Rescued

She came from Niger, a place notorious for child marriage.

Her name is Abayomi which means “she brings me joy”.

She was only 14 when her parents insisted that she got married

Abayomi was filled with horror.  She had heard stories of  girls

as young as seven years  old being sold into marriage.

She didn’t want to get married–yet.  And when she did she

wanted it to be her decision.  She wanted to go to school and

study to be a doctor.   Her pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

A year passed and she was set to marry a man twice her age.

She had a wedding dress and the dreaded day was approaching.

There seemed to be no hope.  She thought of running away but where

could she go?  She couldn’t stay here.   She  thought of the horrible stories

she heard of young girls losing their lives when their parents married  them

of because they were having children when they were too young.  She didn’t

want to end up like them.  She didn’t want to die in childbirth.

 

No.  I’m going to fight this, she resolved.  She continued to refuse the

arranged marriage until her father cancelled it.  And to her surprise,

he encouraged her to join UNFPA’s Action for Adolescent Girls programme.

When Abayomi went to the programme, she met other girls who had left

school to marry and some were even pregnant.  She was happy that she had

escaped the same fate.  She had her father to thank  for that.  What had made

him  change his mind after he had been so adamant?

 

She learned that he had met a Christian who told him about Jesus.   Curious, she

asked him what he knew about Jesus.  He explained that Jesus would not have

wanted him to force her into doing something against her will.  Then, he gave

the Gospel of John booklet the man had given him.  After everyone else had

gone to bed, she read stayed up to read the Gospel.

 

As Abayomi read how Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from

being stoned to death, she realized that she too had been rescued from a

terrible fate.  She felt the tears spill down her cheeks and sliding off the

bed , she knelt on the floor.  “Thank You, Jesus,” she prayed.  She decided right

there and then to give her heart to One who had seen her plight and had come

to her aid.

 

Abayomi continued with her education and is currently in medical school.  She

is also encouraging other girls to say no to child marriage.  And her parents have

changed their views of forced marriage.  They believe that she should have the

right to choose her own husband and to marry when she is ready.

 

Nigerian Girl

Sources:  UNFPA; The Telegraph; BBC

The Wedding

A wedding farce, that’s what it was.

She sat there with a smile plastered

as her uncle told his tired jokes before

toasting to her happiness.   After fumbling

with the microphone, and saying “Testing, Testing”,

her father recited the lyric for “A Song for My Daughter”

which made her cry.   She cringed as her mother told every

body about the very embarrassing scrapes she got into

when she was a child.

 

Her sister got up there and remarked,

“Brian, I don’t know how you got my

sister to marry you.  She always said that

she would never get married.  She told me

once that….The bride’s mother signaled to

the DJ and her sister’s voice was drowned

out.  Thanks, Mom.

 

Brian held out his hand and they went

on to the dance floor for their first dance.

 

Aside from the shameless way her friends

were prowling after the eligible men,

her aunt’s incessant chatter and the no

so subtle looks the bartender gave her,

it was a pleasant evening.  She leaned

her head on Brian’s shoulder and smiled.

Tonight was the first night of many nights

together.

 

bored bride

Pray for Rain

 

Please pray for rain to fall in Fort McMurray, Alberta to put out the fire that has destroyed homes and devastated lives.  There is the heartbreaking story of a firefighter who lost his teenage daughter in a crash.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.   Another story had a happy ending.  A wedding dress was destroyed in the fire just days before the wedding but, thanks to the kindness of strangers, the bride has a new dress and is getting married tomorrow in Toronto.  Pray for the people who lost their homes, had to be evacuated and the firefighters who are battling the fire.

The response to the crisis in Fort McMurray has been incredible.  Donations have been pouring in.  Canadians have donated over $11 million to the Red Cross.  Among the agencies working to help the displaced is ADRA (Adventist Development Relief Agency) Canada.  ADRA Canada joined together with the Alberta Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to purchase a disaster response vehicle which has been filled with supplies to be delivered to those affected by this disaster.  Local Alberta churches will provide volunteers and local families have opened their homes to the displaced.  ADRA Canada has also partnered with GlobalMedic to send hygiene kits containing toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and a towel to 2,000 people.

If you are interested in helping ADRA in their work in Fort McMurray, please make a donation to their Emergency Relief fund at http://www.adra.ca/donate/.

Keep the Spark Alive

Remember those times when you and he were dating how you used to be on the phone for hours?  You never seemed to run out of conversation.  There were no awkward moments.   The conversation just flowed.  And when you were together, the time just seemed to fly because you were having so much fun? And the only times you were not together was when you were at work.  There were those occasions when you were with your family but more often than not, you were with him.  It was torture being apart and total bliss when you were together.  There were times when you would go out with other couples but for the most part, you and he preferred to be alone, enjoying each other’s company.

Things quickly got serious between the two of you and pretty soon you are planning your wedding.  The big day finally arrives and you walk up the aisle, your eyes sparkling with excitement.  Your heart leaps when you see him standing there, smiling at you.  You gaze at each other as the vows are exchanged and then the minister pronounces that you are husband and wife.   After you kiss, you stroll arm in arm down the aisle in the midst of a sea of smiling faces.  After the reception, you go on your honeymoon where you enjoy a week in paradise, wishing you could stay there for the rest of your lives.

Life is wonderful as you settle into being a wife to your new husband.  Then, you have children…

Suddenly it’s no longer just the two of you.  Now there are four of you.  In my case, there are three of us. When I was on maternity leave, I was so happy when my husband came home.  I needed adult conversation and company after spending all day with a baby/toddler.  I didn’t feel attractive so I didn’t feel romantic.   We didn’t have anyone to babysit and we didn’t feel comfortable getting a stranger to do it so we were stuck.  We couldn’t go out for a romantic dinner.  We had to settle for entertaining ourselves at home while trying not to disturb our son.

Now, it’s a matter of trying to find time for each other.  During the week, it’s a challenge.  By the time we come in from work, we are tired.  Sometimes we have to prepare dinner.  After we eat, we have to spend time with our son before he goes to bed.  Then we have to clean up and have our baths.  By the time we are finished doing these things, there’s not much time for us to relax.  We have gotten into a rut where we end up watching television or a movie instead of spending quality time together.  We don’t talk as much as we used to.  We are not bonding as we used to.  It’s not much different on the weekends.  Our son and other things demand our attention.  And there is hardly any “us” time.

When a couple doesn’t spend quality time together, their relationship suffers.  The spark starts to flicker and if nothing is done about it, it will go out.  Ladies, what can we do to keep the spark alive?  I came across these tips which I plan to put into action.  I hope you will find them helpful too.  Instead of writing the tips word for word, I rephrased them as best as I could.

Date Your Spouse

Go out for a date.  Set up a date night schedule.  This will help you to have quality time together and reconnect after a hectic week.  It gives you the opportunity to appreciate each other and to unwind.

Surprise

It’s nice to surprise your spouse from time to time.  It can be as simple as leaving a note on the fridge or flowers at the office or tickets to a fun event.  Make a special meal for each other.  Dress up sometimes.

Prioritize Each Other

Make time for each other.  It’s not easy when you have children but you must make the effort.  Without your marriage, there would be no foundation for your family.  Besides, you will be setting an example for your children when it comes to good/bad relationships.  Set a good example.  Make sure that your spouse knows how much you value them and that life wouldn’t be the same without them.   Don’t assume that they know this.  Tell them.

Be Affectionate

Show your spouse how much they mean to you not only in words but in actions.  Hug and kiss them.

Be Spontaneous

It’s hard to be spontaneous when you are raising a family and juggling so many things at once but it’s a good idea to change things up a bit.  Instead of your regular dinner plan, how about having a picnic or eating out?  Instead of staying in over the weekend – go out.  Be adventurous and steer away from the norm.  Spontaneity in your life will help to keep the spark alive (Belief Net).

Add Some Playfulness Into Your Marriage

This is a way of breaking out of a routine.  You can sneak in a quickie before making dinner.

Talk to Your Partner

Instead of watching television, talk to each other.  Sit outside and enjoy the weather while the kids are in bed (Canadian Living)

Respect 

Show each other the same respect you did when you were dating.  Let others know that it is an honor for you to be with the one you love.  Speak kindly and listen to one another again.

Gift Giving

You don’t have to give elaborate gifts.  A random card with a note letting them know you are thinking about them would do very nicely.

Studying One Another

Ask each other questions like you are meeting for the first time.  You might find out that the things you thought were true or what may have been true 20 years ago isn’t the case anymore (What Christians Want to Know).

Talk to couples who have been married for 40 years and over.  Find out the secret of their success.

Have fun trying to keep the spark alive in your marriage.  If anyone has any tips they would like to share, I would love to hear from you.

Husband and wife smiling

 

 

 

Sources: Belief Net; What Christians Want to Know; Canadian Living

A Mother’s Hidden Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

…pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Honesty in Relationships

Were you honest going into your marriage? I just started reading the book, What Every Wife Wants Her Husband to Know by Annie Chapman.  One husband complained that his wife had changed the rules after they got married.  She behaved one way before they got married and a completely different way after they got married.  Before they got married, she didn’t have a problem going hunting with him.  Weather was not a factor or the time of day or the terrain too tough.

However, after they got married, she stopped going hunting with him altogether.  It seems she was willing to do whatever was necessary to win him and end up at the altar. Once she had accomplished that, she didn’t see the need to impress him anymore.  It turned that he too changed since they got married.  Chapman says, “When we win our spouses with one kind of behavior and then change the rules after the marriage vows are spoken, we have practiced deception” (page 20).

Granted things change after we have children.  We are not free to do the things we used to do when we were dating but arrangements can be made.  If we are truly serious about preserving our marriage, we would do whatever it takes to do so.  We can have the kids sleep over at their grandparents or have a babysitter come over and we go out for dinner or to the movie or spend a romantic weekend at a hotel.

If you are engaged to be married, ask yourself if you are marrying him for love or for another reason.  I know some women marry because they don’t want to be lonely or it’s convenient or they don’t want to end up a spinster.  I have a cousin who obviously wasn’t marrying for love.  On the day of her wedding, she said about, “The next time I get married…” She hadn’t even walked down the aisle as yet and she was thinking about her next wedding?!?  Not surprisingly, this first marriage did not last.  Things had gotten pretty bad between her and her husband after they got married.  Once she even called the police on him.  He is now in a new relationship and she is unmarried.  Thankfully they didn’t have any children.

As I mentioned before, some couples get along nicely until they get married.  One or both of them change and the real person comes out.  Had she seen this side of him or he seen this side of her, the marriage would never have taken place.  Consider your feelings and motives before entering into marriage.  Be honest with yourself and your intended.

conflict

Elizabeth Smart

While I was at the hairdresser, I came across People Magazine with Elizabeth Smart’s wedding featured on the cover.  Elizabeth met her husband, Matthew Gilmour, a Scotland native while doing mission work in Paris.  After one year of courtship, the couple on February 18, 2012 in a private ceremony in the Laie Hawaii Temple.  I looked at her radiant face and was thrilled for her.  She had been through so much.  She deserved all the happiness she got after her horrific ordeal.

At the age of 14, Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her bedroom on June 5, 2002.  She was found nine months later on March 12, 2003, in Sandy, Utah, 18 miles from her home, in the company of Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. Her abduction and recovery were widely reported and were the subject of a made-for-TV movie and non-fiction book.

On October 1, 2009, Elizabeth relived those months of horror when she testified to being threatened, tied, and raped daily while she was held captive.  Her captor, Mitchell was sentenced to two life-terms in federal prison. 

What I admire about Elizabeth is that she didn’t let this rest at the trial.  She went on to take action–to make a difference.  She went from being a victim to being an activist.  On March 8, 2006, she went to Congress to support Sexual Predator Legislation and the AMBER Alert system, and on July 26, 2006, she spoke after the signing of the Adam Walsh Act. In May 2008, she traveled to Washington, D.C., where she helped present a book, You’re Not Alone, published by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has entries written by her as well as four other recovered young adults. In 2009, Smart commented on the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard, stressing that dwelling upon the past is unproductive. On October 27, 2009 Elizabeth spoke at the 2009 Women’s Conference in California hosted by Maria Shriver, on overcoming obstacles in life.  On July 7, 2011 it was announced that she would be a commentator for ABC News, mainly focusing on missing persons.

I learned about the Elizabeth Smart Foundation and the story behind its creation.

Too many families experience the nightmare of having a child go missing. I know what it is like to be that child. I know what it is like to think that one false move may lead to not only your own death but the death of family members as well. Nobody can ever blame a child for their actions when they are being threatened, bullied, forced, or coerced into doing something unthinkable. That is why the “Elizabeth Smart Foundation” was created, because what if we could prevent future crimes against children? Wouldn’t it be worth it to do everything to bring home that one child?

Elizabeth is a young woman of action.  She is working to prevent future crimes against children.  Her foundation’s mission is mission to end child victimization.  She doesn’t want families to go through what hers did.  And they were among the lucky ones.  The family of Samantha Runnion was not so lucky.  Samantha was kidnapped outside of her home and driven seventy miles away where she was sexually assaulted, beaten upside the head and asphyxiated.  In memory of this precious little girl, her mother Erin founded The Joyful Child Foundation.  I encourage you to visit their site and learn more about Samantha and what the work the organization is doing to help prevent another family from suffering like the Runnions.  As I read Samantha’s story, I pulled my child onto my lap and held him closely as tears filled my eyes.  We have to do everything possible to protect our children.  Don’t wait to talk to them about personal safety.  Erin Runnion offers these tips for parents.

In March 2011, Elizabeth was one of four women awarded the Diller-von Furstenberg Award.  The award included a $50,000 prize which she announced would be used to create her foundation.

Notes to Women salutes this remarkable young woman who has dedicated her life to preventing crimes from happening to children.

All of the children out there deserve to come home to their parents the way, the way Elizabeth has come back to us, … And I just hope and pray that Congress will quickly pass the Amber alert so those children will have a better chance.

I just had to ask about three times whether it was really true, … Then I just had to give thanks to God that she was found, that he has answered all the prayers.

Elizabeth Smart quotes

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Smart; http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20572162,00.html

http://elizabethsmartfoundation.org/