World Leprosy Day

Tens of thousands of people in the world suffer from leprosy, a bacterial infection which affects the skin and destroys nerves.  Since the disease affects the nervous system, the affected areas become numb. People suffering from leprosy cannot feel pain and can easily hurt or injure themselves.  These injuries can become infected and result in tissue loss.  I remember reading about a missionary who put one of his feet in a pan of boiling water and didn’t even feel any pain.  It was then that he realized that he had leprosy.

The stigma that comes from having leprosy can be worse than the disease itself.  People with leprosy are outcasts. Their relatives believe that they are cursed.  Their lives are filled with loneliness and pain. People avoid them.  This happened to Balwant.  He was in his 30s when he discovered that he had leprosy.  He had white patches on his leg that itched and then became numb.  

Leprosy, if left untreated, can cause serious damage and leave a person disfigured.  Balwant and others like him feel ostracized and humiliated.  They are denied access to common wells or prevented from participating in festivals because people are afraid of the risk of contagion.  Family members reject them because they don’t want to catch the disease or be socially rejected because of those affected.  Some people even believe that when a person has leprosy he or she is being punished by the gods for past sins.  So, they avoid those who are affected because they don’t want to the wrath of the gods to fall upon them.

Balwant ended up losing his leg because the disease had progressed severely.  The doctors had to amputate his leg at the knee.  This left him weak and unable to work.  To make matters worse, he couldn’t afford to pay for the medical treatments he needed to treat his high blood pressure and diabetes which he had developed.  All of these things began to take a toll on Balwant and he decided that death was the only way out.  It would relieve him of his suffering, take away his shame and lift the burden that caring for him placed on his family.  He thought of hanging himself but he had no strength in his hands or leg.  He decided that he would jump into the well near his house.

It was at this moment of despair, resignation and hopelessness that God intervened in Balwant’s life.  He sent a Gospel for Asia supported pastor and three Sisters of Compassion, specialized women missionaries to Balwant’s community.  After hearing about Jesus and how compassionate He is, Balwant, moved by this, opened up to the pastor and the missionaries and told them all that he was going through and his plan to end it all.

Pastor Daha and the sisters prayed for Balwant and used God’s Word to encourage him.  They prayed for him for many days and his health began to improve.  He felt a peace that was beyond comprehension–the peace only Jesus can offer.  Balwant began to see his life through God’s eyes–precious.

Pastor Daha and the missionaries visited Balwant and his wife regularly.  They showed the love of Christ through simple acts such as fetching water, chopping vegetables and even trimming Balwant’s nails, something he couldn’t do for himself.  Their care and Jesus’ love made Balwant want to live. “I was emotionally weak and thought to end my life,” he testified, “but I found Jesus in the right time.  I thank God that He loves me.”

Sadly, a few months after Balwant found Jesus, he fell ill with jaundice and died.  He was right.  He found Jesus at the right time and one day he will be among the resurrected dead who will spend eternity with the Lord.  On that glorious day when Jesus returns, Balwant will have a new and incorruptible body (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).

Every year, there are nearly 230,000 new cases of people diagnosed with leprosy. About 60 percent of those cases concern people living in India alone. While leprosy is a curable disease, many men, women and even children find themselves abandoned and scorned because of it. Like Balwant, they live with shame and hopelessness as their constant companions. But God is using His servants to give these precious people hope and new life in Him—and you can help – Gospel for Asia

Pray for those who are living with leprosy.  Their world is filled with so much shame and hopelessness. They are abandoned and scorned by relatives, friends and neighbors.  They are lonely and suffer from physical and emotional pain.  Help Gospel for Asia’s Leprosy ministry to bring love and hope filled life to these people.

Pray that, like Balwant, they will come to know Jesus who loves them and longs to heal them just as He did when He was here on earth.  He healed this man who had leprosy on his hands.  His big smile and perfectly fine hands testify that the Lord is still in the business of healing.  Read about how He also healed Radhika, a 19 year old leprosy patient whose husband left her.Pray for Gospel for Asia's Leprosy Ministry

You can help the GFA Leprosy Ministry by praying for:

  • the healing of leprosy patients
  • the missionaries who are going and sharing the Gospel with the leprosy patients
  • more medical personnel to care for and treat the patients
  • the children whose parents have leprosy

This year, for World Leprosy Day, let us join Gospel for Asia in raising awareness about the hopelessness and rejection that many leprosy patients face and the hope, love, joy and acceptance they can find in Jesus Christ.

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

God Provides

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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.

Living in Slums

I told them that even if their situation seems like a mountain, God is mightier than the problem – Nitya

Can you imagine being so poor that you live in a shack made of cardboard and plastic?  What if you had to struggle daily just to survive?  Imagine sharing a shanty with ten other families because you and your family can’t afford your own space?  This is the reality for people in India who dwell in slums.

25-population-slums

In India, slums are growing rapidly.  Millions are living in extreme poverty and everyday is a struggle for survival.  They are trapped in a world filled with desperation and hopelessness.  Open sewage, polluted water, lack of healthcare, illiteracy, superstition and diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDs are some of the problems they face.  It is a constant battle for them to find or keep a job.  No job meant that they would have to beg, scavenge or turn to prostitution.  It’s worst for them if they were too sick or too old to work because there was no social agency to help them to survive.  This is why many of them turned to alcohol for solace.  When the men drowned their sorrows and fears in alcohol, their wives and children were left to fend for themselves.  One woman who was a tailor had to work outside because there was not enough room in her tiny hut.

People should not be living like this.  And this is why God had to intervene.  He did so through a man named Nitya.  Nitya had a dream about a shack by the sewer.  And he moved into one!  How many of us would leave our nice, comfy, clean homes and families to live in a slum among complete strangers?  Nitya had no reservations.  Why?  He knew that God had called him to serve in the slums.  Sometimes the harvest is in places that we normally wouldn’t imagine ourselves going but when God calls us to go, we go.  Nitya made his home among the slum dwellers and through his actions, demonstrated God’s love and acceptance.

In Nitya’s eyes, these people were God’s children.  God called him and is calling others to share the Good News of Jesus with people who are hurting and are shunned by society.

Watch this video of Nitya–a real life hero who has a true servant’s heart.

God transformed the lives of the people in the slum. Darkness gave way to light and despair turned into hope.  When Nitya found out that children were unable to go to school because their parents could afford to send them, he started a Bridge of Hope centre.  At the centre, children learn about Jesus, receive quality education, medical care and daily meals.

Nitya also began holding worship services.   At first the attendance was low due to lack of interest but now more than 40 people attend.  At each service Nitya teaches them from the Bible and prays for them.  Thankful for the hope they have found in Jesus, believers take part in Communion to remember the great sacrifice He made for them.

One couple’s lives changed dramatically, thanks to the church.  Achal and Malika used to follow their traditional gods and Achal beat Malika but one day she slipped into a coma.  Nitya, his wife and other believers prayed for her and she was healed.  When Achal and Malika saw the Lord’s power, they gave their hearts to Christ.  Today they are among His faithful followers.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” – Romans 10:14, 15

The Goa slum is home to the illegal prostitution trade.  Life seemed hopeless for the people there until a Gospel for Asia missionary team began to visit the area, bringing hope in the form of Gospel literature.

 As I went through the photo gallery of Team Ministers of Slum Area, tears came to my eyes.  It drove home the fact that there are people out there who will gladly accept the Good News if only there were people to share it with them.  These photos touched my heart.

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“Most of the people they meet are open to the Gospel message. Almost immediately they become engrossed in reading the literature.”

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“After he told them the Good News, many raised their hands, indicated that they wanted to follow Jesus. John is the pastor of a GFA-supported church in this area of Goa. He is overjoyed to see so many from the slum become part of the Body of Christ.”

Find out more about Gospel for Asia’s Slum Ministry and see how the work they began in 1999 is still impacting the masses of “desperate people who have no means whatsoever to better their situation or escape their surroundings.”  Share Nitya’s story and take a look at the photos.  Pray for the slum dwellers and the missionaries of the Slum Ministry.  Ask God how you can help.

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

A Changed Life

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John 4:1-26

When Jesus brings to your awareness a sin in your life what do you do?  The Samaritan woman acknowledged hers.  When Jesus told her to go and fetch her husband, she admitted that she was not married.  Jesus commended her on her honesty.  When there is sin in our lives, we have to face up to it.  We have to call it what it is.  And we don’t make excuses.  Jesus went to let her know that He was aware that she had been married five times before she got into the current relationship.  Perhaps after five failed marriages, she didn’t want to get married again.  She didn’t want another failed marriage.  So, she settled for living common law.  No doubt people gossiped about her.  She probably felt like a scorned woman and that was why she went to the water to draw water at a time when no one else was there.

She might have been surprised to see Jesus and more so when He spoke to her, asking her for a drink of water.  Jews did not any dealings with Samaritans.  And in that day and age it was not customary for a man to speak to a strange woman.  Jesus had no problem doing both.  In His eyes this was a lost soul whom He wanted to save.

No matter what you have done or how others treat you, Jesus wants to have a conversation with you.  He wants to offer you what no one else can–unconditional love,  forgiveness and eternal life.  He will not condemn you.  Like the woman caught in adultery, He will tell you to stop sinning.  And He will help you to change your life.  We don’t know what happened to the Samaritan woman after she went to tell her community about Jesus.  We don’t know what became of her relationship.  However, we do know that her life was never the same after she met Jesus.  An encounter with Jesus should lead to a changed life.  Zacchaeus became a new person after spending time with Jesus.

When Jesus points out sin in your life, acknowledge it, confess it and repent.  He will give you the victory.

Three Miles for Water

Imagine walking three miles each day to collect water and the only water available is in filthy ponds or lakes.  This water is contaminated with waterborne illnesses but these women have no choice.  They don’t have indoor plumbing.  They don’t have the privilege of filling pots with water from the kitchen sink and using that water to cook.  They don’t have a washer and a dryer to do their laundry.  They don’t have bottled or filtered water for drinking.  They have dirty water at their disposal.  They need this water to cook, wash clothes and drink.  This water which is a necessity for them can bring death and sickness to their families.

Look at the ground they have to travel over in order to get this water that is not fit for anything.  It looks dry because of the scorching heat.  Imagine walking in that heat for three miles and then retracing your steps, carrying heavy buckets and jugs of water seven days a week.

Look at this water.  It’s brown.  This woman would gladly draw clean water from a well if there was one but she has to settle for this muddy water.

Fetching water is not only exhausting for women and girls but it takes a toll in other areas.  Water for the Ages gave these 10 facts on women and water:

Imagine being pregnant and having to travel a long distance to fetch water.   Here’s a video of a woman who suffered miscarriages as a result of fetching drinking water for her family.

This seems so wrong.  When I was a child and we had a water shortage, we had to draw water from the pipe in the yard.  It was heavy carrying this bucket up the stairs and to the bathroom.  I can’t imagine walking for miles with a heavy bucket of water.  This is not something that women or girls should be doing.  Yet the men are not doing it and some of them are marrying extra women to fetch them water.  These women are called, “water wives”.

Reuter’s reporter Danish Siddiqui reports that these “water wives” are often widows or single mothers wishing to “regain respect” in their communities. He notes that they usually do not share the marital bed and often live in separate apartments. But even though many are wives in name only, their labor is essential to their husbands: they must walk through hot temperatures and sticky humidity to communal wells, where they then wait hours for their turn before loading up metal containers and makeshift pitchers with water and lugging them back.   Their husband and the village depend on them to take on this time consuming and inconvenient task.  However, these women are happy with the arrangement.  It’s better than being a widow or abandoned.

Unlike the “water wives” many women in South Asia don’t have access to communal wells.  They have to travel far to fetch unclean water.  Thankfully, their situation is not hopeless.  Through Gospel for Asia, women can get clean water for their families from Jesus’ Wells.

Find out more about how the Lord is using clean water to demonstrate His love for these thirsty people by checking out this link.  You can help to improve the health of families by helping Gospel for Asia to provide clean, pure water from a Jesus’ Well.

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Water for Ages; Smithsonian ;Yahoo News