Love Hangs On

There is an image that will forever be imprinted on Cindy’s mind.  It is what keeps her going when she wants to give up.  Recently, her son had been acting up at school and she was struggling to deal with why he was taking what didn’t belong to him and lying about it.  She had been crushed by such despair that she just wanted to throw in the towel and resign herself to the idea that it was no use trying to fix this problem.  She and her husband had talked to him many times about the consequences of wrongdoing. They read Bible stories to him stories to illustrate how important it was to do what was right.  But it seemed to be a waste of time.  She cried when she read the teacher’s note, wondering what had happened to her precious little boy who would never have thought of taking other people’s things and telling lies.

She had prayed to God about it but the discouragement and disappointment were overwhelming.  During her morning worship one day, she was frank with the Lord, telling him that she didn’t know what else to do.  Talking to Joey, reading verses from the book of Proverbs which urged children to listen to their parents and even spanking him didn’t seem to be working.  She had run out of options.  Then, the image which she always held dear to her heart, filled her mind.  She saw her son in the hospital, wrapped in a blanket, his head covered and only his tiny face  was exposed.  She would never forget looking into those big, beautiful eyes as they stared up at her.  This was her child.  The son she and her husband had prayed for.  This was God’s precious gift to them.

As the image lingered, she heard the Lord say, “Do it for him.”  God was encouraging her not to give up on that little baby who was looking up at her with such trust.  He was seven now but somewhere in there was that sweet child that had filled her heart such love.  It was this love that she was to tap into to help him.  God doesn’t give up on His children, no matter how long it takes or how hard, so she couldn’t give up on Joey.  Joey was a loving, kind and thoughtful child but he was doing bad things. She and his Dad had to find out why and then deal with it with God’s help.  God told her to talk to Joey, not at him and then listen to him.

She realized that lately she had been lecturing Joey and talking while he was trying to say something.  And it had been a while since she had spent any time with him.  Was it her fault that Joey was acting up?  Then, she pushed that thought away.  The enemy would love for her to blame herself but she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction.  She knew that she and her husband were raising Joey the best they knew how, in a Godly home.  They would do whatever was necessary to help him but the choice, decision to stop doing what was wrong was his.  She was not going to give up without a fight, though.  Armed with hope and a mother’s fierce love, she was going to hang on to her child and not let go until it was safe to do so.   And one day he was going to thank her for not letting go of the child he used to be so that he could become the exceptional man God knew he could be.

Love suffers long and is kind; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails – 1 Corinthians 13:4, 7, 8

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The Fires of Faith

Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.  And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:21, 22).

 

They meet in secret at night.  They don’t meet in the same place too often.  They don’t tell their families about these meetings.  They draw the curtains to keep the world out. They speak in whispers. Every day they meet, it is a gamble.  At any moment, they could be discovered.  The risk is great.  They live in fear of being arrested, tortured or killed.  Is it worth it?  To the members of the underground churches, it is.  They risk everything for their belief.

 

Life for Christians is terrible in places like North Korea, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Egypt, Iraq and Syria.  It is ironic that it was to Egypt that Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to escape Herod’s murderous rampage yet today, Christians are under great pressure.  Secret believers like In Syria, Christians had to flee their homes.

 

Those of us who are living in the West, we can worship openly in church buildings.  We don’t have to speak in whispers.  We can sing and pray out loud. We enjoy religious liberty.  Some of us may face opposition from our families.  Jesus warned us of this.  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a ‘man’s enemies will be those of his own household’” (Matthew 10:34-36).

 

Just recently, I read a story of a father who forbad his daughter from going to church.  Her family was from an Orthodox background so they had a problem with her wanting to attend a Protestant church.  She resorted to sneaking off and going to church.  There are other stories of men and women persecuted, beaten, ostracized and even murdered by family members because of their faith.

 

It’s hard to believe that Christians persecute other Christians.  However, this is prevalent in Ethiopia.  Christians from the Orthodox churches who leave to find more vibrant churches are pressured to return.  In the days prior to the Reformation, many believers were forced to hide.  Such groups were the Waldensians who were forced underground because they were declared heretics by the Roman Catholic Church.  They rejected the teachings of the church and what they believed to be the idolatry of the church and considered the Papacy as the Antichrist of Rome.

 

Many were driven from their homes and into the mountains when in January 1655, the Duke of Savoy commanded them to attend Mass or sell their lands and go to the upper valleys of their homeland.  It was in the middle of winter.  The Duke didn’t expect them to choose to leave their homes and lands in the lower valleys.  Yet, they did and it was written that the old men, women and the sick “waded through the icy waters, climbed the frozen peaks and at length reached the homes for their impoverished brethren of the Upper Valleys where they were warmly received”  Sadly, the horrors of persecution were about to be unleashed.

 

 

When the Duke realized that his efforts to get the people to conform to Catholicism, he tried another approach.  Under the guise of false reports of uprisings, he sent the troops to the people. It was a ruse to gain them easy access.  Then, on April 24, 1655 at 4am when the people would have been sleeping, the troops were given the command to go and massacre them.  They didn’t just slaughter the people but they looted, raped, tortured and murdered.  Peter Liegé reported the following:

 

 

Little children were torn from the arms of their mothers, clasped by their tiny feet, and their heads dashed against the rocks; or were held between two soldiers and their quivering limbs torn up by main force. Their mangled bodies were then thrown on the highways or fields, to be devoured by beasts. The sick and the aged were burned alive in their dwellings. Some had their hands and arms and legs lopped off, and fire applied to the severed parts to staunch the bleeding and prolong their suffering. Some were flayed alive, some were roasted alive, some disemboweled; or tied to trees in their own orchards, and their hearts cut out. Some were horribly mutilated, and of others the brains were boiled and eaten by these cannibals. Some were fastened down into the furrows of their own fields, and ploughed into the soil as men plough manure into it. Others were buried alive. Fathers were marched to death with the heads of their sons suspended round their necks. Parents were compelled to look on while their children were first outraged [raped], then massacred, before being themselves permitted to die (Wikipedia).

 

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Print illustrating the 1655 massacre in La Torre, from Samuel Moreland’s “History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piemont” published in London in 1658.

 

 

The Piedmont massacre happened during Easter.  In fact, it became known as the Piedmont Easter and it was estimated that about 1,700 Waldensians were slaughtered.  Its brutality aroused the indignation of the European nations and sanctuary was offered to the remaining Waldensians.

 

 

Today, many Christians face the same kind of brutality for their faith.  Women have been attacked, beaten or murdered because they converted to Christianity.  Girls have been brutally raped for their faith or their parents’ faith. According to a report in the New York Times:  “Christians in areas of Egypt that are largely dominated by Muslim militants continue to suffer from violence and humiliation. These believers are under constant threat of their houses and other properties being burned down, or possibly being mugged while walking along the streets. Even church buildings are not spared as they are desecrated and marred with hate graffiti written on the walls.”  Christians are living in fear.  Some of them are secret believers like Femi* and Alim*

 

November 6 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  I encourage you to watch the moving video, Pray With Them from Open Doors and try to imagine what it would be like to live in a country where you have to go underground in order to worship or face prison, persecution, torture or death.

 

Keep the fires of faith burning.  Do not let anyone or anything extinguish them.  Hold fast until our blessed Lord Jesus Christ comes and you receive your crown.

Women’s Fellowship

Years ago, I was part of the Women’s Ministry at my church and one of the things I really liked about it was the fellowship.  We would hold programs like “Lunch and Learn” where women would come together at someone’s home and a pastor or a speaker is invited to share a profound message with us.  Then afterwards, we would enjoy a potluck while uplifting Gospel music played in the background.  I have enjoyed the Women’s Ministries’ yearly three day retreats where I was blessed with Friday night vespers, a Sabbath school program and worship on Saturday morning and workshops in the afternoon.  On Sunday we had breakfast and more workshops before we closed the wonderful three day event with prayer.  Women’s Ministries also offer seminars where women come together and share their testimonies.  It’s during these times when women dig into God’s Word, encourage, pray for and fellowship with each other.  Women’s Ministries have truly been a blessing for me and countless of women.

Can you imagine not having a Women’s Ministry or not being able to fellowship with other women?  Nor can I.  It would be hard for the thousands of women all across South Asia not to be able to attend a weekly Women’s Fellowship group.   Through this group, they learn God’s Word, memorize Scripture, pray, reach out and worship the God who reached out to them–Asia’s most unreached group.  God is working to change thousands of lives.

Many of us know what it’s like to fellowship with other believers and how being a part of a prayer group or Bible Study class has helped us in our spiritual growth.  Women in Asia need the same close fellowship as many of them come from families who don’t know Christ.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could find a fellowship group where they can pray and study God’s Word?  Well, you can help to make this possible.  How?  Through prayer.  Gospel for Asia has put together this list of prayer requests:

  • Pray for Women’s Fellowship so that more women can be reached
  • Pray for women to understand Christ’s love and acceptance
  • Pray for more leaders
  • Pray for transformation of lives and families
  • Pray for God to empower women as they share
  • Pray for the Women’s Health Project and the Women’s Literacy Program

Women’s Fellowships are usually led by a woman missionary, a pastor’s wife or a godly believer in the church.  A growing congregation needs someone to lead and mature women are best suited to teach the other women.    Their experience and wisdom will help to guide the younger women.

Likewise, older women should be reverent in behavior, and not be false accusers, not be enslaved to much wine, but teachers of good things, that they may teach the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  and to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored – Titus 2:3-5.

As Christian women, we have duties towards each other.  So, let us encourage one another through prayers, ministries, Bible studies, fellowships and worship.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

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

Words of Life

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path – Psalm 119:105

Right now I can walk into any bookstore and buy a Bible.  There are so many to choose from.  There are Bibles for men, women, teens, children and couples.  They are in different languages.  And there are different versions.  You have Study Bibles, Devotional Bibles, Life Application Bibles and even Spiritual Warfare Bibles.  Then we have audio Bibles, online Bibles.  The list goes on and on.  Some of us have more than one Bible.  Some churches give out free Bibles.

Bibles are available in most countries but not to new believers in Asia.  Many of them don’t own a Bible.  It’s hard for us to imagine not being able to read our Bibles everyday.  It’s where we go when we want to know more about Jesus or to grow spiritually and deepen our walk with Him.  We can use our Bibles for personal or group studies, witnessing and worship.  Believers in Asia aren’t able to do any of these things.  Can you imagine going to church and no one has a Bible, not even the pastor?

Try to imagine how different life would be for you if you didn’t have a Bible.  Now think of the believers in Asia who don’t have God’s Word to guide them daily in their spiritual lives.  Imagine not being able to share the Word with others.

The Bible is more than a book.  It is the living Word of God.  It brings hope, encouragement, light and joy to those who read it.  It is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).  It protects us from the attacks of the Devil.  It was the Word of God that Jesus used three times to defeat Satan in the wilderness.  It reveals who God is to us.  We learn about His will for our lives.  We have the Gospels which tell us about Jesus and His ministry.  It is from the Bible that we learn that, “…God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

The Word of God teaches us what our responsibilities are to God, society, authorities and our neighbors (Romans 12).  It gives us instructions on how to keep ourselves from conforming to the world (Philippians 4:8; Galatians 5:15).  It shows us how we can follow Jesus’ example when it comes to prayer, our relationship with God and how we treat others.  The Bible is our guide to right living and right thinking.  God speaks to us through the Word.

We go to the Bible when we have questions and doubts.  It addresses our fears and encourages us.  Paul explained why the Scriptures are so important in the believer’s life.  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living;  thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 Complete Jewish Bible).  The Bible is a must have for every believer.

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.

Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life,
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.

Help to bring the wonderful words of life to South Asia.  Find out how here.

Source:  Gospel for Asia

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.

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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

Children Find Hope

Gospel for Asia’s children’s ministry, Bridge of Hope, helps bring hope to many children in South Asia. Currently, more than 72,000 children are enrolled – Gospel for Asia

I have heard and read so much about the Bridge of Hope program and the wonderful work it has been doing to transform the lives of children.  At the centre, children receive quality education, healthcare and nutritious meals.  They are in a safe and loving environment where they learn Bible verses, stories and songs which tell of Jesus’ love.

My son attends a Christian school where they learn Bible verses, read stories and sing songs.  He has his own Bible which he reads at school and takes with him to the chapel.  Some Saturdays we worship together.  He enjoys singing songs and listening to me read stories from the Bible.  He enjoys watching Bible movies and drawing pictures of animals and people from the Bible. There is nothing more incredible than seeing children come to know and love Jesus.  I have often told my son that God likes it when he prays to Him and that He smiles when he sings. There is nothing more precious than to hear the sweet voice of a child as he or she praises the Lord.

Bridge of Hope is a wonderful place for children.  Jesus is at the centre of everything the staff does. Sharing the message of His love is their highest priority.  This love is expressed in practical ways and the children in turn take the message home to their families.  The centre also offers Parent training sessions which are an integral part of their program.  The Gospel is shared and lives are changed.  In homes where the Gospel was initially met with resistance, hearts were opened to receive it, thanks to witness of national missionaries.

I encourage you to read more about the Bridge of Hope program and to consider what you can do to help Gospel for Asia bring hope to the children of South Asia and their families.

There is nothing more powerful than prayer.  Programs like the Bridge of Hope needs your prayers. Here are some requests to get you started:

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Source:  Gospel for Asia