Hi Pastor Mark,I just wanted to let you know that all is well in India. Or at least, at Bright Hope English School. My room is quite comfortable and I actually think the lukewarm shower water is the perfect temperature (I’m totally not being sarcastic right now). I have mostly just been observing so far, playing with the girls, hanging out with them while they study, getting a feel for their normal daily routine. I am going to sit down with Reuben sometime soon to talk more about his expectations for me and such.Also, the internet is not working right now (I didn’t really understand why) but Johnathan says they will be getting it fixed tomorrow or the next day. So right now I am using some magical internet flash drive looking thing. Which means, I can email, but I won’t be checking it as often as I normally would with my phone. So don’t worry if I don’t respond to emails right away. Also, my phone can’t get a signal, so I won’t be responding to texts either. Thanks for all your help getting me here 🙂 Headed to bed so I can get up for 5:00am exercises!
As I travel to impoverished places in this world I am frequently reminded that man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds. This is especially true in Nepal, a country where a legacy caste system relegates some people to less-than-human status. Upper caste people do not seem outraged when their “lessers” are exploited or victimized. Hinduism can be very desensitizing since such unfortunate circumstances can be regarded as just rewards for the sins of a previous life.
On my Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Bagdogra I flipped through the inflight magazine. The cover story was Unkindest Cut. It told the story of poor villagers in the mountains of Nepal whose kidneys were being taken to meet the demand for transplants in India. According to the World Health Organization an estimated 10,000 black market operations involving trafficked organs now take place annually. It is a matter of supply and demand.
In one village, Hokse, the majority of the adults (380) have been donors. In some cases the villagers were cheated — promised a job that required a medical exam only to wake up and find their kidney had been taken. In other cases they were offered money ($112 USD) with the promise that the kidney would grow back. It is a lucrative deal for the kidney merchants. Transplants in India cost around $28,000 USD. But for the donor, the victim, it is nothing short of exploitation as their bodies are mutilated and their parts are trafficked.
Both Nepal and India have enacted laws outlawing the practice, but the practice continues unabated because the victims are desperate, illiterate and poor. They are unlikely to bring charges even if they know how. The money, as small as it is, provides some momentary relief to their very difficult lives. When life seems hopeless and people begin to believe that their circumstances are the just desserts of something they have done in unknown past lives, small monetary relief offers a glimmer of hope — as fleeting as it is. Laws that are written to protect them are apparently having little effect.
In only a few days I knew I was going to hike into those very hills to visit a small church. I wondered if any of the villagers there had kidneys taken. I thought about the difference I had seen in the lives of Christians in this country. Their circumstances are the same, but they live with a contentment that defies human understanding. They know they are significant in the eyes of God. They know that their sins, which they are aware of in this life, are forgiven. They know God provides. They have hope in Jesus. They are not easily victimized.
While Christian represents only 2% of Nepal’s population, its rapid growth is perceived as a threat that undermines the values of the culture. Christianity spreads unconditional love and forgiveness for sins. It encourages education and opportunity. When those of the lower castes convert, the upper Brahman caste lose complete control over them.
While Nepal became a secular nation in 2005, it has not really culturally transitioned from being a Hindu nation and there is social and political pressure to maintain the status quo. There are laws being considered now that will make it a crime to convert to Christianity (punishable by 5 years in prison). Pray that they will not enact laws that will hinder the very hope they need. Jesus frees the spirit. He restores dignity. He gives hope. The people of Nepal need Jesus.
I recently returned from visiting Pastor Ihsan in Ankara, Turkey. He and teh evangelical church in Turkey (which is primarily made up of converts) are doing an incredible work. They are serving the Iraqi and Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS. These refugees — Kurds, Yazidis, Turkmen, Christians — arrive in Turkey with nothing. The church has responded with care and teh Gospel. If you are interested in helping their work, you can make a gift to Beaverton Foursquare and indicate that it is for the refugees. We will insure that every dollar goes to the efforts of the church there.
The following is from Pray for Turkey and addresses the ongoing efforts of the church to bring peace and stability to the country. I met with Pastor Ihsan Ozbek when I was there. He is part of the leadership that is serving the refugees.
Pastor Ihsan’s Press Conference
12 leaders of the Protestant Churches in Turkey came to Diyarbakir to draw attention to the instances of terrorism and imposed curfews in the Sur district of the city. Ihsan Özbek, the head pastor of the Kurtuluş Churches, reported that they had come to beg our state to demonstrate its greatness by showing mercy and justice to all its children, and to beg those seeking a solution by “digging trenches” instead to choose to express themselves (their grievances) without weapons.
Pastor Ihsan Özbek came to Diyarbakir as the spiritual leader of the 12 protestant Churches in Turkey (sic). After first meeting with Governor Hüseyin Aksoy and visiting the Greater Municipality Mayor Gültan Kışanak he held a press conference. Speaking on behalf of the commission, Kurtuluş Churches Head pastor Ihsan Özbek said they had come to Diyarbakır as the leaders of the Protestant Churches in Turkey. Özbek said that they were here as followers and representatives of Jesus Christ who repeatedly said “love one another.”
“WE CAME TO PLEAD”
Özbek noted that they came under the weight of Almighty God who cannot remain a spectator as the people whom he created with his love are suffering so terribly and facing death. Özbek said
“It is obvious to all of us that hate, anger and conflict have not and will not bring peace. We came to beg all parties to take steps towards peace to escape from this terrible vortex. Between the tears being shed and the smoke of the battles our eyes can’t see and our minds can’t think. In this current atmosphere no steps can be taken for peace and goodness, we have come to plead ‘Stop, think again’. We came to beg our government to demonstrate its greatness by showing mercy and justice to all its children, and on the other hand, to plead with those of our citizens who are seeking solutions by ‘digging trenches’ to choose to express themselves without weapons.”
“WE HAVE HOPE OF LIVING IN BROTHERHOOD”
Özbek, who explained that he had hope that in Turkey we could live in peace and brotherhood, emphasized that those bodies that represent the will of the people, the parliament, the President, the government and local administrations, must work hand in hand. Özbek continued:
“Without looking at who is right and who is wrong, the moment we can say ‘fighting is not necessary, we will solve these problems with dialogue’ then the dark clouds will immediately lift from our country. No matter where you are, we plead with all our citizens to hold out your hand today to make tomorrow’s peace a reality today. We love our country and we pray blessings at all times for everyone, from the greatest to the least, both for our leaders and for all the people. And we don’t just pray; we will knock on every door until peace comes to our country.”
Özbek explained that they would make appointments to visit the President and the Prime Minister to bring these pleas to them as well.
Pray for Peace to come to Turkey and pray that the Christians will play a role in bringing this Peace to Turkey.
Rabia is a Christian who lives in Ankara, Turkey with her husband and children. She and her team of special needs children’s advocates are serving the least of the least. Her church is proving for the Iraqi and Syrian refugees in a significant way. They feed and clothe about 4,000 of the war refugees arriving from the south and east. in serving these people, Rabia noticed that there are families with children who have special needs. The challenges to those families was even more daunting in this new country. Turkey provides no public assistance to refugees. They are safe here, but they need to fend for themselves. The church, which is very small in Turkey, has stepped in to advocate. She and her team, Kardelen Ministries, visit 40 flats in the refugee areas. Each of these two bedroom flats house about 4 families. There are a total of 300 people who are directly impacted by what she does. Her office provides a respite for the families several times per week. The families come and are fed. The special needs child plays in the physical therapy room. The other children have a play area, as well. And the moms are taken aside and pampered. War torn and desperate, they have forgotten to take care of themselves. So for several hours they get their hair cut and get to just enjoy being women together. She has put a face on Christianity that has not been seen before by many of these people. She is extending the advent of Jesus with her own hands.
Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3)
Most of the Ankara streets are not marked — at least not with visible corner signs. I began with an expectation that I could simply map out my drive to the center of the capital of Turkey and follow the instructions. I wasn’t using a mobile service, so I wisely looked up the directions prior to leaving the wifi zone and confidently took a photo of the details. According to the instructions, I should have been there in 12 minutes after entering the city. 3 and a 1/2 weary hours later I arrived at my destination.
This was truly a problem of my own making. Having traveled to numerous countries around the world, I know that turning on my phone without a local service card in it is an invitation to telephone robbery. I have seen outrageous phone charges from just a small text exchange. I didn’t think that the purchase of a local service card was necessary, so I did all my planning when wifi was available.
I have learned how to be patient in life, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. This is just the kind of situation that tests me! But I kept my cool because I was committed to doing this my way (which wasn’t working). I would occasionally stop when I found a free wifi service and get a GPS reroute. Getting a little wiser, I would try to pay attention to the actual distances that were listed in the GPS instructions. That failed numerous times as I was routed onto congested traffic with no clear way to get back to my point of failure. These lanes can carry you along with them like a riptide.
But there I was the middle of rush hour traffic unable to find any help. I tried, but most people are not fluent in frenzied-tourist English. I searched desperately for an advocate – someone who would take some pity on the humble and lost American. I imagined giving them the keys and letting them drive me to my destination. Frankly, there was no shortage of thoughtful, gracious people who tried to explain to me what to do, but Turkish doesn’t get any clearer to me when it is spoken loudly with hand gestures. So the situation only progressed from bad to worse. At one point I was in gridlock and thought about abandoning the car altogether and getting a taxi.
My determination blinded me. It finally occurred to me that I would happily pay the outrageous data bill if I could get out of this mess. I had an advocate in the sky outside myself. I need only enable my cellular communications. So I did. And I finally heard the comforting automated voice of my GPS. It told me where and when to turn and what to anticipate in the moments ahead. It turns was not very far from my destination. I could have walked and gotten there in 3 minutes! All I really needed was an advocate who had access to information that I didn’t have.
It is fitting that I am here working with a man who helps Syrian refugees. These aliens in his land are desperate and without any sense of direction as well, only their difficulty is lasting a whole lot longer than my 3 and ½ hours. The stories I have heard are heartbreaking. Man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds. They come here frightened and tired. They are trying to find some way to get a footing. They need an advocate who has access to things they cannot get and will share with them in their sufferings — someone with a sense of direction.
In the verse above, Jeremiah was warning the king to be an advocate for those who were oppressed. He had it within his means to relieve the suffering. All he needed to do was to act. It is God’s heart that His people would be the ones who would set aside their own needs and desires and serve those who have no one to advocate for them.
We often get letters of thanks from missionaries who we support around the world. Here is a letter from Anne Hughes, who works in Spain in a cafe that shares the Gospel with people who take the long El Camino Santiago trail as a pilgrimage to get in touch with God. Frankly, many people end the trail very discouraged and Anne and her team are there to bring a message of hope.
|Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! – Psalm 106:1|
Dear [Beaverton Foursquare],
I hope this Thanksgiving finds you well, celebrating with family or good friends (who can be like family anyway, right?).
Mark, I want you to know how grateful I am for your support this year. It hasn´t been easy, but your faithfulness, generosity, and willingness to give has meant so much to me. God has been incredibly faithful in His provision, and although I am not quite out of the woods, I am humbled greatly by how people like you have stepped up to help. I truly would not be in Spain without you. Thank you SO MUCH!
Please know that pilgrims are also grateful for the work that is done at Pilgrim House, and you play a vital role in that.
Have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving!