Shopkeeper turned advocate for disabled
Mala first met Seema when she came to her shop. Crippled in her left leg by polio, Seema has difficulty walking. It’s not easy for Seema and her husband to provide for their three daughters on the small salary he earns as a truck driver.
Seema knew she was entitled to benefits from their government such as free bus and rail travel, free wheelchairs, walking sticks and other aids, and special education. In addition, a certain percentage of government jobs are reserved for disabled people, and those with disabilities are eligible for low-interest business loans. But when Seema tried to get her disability certificate in order to access those benefits, she was unsuccessful. Frequently people with disabilities fail to get their certificate because of a lack of knowledge or support, logistical difficulties or other reasons.
Equipped by UDP with a better understanding of the system, Mala encouraged Seema to reapply. She visited Seema often and helped her locate the necessary documents. Veer Singh and Mala arranged for a special van to take 14 people with disabilities, including Seema, to a local government hospital to assess their needs. Seema’s disability was measured as 75 percent, and a few days later she received her certificate.
Because of the love and help she received from Mala and the church, Seema has been participating in worship services for the past two months. As she joins in the worship, she finds release from stress.
Day in and day out, Mala sits in her shop and looks out on her neighborhood. When people come in to buy something, she often strikes up a conversation, growing intense when speaking about her favorite subject: her relationship with Jesus.
A year and a half ago staff members from the Urban Development Project (UDP) visited her church. Begun by the Emmanuel Hospital Association, one of SIM’s partners, UDP equips churches in impoverished urban areas to address social needs in their communities.
Mala's conviction to help those in need started when UDP staff initiated a discussion about the biblical basis for social outreach. Mala listened as they told of their deep passion for people with disabilities, and found she shared their concern. As a result, her church began a new program for this group of people.
Mala continues to befriend people with disabilities and share the good news of being created in God’s image with them, while also offering practical help. When a bystander asked her what she receives for what she does, she told him “I’m a follower of Christ, who taught us to help others in need. I’m blessed by what I do and so are those I serve. That’s my reward.”
Sub-Saharan nomads receive gospel broadcasts
People from Cameroon to Senegal to Benin are tuning in to hear messages in their own language. SIM-related UEEB Church’s Fulani radio ministry is growing to reach more nomadic people — groups that are often challenging to physically reach in person. The radio broadcasts pair well with the UEEB-provided Theological Education by Extension via Radio booklets for pastors, church leaders, and interested people. The booklets are used at home or during church prayer meetings to accompany the teachings of the radio programs.
Making Friends in Central Asia
It’s the beginning of summer where we live, on the edge of a Central Asian desert. Our family has been in this city for two months and it is hot. Traipsing through the bazaars’ unknown back alleys, we see flies basking on giant cut watermelons and drooping sheep carcasses hung up in the sun. The dust on the street is an all-enveloping cloud.
But we are on a quest that surpasses all obstacles: a quest to find ice cream. It seems the Lord has another plan for us today. When we pause for a moment’s rest in the shade, our conversation, in English, draws attention. A man on a scooter stops abruptly and stares fiercely. My husband smiles, and the man’s face breaks into a wide grin. Ali is a shopkeeper who has done his best to teach himself English. He exchanges phone numbers with my husband and asks us to meet his wife, Fatima, and their two children.
A week later it’s Easter, and we decide to host some of our teammates and their local friends at our home to celebrate the uniqueness of our Saviour’s death and resurrection. We invite Ali, although we think he might be reluctant to come. To our surprise and delight, he arrives with his family, eats a lot and stays late.
Ali reciprocates, inviting us to visit his family. In the following months we spend many hours sitting on mats on the floor of his home, eating mutton and naan and conversing. Ali employs his broken English, while we use our beginning-stage language skills. Fatima speaks only the local language, and is delighted to teach me. We spend many hot afternoons chatting, as I stumble over new sounds, scripts and verbal structures. Fatima makes hand-pulled noodles while her children entertain mine.
As a family, we have several discussions about spiritual issues at Ali and Fatima’s instigation. They are intrigued that we are God-fearers, who both pray and refrain from eating pork. And yet we follow Jesus. After a deep discussion with Ali and Fatima about Jesus as the son of God, Ali agrees that Fatima will read the Bible with me and that my husband and I will read their holy book as part of our language practice.
We carefully exchange Books, and we are humbled and very excited to learn that Ali reads all parts of the Bible that are printed in his language (Genesis, Exodus and the New Testament) within 12 days, reading aloud to his family for three hours a day. During one of the days of a religious festival, Ali and my husband spend hours discussing spiritual issues in mixed languages. Ali wrestles with the trustworthiness of the Bible, what will happen after he dies and who Jesus is.
Four days after this discussion, Ali and his family suddenly face great trouble and hardship. He is apart from them for six weeks, and during this time they are under a great deal of stress. But the Lord gives us the privilege of praying with and supporting them during this period.
On his return, Ali is forced to close his shop and the family must move far away to another city. We grieve their departure.
We pray that the seeds that were sown in this city will be watered by the Lord. We are blessed to know Ali, Fatima and their children. We praise our Father for using us now – for using the humbling process of language learning to share his Word and to show Jesus’ love to this family.
The Unlikely Outsider
Most of us have a picture of what sort of person would make a good sports coach. As we think about training coaches through our sports ministry, we probably think of males – active, young and sporty.
Based on that, I found myself judging one of our recent Indian training participants based on her outward appearance.
As Sister Sachi entered the training room, I wondered if she'd come to the right place. She was not dressed in a track suit, did not appear to be particularly athletic, nor was she in the prime of her youth! I'm embarrassed that I even found myself asking our Indian leader why she was there.
He said "Yes, she did know," and whilst he too had reservations about her attendance, she begged him to allow her to come.
Sister Sachi is a widow in her early 60s. When her husband passed away, she took on leadership of the church where he was a pastor. She travelled by train a full day each direction to attend our 4-day training. She was one of the most attentive trainees during the classroom sessions, making copious notes. Whilst she was not able to actively join the practical field sessions, she was always on the sideline – even six in the morning – making notes and observing games, activities and drills.
On the outside, Sister Sachi is an unlikely coach. Yet her heart is overflowing with a desire to reach the many young people of another faith in her community. She knew they loved sport. She was desperate to reach out to them with the gospel. She heard about sports ministry and knew this could be a unique way to connect with them. She wanted to learn everything she could to help share the love of Jesus with these young people.
At the end of the training camp, she revelled in how much she learned. She told us her intent to start a sports team for the young people in her village the very next week! Her commitment, determination and passion were evident to all. I felt a pang of guilt about my previous judgments of her. Who was I to judge this woman who radiated Jesus' love? Who was I to question a person filled with God’s word, who loves the lost in her village and fully appreciates the power of sports to connect with them?
I am praying she will be a powerful sports minister for God. Because being an effective sports minister is not about your sports skill, ability, age or gender. It is about your love for Jesus, your love for the lost and your willingness to see football, cricket or hockey create avenues to share Jesus' love with those in need.
7 Aug 2014 - 7.30pm
116 Lavender Street
Pek Chuan Building