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SE Asia trip report

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Full trip report from Vision Beyond Borders

“I just returned from a week in India and Nepal. God blessed our trip as we visited our contacts and saw how God is using them to touch and transform lives of women who have been sold into sex trafficking.

The lady we work with in India has been ministering to the oppressed and downtrodden in the Red Light District (RLD) for over 17 years. It is amazing to walk through the RLD with her. The ladies who have been sold, often against their will, are drawn to her as she shines the light of Jesus Christ in this dark place. These women are forced to have eight to twelve customers a day. If they do not service that many customers, they do not eat. The red light areas are dark, oppressive and hopeless.

Our contact knows many of the ladies by name, greeting them with hugs and kissing their children. I have been challenged by her fearless love of these people; she is not concerned with whether they have Aids or other contagious diseases and what may happen to her own life. I am reminded of Jesus concern for the lepers. Our sister works tirelessly to minister to those in need, whether it means waking up in the middle of the night to take a lady or one of her children to the hospital or buying them medicine out of her own money. She loves these women and children as her own family, and many times opens her home to those in need.

We are working with our sister to set up a salon in this area as a point of contact in which to minister openly to those who have been trafficked. We are excited to see how God is going to open more effectual doors of ministry to her as her passion is to serve Jesus Christ in spite of death threats and many challenges. She is truly one of my heroes of the faith. I have also been challenged as a Christian man that we, as men, need to stand against the oppression of women and children around the world.

After spending a few days in India, we flew to Nepal to visit the safe house that we established in January.  One morning, we visited the largest Hindu temple, a holy place that many pilgrims come to worship Hindu deities. The day we were there, there were literally thousands of women dressed in red saris coming to pay homage to Shiva, hoping to find a good husband or to see their husbands become better men. Women were standing in line for hours with empty eyes, holding offerings in their hands to a god made of stone.

The headwaters of the Ganges river, the ‘mother of all rivers,’ flows through this temple.  The water is filthy dirty; but worshipers believe that if they drink of the water, their sins will be washed away. Unfortunately, they have been blinded by the enemy and cannot see that Jesus already paid our debt. ‘Holy men,’ often wearing little clothing and covered with the ashes of humans , looked on while smoking marijuana. The smoke from the funeral pyres coupled with the stench of burning flesh filled the air. This place reminds me of what hell must look like.

After leaving the temple, we made our way to the safe house. It is exciting to see God transforming lives as ladies are being saved and renewed in Christ.  What an incredible contrast between light and darkness. Here the ladies openly read the Bible as they gathered for morning Bible Study. The faces of these ladies are radiant as they reflect their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Their smiles brought joy to my heart and the other two guys with me. There are about 13 women who have been rescued and are living in this home, where they are loved and cared for. After Bible study, we had a time of prayer and worship with them.

Later, we had lunch and enjoyed times of laughter with our new sisters in Christ. There was an 18 year old lady, who recently came to the safe house, after she and her younger sister ran away from home. Their father had raped his daughters for four years, while their mother justified his actions saying, “This is how he shows his love.” The girls ran away and ended up on the streets; we are working to find the younger sister to bring her into the safe house. The father is wealthy and has threatened to sell the older daughter into a brothel in Delhi. We are praying to hire full-time security to protect the women and young ladies in the home. It was encouraging to see the young lady smile as she feels at home now.

Three of the ladies who were rescued have left the home to start a salon and to move forward in their lives. These three ladies have become followers of Jesus Christ, and we are praying about helping them set up a salon/tailoring shop near a church. We pray the local Christians will frequent their shop and encourage them in their walk with Jesus. My heart was thrilled to hear the reports of God transforming lives. With so much sadness and hopelessness in the media these days, I pray it will be encouraging to know that God is still on the throne and saving people. We are excited as we trust God to set up another safe house to provide a safe haven for women and their small children. Please take a moment to thank Jesus for His sacrifice on the cross, His love for the world, and what He is doing around the world.”

world water day

Special Report: World Water Day

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world water day

Gospel for Asia “Jesus Wells” are drilled deep enough so that the water supply doesn’t dry up during hot, arid summer months.
(Image, caption courtesy GFA)

South Asia (MNN/GFA) — Today on World Water Day, our friends at Gospel for Asia share the following report:

Millions across Asia are considered Dalits or “Untouchables,” those deemed inferior simply because of their caste. “Untouchables” are likely barred from using village water wells, placing these individuals and families in desperate and life-threatening situations.

Gospel for Asia plans to drill 5,000 water wells across India and South Asia over the course of 2014 for those struggling to find clean water.  GFA is highlighting its “Jesus Wells” ministry today on World Water Day.

Jesus Wells are often the only water option for “Untouchables” and countless others. The wells not only provide critical access to drinking water, but they also ensure villagers have clean water essential for cooking and other necessary household chores.

“It is our heart to provide clean water to all people regardless of their background,” said Dr. K. P. Yohannan, founder and international director of Gospel for Asia. “Wherever we place our ‘Jesus Wells,’ all people can drink clean water freely.”

An adequate water supply is not only a challenge for Dalits. Millions of others across Asia struggle daily to find sufficient water resources. Traditional village wells often dry up because they were not drilled deep enough. Or they dry up during the hot, arid summer months, putting entire villages at risk. It’s also common for families to walk several miles just to find enough water for basic household needs.

To help address these challenges, Jesus Wells are drilled deep into the ground. They are strategically placed in villages accessible to the greatest number of people. In addition, local contractors are hired to drill numerous wells at a time, ensuring great cost savings.
 
In Andhra Pradesh, India, one GFA worker said the summer drought is a crisis point for his village. They have to wait more than six months for the rain to arrive again. In another village, a GFA worker said people travel at least four miles during the summer to the closest village to retrieve water.
 
The 5,000 wells GFA plans to dig this year will help address water scarcity for tens of thousands. As villagers receive this precious gift of water, they are able to experience the love of Christ, and they seek to learn more about Him.

Through the Jesus Wells project, hundreds of villages have already received clean water for all in the community. Village life has literally been transformed. By the end of 2014, GFA hopes many more villages will find respite from their thirst.  

“I am so grateful for every village that can now have access to clean water for all,” said Yohannan. “It’s another opportunity for people to experience the love of Jesus and know His grace in their lives.”

Donations to the project can be made and additional information is available at www.gfa.org/water.

The View From India

By | india, missions, Personal Life, travel | One Comment

Since 2007, I’ve had such a passion for India. I’ve always been on the outside looking in though, seeing its oppression, cruel injustice and spiritual hunger from my comfortable life in America. I’ve always wanted to do SOMETHING to fix it – to be a voice for the voiceless in India, to let the world know about the struggles Christians here face.

Now that I’m actually in the place I’ve only prayed, read and written about, I’m getting a surprising view as I turn and look back at the country I left behind. Don’t get me wrong; the Indian believers are NOT bashing the U.S. or anything like that. I’m saying all of this from personal observations and reflections.

In many ways, the Church here is so much stronger than in America. Here, it feels like the New Testament has come to life…I can’t really say the same for the U.S.

In India, prayer and fasting are such a priority. They seek God before any and every major decision. When’s the last time I did that? When is prayer and fasting ever a priority of ours? It’s wise to seek counsel from godly friends and parents, but is that really a priority over seeking the face of God? He’s already got the plan of our lives written. Why do we hesitate to ask Him which direction we should take?

Another thing I’ve observed is the importance of repentance. A very wise man said today, “When in doubt, repent.” I can’t remember the last time anyone (including myself) made repentance a priority or a possible source of the problems we face. I’m not well-versed in Scripture or claim to have a vast knowledge of God, but did you ever consider that maybe we face certain challenges because there’s a sin we haven’t turned from?

These are just a couple of things that have stood out to me so far, and I’m sure there will be plenty more! Stay tuned for updates.

Read more about how God is working in India by clicking here.

Paradigm Shift

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I totally got rocked today. The slums I’ve only read about & seen in Slumdog Millionaire became real, in all their disparaging glory. It was a total sensory overload – I’ve never seen anything like what I saw today, and the smell was something you’ll never experience unless you’re in a developing nation. Which I think would be a valuable experience for ALL Western believers, because unless you open your heart and allow Jesus to change your thinking, I’m convinced you’ll miss a chance to further the Kingdom of God.

While I’m still trying to recover from the total overhaul that was this afternoon, I’ll try to paint at least a small picture of what I experienced in the slums of Mumbai.

I was at a Gospel for Asia-supported Bridge of Hope center in Families exist in a structure that’s roughly the size of my bathroom. There’s stagnant water, trash, and the smell of it EVERYWHERE, complete with flies. Pigs roam freely, looking as home in the refuse as the people do. Kids under 4 are usually bare from the waist down, while some roam amid broken glass and similar hazards completely without shoes or clothes.

But what hung heavier over this place than the smell was the spiritual darkness.

I saw a demon-possessed woman rock back and forth and thrash around on the floor as believers battled for her freedom through prayer. She was a rag doll, victim to the demon raging war inside of her. The woman’s hands often hung limply, despite a body that moved as if a puppet on a string.

I also saw believers so full of JOY despite their circumstances it put my own faith to shame. The kids smile from ear-to-ear and delight in shaking hands and being photographed. Christ-followers in this country pray and fast with fervor, as I think the Lord intended. It often seems like it’s a last resort in the West, when believers can’t do something by their own ability or wisdom. But here it’s a first step – Christians here don’t do ANYTHING without first fasting and praying over the decision before them.

I’m definitely taking THAT lesson to heart. Thank you Jesus.

After seeing what I’ve seen so far on this trip, it really shouldn’t surprise me that India is growing by leaps and bounds while America’s on the quick downward slide. The Body of Christ here lives as Christ told us to and honors HIM as their ultimate authority – not themselves. It’s a wake-up call I wish everyone could experience, because maybe it would change the way we act as Christ-followers. Maybe we would start living like the Church the Lord calls us to be. And maybe our nation would follow.

How would your life change if you took your eyes off of yourself? It’s a question I’ll be battling for the rest of this trip. Maybe my spiritual life would start to look like that of the believers here, and would start producing fruit like what I’ve seen abounding in India.

Maybe then I’ll be worthy to stand alongside them as part of the true Body of Christ.

To learn more about how Gospel for Asia works in India, click here.

See pictures of my slum visit on the MNN Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/missionnetworknews

From the Midwest to Mumbai

By | india, MNN, special reports, travel | One Comment

Anyone who knows me well knows the fire God put in my heart for India, and especially the Dalits. They’re the social lepers of India, a people once labeled “untouchable”. We’ve written hundreds of stories about the Dalits at MNN, and every time we get a news alert from our partners, I’m eager to see how God is working among them.

Over the next two weeks, I don’t have to wait for a story to come in to hear how God is working. I get to see it first-hand.

I’ll be traveling from Delhi in northern India all the way to the southern state of Tamil Nadu. I’m expecting to see how God is working among orphans, widows, Dalits & indigenous missionaries. Each day, I’ll be sharing what I experience with our followers on MNN, Facebook, & Twitter.

As I sit at the airport waiting for my delayed flight, I can’t help but wonder – how will God change me? I’m eager to see how God is changing lives in India, but how will I change as a result? How will this trip affect our marriage? Jeff & I have only been married for 8 months, and this is the longest time we’ll be apart – it’s been a struggle already, and I haven’t even left yet! How will God comfort us during this time of separation?

These questions & so many more are pop-corning around my mind like grasshoppers in a jar. Hopefully I’ll have some answers/insights for you in the coming days!

New Kid on the Block

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Yep, I’m the new kid here at Mission Network News. My name is Katey Hearth, and I’ve been working here for a whole 1.5 months. 🙂 While my preferred function is writing, I do some production work too.

I like to think of myself as the “new old”. I actually worked here for a couple of years while attending Cornerstone University. Sadly, there wasn’t a position available when I graduated; so, I spent some time at a B2B (business to business) trade magazine. This August, I returned to MNN with new appreciation and deep fervor for global missions. Especially the Dalit people of India – about six years ago, God lit a fire in my heart for these societal outcasts.

I want to see justice for the “least of these” throughout the world, not just the Dalits but oppressed women and child soldiers too.

Will you join me in prayer?

India

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Elisa Talmage

Elisa Talmage is heading to India.

Six days from now, I leave for my first ever trip to India. The South Asian nation has been on my heart for some time. When a massive earthquake struck India in 2001, the school I attended responded with a fundraiser called “India Fest”. It included Indian food, dancing, purses, bangles, henna and beautiful music. This was my first encounter, really, with Indian culture, and it had me captivated. The event was such a success that the school held annual “Culture Fest” celebrations thereafter, celebrating Indian culture, but also Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Senegalese and so on. Still, I was always drawn to the India table, vibrant with color, mirrors, silver, and intricate designs.

A number of years later, I began working for Mission Network News, where I learned really for the first time how impoverished and oppressed many were in the country that had caught my eye so long ago. I was not ignorant of India’s poverty before then, but I had never allowed myself to think on how much persecution her church faced. Upon this realization, I also came to terms with how many street children there were in India, unable to get an education or, many times, even a meal. My heart broke for India’s children, and I decided to sponsor a 10 year old girl through Gospel For Asia. As I dove even further into the findings of Indian society, I learned that the nation was also plagued by a terrifying trafficking issue. I unveiled the ugly truth that mothers had no option but to prostitute themselves, and their children followed; that some children were forced into begging on the street for money they couldn’t keep; that female infants were sometimes “dedicated” to gods in the form of temple prostitutes. It was devastated information, and yet if anything, it made me fall in love with the people of India more. The way I had seen the church respond to these issues–of trafficking, of poverty, of persecution–blew me away. Such courage and conviction of belief did not seem to be quite matched elsewhere.

This leads me to today, six days away from finally encountering a culture I’ve been secretly in love with for the last 11 years. I’ll be able to see the church up close. I’ll be able to watch beautiful children learn and grow. I’ll be able to stand in the middle of bustling cities. I’ll be able to feel the Indian heat.

And frankly, I can’t wait.