Asya Speaks Out

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Photo by Sue Vincent

The magnificent view of the snow-capped mountains and surrounding beautiful landscape which usually filled Asya with peace failed to do so this morning.   There was political uncertainty in Sweden as the anti-immigrant party made historic gains in Sunday’s election.  There was talk of refugees and immigrants being sent back to their countries by those who had no regard for what awaited them.   She knew firsthand what it was like to be torn from the country of refuge and returned to your country of origin.

At the age of 15, her parents took her back to Turkey after she finished ninth grade to marry a man 20 years her senior.  They had three children.  Those were the worst years of her life and she dreamed of returning to Sweden.  Fifteen years later, after her husband died in a work related accident, she returned to Stockholm with the children.

It was a shock for her when she recently saw the brochure offering tips to those who were married to children.  Enraged, she wrote an article on the horrors of child marriage, her own experience and why Sweden needed to be very clear that it wouldn’t tolerate such a practice.  It needed to protect the welfare of its immigrant population and stop worrying about being culturally insensitive.

It was a two page article in which she concluded, “I urge you to think about Beeta, the teenage girl who was murdered by her husband after they arrived here from Iran.  If we hadn’t been so concerned with offending a culture which fosters a practice which, in my opinion, is criminal, she may still be alive.  Instead of being concerned with the culture, protect the individual.  We need to be more responsible for the immigrants whom we let into the country and afford them the same rights and protection regardless of whether or not they are ethically Swedish.”  Her article was published in Stockholm News and was very well received.  Many shared her views and Twitter went viral, calling for the government to do something to end child marriage in a country known for its commitment to child welfare.

Asya turned now to look at the shelter she ran for victims of honor-based violence and oppression.  Most of them were the same ages as her daughters.  She determined that she would continue to fight for them and those who weren’t in her care.  Unlike the politicians and the government, she was going to be morally sensitive to the victims of forced marriages and speak out because as long as child marriage exists it will stand in the way of gender equality.  She had to do this for Beeta and others like her.

Marriage is for adults, not for children.  Children have the right to be children.

This story is based on true events.  Sweden struggles over child marriage and many are calling for the rights of children of foreign backgrounds to be protected.

This story is in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Turning for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Sources:  The Guardian; PsychologyPolitico; Express

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The Park

It was such a beautiful, sunny day that after visiting her aunt, Jessie decided that she would go to the park and spend an hour or so before heading home.  She loved this old park.  As a child she used to come here with her aunt and her cousins.  She went to her favorite area where there were three benches facing the pond.  As she approached them, she noticed a very attractive man sitting on the one in the middle.  Their eyes met when she walked past him to get to the third bench.  She sat down, placed her handbag beside her and leaned back, crossing her legs.

She was acutely aware of him and wondered if he was there alone or waiting for someone.  Unable to resist, she turned her head and her heart skipped a beat when she saw him watching her.  His arm rested along the back of the bench.  Although he was dressed casually in a pink tee shirt and jeans there was an air of elegance about him.  He looked like he was in his mid to late thirties.  They stared at each other for what seemed like a very long time and then, he smiled.

Heart racing, she smiled back.  This was so exciting.  Here she was making eyes with a perfect stranger in a park she visited frequently.  Does he live around here?  She wondered.  That seemed very unlikely.  He looked out of place in this modest neighborhood.

Her heart leapt when he got up from his bench and went over to her.  “May I join you?” he asked.

She nodded.  “Yes,” she replied, sounding a little breathless.  This close he was even more attractive.  He had the most amazing green eyes and smile.  She pulled her handbag closer to her to make more room on the bench.

He sat down beside her and held out his hand.  “Paul Bentley.”

She shook his hand.  “Jessie Moore.”

“I don’t usually approach a woman I don’t know in a park but I had to meet you.”

She smiled shyly at him.  “Do-do you live around here?” she asked.

“I used to,” he said, surprising her.  “I grew up here and then my family moved when my father started his own business.  I still come back here sometimes, though.  Life was tough at times but we got by.  What about you?  Do you live here?”

She shook her head.  “No, my aunt lives here.  I used to spend weekends with her and my cousins and we used to come to this park. It has changed a lot since then but I still love coming here.”

“Do you live with your parents?”

“No, I live on my own.”

“Do you live far from here?”

“Not really.  I take the tube and it’s about a twenty minute ride.”

“What about you?”

“I live in Canary Wharf.”

“That’s a really nice, upscale area,” she exclaimed.  “I went there a couple of times and loved it.”

“I like living there.  I especially enjoy going to the park or walking along the docks to unwind after a long and tedious day.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m a High Court judge.”

“You’re a judge?” She stared at him.  “But, you look so young.  Most of the judges I see are older men.”

He smiled.  “I’m thirty-eight,” he informed.  “I was appointed to the judgeship two years ago.”

“What sorts of cases do you preside over?”

“I sit in the Family Division which deals with personal human matters such as divorce, children, probate and medical treatment.  The Division exercises jurisdiction to hear all cases relating to children’s welfare, and has an exclusive jurisdiction in ward-ship cases.”

“Do you like what you do?”

“For the most part.  Although sometimes the decisions we make are seen as controversial as in the case where  the hospital was given permission to separate conjoined twins without the parents’ consent and the woman who was allowed to have her life support machines turned off but a husband wasn’t allowed to give his severely disabled wife a lethal injection with her consent.  We have faced a lot of criticism but ultimately, we practice law and equity. ”

She tried to envision him in a robe and wearing a white wig, seated on the bench with a gavel in his hand.  “I’ve never met a judge before.”

And I’ve never met a woman who makes me want to lose myself in her eyes and her smile.  He couldn’t get enough of her.  He wanted to know everything about her.  “Tell me about yourself.  What do you do when you’re not sitting in the park talking to a judge?  Do you have brothers and sisters?”  Never once did he imagine that he would be attracted to someone who looked much younger than him but from the moment he saw her, he knew he had to talk to her.

She looked at him, feeling shy again.  His eyes were intent on her face.  She began to tell him a little about herself.  “I graduated from university last year.  Got a job at Trends as a Digital Copywriter.  I have two older brothers and a younger sister.  My parents are retired and my mother volunteers at a women’s shelter.  On the weekends, I go vintage shopping or the cinema or pop into the library or hang out with friends or stay in and read a book or watch television.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-three.”  She hoped that her age wouldn’t matter.  It would be a shame if it did because she really liked him.

“I’m not married,” he said, startling her.  “Do you have a boyfriend?”  He could tell that she was attracted to him too but he wanted to make sure that she wasn’t already in a relationship because that would only complicate things.

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Relieved, he said, “I would like to continue our conversation over dinner.”  He glanced at his watch.  It was six o’ clock.  They had been talking for an hour.  “I know a nice family run trattoria where we can go.”

“That sounds good,” she murmured as she took up her handbag and stood up, excited that they were going to spend more time together.

He got to his feet and she felt small beside him.  For a moment they stared at each other, their bodies close together.  She was really quite beautiful.  “Jessie, I know that there is a considerable age difference between us but I would really like to see you again after we have dinner tonight.”

Her heart was racing.  “I–I would like that too.”

He smiled.  “Good.”  Unable to resist, he raised his hand and brushed his knuckles gently against her cheek before they headed to the entrance of the park.

Over Penne Arrabiata and non alcoholic wine, they made plans to see each other again.   Two years later, when they went back to the park where they met, they were married and expecting their first child.

 

Source:  Court and Tribunals Judiciary; Wikipedia; Wikipedia; The Culture Trip

Daya’s Timeline

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up – Psalm 27:10

Daya was like an orphan even though her parents were not dead.  They abandoned her and if it weren’t for her grandmother, she would have been completely alone.  Family life was terrible for her.  Her father beat her mother and then abandoned them both.  Her mother deserted her. Neither parent showed her any love.  There is nothing worse than a child not receiving parental love.

Things didn’t improve for Daya.   With no income, she and her grandmother were forced to beg at bus stops, train stations and shops.  It’s heartbreaking to see an elderly woman, with her grandchild in her arms, begging for something to eat.  The cook for a Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope centre had to be cautious.  He knew that there were beggars who carried small children in order to get larger handouts and they pocketed most of the money for themselves.  He couldn’t tell if this beggar was on the level.  He asked her a question and demanded an answer.  Her response was to break down in tears and pour her heart out.

He learned that the woman was the child’s grandmother and that Daya had once been a happy child until strife tore her family apart.  Realizing that this woman was telling the truth and moved with compassion, the cook invited her to enroll Daya in the Bridge of Hope centre where he would cook the young girl meals.

Daya joined the Bridge of Hope centre lodged between a railway station and a slum. Unfortunately, she stood out from the rest of the children.  She was the poorest of the poor and living in the slums for much of her life, she didn’t know much about hygiene.  She went to class each day in the same dirty clothes.  She rarely had a bath and when she did, she didn’t use soap.

It was not long before some of the parents began to complain about Daya and they pressured the Bridge of Hope staff to drop her from the program.  They didn’t want this dirty child to be around their children.  They threatened to remove their children from the centre if she didn’t leave.

Daya’s future was in jeopardy.  If she was dropped from the program, she would return to the streets as one of the 300,000 child beggars in India.  Somewhere down the road, she would be among the 20 to 30 million boys and girls who are exploited as child laborers.  If it weren’t for her grandmother’s protection, Daya was at risk of becoming one of the 1.2 million Indian children abused as prostitutes.  And worse yet for Daya if her grandmother were to die.  She would be lost and her future would be hopeless.  She wouldn’ stand a chance in a society where evil men preyed on the innocent…

Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is with those who uphold my life – Psalm 54:4

The Bridge of Hope staff remained committed to helping Daya because they knew that God had brought her to them.  They decided to keep her in the program and undertook her hygiene problem.  They scrubbed the 8 year old and gave her new clothes.  By the time they were finished with Daya, you could hardly recognize her.  They continued to teach her and her classmates proper hygiene and other practical life skills.  These wonderful people of God didn’t cave into the demands of those parents who wanted them to expel Daya from the centre.  They followed the example of the apostles Peter and John in Acts 5:29 who, when the council demanded to know why they were continuing to preach in Jesus’ name after being commanded not to, replied,  “We ought to obey God rather than men.”  They had to do whatever was necessary to protect the welfare of this child whom God had rescued from a life on the streets.

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly – John 10:10

Over six years have passed since Daya joined the Bridge of Hope centre.  Instead of dirty rags, she is wearing beautiful dresses given as her uniforms.  She had gone from being a beggar to being blessed.  She had gone from the streets to a sanctuary where she receives an education.  She is not in bonded labor or in a brothel.  She is enjoying liberty in Jesus.  She can realize her dream to be a teacher.  Daya, now 15 years old, has a relationship with a Father who loves her and a Savior who has given her hope and set her free from the social evils which plague young girls like her in South Asia.

Daya’s grandmother has witnessed first hand the love of God as shown through the kindness of the Bridge of Hope staff.  And she too is experiencing that love.

God is using Bridge of Hope to change communities.  More than 60,000 children are finding hope in Jesus through the centres but there are millions of children like Daya out there who are still living in despair.  You can reach out to them by sponsoring a child.  Find out what every Bridge of Hope child receives.

My heart goes out to these children who are robbed of their childhood.  They are unloved, abandoned, exploited and abused.  I was touched by the story of Lakshmi, a nine year old who works in a factory rolling cigarettes.  She is an example of selfless love.  She doesn’t care about playing or going to school–all she wants is to bring her sister home from the bonded labor man.

My sister is ten years old. Every morning at seven she goes to the bonded labor man, and every night at nine she comes home. He treats her badly; he hits her if he thinks she is working slowly or if she talks to the other children, he yells at her, he comes looking for her if she is sick and cannot go to work. I feel this is very difficult for her.  

It would cost 600 rupees to buy her sister’s freedom but for Lakshmi, there is hopeless.  “We don’t have 600 rupees,” she says, “…we will never have 600 rupees.”  600 rupees is only $14.00 US.  This is just one story among over 10 million stories of children who are bonded laborers in India.  Help Bridge of Hope to bring hope to these children.  Pray that God will rescue more of them from the clutches of evil people.   Pray that they will discover that there is a loving God who sees their plight and will intervene.  Pray that they will come to know Jesus.

Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You – Psalm 33:22

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Water

World Water Day is Saturday, March 22, 2014.  It is held annually on March 22nd to raise awareness of the importance of freshwater and the sustainable management of freshwater resources.  Water is essential.  People, animals, plants need it.

I live in a country where I have access to clean water.  I can drink filtered water, bottled water or boiled water.  When my five year old son is thirsty, I can give him filtered water from our fridge.  I grew up in Guyana, South America and there were times when we had to draw water from the tap in the yard in order to bath but it had fluoride or chlorine to kill impurities.   “The amount of chlorine is carefully measured to be the lowest possible amount needed to keep the water free of germs. In some places fluoride is also added. It has been found to help prevent tooth decay. Some natural water sources already contain fluoride so this step is not always included”  (Water Purification, Guyana Water Incorporated).

Imagine living in a community where there is no clean water for you to drink, cook, wash or bath with.  Your only two options are to die of thirst or to get sick or die from dirty water.  These are the grim choices that men, women and children are forced to make in Asia.  They don’t have the privilege we do of having clean tap water.  As a result illnesses caused by dirty water kill more people each year than war and violence.  One of nine people worldwide don’t have access to clean water and many of them live in South Asia.

Gospel for Asia has combated this problem of clean water by digging Jesus Wells and providing BioSand Water filters to people across South Asia who have no access to clean, fresh water.  This simple act of providing wells for people who are starving for clean water that there is a Savior who loves them and wants them to be healthy and safe.  Many are putting their trust and faith in Him.

It was this faith in Christ that brought upon Chandrabhan and his family intense persecution from their community.  They were blocked from drawing water at the public well.  This all began when Chandrabhan’s daughter decided that like her parents, she wanted to follow Christ much to her husband’s chagrin.  Furious Nadir recruited religious fanatics to storm into his in-laws’ house to remove his infant son from his mother’s care.  He had decided that he didn’t want his wife to return home with him after all.  He just wanted their son.

The group of men who accompanied Nadir beat the family and demanded that they renounce Jesus Christ.  Chandrabhan sustained a serious blow to the head as his son-in-law forcibly removed his son from the house.  Nadir’s wife Laghuvi watched as the ambulance took her family away while the welfare of her son weighed heavily on her mind.

Chandrabhan came home with 12 stitches but his troubles were just beginning.  When word spread in the village of what had happened, the victims became the villains.  The villagers accused him and his wife of placing their religion above the well being of their daughter, Laghuvi who had filed for a divorce.  Some wondered, “What is there in Jesus more than an son-in-law?  Don’t they care about their daughter’s life?”

In spite of the persecution and their neighbors’ opinion that their actions were foolish and even cruel, Chandrabhan and his family continued to trust God.  This led to friends cutting their ties, declaring, “If they don’t want to compromise with their daughter’s life, we will not have fellowship with them.”  Through it all, the Friend who sticks closer than a brother was there for the family.

Not satisfied with isolating them, the community took their vendetta a step further by blocking them from the pubic well.  If any family member approached, they were met with scolds.  The closet place they could go to for water was at a school over half a mile away and they couldn’t draw enough for themselves and their livestock.  This was their punishment for receiving the Living Water.

“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).  In the midst of this turmoil, the Holy Spirit impressed upon Chandrabhan’s heart to ask his pastor about getting a well that would be open to everyone.  After the pastor talked this over with his leaders, a year later, a well was drilled behind Chandrabhan’s house.

The Jesus Well turned things around for this family who had suffered for their faith.  They were no longer condemned by their community but appreciated and respected.  The family welcome their neighbors to the well and more than 30 families use it regularly.  And at the Jesus Well, over buckets of water, some people have come to know about Christ and His unfailing love just by talking to the man they once saw as a villain.

In the wake of persecution, isolation, condemnation, Chandrabhan and his family reflected the love of Christ which dwelt in their hearts by wanting to share their well with others.  They shared their faith with those who had not yet received the Living Water.  The Jesus Well not only restored the family’s reputation but it changed lives forever.

Sadly, Laghuvi still hasn’t seen her son or her ex-husband but the Lord has come through for her by blessing her with a new husband who shares her faith.  With Jesus at the center of her life, she will experience indescribable joy.

Do you want to see God transform lives in hostile villages as He did in Chandrabhan’s village?  You can by providing a Jesus Well to an entire community for $1,000.  You can donate to Jesus Wells.  People are thirsty.  In the village of Chaitaly, a woman whose illness of 12 years baffled doctors, the local well was running low and the people were dying from dehydration and waterborne illnesses.  They were desperately searching for a fresh source of water and rationing the little they could find.  Read how the Lord brought healing to Chaitaly and miraculously provided clean water for these villagers.  You can demonstrate the love of Christ through the Jesus Well so that not only will people draw water from the well but they will draw near to the One who provides it.

A Jesus Well provides pure water for an entire village full of thirsty people for only $1000.  With clean water, the health of the people improves significantly.  Through the provision of clean water, villagers are open to hearing about the God who loves them and provides for their needs.

Join Gospel for Asia in this wise investment of drilling a well for only $1000.  Help the people of Asia who are living without clean water and dying from water related diseases.  Help save children under five in the world from deaths caused by diarrhea.  Save the women around the globe who spend millions of hours a day collecting water.  You can make a difference.  With your help, Gospel for Asia can continue to deliver clean, disease free water to families across South Asia. Help open people’s eyes to a God who has not forsaken them but is revealing His love, power and provision through Jesus Wells.

   

Sources:  www.gfa.org/water; http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/her-husband-kidnapped-their-son; http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/a-village-starving-for-water; http://www.gwiguyana.com/?q=node/31