South Asia

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

Story from the Mission Field: Ruth

you-should-have-been-a-boy-2

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.

TD13-00031

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

Story from the Mission Field: Leprosy

MB-Pics-2066

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.

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.”

starfish

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.

BOH one life

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.

Gospel for Asia’s 35th Anniversary

35 years ago today, Gospel for Asia was founded by Uncle K.P. Yohannan. My family and I have been part of this ministry (this family!) for 12 1/2 years. It’s such a privilege to be in a community of people who love the Lord, who build up one another, and who are passionate about telling people in Asia about the salvation found only in Jesus. I have personally grown so much by growing up here, and by spending these years in the School of Discipleship. I am so thankful for my classmates, co-workers, teachers, and leaders who invest in my life. And God is continuing to work in our lives, and in the lives of thousands on the other side of the world. The best is yet to come!

1 Thessalonians 5:24 (one of my favorite verses) says, “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”

Praise the Lord for His faithfulness!

35-anniversary-2

Gospel for Asia’s website is www.gfa.org.

Grateful for my Mom

coffee with mommy jan 2014Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, and it’s awesome to have a day set aside just for Mom. I need to tell my Mom how much I love her every day though, not just on Mother’s Day! Moms love and serve so much – they raise the kids, change the diapers, make meals, and take care of us, and often my Mom ends up serving people behind the scenes. It’s wonderful to have Mother’s Day and say, “Okay Mom, this day is for you. You can’t do the dishes; you can’t make the food; we’ll clean the kitchen. We just want you to know you’re loved today.”

My Mom has taught me so many things: how to sew, how to cook food, how to drive, how to treat other people, and how to love the Lord. She has been so influential in teaching me to follow Jesus, and I’m so grateful for her Godly example. And another big part of my upbringing was being a staff kid at Gospel for Asia, which I’m also so grateful for.

This year, Gospel for Asia has the goal to see 2,000 Bridge of Hope children sponsored before Mother’s Day. So, why child sponsorship for Mother’s Day?

Parents in Asia want to love and provide for their kids, just like parents here do, just like my Mom and Dad do. But so many families are trapped in poverty, and the fact that they’re not able to provide for their kids is heartbreaking. They can’t afford to feed them and to send them to school. They struggle just to put one meal on the table each day. My heart hurts to see this reality faced by impoverished families and moms.

That’s why Gospel for Asia wants to see children rescued through Bridge of Hope. Because when a child is enrolled in Bridge of Hope, it doesn’t just impact that little boy or girl – it touches the whole family.

mothers-day

Imagine being a Mom unable to provide for your child, just like these Moms in South Asia. And then someone comes and helps your child out of this life of poverty, sends them to school, gives them nutritious meals and medical checkups, and then tells them it’s because of Jesus who loves and values them. Imagine how grateful you would be!

And that’s what this Mother’s Day campaign is about. You can honor your Mom here by sponsoring a Bridge of Hope child for her, and you can give a mother in South Asia the hope of her child being helped. That’s a Mother’s Day gift better than roses and sweeter than chocolate! :)

It’s so exciting to see that over 700 children have already been sponsored. Seven hundred precious, unique individuals who are receiving hope and learning that Jesus loves them!

mothers-day-countdown

Happy Mother’s Day! Tell your Mom how much she means to you this weekend, give her a hug and a kiss, and consider checking out Gospel for Asia’s Mother’s Day campaign at www.gfa.org/mom to see how you can help rescue a child.

BOH-mothers-day-image

Veil of Tears Movie Release!

Veil of Tears: Hope Is on the Way is coming out in theaters tomorrow – March 28!! This new documentary tells the stories of real women of South Asia. You’ll see the tragedy and oppression they face from birth until death; and in contrast, the hope that is on the horizon.

veil of tears theaters

Got my tickets!!

Got my tickets!!

Since I’m a School of Discipleship student and part of the ministry of Gospel for Asia, we have been praying for this movie through the entire process. And it’s so exciting to see the movie actually coming out in theaters!

I encourage you to go see Veil of Tears this weekend – select theaters around the country will be showing the film, and churches & families can watch it with a free simulcast until March 30.

What a few people are saying about Veil of Tears:

“When I saw it, I knew I would never – could never – be the same. Veil of Tears has taught me how to pray, to give, and to make a difference for Christ.”

– Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends

“Veil of Tears was so moving and informative. I want everyone to watch it and join us in making a difference in the lives of these women” – Francis Chan

“A powerful, riveting film . . . that grabs at the heart and won’t let go!” – American Family Association

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, you can watch it here:

trailer-new

www.veiloftearsmovie.com

World Leprosy Day

World Leprosy Day

mina

We often forget about leprosy. While it’s not something that affects our day-to-day life here in North America, leprosy impacts the lives of thousands across the globe, in places including Somalia, India, China, and Sri Lanka. I recently saw this with my own eyes, during my 2 week trip to South Asia. In a leprosy colony, I met a woman named Mina whose life and story deeply impacted me. You can read more of that story in this blog post

Society tells leprosy patients that they are outcaste. Untouchable. Worthless. Unloved. Many cultures shun them and cast them aside.

So it is these people – precious in the sight of God – that we want to reach out to with the tangible love and hope of Jesus Christ.

“Earlier, the lepers were considered as untouchables, but in this generation and time, there is no such discrimination . . .” Gospel for Asia pastor Vagish had said. “Our Creator, the Lord Jesus, loved all the sick people, including lepers.”

World Leprosy Day 2014 is marked on January 26th, or the closest Sunday to January 29th. This year, from January 26th to 30th, missionaries are reaching out with medical help, food, and other outreach in some leprosy colonies in South Asia.  They are bringing A Love They Can See. So go ahead and find out more about this ministry and World Leprosy Day at www.gfa.org/news/articles/world-leprosy-day-a-love-they-can-see.