Photo courtesy of Blog for Asia.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.