Q is for Quicker Than Walking

Q is for Quicker Than Walking-Bicycles

What comes to mind when you think of a bicycle? Maybe fun childhood memories of pedaling around a neighborhood (or like me, memories of skinned knees and never quite getting the hang of it!). Maybe you got one for a special birthday or Christmas gift. But have you ever thought of a bicycle as an evangelistic tool?

Let me share a story. Purnendu is a pastor in South Asia. He is responsible for leading congregations at three mission stations. But the mission stations are fifteen miles from his home. His only method of transportation is walking. It took hours to walk to the mission stations and hours to return. These were precious hours he couldn’t spend encouraging other Christians and sharing about Jesus with those who have not heard. But that was before someone gave him the gift of a bicycle. Now he can reach the villages much more quickly, giving him more time to spend with the people there. He can even take his wife along to the services, allowing her to minister to the needs of the women in the congregations. He can also reach additional villages he was not able to reach on foot.

Bicycles for pastors in South Asia mean much more than fond memories or a few hours of pleasure. They are important tools that help them share the love of Jesus with men, women, and children who are dying on the inside from not knowing Him. The next time you jump in your car – or hop on your bicycle – please pray for the pastors in South Asia who are working so hard to reach the lost, whether walking or pedaling to get to them.

Ben and Me

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P is for Pure Water

P is for Pure Water

I dehydrate quickly. I’m not sure what causes it from a physical standpoint, I just know that if I don’t keep sipping at fluids throughout the day, I start to feel sick. But I never have to walk farther than to the kitchen to get clean, pure water. It’s treated, filtered, cold, and crisp. But in South Asia, simply finding water that won’t cause your children to get sick—or worse—is a daily struggle.

Sometimes the struggle to find safe water is due to drought. When the rain does not come, there is nothing to replenish the water supplies. Other times the struggle is the result of a natural disaster that has polluted the water. Still other times it is due to Christian persecution.

In parts of the world, when a family chooses to follow Christ, their village refuses them access to clean water. The family then may have to walk miles to get water, and sometimes, the water isn’t fit to drink. But they have no choice. They will not abandon their faith in Jesus, so they walk the miles and take the risk.

The good news is that ministries are working to provide these believers—and their villages—with reliable access to clean water. They are working to install wells (such as the Jesus Wells program), that demonstrate the love of Christ, the One who promised: “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” John 4:14 NIV.

Would you join me in giving thanks for the pure water we available and the everlasting life we have through Jesus? And would you join me in praying that families all across South Asia would have the same?

Ben and Me

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O is for the Odds

O is for the Odds and the 10-40 Window

Last week, I received the following in an email from Gospel for Asia:

  • 2 out of 5 people in our world – that means 2.5 billion people – have never heard of Jesus’ love for them.
  • 80,000 people in South Asia die every day without ever having a chance to hear the name of Jesus. That means every time your heart beats, someone in Asia plunges into hell.
  • Although 97% of the world’s unreached lives in the 10/40 window, less than 0.05% of our total resources as the Church in the West are being sent to help share the Good News.

Their website shared additional sobering statistics:

  • 500,000 villages in India alone have never heard the Gospel.
  • Over 80% of the worlds poorest people live in the 10/40 Window.

In the face of such overwhelming odds, is there anything we can do?

It’s a cliche that I’m sure you’ve heard before, but it carries a truth worth repeating: One with God is a majority. Think about it. In ancient times, God chose one man and his family to preserve the entire human race. He chose one man to become the father of an entire nation. And many years later, God used twelve men who knew Jesus to change the Roman empire and the world.

The message is clear. Odds don’t matter to God.

But how can we help make a difference? Above all, we are called to pray. “And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” Luke 10:2

There are many ways we can pray. One way we can pray for the lost is by praying for the national missionaries who are serving them. What is a national missionary? A national missionary is a man or woman who already lives in Asia, knows the language or a related dialect, and is not restricted in his or her movement due to being a Westerner. More than 75% of Asian countries do not allow Western missionaries to come and openly share the Gospel.

There is a printable prayer reminder of specific requests to keep on your heart for national missionaries. They face the every day trials and temptations each of us do such as being too busy, focusing on the wrong things, and growing tired doing the right thing. They also face threats most of us do not face, such as direct opposition and persecution for their faith in Christ.  I hope you’ll join me in seeking to remember them in prayer often.

Ben and Me

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N is for Nepal

N is for Nepal

Last week, I finished re-reading a biography of Sundar Singh, a missionary who dedicated his life to helping the people of northern India, Nepal, and Tibet see that Jesus Christ came for each and every one of them, that He was not a religion of the West but a living and loving God. He carried a Bible and a blanket and wore a simple robe. His story is a remarkable one, and I am challenged each time I read it. One of the details of his story always stands out to me. He was nicknamed the “apostle of the bleeding feet” because he crossed the Himalayas barefoot numerous times. Whenever I read the description of him walking barefoot, leaving blood-stained footprints in the snow, it reminds me of Jesus. His feet bled for me on the rocks of Calvary.

Sundar Singh was born in 1889 and died in 1929, but the mission to cross the Himalayas to reach every person living there with the message that Jesus came, bled, and died for them goes on. They must be told that Jesus died and rose again, even if it means crossing the Himalayas barefoot, or as is often the case, in flip flops. Can you imagine it? In our modern world, with all its luxuries, missionaries continue to cross the icy and rocky hills in flip flops because they don’t have the winter clothing they need.

Will you pray today for the missionaries working in this rocky region, that God would go before them, break up the soil of the hearts waiting to hear, and provide for their every need? You can read more about ways to pray for the people of Nepal or take a journey through Nepal with a Gospel for Asia field correspondent if you’d like to learn more.

Ben and Me

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M is for A Mother’s Hidden Legacy

M is for A Mother's Hidden Legacy in South Asia

It’s a story of a forgotten faith, an alcoholic husband, and the God who never lost sight of His children.

Naomi was raised in a Christian home in South Asia. She believed in Jesus and trusted His plan for her life. Then her parents arranged her marriage to a man who did not share her faith. As time passed, Naomi forgot the Lord she once loved, and she put her faith away. Her husband worked faithfully. Unfortunately, he also spent his paychecks on alcohol just as faithfully. It didn’t change when they became parents, first to one child and then to a second. Naomi wearied of the struggle and the hopelessness.

That’s when she remembered the Lord she had once trusted. She began to pray to Him again and dared hope He would one day rescue her from the mess her life had become. In time, she began to attend church. Her husband put up with it for a while, but then he started verbally assaulting her for attending. She didn’t go to church as often, but she would not give it up. She would not forget her Lord again.

As time passed, Naomi’s husband’s lifetime of bad habits and abusing his body began to take a toll on his health. He became desperately ill, but with no money to pay for services, the hospital would not help him. He returned home to wait to die.

But God had other plans.

As a pastor and other Christians prayed with Naomi and her family, God spoke to her husband’s heart. He admitted that the way he had lived his life was wrong. He began to believe that this God who his wife loved so dearly could rescue him as well. Over time, God healed Naomi’s husband from his illness and her husband chose to believe in Jesus. Her husband had seen with his own eyes the love of a God who never forgot His children, even when they forgot Him.

You can read more of Naomi’s story on the Gospel for Asia blog.

 Ben and Me

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L is for Literacy

L is for Literacy

Can you imagine never learning to read? Over two hundred and fifty million women in South Asia can’t read, and it can affect every area of their lives, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’d like to share a the story of two women. You can see a video about the first at the link below. She quit school when she was a little girl and never learned to read. Her family was very poor. They didn’t have electricity or television—they didn’t even have good water to drink. She had to walk several miles to go to school, and she didn’t have nice clothes to wear. The other kids made fun of her. One day, she wasn’t able to turn in her homework because she didn’t have any paper. The teacher was so upset that he punished her in front of the whole class. She was so embarrassed she refused to go to school any more.

So, she grew up and got married, but she never learned to read or write. She was embarrassed at church, because she couldn’t read her Bible along with the pastor. And, she was sad, too, because she knew that reading the Bible and learning God’s Word was the best way to learn more about God.

The second story I want to share is the story of Dayita. Her family was poor and she began working as a seamstress to help provide for their needs. She deposited her earnings in the bank only to discover that her husband was withdrawing the money and spending it on alcohol. She considered opening a separate account, but she couldn’t read or write to fill out the forms or manage her finances.

Literacy ministries helped both of these women learn to read and write. It helped empower them with the resources they needed to care for their families. It boosted their self-confidence and helped them develop their sense of self-worth. But it did even more. It taught them more about God, how to read and study His Word, and how to grow closer in their relationship with Him. Would you pray with me that every one of the women in South Asia who cannot read would discover the life-changing power in God’s Word for themselves?

Illiteracy in South Asia

 Ben and Me

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K is for the Kitchen in South Asia

K is for the Kitchen in South Asia

I was extremely blessed to spend yesterday with my family and a dear friend. We had a “girls day” full of shopping, laughing, and eating. It was the first the four of us had enjoyed in a long time. And I ate a lot – far more than I needed to. But do you know what? When this morning came, I was hungry again. Despite having a full lunch and a far-more-than-adequate supper, I needed to eat again a few hours later.

It wasn’t a surprise; it’s part of being human. We eat, yet we grow hungry again; we drink yet we grow thirsty again (John 4:13). It’s the same everywhere, in the United States and in South Asia. There’s something else that is part of being human that is the same everywhere. It’s the need each one of us has for real life, for spiritual life, for Jesus Christ.

In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (NIV). Jesus is the only one who can fill the hunger in our hearts for something “more,” something that will last and not fade away. Will you pray with me that families in South Asia and around the world will hear about and feast on the Bread of Life that gives life for all eternity?

Here is a recipe for chapati, an unleavened flat bread often served with every meal in North India. The bread is torn into smaller pieces and used to pick food from the plate. Try making a batch of chapati with your family and pray for the women in India who make these up to three times a day for their families. (Thanks to Gospel for Asia for the delicious recipe!)

Chapati Recipe:

This recipe makes 12 chapatis.

Items needed: Griddle, rolling pin

3 cups white whole wheat flour or chapati flour (if you have an Indian supermarket near you)
1 1/2 cups milk or water (you might need more or less depending on how dry your flour is)
Salt (a few dashes)
1 Tbsp. Ghee (clarified butter), or vegetable oil. (You may need extra when rolling.)

To make ghee: melt butter on low heat, when it is all melted pour into a heat safe vessel. For example a glass canning jar works perfectly. Allow the melted butter to settle, skim off foam on top, and pour off the oil. Leave the white residue in the bottom of the jar.

Mix flour, salt, and liquid to form dough.

On a clean surface knead oil into dough till smooth.

Let dough rest for about 10-20 minutes, cover with damp towel.

Separate the dough into 12 balls approximately 1 inch across.

Add a few drops of oil to the rolling surface and flatten the ball, start rolling it out then fold it into a triangle and roll it out into a circle again. Repeat then roll it into a circle about the size of your hand.

Place on a medium high hot griddle and cook until the top is puffy and the bottom golden brown, then turnover and cook the other side.

Repeat until all your chapatis are cooked. Serve warm and enjoy!

 Ben and Me

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J is for Justice

J is for Justice

Justice. It’s a big concept. We all want it, but we don’t always know what it looks like. We don’t always recognize it, and sometimes, we fail to see it done. Sometimes the struggle to get it seems hopeless and we are tempted to give up. When we are, we need to step back and check our perspective.

There are different types of justice. There is the justice than men and governments  give and there is the justice God gives. One is fallible; one is  not. Man’s justice is flawed because we are flawed. We confuse justice with vengeance. A legal system designed to protect the weak sometimes betrays them and protects their abusers. Stories of unjust treatment of others abound. Consider these stories of pastors in Sri Lanka and India.

In Sri Lanka, a pastor, his wife, and other Christians were attacked by an angry mob. When police arrived, the Christians were taken to the police station and questioned for seven hours. Those responsible for the attack were not arrested or questioned. Weeks later at a court hearing, a magistrate reprimanded the police and ordered that those responsible be arrested.

Pastor Samuel is a pastor in India who was arrested in 2004 on false charges. After six years in prison, Pastor Samuel was cleared of all charges, but he remained in jail for another two years before finally being released. He missed eight years of time with his wife and his baby girl. Was it fair? No. Was it just? Certainly not.

How do make sense of it all? By remembering that though man’s justice failed, God’s will not. The wrong done to these men and their families will be paid for. But in remembering this, we must remember one even greater truth.

The punishment for sin–any sin–is separation from God. It’s forever without Him. And every single one of us, including myself, deserve this. We broke the rules. God showed us what to do and we failed. It doesn’t matter if it’s one sin or a million. Look at it this way–if you had a glass of water and someone contaminated it with lethal poison, would it matter if it was one drop or a dozen?

Of course not.

And it doesn’t matter if it’s “just one” sin or “just a small sin.” There is no such thing. Sin poisons our relationship with God and it leads to death.

But what God did about it sets Christianity apart from every other religion on earth. Many religions agree that human beings are flawed. All but Christianity require that we fix the situation ourselves, that we work it off, that we pay for what we’ve done. Only God knows that this is futile. We can’t make it right. We can’t neutralize the poison.

So what did He do? He could not stand the thought of us, His children, His creation being separated from Him by sin forever. But sin leads to death. Someone had to neutralize the poison. Only perfection could accomplish this, and since His children couldn’t do it,  He stepped into history in the person of Jesus Christ and did it for us. He drank the poisoned water. He took our sin to the cross and suffered the cruelest death evil could give. But He didn’t stop there. He took the full punishment, separation from God Himself. And when He did, justice was served. Sin was paid for.

Thank God the story doesn’t end there! Because Jesus was perfect and paid fully for our sins, He returned to life, conquering death and sin once and for all.

The pastors in the above stories know this. They know that they deserved to die but that Jesus died in their place. They know that those who have mistreated them and caused them so much pain and heartache need to know this as well.

While we are here on earth, we must do what we can to defend justice and seek it for those who are mistreated. God commands us to do so. But whether we see man’s justice fulfilled or not, we must remember that God’s justice will be. The sins done against us will be paid for. Let us pray that those who commit them will accept the payment God has already provided by asking Him to justify their hearts and apply His grace and His death and resurrection to their hearts. Then one day we can thank God together.

 Ben and Me

Categories: Blog for Asia | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

I is for International Widow’s Day

I is for International Widows' Day

I was 18 years old when my mom became a widow. My sister was 16. My mom was 44. It was something we never expected or planned for. The emotions were overwhelming. Finding a “new normal” seemed impossible. There were times when laughter seemed impossible. Then there were the bills and the questions about what to do next. My mom had been a stay-at-home-mom my entire life. She had worked various jobs before that, but there was no college degree or specialized field to fall back on.

Through it all, God was gracious. He brought a “new normal.” He carried us through the grief. He brought us laughter. And He continues to carry us through the painful days and memories. They are fewer now, almost sixteen years later, but they still come. He provided for the bills that needed paid in a variety of ways–through the generosity of friends and even strangers, through doctors who waived their fees, and through other ways too numerous to count. And in time, He provided the jobs my family needed. First a hodgepodge of part-time jobs, then a full-time job that lasted a short time, then the full-time job my mom works to this day. I am unspeakably grateful for all He has done and provided for us, and most of all for the everlasting promise that my family will be reunited again one day in His kingdom.

But so many widows around the world face a much darker reality. The emotions are the same; the loss is the same. But the “new normal” doesn’t include forgiven debts or support from family and friends. Did you know that in some cultures in Asia the widow is shunned, blamed for her situation? For many, there are no jobs to be found. For others, the only “job” available is degrading and brings more shame and heartache. And many of these widows live without any eternal hope. They have never heard of Jesus Christ. They do not know that EVERY sin can be forgiven and that there is a loving Father anxiously waiting for them to simply ask Him to do so.

Please pray for these widows today, that they will see the love of Christ and trust Him to hold and heal their broken hearts. Pray for their children to grow up in a safe and loving home, free from fear and disease. Pray for them to be surrounded by women of God who understand their pain and are willing to help them walk through it. And please pray for those seeking to reach out to them, that they would be filled with love for these women and for God.

I very rarely mention financial donations on this website. The needs are many, and I believe God lays on our hearts the ways and methods He wants us to support those in need. But if you feel so led and would like to help meet the needs of widows today, please consider being a part of Gospel for Asia’s International Widows’ Day outreach. Thank you.

 Ben and Me

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H is for the Homeless

H is for the Homeless

I was evacuated from my home once. It was several years ago and it was related to a fugitive hunt in my neighborhood. To say I was unprepared for such an event would be an understatement. I live in a small town, in a smaller neighborhood, on a quiet street (except for kids playing and lawnmowers running). Never did I imagine that one evening a police officer would come to my door and tell my family to leave quickly. To this day the memory still doesn’t seem quite real.

My family turned the oven off with food still inside; grabbed jackets, purses, phones, and a computer; and left the house. We weren’t sure where we were headed or how long we would be gone. We called family who lived in the next town who said we were welcome to come stay. We spent the remainder of the evening with my aunt, watching a movie and trying to make an impromptu “girls night” out of the evening. Thankfully, several hours later, we were able to return home.

But I cannot imagine what it would be like to leave your home and have no idea where you were going, what life would be like when you got there, or if you would ever return home again. My family knew that if my aunt had not been home and the situation would have lasted overnight we could stay in a hotel. It wasn’t in the budget, but it would have been done had it been a necessity. Personal items and a change of clothes could be picked up at the local Walmart.

Every year thousands upon thousands of people are evacuated from their homes–only they do not have the options of nearby family, hotels, or Walmarts. They are driven from their homes by violence, as villagers in Orissa, India, were in 2008. They are chased from their homes by monsoon rains, flooding, and natural disasters like the victims of cyclone Phailin were in 2013. They are internally displaced persons (IDPs).

What can we do? More than anything, we must pray. Pray for those who lost not only homes but loved ones. Pray for the families who have no idea where they will sleep tonight or what they will eat. Pray for the missing, the lost, the hurting. And pray for ourselves, that we do not forget that every single life affected by tragedy matters, that we never become so used to hearing about the heartache that we fail to let our hearts break.

Finally, let us pray that every one of these internally displaced persons finds the hope and life that Jesus Christ alone can offer, the Son of Man who had “no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20 NIV).

 Ben and Me

Categories: Blog for Asia | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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