some of them spend the rest of their lives like this.  In 2001, 26 patients perished in a fire at a dargah in a coastal village because they couldn’t escape the blaze since they were chained.  What a horrific and senseless tragedy.

Families of mentally ill people opt for dumping them.  This means that they are dumped into an asylum where the conditions are not fit for a human.  When an illegal asylum was raided, they found thirty-five men and six boys living in inhuman conditions.  The stench from their unwashed bodies and the excrement drove neighbors to alert the health department.  Naked and chained inmates were discovered, dumped there by their families after they paid the asylum owner.  Some of these poor souls were found crawling in their excrement, some even consuming it.  On their bodies were marks of torture.  Some had surgical scars on their backs, leading to allegations that the asylum had links to kidney theft.  78 patients had entered the asylum but only 41 were found during the raid.

Other patients are dumped in jungles or forests ranges.  Their families pay lorry drivers to drop them.  Women and children are among these victims and in some cases, the females are raped by the drivers before being dumped.  Social activist Murugan S. who has rescued countless mentally ill people from the streets, cautions us not to judge the families by calling them cruel.  Instead we are to examine what forced them to take such extreme measures.  He believes that system needs to change.

Part of the solution is raising awareness.  The suffering of the mentally ill has been brought to our attention. It is out in the open.  The next thing that needs to be done is to show the superstitious and fearful society that mental illness is nothing to run away from or to be ashamed of.  The person suffering from mental illness needs love, support and most importantly, proper care so that he or she can live a normal life.

The government needs to put something place to ensure that patients are placed in reputable, sanitary facilities that will provide the care that they need and to ban the operation of illegal asylums and the practice of dumping.  Quack healers should be banned from profiting from other people’s suffering.  Husbands should not be allowed to institutionalize their wives if there is no record that they have mental illness.

No one wants to be mentally ill but it is a reality for many people and what they need is to know that they have a platform where they can talk about what is happening with them. Here in Canada, we have Bell Let’s Talk, a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across the country. It has done so much to fight the stigma of mental illness and encourage people to get involved in educating themselves and others.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that something will be put in place in India so that attitudes toward mental illness would change and those suffering from it will have a platform where they would not be judged, dumped, abandoned or discriminated but supported and be treated with dignity and open minds.  In the meantime, let’s keep talking and raising awareness.

Talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness – Bell, Let’s Talk

 

Sources:  Vice News; Movement of Global Mental Health; Wikipedia; Deutsche Welle

Oppressed Because She is a Woman

Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: And look! The tears of the oppressed, But they have no comforter—
On the side of their oppressors there is power, But they have no comforter – Ecclesiastes 4:1

It saddens me that in some countries, it is dangerous or even deadly to be a woman.  Sex trafficking, bride burnings, infanticide, gender related crimes, poverty and oppression are the realities that girls and women face in Asia.

Women should be able to live in a society where their rights are protected  and are not oppressed because of their gender.  Gender discrimination is something that all women may encounter at some point in her life but in Asia, women are perpetual victims of violence, abuse and oppression.

Imagine that you are a mother and one Sunday evening you find your daughter lying naked on the front step of the house she shares with her husband and children.  There is no one there to help her and no one wants to come to her so you are the only one she can call for help although you live quite a distance away.   Imagine how you would feel when you see your daughter with burns on more than 80 percent of her body, crying in agony. She survives for three days, long enough to tell the police that she was doused in kerosene by her mother-in-law and set on fire by her husband–the father of her children.  Then she dies…

This is what happened to Laxmi, a woman in Bangladore.  She was a victim of bride burning which is a crime that accounts for the death of at least one woman every hour in India.  More than 8000 women die in this horrendous way.  This type of crime is also called, “dowry death”.

A dowry death is the death of a young woman in South Asian countries, primarily India, who is murdered or driven to suicide by her husband. This results from the husband continually attempting to extract more dowry from the bride or her family. Bride burning is just one form of dowry death. Others include acid throwing and Eve teasing.  Because dowry typically depends on class or socioeconomic status, women are often subjected to the dowry pressures of their future husband or his relatives.

Laxmi was only 28 years old when she died.  Hers was not an arranged marriage.  It was a love marriage and she came from higher caste than her husband, Majunath.  He became increasingly drunk and was unable to find regular work because most of the money Laxmi earned was spent on liquor.  Pressured by her in-laws to provide, Laxmi turned to her mother for financial support.  Laxmi was harassed and accused of adultery by her in-laws and beaten by her husband.  It turned out that it was her mother-in-law who compelled her son to set his wife on fire.  Majunath ended up dying because he suffered from burns when Laxmi hugged him in a desperate attempt to put the flames out.  So, their two children became orphans.   An arrest warrant was issued for Laxmi’s mother-in-law but she has disappeared.

Trafficking of minor girls – the second-most prevalent trafficking crime – surged 14 times over the last decade and increased 65% in 2014, according to new data released by the National Crime Records Bureau.

Girls and women are the main targets of immoral trafficking in India, making up 76% of human trafficking cases nationwide over a decade, reveal NCRB data.

Other cases registered under human trafficking over the last decade include selling girls for prostitution, importing girls from a foreign country and buying girls for prostitution.

Sexual exploitation of women and children for commercial purposes takes place in various forms including brothel-based prostitution, sex-tourism, and pornography.

As many as 8,099 people were reported to be trafficked across India in 2014.

In the article, Silent Slaves:  Stories of Human Trafficking in India, I read about a 15 year old girl who was in a New Delhi hospital.  She was frail, her face and head were bandaged.  A bruised black and blue eye and swollen lips were visible.  She had burn marks and scabs on her neck and down her whole body and one of her ears was disfigured.  She had a wound on her skull which was rotting and filled with maggots.  This caused a stench. She was in this horrific condition because of her employer who beat her everyday with a broom and a stool.  Many times the woman would put a hot pan on the girl’s body and burn her skin.  The skin on her skull started to peel because she was repeatedly burned in that same spot.

How could one human being treat another like this?  Sadly, this teen’s case is not an isolated one.  Thousands of girls like her are trafficked every year from remote villages to large cities and sold as domestic workers. Many of them are abused or sexually exploited.

Extreme poverty, lack of education and employment, and poor implementation of the government’s minimum wage system in rural India make girls more vulnerable to being trafficked. The 2013 Global Slavery Index, published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation, an organization that works to end modern slavery, found that almost half of the 30 million “modern slaves” in the world are from India.

The article describes how domestic worker placement agencies operate and how they are flourishing at the expense of minor and illiterate girls. Read more.

Due to the fact that girls are seen as an economic burden and boys a source of income, girl babies have been aborted and murdered – female infanticide or Gendercide – in their millions in India. The Lancet estimates that 500,000 female fetuses are aborted in India every year. As a result according to the BBC, “an estimated 25-50 million women in India are ‘missing’, if you compare the proportion of women in the population with other countries.” Staggeringly, Unicef believes 10 million girls, were killed by their parents in the last thirty years.

Killing babies because they are girls really hits close to home.  As a woman, I can’t imagine my parents ending my life because I was born a girl instead of a boy.  I always remember my mother telling me that she had a dream of how I would look before I was born.  My father used to take me kite flying. My parents loved my two sisters and me.  I know fathers who have only daughters and no sons but they are ecstatic.  They adore their girls.  This is not the case for the girls in India, however.  Some are aborted or killed after they are born, others are neglected or abandoned.

In India a girl is an expensive burden because when she marries, her family is expected to pay a sum of money to the groom’s family regardless of whether or not they can afford it.  It’s an expense they don’t want to deal with.  So, when a girl is born, there is no joy.  There is no celebration, only disappointment and anxiety.  In some cases, there is rage–rage of the husband toward the wife and the baby girl.  The wife is blamed for the gender of the baby and the girl, if she survives, is constantly reminded that she is a mistake–she should have been a boy.

Bride burnings, sex trafficking and girl infanticide are just some of the hardships that women and girls face in Asia.  The documentary film, “Veil of Tears” takes you on a harrowing journey into their lives.  Their stories may make us squirm but instead of shutting them out, we ought to raise awareness and do what we can to help.  Let us be the voice of hope for the oppressed.

Find out more information at this link:  http://veiloftearsmovie.com/take-action/ 

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

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; The Sidney Morning Herald; Wikipedia; Scroll In; Women’s Media Center; Counterpunch

 

Kalavati’s Story

There is no greater violence than to deny the dreams of our children – Kailash Satyarthi, founder of GoodWeave

She Just Wanted to be Like Other Children

Imagine what it would be like if your son or daughter was forced into child labor.  On the Voices of America (VOA) site I saw a photo of five year old Pakisthani girl named Naginah Sadiq.  She worked in a brick factory.  In the photo she was resting on a bed next to her 8 month old sister Shahzadi on World Day Against Child Labor on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan on June 12, 2012.  She was wearing dirty clothes and was barefeet.  Her hands and feet were dirty.  She looked so tiny.  How could she work in a brick factory?  This photo was taken three years ago.  Is she still working there?  Will her baby sister be forced to work once she turns five?  Millions of children are forced into child labor in order to support their families.

I’m sure that Naginah would rather be like other children who get to play, have no responsibilities and go to school–things that our own children take for granted.  Growing up, I didn’t have to worry about anything.  There was always food on the table, clothes for me to wear and I went to school.  I didn’t do any housework.  I played with my friends or spent most of my time reading and writing.  Life was good for me.  I had a decent childhood.  This is the kind of childhood that children like Kalavati could only dream of.

Can you imagine how eleven year old Kalavati felt when she saw other children playing without a care in the world while she worked alongside her mother?  She had been working since she was eight years old.  At eight I was probably still playing with dolls.  Kalavati had to work in order to support her family.  She had no choice.  Her father lost his job because someone had performed witchcraft on him, causing him to be mentally disturbed.  He stopped showing up for work and then he disappeared.  Days, weeks, months and a year passed but there was still no sign of him.

Then one day, while walking through the village, Kalavati’s mother, Bhama saw a crazed looking man, sitting under a tree.  He was naked and alone.  He had a long beard and at first she didn’t recognize him.  Then she realized that it was Deval, her husband.  She took him home where he was welcomed by the family who were relieved and overjoyed to see him.  The joy didn’t last, though.  Deval was not in his right mind.  They took him to the hospital to be treated but that didn’t work.  He was violent and no one could control him.  His story reminded me of the one about the man who was living among the tombs in the country of the Gadarenes because he had many demons.  He was violent and no one went near him.   Deval began to throw stones at the villagers.  He was not the same because of the curse someone put on him.

She Just Wanted to be Like Other Children

Tired of dealing with Deval’s violent behavior, the villagers drove the family out of their home.  Life went from bad to worst for Kalavati.  Now she had no home or support from the neighbors.  The family went to the big city where Bhama hoped to find work.  For days they lived and begged on the streets until Bhama finally found work as a maid in a farmhouse.  Unfortunately, this job was not enough.  It didn’t provide the family with the relief they needed.  Bhama worked day and night but it was not enough to provide two meals a day.   Kalavati helped her mother with the laundry and cleaning of the utensils in the house but all the while she wished she could be like the owner’s children.  She saw them studying and wished she could do the same.  At that moment education seemed far out of her reach.  It was merely a dream that would never come true.

What touched me as I read this story was when Bhama became so discouraged because her husband was not getting well in spite of the treatment he was getting with the money she had borrowed from her employer that she was convinced that the only way to save her family from the ever-growing burdens was to poison them and herself.  It was at that moment when God intervened.

It was around this time that the Bridge of Hope staff members visited the family.  They listened as Bhama told them that she didn’t believe in God and revealed her plans to commit suicide.  They told her about Jesus and prayed with the family.

Bhama had a change of heart about God after her encounter with the believers and when she saw some improvement in Deval.  She knew that this miracle could only have been the result of the believers’ prayers.  This prompted her to visit the Bridge of Hope center the next day and ask if they would enroll Kalavati.  The dream that had seemed impossible for Kalavati became a reality!  She attended the center the following week.  The staff members continued to ask God to heal Deval and for Bhama to find stable work so that she could provide for her family.  God answered their prayers.  Bhama found a stable gardening job at the local hospital.  Kalavati helps her sometimes but not because she has to.

Kalavati can be like other children.  She plays and draw pictures.  And she is getting an education.  She has something far better than what the children of her mother’s ex-employer had–she has Jesus in her life.  Thanks to the Gospel for Asia workers, Kalavati and her family learned about Jesus.  She is thriving at the Bridge of Hope center.  She has reason now to dance and play with her classmates.  The love of Jesus has transformed her world.  There is hope now when there was so much despair.  Her father is improving a little at a time.  He is no longer aggressive and violent toward others.  He eats meals with his wife and daughter and attends church with them.  Together they worship the One who saved their lives.

Just think, there was a time when Bhama thought there was no hope.  She saw no way out of her despair.  She saw no end to the family’s struggles.  But God does not give us more than we can handle.  He sees what we are going through and He intervenes.  Thanks to the Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope ministry, Bhama came to know the God she had not believed in.  He had revealed Himself through the changes He had brought into her life.  God revealed Himself in a very profound way and helped Bhama to do what she could not do in her own strength.

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

Pray that God will intervene in the lives of other children who are trapped in child labor or families who are forced to beg in order to survive.  You can make a difference.  You can sponsor Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope ministry so that they are able to reach out to families like Kalavati’s and share with them the hope that they can find only in Jesus.  Or you can sponsor a child like Kalavati and change a family.

With God’s help, you can help Asian boys and girls to be like other children who are free to play and draw and do the things that children do.  You can help to protect them from those who would rob them of their childhood and innocence, deny them a bright future and crush their hopes and dreams.

Deliver the poor and needy;  Free them from the hand of the wicked – Psalm 82:4

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; AZ Quotes; VOA

Persecuted for Their Faith

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven – Matthew 5:10

I have been aware of how much the church has been persecuted in different parts of the world through emails from Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  I have read many heartbreaking stories but I will share two of them.  A Christian woman named Mariam was expelled from her home by her husband who had militant Muslim views because she refused to renounce her faith.  At the time Mariam was pregnant and due to give birth soon.  She had to be cared for by church members.  In 2012 when she became a Christian, her Muslim family provoked an attack, forcing her to live on the streets.  Mariam is from the Ivory Coast which has seen an increase in violence since November 2010.

In Pakistan a teen died after being set on fire.  He was approached by two men who asked him about his religion.  After Nauman told them that he was a Christian, they proceeded to beat him.  He tried to run away but they followed him and doused him with kerosene and set him on fire.  Unfortunately, his attackers wore masks so there is little hope that they will be caught.  And it doesn’t help that the authorities show little interest in further investigation.

I thought that what these people experienced in their countries was bad but Ivory Coast and Pakistan are not even part of Gospel for Asia’s list of the top 10 countries where Christians are persecuted.  Life for Christians in these countries is simply horrendous.  First up is North Korea.

North Korea is the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. Christians are tortured, imprisoned and murdered. Private, non-state-sanctioned religious activity is prohibited. Anyone discovered engaging in clandestine religious activity is subject to arrest, torture or even public execution – Voice of the Martyrs – North Korea.

Yang was a Christian woman who became a follower of Jesus while she was still living in North Korea. Watch her incredible story of pain and hope.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” – John 16:33

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam is known for being one of the worst places when it comes to women’s rights and religious freedom.  According to VOM Canada, it is one of the most oppressive nations in the world for Christians.

Religious freedom is nonexistent, and leaving Islam is punishable by death. Non-Muslims are not permitted to become citizens of Saudi Arabia, and no places of worship other than mosques are permitted in the country. All non-Muslim religious rituals and materials are banned. Converts from Islam to Christianity are rare, and converts have been executed for the offense. Anyone who performs mission work or converts a Muslim faces jail, expulsion, lashing, torture or execution. Non-Muslim worship, even private worship for foreign Christians, is prohibited, and Saudi religious police have been known to raid homes where expatriate workers were worshiping – Voice of the Martyrs – Saudi Arabia.

In September 2014, a house church in the city of Khafji was raided and 28 people were arrested, including children. Bibles and musical instruments were also seized. The worshippers, mostly expatriate workers from South Asia, were held overnight and released the following day, apart from a leader of the group who was held for another night – Church in Chains.

Can you imagine receiving 200 lashes and two years in prison if you are from Saudi Arabia and 300 lashes and six years in prison if you are from another country?  In 2012, two men, one Lebanese and the other Saudi Arabian were charged with brainwashing a Saudi woman into becoming a Christian.  These charges were levelled against them by the woman’s family.  The woman, known as the “girl of Khobar” is living in Sweden where she has been granted asylum.  She wasn’t brainwashed, she chose to become a Christian (Church in Chains).  Watch as she and another Saudi share their testimonies.

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” – John 8:36

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not recognize any Afghan citizens as being Christians, nor are Afghan citizens legally permitted to convert to Christianity. Although there are no explicit laws that forbid proselytizing, many authorities and most of society view the practice as contrary to the beliefs of Islam. There is only one legally recognized church in Afghanistan and it is located within the diplomatic enclave, and not open to local nationals.  Muslims who change their faith to Christianity, are subject to societal and official pressure, which may lead to death penalty. However, there are cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith, secretly declaring his/her apostasy. In effect, they are practising Christians, but legally Muslims; thus, the statistics of Afghan Christians does not include Muslim apostates to Christianity – Wikipedia

I read that the growing number of Christians in Afghanistan is causing great concern among the Muslim leaders and they are calling on President Hamid Karzai to “limit the number of aid workers and Christian missionaries coming to Afghanistan” to keep Afghanis from converting to Christianity.”  Apparently this all started when a TV station in Kabul reported the conversion of several Afghans to Christianity and broadcasted photos of them praying and being baptized.  This sparked an outrage and a call to convict believers under the Sharia Law which decrees that anyone who leaves Islam and converts to another religion that person will be executed – Christian Headlines.  The Afghan Christians have no church building where they can go because the last one was destroyed two years ago.  They are completely underground now and are risking their lives to meet in homes.

This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life – Psalm 119:50

The situation of religious freedom for Christians has seriously deteriorated under the influence of the establishment of the Islamic State in large parts of Iraq. In June 2014, a strict version of Islamic law was implemented in the area the militants of Islamic State hold. Christians were forced to convert, flee or pay a tax for religious minorities. As a result, many Christians fled. Moreover, the broader Iraqi society is turning more Islamic, with increased social control on women wearing a veil and observance of Ramadan. Christians most affected by persecution are converts from Islam. However, in areas held by radical Islamic groups all Christians are under great pressure – Open Doors USA

A family of four was forced to flee Iraq because of militants and a man for questioning the Quran.  Read their stories.

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’ – Isaiah 41:10

Last year a Somalian believer was dragged outside of her home and murdered by a group of armed men. Anyone who tried to rescue her was shot at.  Her parents witnessed this terrible tragedy.  If a Somali was discovered to be a follower of Jesus, that person was going to face certain death not only in Somalia but in neighbouring countries where they are forced to flee as refugees.  According to one VOM source, “In Somalia, they kill you if they just find a piece of literature” (VOM USA).  My thoughts are with this young woman’s family and I pray that they are leaning on Jesus and trusting Him to strengthen them each day.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You – Psalm 9:10

Maldives is one of the least evangelized countries in the world. The 0.2% figure for Christians refers to expatriate Christians. Citizens of the Maldives are automatically Muslim, and non-Muslims may not become citizens. The open practice of any religion other than Islam is forbidden. Maldivian believers are carefully watched. They suffer ostracism, mockery, incarceration and even torture. Christians cannot meet or read the Scriptures openly. Expatriate believers have been expelled, especially after sharing their faith – VOM Canada.

Citizens of the Maldives who convert to Christianity lose their citizenship and risk torture. Expulsions of Christians occurred several times in the last 10 years (Wikipedia).

In his presidential campaign the current President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen promoted himself as a saviour of Islam. “Think for yourselves, do you want Islam in the Maldives or do you want to allow space for other religions in the Maldives,” he said in an election speech.  In his speech on Maldives Conversion to Islam Day, he told the citizens, “We should also be very vigilant of foreign influences attempting to weaken our religious faith” (The Diplomat).  Clearly, things for Christian believers in Maldives is not going to change any time soon.  Let’s lift them up in our prayers that they will remain strong and steadfast until the Lord returns.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you – 1 Peter 5:10

It has been said that Mali has always been a dangerous place for Christians.  Christians who have fled are afraid to return and those who return find their properties occupied by Muslims.  There is no normal church life for Malian Christians in the north and those living in the south feel threatened by the Islamic groups in the north (source:  Open Doors).  Read about a pastor who escaped a deadly plot in Mali.

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil” – 1 Peter 3:12

Imagine risking your life to tell others about Jesus in a country where religious freedom is on the decline. Watch this compelling video of a Iranian woman named Padina who was about to commit suicide but God intervened.

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” – John 8:12

Yemeni citizens are not allowed to convert to Christianity (or other religions). Converts from an Islamic background may face the death penalty if their new faith is discovered. Converts from Islam also encounter opposition from extremist groups, who threaten “apostates” with death if they do not revert to Islam. Proselytizing of Muslims is prohibited – VOM Canada

How frustrating it must be to have to hide your new faith or face possible death if it is discovered.  Please pray that your Yemeni brothers and sisters will be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).

Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD – Psalm 31:24

I received a prisoner update of an Eritrean man named Mussie Eyob who has been in prison since 2011. He was arrested because of his faith and his desire to share the Gospel with others.  Mussie became a Christian in 2008.  Three years later, while he was living in Saudi Arabia, he went to a mosque where he spoke about Christianity.  He was arrested on February 12, 2011.  It is a capital offence to proselyte in Saudi Arabia.  Praise God, He intervened through the appeals from various human rights groups and individuals.  Mussie was deported to Eritrea.  You can read his story here and see how you can reach out to him and his family.

It is ironic that as the people of Eritrea celebrated 24 years of independence in March 2015, religious freedom for Christians is still a concern.   According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the greatest shortcomings in religious freedom are felt by minority groups such as evangelical Christians.  So once again, in 2015,  USCIRF holds to its position that Eritrea is to be designated as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act.

In the wake of their independence, Eritrean Christians had to flee to Ethiopia to escape their hardships where they continue to boldly share their faith.  “They are actually seeing many from (various) religious backgrounds — Muslim and Orthodox — enter into a personal relationship with Jesus” says Greg Musselman, a spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.

“Today, you’ve got anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 Christians there who are imprisoned in shipping containers or military camps because of their faith.”  Can you imagine dealing with torture, acts of cruelty, random arrests and detention without charges? Musselman believes that these practices are as a result of the government’s belief that evangelical Christianity is “western” and is linked with the CIA (ERITREA: Refugees Boldly Testify of Christian Faith; Source: Mission Network News).

It is encouraging to know that despite the ban on their religious activities, the imprisonments and persecutions, the Eritrean Christians are holding on.  They have this assurance that they are not alone and that they are fighting the good fight which will carry them through these fiery trials.

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life – Revelation 2:10

If you are moved to pray for the Christians in these countries, find out how at this link.

“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Voice of the Martyrs Canada; Open Doors; Church in Chains

A Missionary for God

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

Consider the plight of women in South Asia.  Here are some horrifying facts:

  • Young girls throughout Asia are ravenously abducted and forced into a life of prostitution with every agonizing day one step closer to an early death from AIDS.
  • Widows in India bear the blame for their husbands’ deaths. They’re shunned by their communities, rejected by their families and forced into an inhumane lifestyle. Tens of thousands take their own lives just to end the pain.
  • Every year in India, more than 7,000 women are doused with kerosene and burned to death—by their husbands. The wife’s crime: an insufficient dowry.

Suicide rate among women in India is up to 21 times higher than the world’s average.  Lately, the number of incidents of rape have increased following several high-profile cases of young girls being brutally raped in public areas.  According to a global poll conducted by Thomson Reuters, India is the “fourth most dangerous country” in the world for women, and the worst country for women among the G20 countries.

Women in Asia are constantly faced with misery, violence, degradation, rejection, abuse, etc.  Yet, there is hope in the midst of this vicious cycle.  Women missionaries are dedicating their lives to reaching out to these women, bringing the love of Christ to them and showing them that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  One of these beacons of hope is Ruth.  Ruth was once like these women–living a life filled with pain and heartache.  Unloved, unwanted, underfed and forced to work at the age of five simply because she was born a girl.  Her parents had desperately wanted a son after having three girls. Ruth’s father hated her and when she asked him why, he shouted that she should have been a boy.

Ruth’s life changed years later when women missionaries from Gospel for Asia shared the Good News of a God who loved her.  She had never known what it was like to be loved and here these women were telling her about a Father who loved her.  What amazing and wonderful news.  Watch her story here and see how God called her to change the lives of women through missionary work just as He had done for her.

The wonderful thing about Ruth’s story is how God transformed her father, making it possible for her  to have the relationship she had always wanted.  The last time Ruth had seen her father was when she had tried to touch his feet, out of honour and he had kicked her in the face.  After that experience, she left home, not intending to ever go back. While she was at Bible college, preparing to serve God, God was working on her father, changing his heart.  And when the time was right, God brought them together.  It had been three years since she had seen him.  At the train station where he went to meet her, she knelt down to touch his feet but this time, instead of kicking her away, he took her by her arms and lifted her to her feet. And for the first time in her life, Ruth felt her father’s arms wrap around her in a warm embrace.  She felt two arms drawing her to him instead of pushing her away.  She felt loved and accepted.  For Ruth, it felt, “like heaven has come down.”  Yes, heaven had come down.  God had made this precious moment possible.

It was through women missionaries, God turned Ruth’s life around so it is not at all surprising that she responded to His call to be a missionary so that through her, other women could find “triumphant, redeeming hope in Christ!”  As a missionary, she could make a difference.  There was purpose in her life now.  She could go from place to place, sharing her testimony and praying with women and bringing them hope.

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

As I watched Ruth in the mission field, I thought of Jeremiah.  When Jeremiah was still in his mother’s womb, God had planned for him to be a prophet.  It’s the same with Ruth.  Before she was even born, God wanted her to be a missionary for Him.  He had a purpose for her life.  Even if her parents didn’t want her, He did.  She was to be a light in the world for women who only knew darkness and despair. She was to be His messenger of hope.

You can help other women find hope and hear the incredible news about a God and a Saviour who love them and would like to change their circumstances.  Sponsor a Woman Missionary

I love to tell the story, it did so much for me; I love to tell the story, for some have never heard

 

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Sources:  Women in Asia; Gospel for Asia

Clean Water: It Has So Many Benefits

Did you know that today 750 million people around the world have no access to clean water?

Just last night I gave my six year old son water to drink.  It was cold, clean water.  What a blessing and privilege it is to be able to drink clean water.  I cannot imagine what it would be like not to have access to clean water.  Yet, almost half the people in South Asia live with that sobering reality.   Mothers are forced to give their children dirty water to drink.  Can you believe that every minute a child dies from a water related disease?  And to make matters worse the people living in rural areas have to deal with open defecation and the lack of sanitation.  65% of them have no access to a toilet.  Yet, here in North America, the majority of us have access to more than one toilet in our homes.

We have clean water at our disposal to wash clothes, cook, bathe, etc.  I have seen images of women going to rivers to wash their clothes.  In rural India, women and girls are largely responsible for collecting the water and household sanitation so they spend most of their time fetching water, walking for hours.  This prevents many girls from going to school and exposes them to increased violence as they travel rural areas in search of water.  They are malnourished due to regular contact with contaminated water.

I grew up in Guyana so I know what it’s like not to have running water in the home and having to fetch water.  However, unlike the women and girls in India, my family and I didn’t have to walk for hours everyday.  We had a pipe in our yard and that’s where we drew our water from.  And not having running water in the home didn’t happen too often and didn’t prevent me from going to school.  Compared to the people of South Asia, I lived a privileged life even though I wasn’t convinced of that during those times when we had no electricity or running water for hours.

In South Asia, living without clean water carries health and safety risks.  In story, Water From the Rocks, the villagers used water from a pond for their crops and their cattle and to wash their clothes.  They even used it to bathe but unfortunately this caused itching and swelling.  Seeing this motivated Pastor Dayal to ask his leaders if they would be able to drill a Jesus Well in Nirdhar’s village. Thanks to the generous donations toward Jesus Wells through Gospel for Asia, they could.

208e0741-0ef9-483e-b4b2-0959321e4007The villagers were incredulous, and one of them, could hardly believe that a well could be built in the hilly area where they lived.  He feared that there might be hindrances too but nothing is impossible for the mighty God whom they served.  God knew what they needed even before they prayed in faith, asking Him to provide the water they so desperately needed.

Despite their skepticism, the local team the pastor hired to drill the well, went ahead with the project until they finally hit water.  God had come through for the villagers.  They had their well.  That meant clean water for cooking, drinking, washing and bathing.  Today fresh water flows abundantly in the Jesus Well, relieving the itching and swelling the villagers had experienced from the water in the pond.

We never thought a well would be drilled in our village. But the true need of this village was met by Gospel for Asia. We are truly thankful for it – Nirdhar

Jesus delivered Nirdhar from evil spirits and an entire village from thirst and so much more.  We have a Lord and Savior who loves us and wants to provide for our basic needs. What affects us affects Him.  He takes a personal interest in our lives.  What a comforting thought.  Through Jesus Wells, Gospel for Asia can share the unfailing love of the One who gave His precious life for them.

On World Water Day and everyday, let us give thanks to God for the clean water we are blessed to have at our disposal and to purpose in our hearts to never take this essential source of life and sustenance for granted.  Think about the men, women and children who still don’t have clean water and how you can help them by donating to Jesus Wells.  You can find out more about Gospel for Asia’s Clean Water ministry here.

Clean water has so many benefits.  It means that a mother doesn’t have to worry about her child getting sick.  It means that a woman doesn’t have to travel for hours with her daughter to fetch contaminated water and it means that a girl doesn’t have to miss school.  Clean water means changed lives.
World Water Day 2015

Sources:  The Water Project; Gospel for Asia Canada