on my heart

Girls at Street Children Home

This month I wanted to share a story from one of the street children’s homes we support. I got to visit this home for girls about a month after it opened in 2013. What an answer to prayer it was to see how God went before us to open this home!

At the time I was there, 6 girls had been rescued and were living there. Hearing their stories was heartbreaking. But seeing the hope and joy they had, now having a safe home to grow, heal and just be kids—how incredibly beautiful.

In a little while you’ll read the story of “Ashmita”, a young girl who was rescued from an abusive situation where she was forced to labor as a child.

Video by Elicia Christofferson

But first I want to share a special memory from my visit to this home. The girls loved having their photos taken (it seemed like every kid we met did!) The three youngest ones, including Ashmita, would crowd in front of my camera and say “Chapati!” each time I snapped a photo—just like American kids would say “Cheese!” for the camera. (Chapati is Indian flatbread similar to a tortilla.) I secretly got a video of those precious girls too. :)


Young Child Laborer Finds New Life

Reposted from Gospel for Asia

Photo from Gospel for Asia

It burned. Ashmita hurled her exhausted young body into the kitchen. Her eyes stung as she cried out in agony. Chili powder washed off her small cheeks in a red stream as she anxiously tried to recover from the new form of abuse. But the pain in her eyes couldn’t compare to the pain and confusion found in her young, tender heart.

A Living Nightmare

Ashmita doesn’t remember very much about her life before her father died. In fact, she hardly remembers her father at all. The only thing she remembers is he was ill and couldn’t eat spicy foods, and one day he was gone forever.

After his death, Ashmita and her mother moved into someone else’s house to do domestic housework. After a time, Ashmita’s mom sent her to live with another family as a servant. This became a living nightmare for Ashmita.

From morning to night she washed dishes, mopped floors and sometimes washed clothes. When she couldn’t do her work, they beat her legs with canes and slapped her.

“The house where I was staying . . . I was very much ill-treated,” Ashmita shared. “When everybody [went] to bed after food at night, the house owner used to watch television. While watching the television, she used to ask me to massage her legs. If I am tired, if my hands are hurting, she used to beat me and ask me to massage her properly. One night, when I was massaging her leg, I was very tired and sleepy, and while massaging, I slept off. She went to the kitchen and brought some pepper powder [chili] and put that pepper powder in my eyes.

“Once my mother called me,” Ashmita remembers. “She asked that [woman] whether [I was] around. Then she told lie to my mother, and she replied that ‘Ashmita is sleeping,’ while I was sitting with them. While she was talking to my mother, she motioned me not to speak and be quiet and continue the work I was doing.”

Photo by Elicia Christofferson

Ashmita’s mother was of no comfort to her daughter. When Ashmita was allowed to talk with her mom over the phone, the young girl cried and pleaded with her, asking her to take her out of the home she lived in. But her mom told her to do whatever they said. Even though her mom was not involved in her life very much, Ashmita missed her terribly and longed to escape the life she was living.

House of Refuge, House of Hope

When the local authorities found out about Ashmita’s situation, they rescued her from child labor and brought her to a GFA-supported home for abandoned and at-risk children. Now precious Ashmita is safe from abuse, pain and hopelessness. No longer forced to labor, she lives like a child should.

Photo by Elicia Christofferson

Ashmita plays with other children her age, bathes, receives daily meals, learns songs and dances with the other girls at the home. She attends school and likes it! She especially loves the staff who care for her, and the other girls who help her with her studies.

“I like this place so much; I like all these didis (older sisters). They work hard for me and for all of us,” Ashmita shared. “I like this place and I don’t [want] to leave this place and go to any other place or orphanage because of the love and care that we get here.”

Ashmita is thriving under the love she is receiving—love every child longs for.

Best of all, Ashmita has learned she is safe in the arms of Jesus. He saw her tears and knew the pain she felt in her heart. By His kindness and love, He brought her to this home. His love is found in the staff who daily look after and nurture the children who have been abused, abandoned, misplaced and forgotten, girls just like Ashmita.

“The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow.”—Psalm 146:9

Photo by Elicia Christofferson

Hope for the Nations

As I was thinking about the brokenness in the world during Gospel for Asia’s all-night prayer meeting, I wrote this, then we sang this song.

There are people with actual problems.
There are children enslaved in labor.
Men who break down ships for a living.
A toxic, dangerous, illegal task.

There are people groups hated by everyone.
Like the Rohingya, without a home.
They are pushed aside, abused.
Is there anyone who cares for them?

Innocent, scared children,
Lied to and forced to beg.
Literally maimed or blinded
For more profit, they said.

There’s the woman who thinks she’s worthless.
I’m a sex doll, is what she thought.
I’m no better than this, it’s what I deserve.
But of truth and hope she knows naught.

Jesus. Hope of the nations.
Jesus. Comfort for all who mourn.
You are the source of heaven’s hope in earth.

Jesus. Light in the darkness.
Jesus. Truth in each circumstance.
You are the source of heaven’s light on earth.

In history, you lived and died.
You broke the chain.
You rose to life!

You are the hope, living in us.
You are the rock in whom we trust.
You are the light, shining for all the world to see.

You rose from the dead,
Conquering fear.
Our prince of peace,
Drawing us near.

Jesus our hope, living for all who will receive.
Lord we believe.

Christ’s Love Compels Me

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. Apart from me, no one comes to the Father.”

In Jesus alone is the gift of eternal life, given to us freely but purchased by His own blood on the cross.

When we put our trust in Him, we are redeemed, we are set free, and we are adopted into the family of God!

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Mom and I have been talking about the beautiful thing it is to be part of the family of God. Even when we meet complete strangers who also love Jesus, you can sense that we share the Spirit of God in us. (And my Mom and I experienced that this very morning… at the IRS office! God works in amazing ways.)

There is such joy in knowing the Lord and walking with Him. And it is His love in me that compels me to love the world like He does.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” – John 3:16-17

When I glimpse the incredible love that God has for the world – and I understand how many people have yet to hear the name of Jesus – my heart breaks.

More than 2.7 billion people in the world today (about one out of five) have never heard of Jesus. They’re without salvation and hope, for both this life and the next. And that means that they are on their way to hell.

It is chillingly clear in Scripture that those who do not choose Christ will not inherit eternal life.

I was struck by the analogy that I recently heard about this. If you are planning a trip to Disney world, and you’re packing, planning your road trip, and start driving there, you’re on your way. A few things might come up that deter you for a minute, but you are still on your way.

If it is true that those without Christ are on their way to hell, like the Scriptures say, how does that impact how I live today?

This is a sobering and challenging thought that the Lord is teaching me through right now.

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I’ll close with some lines from a song that has been playing in my head, ‘O Come to the Altar’ by Essential Worship:

Are you hurting and broken within,
Overwhelmed by the weight of the sin,
Jesus is calling.
Have you come to the end of yourself,
Do you thirst for a drink from the well,
Jesus is calling.

O come to the altar,
The Father’s arms are open wide,
Forgiveness was bought with,
The precious blood of Jesus Christ.

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes,
Come today there’s no reason to wait,
Jesus is calling.
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy,
From the ashes a new life is born,
Jesus is calling.

Oh what a Savior,
Isn’t He wonderful,
Sing hallelujah Christ is risen,
Bow down before Him,
For He is lord of all,
Sing hallelujah Christ is risen.

Read more: Elevation Worship – O Come To The Altar Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Video Testimony: Living for Jesus

If I were to sum up what the Lord worked in my life through my two years in Gospel for Asia’s School of Discipleship program… (that’s really hard to sum up by the way)… two things stand out.

Jesus.

Living in light of eternity.

That’s what it’s really all about.

If you care to watch, here’s a short video the team made about my SD story.

One Year Anniversary

  One year ago today, I was accepted on staff at Gospel for Asia. Praise God; He is so faithful. This year has gone by so quickly, but has been so full of growth, challenges, tears, laughter and joy. I am grateful for Jesus’ love and the new life He gave me… And the privilege to serve at GFA and share the gift of Christ’s love with people who have never yet heard. The best is yet to come!

World Water Day

#WaterIs life. Today is World Water Day, and we can turn our attention to the thing that most of us take for granted every single day… Water.

Around the world, 750 million people have zero access to safe drinking water, let alone clean water to bathe in or wash their clothing. Women around the world spend a collective 200 million hours gathering water. Every minute, a child dies because of a water-related disease like diarrhea because they lack safe sanitation. About 65% of the people who live in rural India do not have access to a toilet.

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Especially on my heart are the needs in South Asia, where millions are dying because they do not have clean water. What does “not having clean water” look like in their lives? From some of the stories I have heard while working at Gospel for Asia… not having running water in their houses. Walking to collect heavy gallons of water, several times a day. Waiting in line at a village well; sometimes being banned from using that well because of their caste or religion. Depending on water from a tanker truck that comes through the village, which may not have enough for everyone. Because of the scarcity of clean water, drinking whatever water is available, however dirty it may be.

And one of the worst situations: Bathing yourself, taking the cows for a drink, washing clothes, and getting drinking water from the same stagnant pond.

Each statistic and each horrible story resounds like a hammer nailing the coffin of this water crisis.

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I believe the Lord allowed me to be born in this place, in this time, for a reason. He purposed for me to grow up as one of four daughters, enjoy the privileges of literacy, education and equal rights that so many women around the world do not have. He even sovereignly planned that I would have such free access to clean water. My life, here and now, has a purpose. I believe that because God has given me these privileges. It’s my responsibility –and my privilege– to give back to others. Not only giving back to make a social difference, but to meet the needs of people on a deeper level. Yes, people are dying because of a lack of clean water… but people are dying and going to hell, every time my heart beats. Sharing the eternal hope that Jesus Christ freely offers is my privilege.

Today, March 22, is World Water Day. People need water, and people also need the love of Jesus. Enter Jesus Wells, part of Gospel for Asia’s clean water ministry in South Asia, that provide fresh, pure drinking water to entire communities, regardless of caste or religion ($1400). Or the small but mighty BioSand Water Filter that uses sand, gravel, and concrete to provide water that’s 98% pure for a family ($30). We can’t forget about sanitation… That’s why GFA provides Outdoor Toilets to families and communities, preventing disease and providing a safe place to use the bathroom ($160). I read on water.org that for every $1 that’s invested in water and sanitation projects there is a $4 economic return. That’s pretty cool. But even better, clean water ministry can have an eternal impact. Through the provision of clean water, many communities are becoming more open to hearing about the God who loves them and provides for their needs!

I encourage you to take action this World Water Day. Pray about these things. Jesus has the victory already, and He wants to use us to touch the lives of others.

You can find out more about Gospel for Asia’s clean water ministry here.

*statistics via Gospel for Asia, water.org, UNICEF, and this infographic


 Working with Gospel for Asia bloggers in our Blog for Asia program has been such a privilege! I’m inspired by what several of them have also shared about World Water Day:

“How vital is water?  Without water I’d die in three days.” – Justin

“We can help though. I never want my personal comfort to add toward indifference in a world where I can make a difference.” – Chelsea

“Let us also make this a day of action, a day we can show water is love.” Nicole

“Investing in human beings for the sake of Jesus is something that will last into eternity.” – Amanda

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Story from the Mission Field: Leprosy

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When I was on a Gospel for Asia vision tour in South Asia a year and a half ago, I met a woman named Mina, who was affected by leprosy. Mina told me her story.

She had suffered from the disease for 40 years, and lived for most of that time in colonies with other people suffering from leprosy. Her husband had died, and her son lived outside the colony, only visiting occasionally. To earn some money to pay for her medication, Mina had to beg. Every day from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., she would beg outside a local religious site.

This visit to the leprosy colony was one of the hardest parts of the trip. Most of society has shunned these people, and there was so much suffering, so much despair. But we met a group of missionaries who loved and cared for the leprosy patients. They ministered to their needs in both practical and spiritual ways, like cleaning their wounds and praying for them. We saw a glimpse of hope being poured out.

Hope in this place of suffering is almost a paradox. Mina, the woman I met, smiling with genuine joy? The men and women who said they were encouraged by our team’s visit? A man who prayed to the same God I worship? But it’s true. And it’s only because of the love of Christ working through the missionaries serving there; His love touching the lives of the suffering; His love displayed through my team members.

I’d like to leave you with this quote from Pastor Jiva, a missionary who started leprosy ministry in another region of South Asia.

“’It is because of God’s grace that we have the strength, courage and motivation to work among these people, to share with them, to hug them, to love them and to care for them,’” – Pastor Jiva

(Quote from http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/compelled-by-love/)


world-leprosy-day-banner
World Leprosy Day was observed on January 25, 2015. Although leprosy is foreign to daily life for many of us, thousands still suffer from the disfigurement and devastating social stigma caused by this disease. In 2013, 215,557 new cases of leprosy were diagnosed globally. More than half of these were in India. (source: World Health Organization)

Dedicated missionaries like Pastor Jiva are reaching out to people afflicted by leprosy in South Asia, touching their lives with the love and care of Christ. This ministry takes place not only on World Leprosy Day, but also on every other day of the year. We can be part of impacting their lives with hope, too! Visit Gospel for Asia’s Leprosy Ministry page here.

I Will Proclaim His Faithfulness

“’I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’ I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.”
– Psalm 40:8-10

At the end of 2013, I was praying and seeking what direction God wanted me to go after the intense year of growth and discipleship at SD Canada. God spoke His call to me through this passage, Psalm 40:8-10.

My heart’s cry was to do God’s will, and what was it He wanted me to do?

Above all, followers of Jesus Christ are called to know Him more fully and intimately. He calls us to surrender our lives to Him, holding nothing back (Luke 14:33), and to love Him above all (Matthew 22:37-39). And through Psalm 40:8-10, God showed me my call to proclaim His faithfulness.

My life isn’t about what I can accomplish for the Lord, because it’s really about what He has already done: His finished work on the cross of paying for the sins of the world and offering us the gift of salvation.

I desire for my life to be about Jesus:  100% surrendered to Him, no turning back.
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“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” –Philippians 1:21

There is no way I can ever repay Jesus for what He has done – saving me, adopting me, giving me eternal life – so all I can do is thank Him. And out of my love, I want to live for Him with everything I am.

I desire to PROCLAIM the faithfulness and steadfast love of the Lord through my life, and I want this blog to shout that loud and clear too.

This works alongside His call on my life to missions – and that’s a whole story in itself too. :)

I look forward to posting more on this blog, and hopefully starting conversations with you about the faithfulness of the Lord!  So tell me, what has the Lord been doing in your life this season?

Entering a New Season

Meet the January 2014 School of Discipleship Second Year Graduating Class! That’s quite the mouthful to say. :)

I had the privilege to walk through 2014 with these 13 men and women, with all the challenges and joys of being the very first SD2 class. We were affectionately known as the “guinea lambs”!

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First row: Joshua, Nathanael, Josiah, Christian, David, Jarius, Daniel | Second row: Natalya, Taylor, Lanae, Trula, me, Amanda, Sharlena

The Lord has taught me so much through this year and through my classmates. The various health struggles through  the year, moving from my hometown, adjusting back to being in the USA, new roommates, and an almost-overwhelming amount of homework… those things were all hard. But it seems like God works through hard things to teach me the most. He taught me trust, dependence, and faithfulness in the little things (a few of the many lessons).

Whether they realize it or not, my classmates taught me many things too. :) Perseverance. Passion for the lost and boldness to share the Gospel. Trust. Unity. Loving the differences in the Body of Christ. Patience. Commitment. Knowing God as our Father. Using our talents and creativity to glorify God. Joy. Putting others first.

We graduated from School of Discipleship on December 9th, and since we completed the second year of the program, we’ve really finished. Each of us are pressing on to what the Lord has called us to next; some to Bible college, some to overseas missions, some back home, and some coming back on staff at GFA. I’m one of those coming back on staff. I’m still here at Gospel for Asia since my family serves here, but it’s pretty different not being a student and not being around my classmates anymore.

My classmates and I are now entering a new season, and it most likely will hold more change, more transition, times of uncertainty, and struggles. But I know that we can walk with confidence in Christ, pressing on to know Him more and make Him known.

Read over this passage from Philippians and let it sink into your heart. And instead of just closing this window and clicking over to the next tab in your Internet browser, maybe open up God’s Word and spend some time with Him thinking about what He’s called YOU to do.

“Yet every advantage that I had gained I considered lost for Christ’s sake. Yes, and I look upon everything as loss compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I did in actual fact suffer the loss of everything, but I considered it useless rubbish compared with being able to win Christ. For now my place is in him, and I am not dependent upon any of the self-achieved righteousness of the Law. God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ. How changed are my ambitions! Now I long to know Christ and the power shown by his resurrection: now I long to share his sufferings, even to die as he died, so that I may perhaps attain as he did, the resurrection from the dead. Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ.” – Philippians 3:7-14 (Phillips Translation)

One life at a time

Have you ever heard the story of the boy and the starfish? As the tale goes, many starfish were washed upon a beach by the tide, and would soon die from the sun and lack of water. A little boy walked down the beach, picking up starfish and tossing them back into the water, saving lives one by one. A man walked by and saw the starfish rescue operation, and told the boy, “You’ll never finish, there are too many to save them all.” In reply, the young boy tossed another starfish back into the life-giving water, and said, “I made a difference for that one.”

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When we hear big numbers like ‘2 out of 5 people have never heard of Jesus’ or that 2.5 billion people are still unreached, it’s easy to think, “How can we ever make a difference?” and I’m right there with you.

I traveled to South Asia last fall, and I was struck by how many unreached people filled every square mile. It was overwhelming. How could we ever reach them? These kind of thoughts filled my mind while I was visiting a Bridge of Hope center in a densely populated city.

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But then, this little boy got up to share his testimony. With a mischievous smile on his face, he told us that he used to be a naughty boy. Going to the Bridge of Hope center totally changed his life, and he’s not naughty anymore.

The Lord gently spoke to my heart through this boy’s testimony, and I learned a lesson similar to the other little boy and the starfish. What He said was this: there are many yet to be reached, but every single life that is touched and changed matters.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells us there is great rejoicing in heaven over every soul who comes into the kingdom! And I think there must also be great rejoicing over every child whose life is changed, every person who decides to live in light of eternity, and every family who finds hope.

 “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

I wrote down this story of what the Lord has been teaching me originally to send to the bloggers who are part of our Blog for Asia team. However, I wanted to share it here on my blog too. This was one of the lessons the Lord taught me during our trip to South Asia, and it’s a good reminder that what I can do to help reach the lost, even in a small way, really does make a difference.

I hope to share more Faces of South Asia with you in the coming weeks, and show you glimpses of my trip last September.