Friday, November 13, 2009

Whoever receives a child.

“My heart was beating fast, I felt confused and lonely,” said Anu. “I felt deep pain in my heart. I was with Silas (my husband) as I prayed out loud. ‘Jesus, you know the best and may you be glorified.' I had all the faith to believe God could heal Silas, yet I wanted to submit my will unto His. I felt Jesus was holding my hand.” After suffering a stroke, Silas Don went to be with the Lord at 8:15pm on May 10, 2001. Silas and Anu had been married for eight years and had two daughters, Ailsha and Sunayana.

Four months earlier, on January 10, 2001, Silas and Anu Don had pioneered the work Vanitashray, based in Pune, India. The name comes from Vanita, meaning woman and Ashray, meaning shelter. This work cares for destitute widows and orphans/abandoned children. As they began, Anu did not know that she herself would soon identify with the widows heart and grief. She says, “I was devastated when Silas died, but God told me three things. He will be with us and never leave us nor forsake us. All that matters to Him is my relationship with Him and He will lead me in the calling He placed over my life.” Lastly, God told Anu, “Take one day at a time.”

Having grown up an orphan, Anu knew firsthand the rejection a child experiences. She shares how they welcomed the first of many children into their home when Vanitashray began. “Nikita was three years old, and the first girl brought into our small rented apartment in 2001. It was the neighbors who rescued her from her father, who wanted to sell Nikita for 2000 Indian Rupee ($40). Her father was an alcoholic and sexually abusing Nikita. It scared me as I looked at this little child who was so traumatized. It took her first year with us to learn to walk, talk, smile and sleep as a child. Today, eight years later, Nikita is a bright, fun loving and beautiful young girl. She says, ‘I want to be a teacher when I grow up.’"

Vanitashray has continued ever since then to care for the widows and orphans of Pune. Currently based in two rented apartments, they are generally required to relocate every eleven months. An immediate need is for a permanent location. The long-term vision of Vanitashray is to provide a home for at least 50 destitute women and 100 orphans/abandoned children. Anu has always desired Vanitashray to be a home rather than an institution. Now remarried, she and her husband John Baker consider the people of Vanitashray to be family.

Many would not have blamed Anu if she had given up when Silas died just a few months after they began Vanitashray. But instead, she chose to pursue the ministry God had entrusted to her. Through her courage and faith in God she has ministered out of her personal experience to those who needed it most.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stolen Innocence

“Kiri grew up in rural Cambodia. Her parents died when she was a child, and, in an effort to give her a better life, her sister married her off when she was 17. Three months later she and her husband went to visit a fishing village, where her husband rented a room in what Kiri thought was a guesthouse. But when she woke the next morning, her husband was gone. The owner of the house said her husband had sold her for $300 and that she was actually in a brothel.

For five years, Kiri was raped by five to seven men every day. In addition to brutal physical abuse, Kiri was infected with HIV and contracted AIDS. The brothel threw her out when she became sick, and she eventually found her way to a local shelter. She died of HIV/AIDS at the age of 23.” (U.S. Department of State)

Kiri’s story exposes the ugly face of human trafficking. Her story is not an isolated incident; there are millions who endure the suffering of modern slavery everyday. Trafficking appears in many shapes and sizes: prostitution, bonded labor, even people who are attacked and disfigured, then forced to beg in the streets.

More often than not, the reason lurking behind the initial sale of people is the poverty in which their families find themselves trapped.

A business project is beginning to employ girls escaping the sex trafficking industry. The girls will make purses called Itsera (Thai for freedom), to be marketed and sold around the world. Initial start-up costs are $54,000, and the business will be self-sustaining after the first year. The goal is to see young girls delivered out of prostitution, be discipled and have the kind of life God intended them to have.

However, human trafficking is not just an overseas issue. Trends are also appearing in the US, many of which spotlight child prostitution by the use of technology. People can be manipulated through social networking sites. Criminals use the Internet, including chat rooms to obtain information about victims.

Wherever it occurs, human trafficking targets vulnerable people who are tricked into slavery, usually by someone they trust. Teenage girls who search for love and acceptance are prime targets of traffickers offering a better life. Once the girl believes the lie, her dream turns into a nightmare from which there is little chance to escape.

The goal of Itsera is to give people a chance to create a sustainable income, thus defeating the poverty and predators who enslave people in the first place. Itsera is only the beginning of our work with the victims of human trafficking. Whether through awareness, legislation, rescue or rehabilitation, our primary focus is to see God’s restoration and redemption in the lives of those who have been enslaved.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Over 3000 die in Zimbabwe, thousands more at risk.

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Deep grief is evident in Nigel Chigudu's eyes. In a tortured voice, he slowly recounts the harrowing tragedy that saw him lose five siblings in five hours to the cholera epidemic that has been sweeping across Zimbabwe.

“They started vomiting and had serious diarrhea,” recalls Nigel, 15. “The youngest, Gamu, was 14 months old, and Lameck was 12 years old. It was in the middle of the night; I could not take them anywhere. I just watched them die.” (UNICEF Zimbabwe/Singizi)

Though Cholera is endemic to Zimbabwe, epidemic proportions now evidence that this disease has claimed at least 3,000 lives since August last year. However, this figure is almost certainly too low, as it only includes cases of people who attempted to seek medical care. Many people in rural areas cannot make it to help in time.

Of course not everything can be blamed on disease or a lack of clean water. Cholera is just one symptom of the greater cause. Sadly, the under-nourishment of many people makes the risk of death a life threatening certainty. This largely preventable and treatable disease has been allowed to run rampant because society in this nation has already crumbled.

One Zimbabwean national said, “The situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated so much. The government is desperate to control a situation they have failed dismally to control.”

“I just got back from Zimbabwe. I was attending my niece's wedding. Just before they cut the cake, a team from the health department had to come in and do a presentation on cholera prevention. It was a sobering moment, reminding everyone how death was so close if we were not careful.”

Zimbabwe is a nation in turmoil and that turmoil has no easy answer. The governmental leaders continue their discussions and we hope and pray that one day agreement will be reached. Meanwhile people suffer needlessly, a disease that in other countries is easily treatable. Humanitarian organizations are present, but their resources are stretched and they cry out for reinforcements. Pray that more medical teams will go to help, and for restoration to begin in this land once called "the breadbasket of Africa".