Starvation in Madaya

Many people in the world today are not starving because there is an inherent inability to produce food, they are starving because they are caught in the middle of political fights and blockades that have been used as weapons – Ralph Merkle

I was appalled when I heard about the mother who was giving her 7 month old baby water and salt because there is no food in Madaya, Syria.  Tears came to my eyes when I saw the sunken face of a baby, his large eyes staring at the camera.  This precious, innocent child and many others are starving in Madaya.  Some have died.  This atrocity begs the question:  How could a leader of a country do this to his people?

It’s hard to watch this video but it is something everyone needs to be aware of.

People were forced to live on tree leaves and plants but now that winter has set in there are no more plants and leaves.  Majed Ali, a 28 year old opposition activist, was 114 kilos before the siege and is now 80.  Abu Hassan Mousa, head of Madaya opposition council sees no point in negotiating when children are going without milk.   “What are we going to negotiate over?” he demands.  “Our dead?”  The Syrian people went for months without aid.  In fact, the October was the last time aid was delivered to Madaya.

Seeing the crisis in Syria motivated me to get in touch with Julie Marshall, Canadian Spokesperson of the United Nations World Food Programme.  I wanted to know what people in Canada can do to help and this is what she had to say:

The good news is the first UN convoy will move to Madaya carrying food for 40,000 people for one month will set off as early as Sunday. On Monday, other convoys carrying food should move into the besieged towns of Foah and Kefraya in rural Idlib with WFP food for 20,000 people.  Non-food items, including medicine, specialist nutrition products, kitchen sets, blankets, winter clothing and other supplies will hopefully follow in the next few days.

The last humanitarian supplies reached Madaya on October 17 on an interagency convey – this was enough food to feed more than 19,000 people for one month. The convoy was a result of a locally negotiated agreement reached between the opposition and government to allow access to four besieged communities in Idlib and rural Damascus (Foah, Kefraya, Zabadani and Madaya). Since then, no food assistance or humanitarian supplies have reached these areas.
WFP provides food assistance to over 4 million people displaced inside Syria in both government and opposition-controlled areas every month.  And around 1.3 million refugees in neighbouring countries.

Canada has been one of WFP’s largest donors to our response in the region and we hope the extension of the matching funds, until the end of February will encourage Canadians to donate to organizations like WFP working in Syria.

Canadians can support WFP by donating here: https://give.wfp.org/en/629/?step=country
Also, we launched an app a few months ago called ShareTheMeal which makes it extremely easy to support our school meals for Syrian refugee school children living in Jordan.

It is extremely difficult to see babies starving.  And it upsets me when I see food go to waste when there are people starving everyday.  Let us do what we can to help the people in Syria.  Hunger is a terrible thing and something that we need to fight against.  The starvation in Syria is likened to warfare.  It’s like when Hitler starved the Russian people during the battle of Stalingrad.  Hunger is being used as a weapon to oppress the people and this cannot and should not be allowed to happen.  Let us help WFP and other humanitarian agencies to save the lives of the men, women and children in Syria.

Source:  CBC News; World Food Programme

Two Wheels Are Faster

Help Missionaries go farther, faster with bicycles.  Help them to reach more people in one day for Jesus.

As much as I like walking, I don’t relish the thought of walking everywhere–not even for one day.  I have access to buses, trains, streetcars and taxis.  It’s not a problem for me to go to several places in one day to share the Gospel.  However, this is not the case for a South Asian missionary.

Transportation can be a real burden for many Gospel for Asia supported missionaries who spend grueling hours walking from one village to another.  Check out this video to get an idea of what it’s like not to have reliable transportation like a bicycle and consider how having one would be a tremendous blessing not only to the missionary but to those whom he or she would minister to.

Here are the reasons why having a bicycle would greatly benefit a missionary:

  • Bicycles offer reliable transportation with little cost. You can donate a bicycle for just $110.
  • Missionaries won’t have to waste precious time walking from village to village. By riding a bike, they can minister to more people.
  • Bicycles are easy to repair,making travel consistent and reliable. Parts are readily available and the cost of maintenance is low.
  • When you donate a bicycle, you help take the Gospel to more unreached villages.

Just put yourself in the missionary’s shoes.  Wouldn’t you prefer to travel to three times as many villages to share the love of Jesus?  Two wheels are faster than two feet!  Consider donating a bicycle.

Source:  Gospel for Asia

 

Prisha’s Calling

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven – Matthew 5:16

I read Prisha’s story and was touched by the love and compassion she and the other women missionaries showed the people of Punya Basti.  The village was ready for harvest but there were no labourers until God sent Prisha.  She had heard about Punya Basti.

The residents lived in squalor, with no electricity, running water or toilets.  Can you imagine living in such conditions? Although most of the villagers left for months at a time to find low-paying work and beg in other areas, they were still unable to feed their children three meals a day.  They couldn’t afford to sent them to school.  Amidst the squalor, alcohol and drug abuse were major concerns.  Fights frequently broke out.  Animal carcasses and burning waste littered the place, creating a stench so horrific that made outsiders drive recklessly through the village just to get away from it.  Outsiders looked down on the villagers because of their low caste and lack of hygiene and education.

The outsiders remind me of the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ time.  No doubt they would have avoided this village like it were a plague.  They would never set foot in it.  They would put as much distance between themselves and it and condemn the people instead of having compassion on them.  What about us?  We might feel sorry for the people but are we willing to do something to help to change their circumstances?  If God were to call us to go to such a place and minister to the people and share the Gospel, would we be willing to go?  Would we find excuses like Moses? Or would we run in the opposite direction like Jonah?

What would Jesus do?  I think it’s fair to say that He would go into that village and stay with the people.  And I also think the apostle Paul would do the same.  Sometimes God calls us out of our comfort zone and sends us to places we would never dream of going but there are people there who just need someone to show that they care.

Prisha was called to go to Punya Basti.  She knew that no one else wanted to go.  Even as she might have had misgivings about being able to stick it out, she agreed to go.  Her leader suggested that she commute to the village from a safer nearby village where she would have more comfortable accommodations but Prisha refused.  She wanted to live among the villagers.

I don’t want to stay in a different place.  I want to stay in the midst of them, in the village, so I can understand their feelings . . . and they can understand the love that we want to show them.

How many of us would have been tempted to stay in the safer village and be more comfortable? Prisha wanted to be able to relate to the people so living apart from them was out of the question. Jesus went to those who were downtrodden, outcast, rejected and lost.  He was criticized for being with them.

No one said that it would be easy.   Thing were pretty bad.  The people rarely had baths or washed their clothes.  Just last night my son asked me if he had to take a bath.  If he had his way, he would skip bathing altogether.

Once Prisha’s landlord offered her and her fellow Sister of Compassion a glass of water.  Prisha was shocked when she looked at it.  It smelled so bad that they couldn’t drink from it.  This was not surprising because Gospel for Asia Pastor Hoob Kumar who served the village, mentioned that the women cooked and ate food out of dirty vessels.

Realizing the magnitude of what lay in front of them, Prisha and her co-worker spent their first week in prayer and fasting.  Then they found ways to help the villagers.  They started by sweeping out the village’s filthy drains.  At times, Prisha was overwhelmed by the filthiness of Punya Basti but she and the seven Sisters of Compassion who joined her resolved to embrace the villagers and share in their lives.   There are times when we feel overwhelmed and this is the time when the enemy will attack us but God gives us the strength to carry on.  He who calls us will equip us and will be with us.

Slowly we understood that if we don’t get to know them closely, we won’t be able to have relationships with them – Prisha.

The Sisters of Compassion helped the local women with their chores, took care of their babies and ate the food offered to them.  Can you imagine eating tortoise and mongoose?  Most of us would refuse to eat that but Prisha and her fellow workers didn’t.   Eventually, they earned the people’s trust. The villagers began to listen to and follow their advice.  The drinking and fighting stopped. Women once barely clothed, embarrassing Prisha were now dressing modestly.  They began to cook in healthier and cleaner ways.  The children started going to school and the Sisters of Compassion taught them how to bathe, brush their teeth, comb their hair and dress neatly–things that we and out children do everyday.  Great changes were happening in Punya Basti!

The Sisters were embraced by the villagers who began to see them as family because of the love these women had shown them.  Others had scorned them but these Sisters had shown them that there is a God who loved them and wanted to transform their lives.  It was not long before the people decided to follow the God who had sent the Sisters to them.  The love of Jesus permeates the village that had once been steeped in squalor, violence and discord.  They had received physical and spiritual cleansing.  The once filthy ground was now fertile.

Today, the vast majority of Punya Basti’s residents, numbering more than 1,000, proclaim faith in Jesus. Even when half of the village is away traveling for work, more than 200 people gather to worship Jesus each week, ready to learn more about the God who cared enough to send His daughters to live among them.

This story really inspired me.  A village that seemed beyond hope and redemption was transformed by a young woman who obeyed God’s call.  Through her and her fellow Sisters of Compassion, God reached out to the villagers, showing them that there is a better way.   She reflected God’s love and they responded.   I pray that when God calls us to serve Him in areas that others don’t want to go to, we will be like Prisha and simply obey.

Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me” – Isaiah 6:8.

If you are interested in learning more about the work of Sisters of Compassion, watch this http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1” target=”_blank”>video.

Now Entering Filth and Fertile Ground

Source:  Gospel for Asia

The Untouchables

300 million Dalits or “Untouchables” comprise the lowest rung of the still-practiced Hindu caste system. These people are despised, viewed as subhuman, and treated like dirt – Gospel for Asia

A small girl walks barefoot around a half-starved dog lying in her path. She picks her way over garbage and sewer-sodden ground as she approaches the rag hut that is her home. She is unaware that life could be lived any other way. This is a day in the life of a Dalit – Gospel for Asia

What a sad existence for anyone, let alone a child. Children should be running around in a safe, healthy environment without a care in the world. They should not be robbed of their innocence or childhood. As a child, I never knew what poverty was. I had a house with a yard to run around in. I always had food to eat and a warm bed to sleep in. Unlike some countries where girls are not able to go to school, I was. These are things that I will never take for granted and am teaching my son the same.

As children we used to run around barefoot by choice. We had shoes but were more comfortable without them when playing in the yard. We just had to be careful that we didn’t step in anything. Our dogs were well fed. Some had kennels to sleep in while others curled up on the back steps. Here in Canada the stores are filled with different types of dog food and in some cities, children are obese. Yet, we have children like the Dalits who are living in poverty.

I look at this little girl’s dirty, tear streaked face and my heart breaks. In the eyes of her society, she is an untouchable, the lowest of the caste system. When she is older she would be segregated from the community, forbidden from entering a temple, as school and forced to stay outside of villages. People are going to go to great lengths to avoid contact with her. The only work she would be suitable for is the kind of work the rest of society regards as ritually impure such as the removal of rubbish, animal carcasses and human waste. She would do manual work like cleaning the streets or latrines and sewers. These kinds of jobs or activities would pollute her, making her contagious so she wouldn’t have much of a social life.

It seems to me that this little girl and the Dalit population are treated like lepers. Although there were reforms to help them, they still face discrimination. Although some have achieved affluence, the majority remain poor. In Nepal the highest dropout rates are among the Dalits at the primary school level. Dalit students are given scholarships only after they provide photos showing family members working in traditional occupations. Dalit children are discriminated in the state schools and in some instances are required to sit at the back of the classroom. If this little girl were able to go to school, she would be forbidden to touch the mid-day meals and sit separately at lunch. She may be required to eat with specially marked plates. If she goes to high schools, the higher caste students may be advised not to mingle with her. This little girl deserves better than this.

Are you interested in helping this little girl and others like her to have a bright future? Do you want to find out how you can help Gospel for Asia to reach out to them and let them know that there is a God who loves them and in whose eyes they are precious? What about sharing with them a loving Saviour who died for them because He values them and sees them as precious treasures? Then here click on this link and see what you can do to turn things around for the Dalits who are not “dirt” but are clay made by the Potter’s hands.

But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand – Isiah 64:8

Sources: Wikipedia