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.
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!
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. :)
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
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!
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.
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
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.