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She Sacrificed Her Son

September 27th, 2013 Comments off

Millions of people come to the Ganges River hoping their sins will be washed away.

Through the stench of human waste and charred flesh, a mass of priests and pilgrims pressed toward one of the holiest places known to their faith.

On this day of celebration for their goddess, religious devotees believed the river would provide physical healing and forgiveness of their sins. They brought their dead with them, and set fire to their bodies on pyres in hopes of providing their loved ones with a good afterlife. Ashes, bones and cremated bodies sank into the river.

But above the clamor of the crowds, Varghese heard a lone, wailing voice. Kneeling along the shore, a young woman beat her chest and sobbed uncontrollably.

As Varghese approached, she wiped away the tears and tried to compose herself, but when he asked what was wrong, her horrific story poured out.

Her husband was sick with tuberculosis and had been out of work for months. Without his income, the young couple didn’t know how they would survive—unless they could somehow make peace with their deity.

“The troubles in my home are so great, and my sins so many,” she said, “so I gave my goddess the best I had to offer: my firstborn son.”

With horror, Varghese realized the woman had just thrown her infant into the river. The practice is centuries old: parents sacrifice their children in the river out of desperation for forgiveness. They’ve never been told that salvation was already purchased by the Son of God.

Read about the opportunity to reach people like this woman with Christ’s loveorder and read your free copy of Revolution in World Missions.

This article was originally published by Gospel for Asia. To learn more about Gospel for Asia, click here.

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Reaching out to Cyclone Survivors

September 20th, 2013 Comments off
Bible Campus in Burma

A brief glimpse of the damage at GFA’s Bible college campus in Burma. This building lost its roof.

A Gospel for Asia Bible college in Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar), is now a makeshift shelter for those devastated by Cyclone Nargis, which swept across the country early Saturday morning.

James Pinglay, the teenage son of a Gospel for Asia missionary in Kerala, India, was at the Bible college in Rangoon when the storm hit. He was able to obtain information and get on one of the only flights out of the country to deliver a report and photos of the devastation.

Pinglay said the cyclone hit at about 2:30 a.m. By daylight, the full effect of the storm was obvious. Homes were destroyed. Giant trees had crashed through buildings and were lying uprooted, blocking roads.

International news organizations are not allowed to report from Burma, but the news that is trickling out is horrifying. The death toll is estimated to be at least 22,000, and another 41,000 are missing.

“The people in Burma live in clusters of small communities in simple bamboo structures,” explained GFA President K.P. Yohannan. “These villages are not made of concrete. I imagine that literally hundreds of these simple structures were just blown away. We are praying here in India and are asking Christians around the world to join us.”

Pinglay reports that more than 80 people—along with 70 children from a nearby orphanage that was destroyed—made their way to the Bible college campus as soon as the storm subsided. Buddhist monks are also at the college, seeking assistance.

GFA Burma Bible College

A 2004 photo of GFA’s Burma Bible college. Part of the building is now being used to house storm refugees.

Local officials set up shop at the Bible college because the police station was completely destroyed. The police have asked for help from the staff at the college. At present, the students are away on their summer vacation. This freed up space to accommodate many who came for help.

GFA missionaries serve at about 400 churches and 250 mission stations in Burma. In 2006, the military-run government of Burma forbade foreign non-government organizations from doing aid work in the country. In the face of this disaster, the government is now relenting and allowing outside aid.

Since GFA missionaries are already in the country and have found favor with the government, they are one of the few groups able to offer immediate help to the people as they begin the recovery process.

“In the past, whenever there was a problem of any kind, our people got involved in helping. That is why the government and the people there look at us with good favor,” Yohannan said.

The missionaries and staff at the Bible college are taking care of the people’s basic needs by offering meals, prayers and the love of Jesus for those who have lost all hope. They will continue caring for the people, but the task before them is daunting.

“Rangoon is in total darkness, and they are estimating that there will not be electricity for at least three months,” Yohannan said.

Obtaining enough food to feed all those at the Bible college presents another challenge. At present, the banks are closed and fresh food and water are in short supply. Yet these are simply the immediate problems before the aid workers.

“We are facing at least six months of continuous work ministering to the people,” Yohannan explained. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us to reach out in love to them, just like we did after the tsunami in 2004.”

And while part of one Bible college building is still standing, portions of the campus—including the building where the people are now staying—were severely damaged.

“We will need to rebuild the Bible college, staff quarters and hundreds of homes of those in our churches,” Yohannan said. “Also, dozens of churches are sure to have been destroyed.”

While many missionaries and staff will remain in Rangoon assisting with the work at the Bible college, many others are already going out into the villages, looking for survivors and surveying the damage.

Yohannan asks for continued prayer for the people of Burma as they come to grips with this crisis. He also asks for prayer for those who are helping them.

 

This article was originally published by Gospel for Asia. To learn more about Gospel for Asia, click here.

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She Sold Her Daughter

September 16th, 2013 Comments off

Lakhi had been warned of the coming destruction, but so many others had denied it. She had nowhere to go anyway if it did come. But that day had finally arrived. Now hundreds of police officers marched through the monsoon rains, clearing Lakhi and her neighbors from their homes and making way for the bulldozers. Carrying an infant in her arms, she joined the mass evacuation and pondered the question plaguing the other women: How would they care for their children now?

Prostitute Flees with Infant Daughter

The government had talked for years of clearing out prostitutes, like Lakhi, from the neighborhood, but it was just recently that they had seemed serious about their vows of cracking down on the red-light district.

The day before, the big news had come: At 7:30 a.m., the police were coming to tear down all the huts involved in the sex trade. Lakhi had until then to leave.

Four buses waited to take sex workers to a mental asylum-turned-government rehabilitation facility. If they refused, they could return to the lands they’d been trafficked from or be put in prison. Despite their lack of options, no one trusted the authorities enough to climb aboard the buses, and Lakhi wasn’t going to lead the way.

The next morning, as the walls of her home and business turned to rubble, she held her 1-year-old daughter close and ran. The journey began with thousands fleeing, but the crowd thinned out as former neighbors split off toward their homelands.

After traveling two miles through the rain, Lakhi saw a woman on the roadside who hadn’t come from the carnage, and she had an idea.

Lakhi didn’t know where she would get a job or how she would live, but she was certain of one thing right now: Her child could have a better life, if only this woman would say “yes.” If only she would agree to buy Lakhi’s daughter.

Daughter Sold to New Mother

As far as Naavarasi knew, there wasn’t a protocol for handling requests that one buy another’s child. The traveling woman was making an outlandish plea. Still, she did seem truly desperate, and what would become of the poor baby if Naavarasi denied her?

At the very least, Naavarasi knew the child would be safe in her family. And as the only girl in a house of three brothers, she would be well loved.

The women agreed on a price equivalent to $22—about a month’s wages for some in the area—and Naavarasi took the infant home. She would call the baby Tamanna.

With no way to make a living, Lakhi made the desperate decision to sell her 1-year-old daughter to a woman named Naavarasi.

With no way to make a living, Lakhi made the desperate decision to sell her 1-year-old daughter to a woman named Naavarasi.

Illness Shakes Adoptive Family

For a while, Naavarasi and her family made a happy home for Tamanna. But when the girl was 3 years old, Naavarasi was overtaken by stomach issues that frequently caused her to vomit blood. And though her family belonged to a traditional religion, the gods they worshiped did nothing to heal the mother of four.

As a wage laborer, Naavarasi didn’t earn much, but her children depended on all of it. If Naavarasi couldn’t go to work, if she couldn’t care for them, perhaps her sister would take them in—but she already had four little ones of her own.

It was a dark reality to grasp, but the future awaiting Tamanna and her brothers was just as uncertain as on that day by the roadside.

When Naavarasi became sick, it threatened her ability to provide for Tamanna and her other children by working as a laborer.

When Naavarasi became sick, it threatened her ability to provide for Tamanna and her other children by working as a laborer.

A Cook Offers Hope

When every course of action Naavarasi tried had failed, she was left with only one thing to do: talk with others about her problems. One of those other people happened to be Chahna.

Chahna was a cook at a local Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope center and knew Jesus was the hope Naavarasi needed.

Chahna told Naavarasi all about the God who loved her and would never leave her, and she invited Naavarasi to come to church. As Naavarasi listened to Chahna’s pastor share, she felt the Lord calling her, and she decided to embrace His love.

Daughter Raised in Christ’s Love

Over time, God healed Naavarasi of her illness, and she was able to resume her position as family provider. Not only that, but she is raising her children to know of the God who saved their family.

Because of her adoptive mother’s love, Tamanna, now 10 years old, has never known the life of pain she was rescued from as a baby or what she could have faced as a toddler. At age 5, she was enrolled in the local Bridge of Hope center, and through the godly examples of her mother and the staff, she is learning what it means to follow Christ.

As Bridge of Hope staff members watch Tamanna’s growth, they’re encouraged to do more to reach the children of the red-light district, even making plans to open another center soon. After all, they know the most important part of Tamanna’s story: She is beloved by the living God, who paid the highest price to call her His own.

You can bring the love of Christ to mothers and their children each day by linking your life with a Bridge of Hope child.

Through the care of Naavarasi and the Bridge of Hope staff, Tamanna knows a life full of God's grace.

Through the care of Naavarasi and the Bridge of Hope staff, Tamanna knows a life full of God’s grace.

 

This article was originally published by Gospel for Asia. To learn more about Gospel for Asia, click here.

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Surviving Cyclone Nargis

September 6th, 2013 Comments off

James Pinglay, the teenage son of a Gospel for Asia missionary in Kerala, India, was at GFA’s Bible college in Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar) when Cyclone Nargis hit the country Saturday. James was staying in the on-campus apartment of a Bible College staff member. He was able to catch one of the only flights out of the country after the cyclone and is now sharing the harrowing tale of the storm and its aftermath.

The cyclone struck in the middle of the night and surprised the people of Rangoon.

“First we heard a sound on the roof like someone was beating on it. We didn’t know then that it was a cyclone. We got up and went into the kitchen and to our utter shock, the kitchen roof was gone. The roof was made of aluminum and we saw it flying away in the wind. The ceiling had already begun to collapse,” he said. “Beams and sheet metal were falling, so everyone in the house knew they had to get away to escape injury. As one woman opened the door to escape, we saw trees being uprooted and falling down. We also saw the roof of the other two big buildings flying off. We all ran to safety to another building that was made of brick.”

Once they arrived safely in that building, the terror continued. They were on the ground floor of the building and listened helplessly, as the storm attacked the building.

“It was thundering and raining with a strong wind. We heard the sound of our roof flying off and hitting the ground,” James said.

As daylight ascended on the campus, James and Bible college staff surveyed the damage.

“The next morning, we found that the windows from our chapel had broken and water was all over the place in the office, chapel, classrooms and dormitories. The two-story staff quarters had no roof. The families on the top floor evacuated to the ground floor. Countless houses in the neighborhood were totally destroyed.”

In the aftermath of the storm, just finding basic supplies is proving difficult.

“The prices of essential commodities and food shot up high. The people were not able to even afford to buy food. There is no communication, no water supply and no electricity. Transportation is nearly impossible as fallen trees are all over the place and roads are blocked. People could hardly move from place to place,” he said.

The hospital and police station were destroyed in the storm, too.

“Banks and other government offices are also closed, too. All international flights to and from Rangoon are cancelled because communication and computers are affected.”

The immediate needs of the people were obvious everywhere James looked.

“When we went to the city we saw that there was no place left for the people to stay. They were literally on the streets. They had to sleep on the streets and cook on the streets. People here are suffering.”

 

This article was originally published by Gospel for Asia. To learn more about Gospel for Asia, click here.

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