An Update from our Bright Hope Missionary

Hi pastor Mark and teacher Melinda!

IMG_20160503_173936So far everything has been going great. I’m adjusting to the routine and flow of things here. The girls have loved learning taekwondo and kickboxing. A few of them are super serious and focused and actually have a lot of TKD potential. The others just laugh the whole time and blush when I hold the shield for them to kick. I catch them practicing on each other during the day and have to warn them not to hurt each other, but just like in basketball and all their wild, rough games, the girls just laugh off any pain and don’t get angry with each other.  Amit [an orphan who is Pastor Ajay’s nephew] has been teaching what I’ve shown him to Jonathan [one of the school administrators and leaders] as well, so he is having fun with it too. I’ve also taught them kickball and a bunch of group games. In exchange, they’ve taught me cricket! I was horrible at first but I’m getting better. I think I actually prefer it to baseball :).  And they have taught me a bunch of other fun group games that I will have to teach the b4 square kiddos when I return.

I haven’t had any health issues other than being eaten alive by some mysterious bugs that I never actually see biting me. They aren’t mosquitoes. I think it is something in the sand. From my knees down, I look like I have the chicken pox. But the rest of me is fine. More importantly, my stomach has been fine with the food and water and I think I’m already adjusting to the heat. I actually caught myself saying brrr in the shower this morning.

So far I have taken over the responsibility of leading the morning exercises and devotions for the hostel girls and leading the morning devotions for the whole school on Fridays. I helped cover a few English and math classes for an absent teacher last week. I’m going to officially start teaching an English class next week. (They have exams this week). And Jonathan hinted that they might want me to teach some science since they found out I was a science major. But we haven’t officially discussed that.

IMG_20160503_123426Other than that I just get to play with the girls and help them during study times.
I haven’t watched all of the teachers, but I have watched a couple of classes. I sat in on one class with one of the new teachers who was teaching about the body and health. She did a great job. She was very interactive with the students and had them laughing and smiling. She had them take their pulse and then run outside and take it again to see who’s was fastest. I think this teacher is a great addition to the school.

The biggest need/concern I’ve noticed so far is that quite a few of the girls seem to be having minor skin condition issues, ranging from boils to rashes. I’m not sure if it’s from the quality of the well water or from insect bites or (since it seems to be worst on their hands between the thumb and first finger) if it might be from the soaps they use for washing dishes/clothes. Anyhow… it seems that they might benefit from having some kind of ointments or creams we could apply to boils/rashes. They use dettol to clean wounds, which is an iodine solution. I think having something like Neosporin might also be a good idea [we are asking Christine to send pictures and one of our nurses will take a look to see what she can recommend].

IMG_0012Overall, I’m having a great time. The girls are becoming less shy around me and there are fewer and fewer polite (but horribly awkward) silences between me and the rest of the staff during meal times. They treat me with extra respect and keep trying to serve me, (always serving my plate first and not letting me clear my dishes, stuff like that) which I am not accustomed to. I’m trying to just graciously accept it so far (I definitely do not want to offend them or seem ungrateful) and I’m hoping I can slowly show them that I am here to serve them, not be served. I’m being treated as a guest of honor right now but hopefully over time I will become less a guest and more like part of the staff.

The girls are also teaching me Hindi using the book they use for the nursery children (it has great pictures lol. Cha is for Channa.) So far I’ve learned the first 15 letters of a seemingly endless alphabet. I’m getting pretty good at drawing them but the girls still giggle when I try to pronounce them. It pretty much goes life this… I say “jha” And then they tell me “not jha… jha.” And I say “jha?” and they say “jha! … JHA!!” So I say “JHA!!” And they just giggle some more.

Anyway… that’s about all I have to report for now. Hope all is well back home :). Thanks for the prayers

–Christine

“I am loving it so far.”

Graduates

Meet the first graduates of Bright Hope English School. They were each accepted into a Christian upper level high school (thanks to folks from our church who are supporting their continued education). Some of them did not even begin school until they were 12 years old! They are now 16 years old and embarking on a new adventure. They will still live at Bright Hope English School and will assist in leading the younger girls there. But each of their lives are taking a new and exciting educational turn.

IMG_3894I had a chance to sit with them and talk about their school. They are so excited. They shared with me about favorite classes and favorite teachers. None of them have attended a coed school before (Bright Hope exclusively serves minority girls). Pretty said, “Pastor, there are more boys than girls at our school. And the boys are very nice to us.” Yeah, about that. Boys are evil, girls — pure evil.

Seriously though, I suspect everyone at their new school notices them when they get off the bus. They are amazing young women. I have known them all for a number of years now. I cannot emphasize enough the change that is occurring in their lives and in the lives of their families. First and foremost, they know Jesus. Their lives are living testimonies to His goodness. Secondly, they have the sweetest spirits and demeanors. When you are with them you can tell that they have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Thirdly, they are hard working. It was not easy for them to be accepted at the school and they are well aware that they represent all the girls at Bright Hope. Finally, they are showing their communities that minority status in India does not relegate them to hopeless futures. All things are possible with God!

IMG_4263Pretty and Pinky want to be school teachers. Moina and Shanta want to be medical doctors. Shanti wants to be a research scientist. All of them are dreaming dreams that would not have been possible were it not for the foundation laid down by our sister Premila years ago. There is truly a “bright hope” emerging in a place where minority girls are destined for near-slavery. What a privilege it is for us to be a part of God’s work in the lives of these children. Praise Him! If you’d like to support them, you can do so here.

Christine — Missionary to Bright Hope in India

DSC_3321Christine Beckel is a 6th grade youth leader, a black belt in Taekwondo, a coach, a martial arts instructor, a follower of Jesus and a missionary. On Friday, April 22, she will be heading to Siliguri, India to work with the Bright Hope English School as the “house mom” of the 34 girls who board there. Please keep her in your prayers as she makes the adjustments from life in America to missionary life in very different surroundings. You can be a part of our mission by giving towards the support of the girls there here.
After a one day delay because of missed flights, Christine finally arrived at the school. Here is her update….
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!
To learn more about Bright Hope, go here.

Taken

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.

KidneyOn 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.

IMG_4049In 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.

Pray for Turkey

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.

Hands

RabiaRabia 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.