gospel for asia

2019: What’s Happening at Gospel for Asia

Since I’m catching up on blogging, here’s some news! I became the coordinator of the Web team at Gospel for Asia, as of April 2018. It’s been with a bit of trepidation that I entered this leadership role, but I am grateful for an opportunity to walk by faith even more, to serve the Lord in a greater capacity and to work alongside a really great team. The Lord has graciously been preparing me for this role, and I am excited. I would also really, really appreciate your prayers!

We recently got many reports about what happened on the mission field in 2018! It’s been so amazing to see what God has done. Recently, our founder, Dr.KP Yohannan, shared that in the past five years they have seen everything on the mission field grow by three times. It’s really astounding, and we give God all the glory for this! It’s amazing to be part of so many lives in Asia being changed and so many people coming to know Christ.

Gospel for Asia ministry statistics from 2018

I’ve shared a couple of times about the Christmas Catalog, and last year, more than 241,000 families or individuals were given these gifts. So many lives have been changed through simple things like a blanket or a sewing machine. Each of the gifts helps meet felt needs, helps families break the cycle of poverty, or equips a missionary for ministry.  A 65-year-old widow from the Himalayas who received a blanket said, “For years, I have longed and dreamed of owning a blanket, but I knew that I never could. If your Jesus cares about me so much to give me this blanket, I will follow him for the rest of my life.”

Gospel for Asia ministry statistics from 2018
Gospel for Asia ministry statistics from 2018
Gospel for Asia statistics from 2018

In another village where families were given BioSand water filters, one villager said, “We never knew the taste of clean water before.”

We filmed a lot of short videos about these 2018 reports from the field! This was one of the big projects we were working on in Web. You can check out these awesome stories at www.gfa.org/2018-in-review.

“It really made such a difference for them! They were able to breed [the piglets] … they could sell some of them and earn money.” —Elicia, behind the scenes missionary at Gospel for Asia

My Interview with Gospel for Asia founder KP Yohannan

Elicia Christofferson, Gospel for Asia web director, interviewing founder Dr. KP Yohannan

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. KP Yohannan and talk with him about a recent visit to the Mumbai slums. I visited GFA’s Bridge of Hope project there in 2010; at that time there were just four centers helping 100-200 kids each. Now, there are 32 Bridge of Hope centers!

Here is an excerpt from Dr. KP Yohannan’s blog about some of the things we talked about during the interview.


K.P.’s Visit to the Mumbai Slums: Trusting God for These Precious Children

But I cannot forget these slums. I am compelled by God to do all I can to help the brothers and sisters who live and labor there because they, too, are compelled by same love from God—not for the slums, but for the slum dwellers. I go back to the slums because my heart breaks for these precious people whom the world would rather forget. And the children, they are born innocents but will face great difficulties ahead if someone does not reach them with hope for the future.

Let me tell you what I mean.

This last visit, I was at one of the centers supported by GFA’s Bridge of Hope Program in this slum. Not too long ago, there were just four Bridge of Hope centers in this area. Now there are 32. Te one I visited has 128 students. It is amazing what God is doing in these centers.

During my time there, I got to visit the children’s math class and help to serve their lunch.

“Dayita” is around 8 years old

This one little girl in the fourth grade—I’ll call her Dayita—brought us to visit her home. Both of her parents have died, so she lives alone with her grandmother, who is a widow. It’s just the two of them in a 10’ by 12’ space made of makeshift tin sheets. The living room, the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom are the same room. I cannot tell you how it hurts me to see anyone living like this. We make better houses for our dogs. Yet, would you believe, Dayita’s grandmother must pay rent to live in such a place? Yes, it’s true—1,500 rupees a month (about $23 USD).

That means that she has to work to feed and house the two of them. She told me that she works seven days a week to make ends meet. She makes what little money she can by going from home to home outside the slum, washing clothes and dishes from early in the morning until late in the day. Every day. Just to survive and to provide shelter and food for Dayita.

So, I wonder, what will become of Dayita?

Her grandmother told me, “If the Bridge of Hope center was not here, this, my little girl, may be begging on the streets.” She said Bridge of Hope was the only hope Dayita had to grow up as a human being.

And yet, it’s so hard to predict what will happen to her as she grows up in the slums. Bridge of Hope can provide education, healthcare and nutrition. And we can pray. No, we must pray, because before we know it, Dayita will be a young teenager. This can be a life-changing time for girls in poverty-ravaged communities. It happens across many parts of the world where young girls—13 and 14 years old—are married off or sold into prostitution. Bridge of Hope is helping to rescue many girls from this plight, but the danger doesn’t always disappear immediately.

There are so many living in situations like Dayita’s. It is a story repeated over and over. … Meeting Dayita and her grandmother reminds me that we cannot predict what lies ahead for any of them. And yet, we must do whatever we can when the Lord gives us the chance. I told Dayita’s grandmother, “Please know, as much as she can study to become a medical doctor, an engineer or whatever, we will be there with you and help.”

What will happen to Dayita five years from now? I do not know. …That is why we trust Jesus. Before the world began, the Lord knew this little girl, and He knew we would end up in that slum. And the Lord knew that we would care. He knew about each person who would become part of her journey through prayer and assistance. He has Dayita’s future under control, and He has ours under control, too. His plans for us are good (see Jeremiah 29:11). Knowing that He has our future planned, that it is good, and that He alone is in control—that is our hope. That is why we must not worry, but trust—for our future and for Dayita’s, also.


They also made a short film about Bridge of Hope in Mumbai. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen to give a real look inside a BOH center.

Marriage: established on a strong foundation in Christ

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! So many exciting things are happening; I have a lot to catch you up on!

On May 5, Joshua asked me to be his bride. I said, “yes, thank you!” Our wedding is drawing close on August 5. Joshua moved down from Pennsylvania to Texas in June, and we have been getting to know each other better in person as we prepare for marriage. Up to that move, our entire courtship and part of the engagement had been long distance. Seeing each other in person nearly every day is so different than being separated by 1,400 miles, but of course wonderful.

We see marriage as more about God and his purpose than it is about us. Joshua and I are united in our love of Jesus, and we desire everything in our lives to flow out of that first love. Joshua has a heart for evangelism and ministry, and right now senses that he is in a season of preparation and equipping. He fully supports me serving the Lord at GFA for this season, and right now our plan (as we submit it to God and earnestly seek His leading!) is that I’ll continue serving at GFA while he works as a personal trainer and pursues some further education. We’ll be living in the Dallas area following our marriage.

Ministry Update

Our web team has been staying busy this summer too! We have had several part time employees or volunteers join us for different periods of time, and I am grateful to have had Clara, Elizabeth and Laura join us.

Almost everyone in the ministry has been involved in the launch of a big project called the Mission Support Team. This new sponsorship initiative now enables people all across the West to sponsor “behind-the-scenes missionaries” here at GFA. In other words, supporting the staff like me! Each of us working here at GFA facilitates the work of more than 100 national missionaries on the field, so we play a vital role in allowing the mission work to continue to function. Bringing the staff to full support enables us to do more to reach Asia with the Gospel!

Web has played a big part in this project, and you can check out the fruit of our labors at the new web area – www.gfa.org/mst!

I’m grateful for a chance to get to serve Jesus with this team and to utilize the webby world for God’s glory!

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

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!

Update: I am serving full-time with Gospel for Asia!

From December 2014 until now, I’ve been in an “in-between” place while I am raising support to join staff with Gospel for Asia. The new pace of volunteering in the office, being at home, and spending time building relationships with my support team is very different from the student lifestyle, but the Lord has been teaching me so much during this time. He is growing me in surrender, patience, trust, walking by faith, and more that I am still figuring out. :)

This chapter is now coming to a close… GFA leadership gave the OK for me to start serving full-time in the office! I am very excited for this next step to serve as a home-team missionary and help reach the unreached in Asia. My first day as staff in the Web Department was April 20!

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Thank you so much for your prayers and support for me, from when I was just starting out as a student and now as I follow the Lord’s leading to come on staff with GFA.

You can read my April newsletter update to find out more about me serving as a home-office missionary and what’s been going on in my family and at GFA.

50percentPraise God for His faithfulness to provide!
My current support level is 50% of my monthly goal ($1450). The remaining amount of $725 can be broken down like this… seven people giving $100/month, or 14 people partnering with $50/month, or 28 people donating $25/month (which is less than $1 a day!) … or of course, any other combination. Find out more.

I am continuing to build partnerships and grow my support team to help reach the lost in Asia. Please pray for the rest of my support to be fully raised soon!

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father…” – 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

Thank you for standing with me for the sake of the Gospel! It is a privilege to partner together to share the hope of our risen Savior with those who are still in darkness.

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Story from the Mission Field: Ruth

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I’d like to introduce you to a woman named Ruth. She is one of four daughters, just like me, but she lives on the other side of the world. Life is difficult for women in South Asia. The oppression starts before birth, when mothers are often pressured into abortions if they are expecting a baby girl. Among young women in India, the suicide rate is many times the world average. When a South Asian woman becomes a widow, she can be blamed for her husband’s death.

Ruth is not a boy, and her parents hated her for it.

After the family had three daughters, Ruth’s parents paid a local priest to pray that their next child would be a boy. Then Ruth was born. Rather than the carefree play and learning that I experienced growing up, Ruth’s childhood was filled with hard work. She described herself as a “beggar for love.” When Ruth finally worked up the courage to ask her father the reason for his hatred, he shouted, “You should have been a boy!”

This story brings me to tears every time. I ask again, “Why was I born in this country? Why has God allowed me to be so privileged?”

I am one of four daughters, like Ruth, and my parents love every one of their girls. They don’t feel cultural pressure to have a son, or that having daughters is an extra burden on the family. My parents love me, just like Jesus does. Because Jesus treasures women with the same equality and love that He has for every person on earth.

I know He has a purpose in placing me right here, right now. Because of that, I believe I have the responsibility to share His love with people like Ruth who desperately long for hope.

By the way, Ruth’s story doesn’t end in pain and heartache – God brought restoration in her relationship with her father! Ruth now shares the hope she found in Jesus with other women, reaching out just like a Gospel for Asia women missionary team first reached out to her.

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Learn more of Ruth’s Story at www.gfa.org/women/ruth.

 


Update from 2017:

Recently, Ruth got married, on May 11, 2017! Our photojournalist ran into Ruth earlier this year when covering some other mission field assignments. Ever since she encountered Jesus, Ruth has been serving in ministry discipling and mentoring other women. She and her husband plan to continue serving in ministry together. Please pray for God’s blessings on their marriage!

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.

clean water 1

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.