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June 6, 2019

WILLS POINT, TX – Gospel for Asia (GFA) Part#1 Special Report on the aftermath of acute gender imbalance: Discussing the horrendous reality of 100 million missing women worldwide.

WILLS POINT, TX – Gospel for Asia (GFA) Special Report on the aftermath of acute gender imbalance: Discussing the horrendous reality of 100 million missing women worldwide.

One of the stunning stories from Scripture tells about the uninvited woman who crashed a VIP party at the home of an important religious leader. This is a gal whose bad reputation preceded her—a “woman of the city” reports the account in the book of Luke. Some versions even say that she “was a great sinner.”

Humph, thinks the very important dignitary whose party has been so rudely disrupted by this emotional female basket case. If he [Jesus] was a true prophet, he would know what kind of woman this is, for she is a great sinner.

This is a powerful story of male intervention, protection and advocacy, and in this case, it is Jesus who intervenes for a weeping woman, provides protection and clearly illustrates how to advocate for those wounded and longing for forgiveness.

“Simon,” Jesus asks, “Do you see this woman?”

Do you see this woman? What a question!

Do you see this woman? This is a question that needs to be asked regarding the astonishing demographic figure that is being forced upon our contemporary discussions regarding the status of women in the world today. Indeed, demographers are telling us that there are as many as 100 million women unaccounted for, 100 million missing women in the projections made by statisticians whose job it is to analyze and project the populations of the nations.

Simply stated, the devaluation of women and the often societally approved discrimination against them are creating a global crisis. This article examines this reality and seeks to propose that there are attitudes and actions we can all take to decrease and eventually eliminate this outrageous discrepancy. But first, we have to “see the women.”

These village women are widows, and often endure threats and distress simply because of their social status as a “widow”. What Happened to the Missing Women?
These village women are widows, and often endure threats and distress simply because of their social status as a “widow”.

What Happened to the Missing Women?

My husband, David Mains, tells the story of being in Asia with Dr. KP Yohannan, the founder and director of Gospel for Asia. They were attending a conference with some 300 men in attendance in an open-air pavilion. Dr. K.P. was preaching on how these men treated their wives, saying something that memory recalls as being to the effect of, “You treat them like servants [by saying], ‘Do this; do that. Take care of me.’ You get angry and yell. Some of you even push them around. But you are not freeing them to be the women God created them to be.”

The power of this exhortation and of the Scriptures verifying his instruction manifested itself in a loud groaning that began to rise out of the group of men sitting on wooden pews.

“At first,” David remembers, “I thought it was a thunderstorm. I had never heard anything like it in my life. Then I realized these men were groaning in repentance and remorse.”

Here you see a family that has been transformed through the love of God. This man used to beat his wife and child, but after listening to KP Yohannan’s words through a GFA-supported radio broadcast, they found God’s love and are living happily in their journey with Christ.
Here you see a family that has been transformed through the love of God. This man used to beat his wife and child, but after listening to KP Yohannan’s words through a GFA-supported radio broadcast, they found God’s love and are living happily in their journey with Christ.

The devaluation of women in marriage, which those men repented of many years ago, is merely one symptom of what causes the 100-million-missing-women global crisis. If we choose to “see the women,” to study the plight of women worldwide and to pay attention to their distress, we will quickly conclude that women’s lives are threatened from the womb through widowhood.

Indeed, the whole world needs to be groaning in remorse and repentance when we realize that 100 million women who should be alive according to statisticians’ projections are nowhere to be found.

The reasons for this are varied and tragic. Even the numbers vary somewhat. In a 1990 essay published in The New York Review of Books, Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen claimed there were 100 million missing women. Through the following decade, Sen continued to expand his exploration and discoveries, which were published in many subsequent academic works.

Though estimates of between 90 and 101 million missing women, as well as the various causes for the phenomenon, have been studied, debated and analyzed by demographers and social scientists in the years since Sen’s original announcement, most agree now to the reality that roughly 100 million women, worldwide, are missing.

This number is determined by what is called the sex ratio—a means of measuring the number of males born in a society against the number of women. Generally, the male-female birth ratio is slightly biased toward the masculine sex. Due to some kind of disequilibrium matrix, nature allows for some 105 male births for every 100 female births, on average.

These numbers tell us, quietly, a terrible story of inequality and neglect leading to the excessive mortality of women.

Demographers propose that this is because men are at a higher risk of dying of a variety of causes—violence, accidents, injuries, war casualties—and in time, the sex ratio of a given population for any particular age set begins to equalize. Today, however, when what should be a normal equalized sex ratio is measured in many current populations, particularly in developing countries in Asia, as well as in the Middle East and in parts of Africa, results show a divergence from the norm.

The current sex ratio reveals not a ratio that is beginning to become even between the sexes, but an expanding ratio of men to women of 1.06 (1.06 men per 1 woman), which is far higher than in most countries.

Researcher Amartya Sen concludes: “These numbers tell us, quietly, a terrible story of inequality and neglect leading to the excessive mortality of women.”

Evaluating the Sex-Ratio Disequilibrium

It is here when those of us who care about the state of the world and the suffering and the well-being of the people who inhabit it should begin to groan, loudly and insistently, like a thunderstorm. We need to read the articles that disclose the state of women around the world; we need to do personal research. We need to seek for understanding.

34 million

women and girls are trapped in the sex trade, contributing to the missing women dilemma.

There is now a general consensus as to the reasons why sex ratios are teetering on a wild gender imbalance in various countries of the world. Sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, inadequate health care and nutrition for female offspring, lack of pregnancy and childbirth education, and the now booming sex-slave trade industry all contribute to the missing women dilemma.

In their comprehensive book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn report, “Far more women and girls are shipped into brothels each year in the early twenty-first century than African slaves were shipped into slave plantations each year in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries.”

This horrendous reality is verified by the Foreign Affairs journal, and the above husband-and-wife writing team estimate some 34 million women and girls worldwide are trapped in the sex-slave trade.

This newborn infant from South Sudan lies in an incubator, suffering from sepsis and jaundice and struggling to survive. His mother died giving birth.
This newborn infant from South Sudan lies in an incubator, suffering from sepsis and jaundice and struggling to survive. His mother died giving birth. Photo by Mark Naftalin, UNICEF

Maternal Mortality and Maternal Morbidity

The issue of malnourishment also takes a generational toll. When girls are malnourished—and historically, girls often live on subsistence diets while their brothers receive the family’s available food—they give birth to underweight babies whose bodies are then more susceptible to disease. Malnourished girls become malnourished women, prone to childbirth losses—miscarriages, stillbirths, infant deaths—and multiple pregnancy complications resulting in mortality.

This young girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo brought her younger sister to a health center to have a malnutrition screening, after being driven from their home and community during a violent conflict between the government and anti-government militia.
This young girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo brought her younger sister to a health center to have a malnutrition screening, after being driven from their home and community during a violent conflict between the government and anti-government militia. Photo by Vincent Tremeau, UNICEF

In India, for instance, demographers find that, by and large, the main cause of female deaths is cardiovascular disease—diseases of the heart and blood vessels that can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Medical researchers have discovered a close relationship between low birth weight and eventual cardiovascular diseases at a later age.

Maternal mortality refers to the number of women who die in childbirth. Some 99 percent of women in the world who die giving birth are from poor countries. This is determined by another ratio—the maternal mortality ratio (MMR), the number of maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births. The MMR measures the potential of death per pregnancy. Another ratio measures death probability over a lifetime of multiple pregnancies. The lifetime risk of dying in childbirth is 1,000 times higher in a poor country.

“This should be an international scandal,” Kristof and WuDunn write.

To sketch out this global crisis, Kristof and WuDunn quote some alarming statistics:

  • The highest maternal mortality risk in the world is in the African country of Niger.
    There the lifetime risk of death is 1 in 7.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the lifetime risk of death in childbirth is 1 in 22.
  • India is 1 in 70.
  • The United States is 1 in 4,800, a high ratio for a developed and wealthy country.
  • In Italy, the lifetime risk is 1 in 26,000.
  • In Ireland, the chance of dying in childbirth is 1 in 46,000.

Morbidity is different from mortality. Maternal morbidity deals with injuries during childbirth, and they occur even more frequently than maternal mortality. Again, Half the Sky concentrates pages on occurrence of morbidity, particularly fistulas—in this case, rectovaginal fistulas, which are often the result of trauma in childbirth. Here a tear between the vagina and rectum (also caused by rape) is left untreated in places where there is inadequate health care. These women, many now mothers, having successfully delivered an infant, become outcasts in their villages because they cannot control the flow of urine or feces.

“For every woman who dies in childbirth, at least ten suffer significant injuries such as fistulas or serious tearing,” Kristof and WuDunn write. “Unsafe abortions cause the deaths of seventy thousand women annually and cause serious injuries to another 5 million. The economic cost of caring for those 5 million women is estimated to be $750 million annually. And there is evidence that when a woman dies in childbirth, her surviving children are much more likely to die young as well, because they will have no mother caring for them.”

The lifetime risk of dying in childbirth is 1,000 times higher in a poor country.

All these factors are symptoms of one major toxic cause: female discrimination. Simply stated: Women in a cross section of wide-ranging cultures are not valued. In fact, they are actively abused, neglected and abandoned through countless ingrained cultural practices that deem women as inferior to men and ensure they stay in subsistence-like conditions.

The conglomerate of all these causes contributes to the overall demographic reality of 100 million missing women. To repeat Amartya Sen again: “These numbers tell us, quietly, a terrible story of inequality and neglect leading to the excessive mortality of women.”

The Irony of the Skewed Sex Ratio

The irony of the missing-women demographics—enabled by entrenched cultural attitudes and systemic discrimination against the female sex—is that many places in the world with a skewed sex ratio are now experiencing such high female shortages that there are no longer enough women to mate in marriage with the existing male population. Think about that 1.06:1 sex ratio (again, 1.06 men to every 1 woman), and multiply it by the thousands. Imagine what that means. Imagine the implications.

This photo is just one depiction of a once-looming human rights catastrophe. Because of the skewed sex ratio in Asia, many countries are now experiencing such high female shortages that there are no longer enough women to mate in marriage with the existing male population. In 1990, a cultural preference for male children had caused South Korea's sex ratio to be at the world's highest, but after campaigns and restrictions on ultrasounds, the ratio is back to normal.
This photo is just one depiction of a once-looming human rights catastrophe. Because of the skewed sex ratio in Asia, many countries are now experiencing such high female shortages that there are no longer enough women to mate in marriage with the existing male population. In 1990, a cultural preference for male children had caused South Korea’s sex ratio to be at the world’s highest, but after campaigns and restrictions on ultrasounds, the ratio is back to normal.

The Wall Street Journal focused an article on this topic that dealt with South Korea:

“A cultural preference for male children has cost Asia dearly. … Not just a human-rights catastrophe, it is also a looming demographic disaster. With Asian birthrates already plummeting, that means millions of women will never be mothers, and the economic and social impact on some of the world’s largest countries is incalculable.

“For decades, South Korea was Exhibit A in this depressing trend. By 1990, as medical advances made prenatal sex selection routine, the ratio of male-to-female babies soared in South Korea to the world’s highest, at 116.5 males for every 100 females.”

Projections made by the Population Council, a New York City-based research center, indicate that if trends continue, there will be an increase to 150 million missing women by 2035. The world is just sensing the demographic wave that was set into motion years ago. This means that in China, by 2035 there will be as many as 186 single men for every 100 women. In India, by 2060 the sex ratio could curve even higher: 191 men for every 100 women.

A cultural preference for male children [is] not just human-rights catastrophe, it is also a looming demographic disaster.

The governments of both countries have established means and laws to correct this extraordinary deviation. Fetal ultrasound imaging has been restricted (at the least, the reporting of the sex of the child while in utero), and legislation aimed at gender equality, to address gender imbalance has been enacted. China even offers financial incentives to couples with daughters and announced it was abandoning its one-child policy. But demographers warn that even if both countries brought their sex ratios to normal, the damage has been done. Hundreds of millions of Asian men in their 50s will still be unmarried in 2070. In India, the result would be around 15 percent.

Can this rampant and damaging sexism be altered? Remember South Korea, once Exhibit A? Now, partly because of the political insistence of a growing body of educated women, it is beginning to reduce its sex ratio through a variety of national policies. By 2005, the ratio had become 110 males for every 100 female babies. Five years later, the ratio became 107, finally normalizing at the natural level of 105.


Read the rest of Gospel for Asia’s Special Report on 100 Million Missing Women & the Aftermath of Acute Gender Imbalance here: Part 2 | Part 3

Learn more about Gospel for Asia’s programs to combat the Missing Women reality by helping women through Vocational Training, Sewing Machines and Literacy Training.

This Special Report article originally appeared on GFA.org


Read more on the missing women dilemma on gender imbalance and violence against women on Patheos.

Click here, to read more blogs on Patheos from Gospel for Asia.

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March 24, 2019

Years ago, friends and I experimented with designing listening groups. These small groups with three or four participants met once a month for seven months. Basically, we listened to one another for two hours. After a time of centering prayer where we became stilled and focused, the first person would begin and share where he or she was in life. When the first person was done, we would go back into silence, and the only way we could respond to the one who had spoken after those short moments of quiet was to ask questions. This pattern continued until we had gone around the group. Over seven years, I led some 250 people in listening groups and was amazed by the remarkable growth I saw in many of the attendees. I also was transformed in unexpected ways; I certainly became convinced of the healing power that exists when humans feel heard and understood. Evangelical Atheism: Evangelical in Word, Atheists at Heart - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia We always take the first session of a listening group to get to know one another a little so that we are not complete strangers. One woman sitting in my living room started her story with these words: “I guess you could say that I was raised by parents who were Evangelical atheists…” Whoa, I thought. Now that’s strong! Evangelical atheism?

The woman explained that her parents adhered to conservative Christianity but that their lives were a dysfunctional antithesis to what Scripture explains are the fruits of belief. Over the next month, I kept mulling over this apparent oxymoron: Evangelical atheism. Evangelical atheism.

Evangelical Atheism

Could that be one of the reasons our spiritual fiber is weakening in the West? Are there too many of us who really don’t believe what we say we believe and our dysfunction in living is proof of this personal dissembling? Do the words we say; the thoughts we act out; and the way we function with family, friends, neighbors and work colleagues belie the faith system we say (or in some cases fool ourselves into thinking) we are following? Are many of us really closet Evangelical atheists at heart — at least in part?

I often examine why so many Western Christians wonder, Is this really all there is to Christianity? What’s wrong? Why am I so ineffectual? With so much religious feeding going on, why am I still hungry? Polls released about the time of this women’s statement revealed that 10 percent less Americans claimed to be Christian than what was revealed in previous polls. Statistically, this is a huge shift and indicates a frightening trend. We all need to be asking ourselves, “What is really happening?”

What is really happening - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

The website “Real Clear Politics” (www.RealClearPolitics.com) reprinted an article from the Christian Science Monitor website (www.csmonitor.com) titled “The Coming Evangelical Collapse.” In it, the author, Michael Spencer, a writer who describes himself as “a post-evangelical reformation Christian in search of a Jesus-shaped spirituality,” predicts the demise of evangelicalism as we know it due to seven predicators.

The first one:

“Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism.”

The second reads,

“We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught … our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.”

Check out the website if you are interested in reviewing the rest of the seven predictions. But let’s concentrate on only one of the predictors: In the years going forward, will that second prediction be one of the evidences of a heretical fissure? Will younger generations hold to a form of godliness but as Scripture says, “without the power thereof”?

“The woman explained that her parents adhered to conservative Christianity but that their lives were a dysfunctional antithesis to what Scripture explains are the fruits of belief. Over the next month, I kept mulling over this apparent oxymoron: Evangelical atheism. Evangelical atheism.”
Paul wrestles with this type of spiritual split personality in his second letter to Timothy, a young man he mentored and loved. He says, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come …” He continues with a list of disturbing characteristics: self-adulation, money motivation, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. His conclusion after this disturbing list is “… having a form of godliness but denying its power” (see 2 Timothy 3:1–5).

I would maintain that one reason the local church is bleeding millennials, and that so many of them are often spiritually adrift, is that their own parents are living out a faith where religious activity has more to do with form, not with a “Jesus-shaped spirituality.” According to Pew polling,

“Almost every major branch of Christianity in the United States has lost a significant number of members, mainly because millennials are leaving the fold. More than one-third of millennials now say they are unaffiliated with any faith, up 10 percentage points since 2007.”

In the documentary “An Unreasonable Man,” which chronicles the remarkable consumer-safety record established by Ralph Nader, the principle reveals how, when coming home from grade school one afternoon, his father, an immigrant to this country asked,

“Well, what did you learn in school today? Did they teach you how to believe, or did they teach you how to think?”

Have we been teaching ourselves how to believe without also emphasizing how to think about what we believe, and then, how that thinking belief works itself out in the proof of how we choose to live? Are we passing this intellectual and theological knowledge on to the next generation in such a way that they one day will look back and recognize the power of previous spiritual models? Will those younger than ourselves identify and remember our belief linked to lifestyles in such power-filled ways that our example will continue to be a motivator for their belief and lifestyle for decades beyond the span of our own lives?

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy

There are two great rulers by which insidious, private heresy can be measured. One is orthodoxy, right theology. The other is orthopraxy, right living. Scripture is clear that the marriage of both is the cornerstone of Christian faith. Christ is stunningly clear that belief and living must be in sync. He is particularly livid over the empty performance orientation of religious leaders.

“Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” — Matthew 7:15–17.

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

The way we live is evidence of what we truly believe. Or another way to look at this is in the simple statement that Christ also makes:

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (see Luke 6:45).

What an indicator of orthopraxy! Our tongues tell.

The Apostle John picks up this theme in his first letter: “If we say we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth,” (see 1 John 1:6) and “He who says he is in the light and hates his brother, is in darkness until now” (see 1 John 2:9). Orthodoxy, what we believe, and orthopraxy, how we live it out, must be in sync. Otherwise, our Christian confession is obliterated by our actions.

Not only should individuals be wary of their own hidden heresies in belief or in practice, religious organizations can become horrific examples of incomprehensible splits between living and doing as well. My husband and I have been in ministry throughout the full five decades of our married life. We were in youth work, planted a church in the inner-city of Chicago and pastored an inter-racial congregation, spent 20 years in daily radio outreach, seven years producing and hosting a daily television show, and sponsored 132 pastors’ conference annually. Together we’ve written dozens of published books, traveled on the speaker’s circuit for 20 years and served as directors of various not-for-profit boards.

We are well aware that the demands of ministry are such that it is more than easy to do God’s work, using approaches and techniques that are not God’s ways. Spiritual schizophrenia is all too easy to slip into. Let’s look at a couple of examples of ministries that have worked hard to prevent evangelical heresy.

Preventing Evangelical Heresy

Gary Haugen, a lawyer formerly employed in the civil-rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice, who was also the director of the United Nations genocide investigation in Rwanda, took a huge lifestyle leap, committing what is essentially professional suicide by resigning his high-powered government positions in order to live out a Jesus-shaped spirituality. He and dedicated colleagues have founded and formed the International Justice Mission, which confronts, rescues and protects those women, men and children who are held in thrall to the deeply entrenched sex slave industries in the world.

In the name of the God of justice, legal expertise is leveraged to combat illegal evil. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 provides the tools to combat trafficking in persons both worldwide and domestically. IJM leverages these legal means to combat illegal evil at home and in the world.

In his book Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian, Haugen talks about being haunted by John Stuart Mill’s 1859 essay “On Liberty.” (Mill was a philosopher who argued in this essay that “over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”) The thoughts that gnawed at Haugen were those where Mill examined how words lose their meaning, using Christians as the prime example, since they seemed to have a remarkable ability to say profound things without really believing them. This is evidenced by the way they act and behave.

Preventing Evangelical Heresy - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

Haugen writes,

“What became more disturbing was his list of things that Christians, like me, actually say — like, blessed are the poor and humble; it’s better to give than receive; judge not, lest you be judged; love your neighbor as yourself, etc. — and examining how differently I would live my life if I actually believed such things. As Mill concluded, ‘The sayings of Christ co-exist passively in their minds, producing hardly any effect beyond what is caused by mere listening to words so amiable and bland.’”

Perhaps this is a 19th-century prognostication of an approaching 21st-century Western spiritual malaise: Evangelical atheism. Yet, Scripture’s warnings against this divide, writing centuries before the analysis of John Stuart Mill, indicate that heresy is endemic to the human character. All believers have the potential of failing while at the same time priding themselves on exterior mental assent to biblical principles of belief.

Need we (need I) begin asking ourselves (asking myself),

“Am I really an unbeliever in church clothes?”

Or perhaps a better question would be,

“Where are the areas of faith in which I am practicing disbelief? Where am I really NOT seeking a Jesus-shaped spirituality?”

The Cure for Evangelical Atheism

I often pause in the outside lobby of bookstores because many of them stack their really bargain books in enticing displays that catch the attention of an avid book-lover like myself. A while back, I picked up (for $5) 7 Minutes of Magic: The Ultimate Energy Workbook. A blurb by Deeprak Chopra graced the cover, “A perfect blend of Western and Eastern fitness to jump-start your day and help you relax at night.” Since I am working at getting eight hours of sleep per night as part of my aging-gracefully attempt, I thought I might pick up some tips for evenings when I need to begin incorporating the 7 minutes of relaxing techniques for those mornings when I can’t afford the hour that visiting an exercise class would take.

The book has sat, unopened, on my bedroom chair for several years.

This 7-minute approach of flow exercises and stretches is supposed to give me a “lightning flash of vitality” after a long night of inactivity. Somehow (isn’t it strange?) that book hasn’t done a thing for me … just sitting on the chair with the cover photo of some well-toned practitioner stretching from spine to flap.

Get the picture? We must do what we know is good for us — or at least we must try to do what we know is good for us. Thinking things are so is not enough to establish a reality that things are so.

The Cure for Evangelical Atheism - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

When starting the International Justice Mission, Haugen and his colleagues put themselves in a place where they were utterly dependent upon God. Perhaps you can imagine the reality of this need if you think about the way they spend the majority of their time fighting sex trafficking all around the world, going into brothels and dens of human slavery and freeing young girls from their bondage to enforced prostitution.

“This is why I am so grateful for my experience with IJM,” Haugen writes,

“Because it gives me a continual experience of my weakness in which God is delighted to show his power … We are forced by our own weakness to beg him for it, and at times we work without a net, apart from his saving hand. And we have found him to be real — and his hand to be true and strong — in a way we would never have experienced strapped into our own safety harnesses. 

“In concrete terms, what does that desperation look like? For me, it means being confronted with a videotape of hundreds of young girls in Cambodia being put on open sale to be raped by sex tourists and foreign pedophiles. It means going into a brothel in Cambodia as part of an undercover investigation and being presented with a dozen girls between the ages of five and ten who are being forced to provide sex to strangers. It means being told by everyone who should know that there is nothing that can be done about it. It means facing death threats for my investigative colleagues, high-level police corruption, desperately inadequate aftercare capacities for victims and a hopelessly corrupt court system. It means going to God in honest argument and saying, ‘Father, we cannot solve this,’ and hearing him say, ‘Do what you know best to do, and watch me with the rest.’”

Because of this dependency and because of the intransigency of the evil that is being confronted, IJM staff begins the first half-hour of the day in quiet reflection, to listen, to be still, to sort things through. Then, they gather again — every day at 11 a.m. — to pray about the life-and-death situations they are facing.

That’s a cure for Evangelical atheism if I ever saw one — a long dose of Jesus-shaped spirituality; a contemplative discipline observed before entering into International Justice Mission’s particular daily dangers of holy mission.

A Jesus-Shaped Spirituality - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

A Jesus-Shaped Spirituality

Through the years, David and I have also been impressed with the ministry of Gospel for Asia. The visionary founder, KP Yohannan, connected with us early in his ministry. We were drawn into his vision and passion to help the people in Asia. K.P. has truly been a pioneer in challenging the Western-missionary effort to understand that brown-skinned brothers and sisters might be better equipped, less costly to underwrite, already familiar with customs and languages and filled with a passion for their own lands that lead them to willingly undergo beatings and persecutions for Christ’s sake, than many white-faced brothers and sisters.

Gospel for Asia’s initial drive to establish local fellowships has blossomed into 3–4 million or so believers who are being pastored and discipled by Indian nationals.

In addition to local fellowships, Gospel for Asia-supported workers have responded to the most hopeless of social situations with practical and effective ministries: student sponsorship to educate some 70,000+ children; medical teams working with health issues and teaching the basic preventive measures that ward off 80 percent of those physical problems, which usually are present in the long lines at local clinics. GFA’s field partner is one of the largest installers of clean water wells and filters among the development organizations worldwide and, in addition, provides means for micro-businesses, which give initial start up tools to create sustainable incomes. Widows are tended to, children are invited to after-school programs, families are strengthened. The list of good works goes on and on.

dedicated, determined prayer - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

Many fine relief and development organizations do the same; the United Nations, for example, sponsors excellent social outreaches in most of the countries of the world. The difference, I would maintain, however, between GFA and other large, well-known operations is that GFA doesn’t just deal with the physical failures caused by poverty or ignorance or natural disasters, it deals with the spirit of the dilemmas: 

What is it in the human heart that also leaves people vulnerable in the machinations of systemic exploitation? What is the spirit lacking in the heart and soul of this child, this man or woman, this family or this community?

GFA understands that it is facing more than surface difficulties; there are deep endemic prejudices, racial and tribal injustices and institutions adamantly committed to keeping others entrapped by the economic failures that benefit others. GFA comprehends that it must get to the spirit of the matter, and since its inception, that fight has been accomplished through committed and regular and unusual amounts of time that its home offices in various centers and among its staff within 14 Asian countries spend in dedicated, determined prayer.

This is not an organization that mouths the belief that prayer is the basis for ministry, for touching the heart of God, for receiving direction and guidance without also activating a systemic organizational commitment to hours of prayer for its work in the world. GFA is a praying organization.

David and I, personally, have often been shamed by GFA’s commitment to a kind of prayer that we have not activated nearly as well in our own ministry outreaches.

So, what do you think about all this? What would happen if we Evangelicals, all of us, sincerely asked the question:

“If I really believed what I say I believe, how would it radically change what I think and speak and do?”

I’m looking at my own heart, conducting an honest self-examination, quietly considering my own bent being, finding hypocrisies I haven’t wanted to face, and with God’s help, yanking out those insidious roots that lead to hidden heresy, to actions and attitudes that are decidedly unchristian. I am examining the heretical possibilities in my own approach to living out my faith. I desperately do not want to die having a form of godliness but denying the potential power of it to change my life and the lives of those around me. And I want to concentrate my prayers on the younger generations — on grandchildren and millennial friends — in such a way that they can identify some kind of radical difference in my life. I do not want to leave a legacy of being an ordinary, everyday Christian.

How about you — are you willing to search for and possibly find any hidden closet evangelical atheism? Then, let us both deal earnestly with the following question asked by Christ of His followers:

“But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do the things I say?” — Luke 6:46

Sources: Pew Research, Religion Among the Millennials

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January 2, 2019

Jesus tells several parables about the kingdom of heaven in Matthew chapter 13. The first and perhaps the most popular is the story of the sower and the seed. As the farmer scatters his seeds, they fall into different types of soil. Typically, we focus on the types of soil upon which the seed lands. Rightly so, since Jesus is explaining that the seed will take root in some soil but not in others.

Using a simple farming illustration, He explains that the seed in the parable is “the word of the kingdom” (13:19) to illustrate how people, represented by the different soils, might respond to the Scripture.

What If There Were No Seed? - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

But let’s imagine that the farmer has no seed. It doesn’t matter what kind of soil there is if he has no seed.

“God never wanted anyone to live on this earth without knowing His love and redemption; that is why He gave humanity His precious written Word.”
No seed, no crop. No crop, no harvest.

The number of people in Asia without Bibles—God’s seed—numbers in the multiple millions. They are a mix of soils. On another scale, there are millions living in abject poverty in remote tribal villages and urban slums who are desperately seeking hope where there seems to be none.

Most of these people have never heard of Jesus or the Bible that tells the story of His great love for us.

Gospel for Asia’s (GFA) motivation in all we do is to sow the seed of the Word of God throughout Asia.

Many in Asia do not have a Bible. They don’t simply lack a book—they lack a treasure that is filled with wisdom, instruction, encouragement and glimpses of the heart of their Creator. They are unable to search Scripture for themselves, and they have no way of sharing His Word with others.

Certainly, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (see Romans 10:17). So, one might mistakenly reckon that all we need to do is tell others about Jesus. But once the seed has been received, it needs nourishment to grow.

God never wanted anyone to live on this earth without knowing His love and redemption; that is why He gave humanity His precious written Word.

Many believers in Asia are first-generation believers who grew up knowing nothing of God’s ways, and they’re hungry for His Word.

The Psalmist said that the Word of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (see Psalm 119:105). Without it, we have no clear direction. Local pastors and indigenous missionaries need Bibles for their own growth. They need to have them available to give to those who have decided to follow Jesus and to those who want to learn more about Him.

Remember: No seed, no crop. No crop, no harvest.


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November 27, 2018

Wills Point, Texas – GFA Special Report (Gospel for Asia) – Discussing the large and small scale efforts and solutions to end inequality, social injustice, grinding poverty, human rights violations, that continues to exist, affecting millions of women, men and even children.

Seeking Justice & Defending Human Rights Part 3 - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

Small Steps, Big Change

In the face of such enormous inequalities, it can be difficult to know how to respond and where to start. But just as the problem of social injustice is not really a single, abstract issue so much as the many individuals it affects, so ending inequality is about changing personal circumstances as well as addressing the structures that allow inequality to continue.

That sort of action is taking place on large and small scales. At one end of the spectrum, the World Bank is supporting a $63 million empowerment project in Jharkhand, India, which aims to help adolescent girls and young women complete secondary-level education and acquire job skills.

A microfinance loan enabled this woman to buy a water buffalo and keep her family out of the cycle of poverty - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
A microfinance loan enabled this woman to buy a water buffalo and keep her family out of the cycle of grinding poverty. She washes the buffalo every day to ensure it does not get sick.

Another way of improving the situation for poor families has been providing microloans that keep them away from predatory loan sharks. Many families have found themselves caught in bonded labor for generations after borrowing a small sum, only for their debt to keep spiraling beyond their reach.

The “Jeevika” program launched a decade ago in Bihar, India, by the state and national Indian government has seen some 600,000 women helped to start small businesses as farmers, dairy and poultry producers and entrepreneurs in small businesses.

“These women are also emerging as a political and social force,” notes India Spend.

The 2016 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum concludes that at its current rate of progress, it will take South Asia an entire millennium to reach gender equality in the workplace.

Increasingly aware of living in a globalized economy, where production is outsourced to where labor may be cheapest, some in the West are recognizing how their spending may affect the poor in other parts of the world.

“Ending inequality is about changing personal circumstances as well as addressing the structures that allow inequality to continue.”

Yet while encouraging Western consumers to challenge companies about their supply chain practices, to ensure they are not supporting sweatshop businesses, groups like ASI don’t advocate boycotts.

Such actions “can actually make the situation worse and undermine the economy of an already poor country,” says the organization. “As well as hurting employers using slavery-like practices, they could also hurt those who are not exploiting their workers, and worsen the [grinding poverty] that is one of the root causes of slavery.”

Sewing machine provides a widow with dignity and a way to earn an income despite the loss of a spouse - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
Sewing machine provides a widow with dignity and a way to earn an income despite the loss of a spouse.

Gospel for Asia Fights Grinding Poverty in Asia on a Local Level

Complex though the issues are, simple actions can make a difference. Through a wide range of services and programs, Gospel for Asia (GFA) is working among Asia’s poor to offer help and hope for a better tomorrow. And GFA can testify that even a small gift for a family can create big change.

Vocational training courses that cost just $30 can teach skills like fishing, welding and tailoring to equip men for better-paying work. For $75, GFA provides tool kits that may include items like axes, shovels, saws and plows, which enable farmers to increase their productivity.

An $85 donation supplies a sewing machine that allows men and women to start a home-based business, rather than being dependent on others. Not only does this mean they can work from home and take better care of their children, it also multiplies their income significantly. Many who have received a machine say they no longer feel they need to keep their children from school to help make money.

The gift of a bicycle rickshaw can change the financial situation of an entire family - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
The gift of a bicycle rickshaw can change the financial situation of an entire family, and life them out of grinding poverty in Asia.

Costing $200, a rickshaw opens up a whole new level of opportunity for a family. Instead of having to rent a vehicle at often high rates, rickshaw drivers can keep all their earnings from ferrying passengers and products around.

Gospel for Asia also helps to ensure that a family’s situation improves beyond one generation, by encouraging parents to keep their children free from the burden of work. Indeed, GFA sees education as important as equipment, if not more so, in bringing about long-term change.

Currently, around 75,000 children are enrolled in GFA-supported Bridge of Hope centers, where they are helped with their schooling and holistic development. Since 2004, many others have come through this program, which also provides food and medical checkups.

The importance of greater access to education, especially for women and girls, cannot be emphasized enough. Funding such efforts “isn’t charity but investment, and the returns are transformational,” notes activist and singer Bono in a recent opinion piece for TIME magazine in which he asserts that “poverty is sexist.”

GFA's Bridge of Hope program helps about long-term change in families and gives the next generation a chance for a better future - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
GFA’s Bridge of Hope program helps about long-term change in families and gives the next generation a chance for a better future—one where they can rise above the cycle of grinding poverty.

When girls get an extra year’s schooling, their wages increase by almost 12 percent, he writes. Closing the gender gap in education could generate up to $152 billion a year for developing countries.

“When you invest in girls and women,” he goes on, “they rise and they lift their families, their communities, their economies and countries along with them.”

One example of that is recounted in Global Fund for Women’s (GFW) Breaking Through report on gender equality in Asia and the Pacific. After joining a women’s self-help group, a 29-year-old became the first housewife elected to the panchayat, or local government, also helping win equal pay for equal work for women at a local factory.

New opportunities have opened up for the more than 100,000 women who have completed one of GFA’s literacy courses. Another 30,000 women are currently taking part in the program, which is offered in 16 languages.

"When you invest in girls and women, they rise and they lift their families - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
“When you invest in girls and women, they rise from grinding poverty and they lift their families, their communities, their economies and countries along with them.”

One graduate of the GFA-supported literacy program told how learning to read at the age of 40 had changed her life. “I have been deceived many times because of my illiteracy,” says Baasima.

“When I used to go for shopping, bad shopkeepers deceived me, taking more money and not returning the balance amount. But now I can calculate myself. They cannot deceive me. I am very happy now.”

Learning to read has not only enabled Baasima and others to provide and care for their families better-the health of your child is endangered when you can’t read a prescription they may need-but it has also raised their standing in their communities. And along with that improved status can come a new sense of personal worth and identity as they discover God’s love for them in the pages of the Bible.

Literacy training enables women to care better for their families and increases their sense of self-worth - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
Literacy training enables women to care better for their families and increases their sense of self-worth.

Indeed, all of GFA’s efforts to address the inequalities that press down on millions across Asia are anchored in the belief that true social justice means not only seeking better opportunities for all economically and educationally, but also spiritually-the chance to hear of a God who loves all equally, and to see that love demonstrated through actions that help lift them up.

While GFA celebrates the attention that the annual World Day of Social Justice brings to the plight of the overlooked and down-trodden and the enormity of the challenge, it quietly works year-round to change things one person at a time, echoing the approach of Mother Teresa, who remarked of her years caring for some of India’s poor that, “There are no great acts, only small acts done with great love.”

GFA-supported workers seek to walk out the call of the prophet Isaiah (1:17, NIV):

Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.”


Seeking Justice and Defending Human Rights: Part 1 | Part 2

This article originally appeared on gfa.org

To read more on Patheos on the global problem of grinding poverty, go here.

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November 7, 2018

Did you know that the scientific community has been studying the effects of gratitude and thanksgiving on the physiological health of humans? Since around the year 2000, social scientists began turning their focus solely from abnormal psychology to healthy emotional habits and their impact on the way we live.

Thanksgiving and Gratitude: New Drugs for Health and Happiness - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, reports:

“A large body of recent work suggests that people who are more grateful have higher levels of well-being:

  • Grateful people are happier, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationship.
  • Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environments, personal growth, purpose in life, and self- acceptance.
  • Grateful people have more positive ways of coping with the difficulties they experience in life, being less likely to try and avoid the problem, deny there is a problem, blame themselves, or cope through substance use.
  • Grateful people sleep better, and this seems to be because they think less negative and more positive thoughts before just going to sleep.”

Yet, even with this truth, even with all the Scriptures that instruct us to give thanks, most of us fall into the ungrateful-wretch category than that of a people whose hearts are overflowing with appreciation—to God and to one another.

If headlines suddenly blasted the news that a miracle-like prescription drug had just come on the market, which had been trialed over the decades and which demonstrated no side effects, and that scientists had determined that regular usage would enable the user to reach a state of well-being, would you be interested? Then if the pharmaceutical house announced that the new drug would be free to all users, wouldn’t you rush to try it out?

“Appreciation Audit: Reserve three minutes, preferably three times each day, to think about something you appreciate. Keep your mind focused until you feel the beauty of gratefulness rising.”
If I went even further to explain that the numerous clinical trials conducted in the States and overseas had proven that the daily use of this medicine showed positive effects on mood neurotransmitters, positive effects on reproductive hormones and on social bonding hormones, showed positive effects on cognitive and pleasure-related neurotransmitters, on inflammatory and immune systems, on stress hormones, on cardiac and EEG rhythms and on blood pressure as well as healthy blood sugar levels—wouldn’t you rush out and say, “Let me have some of that stuff!”?

Now if scientific studies have proven (as they have) the positive impact of a lifestyle attitude of gratitude, then we should all be working to develop that kind of approach to living beginning today, shouldn’t we?

So, let’s begin.

Dr. Dan Baker, director of behavioral medicine at the National Center for Preventive and Stress Medicine, writes in his book What Happy People Know,

Your mind, when focused on appreciating, has an unparalleled power to trigger physical and emotional healing.

Understanding that it is difficult for people in normally busy circumstances but especially when experiencing trying events to focus the mind positively, Baker developed the “Appreciation Audit.”

Dr. Baker cites studies that show the brain cannot process both fear (one of mankind’s dominate negative emotions) and appreciation at the same time. The Appreciation Audit, when practiced, is designed to create a shield in the brain against fear, hate and anger.

He recommends that learners start with a fundamental form of the Audit: Reserve three minutes, preferably three times each day, to think about something you appreciate. Keep your mind focused until you feel the beauty of gratefulness rising.

“Thanksgiving is a hallmark in a person’s relationship with the Almighty.”
This practice does not require a lot of effort, but it does require intentionality. Thankfully, there is no better time to start than this season ahead when our minds are focused on the national Thanksgiving holiday.

I love it when the scientific community pats itself on the back for discovering something that has already existed throughout the centuries and has been an essential practice of the Christian church. Look at these ancient Scriptures:

  • 2 Chronicles 5:13: “The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: ‘He is good; His love endures forever.’ Then the temple of the LORD was filled with the cloud. . .” (I would say that was an amazing physical evidence of the holy results of thanksgiving and praise.)
  • Jeremiah 30:19: “From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased; I will bring them honor, and they will not be disdained.”
  • Nehemiah 12:46–47: “For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. So in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portion for the musicians and the gatekeepers.”
  • Psalm 95:2–3: “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:15–16: “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

In this brief and non-inclusive survey, it appears that thanksgiving is a hallmark in a person’s relationship with the Almighty. We pride ourselves on a national thanksgiving holiday, in which we gather, eat a festive meal, watch the football game, be careful of divisive political conversation but give scant recognition to the God who is the source of all life’s gifts.

If anything, for the Christian, this holiday has become secularized if the truth be told. Let’s strive to make it a marker in which the spiritual activity—giving thanks—is the center of our intent. The practice of gratitude has earmarked spirituality through the centuries of Judeo-Christian practice. It is only now that science is beginning to groove with its potentialities.

Scientists, however, as well as the social science community, medical researchers, and the academy, are beginning to measure the impact of words and attitudes of thanksgiving and are urging a lifestyle that results in the habit of living with appreciation.

An internet article titled “Three Big Benefits of Being Thankful Every Day” quotes the work of researchers. Seth Borenstein, science writer for the Associated Press, examines how being appreciative on a regular basis can impact our lives,

Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably impact peoples’ lives.

A large body of recent work suggests that people who are more grateful have higher levels of well-being. I have concluded that it is more than ill of us not to be practicing thanksgiving. And we are suffering from this lack; we're suffering spiritually, emotionally and physically. We're suffering as communities. - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

According to the studies:

Benefits of the Daily Attitude of Thanksgiving

1. Being Thankful Improves Your Health

When a group of organ transplant patients were asked to keep a daily gratitude journal while another group simply wrote about the basic details of their day, the group that regularly listed what they were thankful for scored significantly higher on measures of both physical and mental health.

2. Being Thankful Connects You with Other People

Research from 2010 found that gratitude is also important in committed relationships like marriage. Sixty-five couples were studied and researchers discovered that couples that were most committed and satisfied were those who expressed gratitude with one another.

“Couples that were most committed and satisfied were those who expressed gratitude with one another.
These results were well evident one Sunday when I put myself out and volunteered to manage our small church’s monthly potluck meal after our worship service. Since we meet in a school gymnasium, everything had to be hauled in, set up, arranged, carted, then pulled apart, stacked and stored and carried back to the car, unloaded, stored in basement shelves and in attic corners. Frankly, this is a lot of work—most of the time taken for granted because, often, the same people do this work week after week.

However, I was amazed that so many young adults (our church is mostly young adults) thanked me for doing the potluck. There were at least eight people who made a point of thanking me for organizing this event. I was surprised! But I am on the list again for this month. It is amazing what a word of appreciation (spoken eight times!) will do as far as my attitude of serving Christ’s body.

3. Being Thankful Can Change Your Attitude on Life

I am basically a positive person. I see the opportunities in life around me, and given a chance, I can be a catalyst for positive change in an organization. I see the glass as always half full, am rarely discouraged and identify the hand of God somewhere, no matter what has happened. I am healthy and happy.

But I have not always been this way. As a young woman in my 20s, I was prone to depression, saw the holes (huge holes) in other people’s personalities, was given to judgment and arrogance about my own abilities, and could easily look on the dark side.

Today I am Grateful - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

Then for some reason, certainly through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I set six months aside to write nothing but thanks in my prayer journal. No requests, no lists of concerns. Just thanks. For six months. The impact was overwhelmingly life changing. I have kept a daily record of my thanks ever since— for over four decades.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I have concluded that it is more than ill of us not to be practicing thanksgiving; it is evil, a sin of neglect. And we are suffering from this lack; we’re suffering spiritually, emotionally and physically. We’re suffering as communities. If thanksgiving is not a practice within our communal expressions, we too descend into criticism, complaint and crankiness.

Some of us, in this coming season of Thanksgiving, need to be asking for forgiveness from our Heavenly Father who has given us all good gifts. We have almost a whole month to get ready, to personalize the practice and to begin to make a holy plan.

If you can, start the fundamental “Appreciation Audit” (three to five minutes a day, three times a day). As an aid, you may want to listen to the hymn from the musical Godspell:

We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land. . .
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand…
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain …
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain …

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love …

Also, start a file and collect the thanksgiving reminders that come your way. My file includes the history of the creation of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. I’ve slipped into it songs and poems; odd little stories of being thankful, quotes and special prayers.

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues. Cicero

Build your Thanksgiving meal around prayers of gratitude, with guests and family sharing stories of why they are thankful. “Tell one thing you are thankful about and why,” is a regular instruction for our holiday event.

I’d like to have the yearly national holiday Thanksgiving meal once a year, but then establish a thanksgiving meal once a month for friends and family to celebrate.

I’m determined, with all the Scripture informing us and now the scientific/medical and social services communities giving us evidence-based data as to the efficacy of the practice of giving thanks, to become healthy, happy and whole.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Re: Thanksgiving – Daniel Punnose, vice president of GFA, shares about how important it is to maintain thankfulness in our lives, go here.

Click here, to read more blogs on Patheos from Karen Mains @ Gospel for Asia.

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October 22, 2018

Wills Point, Texas – Gospel for Asia Special Report (GFA) – Discussing the troubling problem of the lack of toilets – basic sanitation, and open defecation for millions throughout the world.

What If You Didn’t Have a Toilet?

So I remind myself of toilet scenarios I do know about, then extrapolate some personal situations out to extreme what-ifs. Our home, in which we have lived for 38 years, has its own septic system. During that time, when we had extreme storms, the power would go out. This meant that no water could be pumped from our underground well, and this electric outage disabled our showers, our faucets and our toilets.

I used to store plastic bottles of water so when things went black we could brush our teeth, get dressed by candlelight (since there are no windows in any of our bathrooms), and—get this—flush our toilets. If the power did not come back on for a couple days, the frozen food thawed and an excess of detritus threatened to overflow the toilet basin.

A Squat Outdoor Toilet in Asia - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
A well-cleaned squat toilet in Asia.

So I extrapolate—what if this happened all the time? What if sewer lines broke, became clogged and backed up regularly? What if I lived in poverty and there were no plumbers and no money and no electric company to call to fix our difficulties? What if I had to stand in line to use a communal latrine where flies buzzed, the floor was filthy, someone had evacuated due to acute diarrhea, and no one wanted to clean the mess? Now we’re getting closer.

In the refugee camps of the world, my travel companions and I held ridiculous discussions as to who had invented squat toilets—men or women? Someone shot a photo of me holding a rickety latrine toilet door upright while a woman co-worker trusted me to guard her privacy while she did her business inside. I am laughing, howling with laughter really, at a ridiculous situation, but this is, for most of the world, not a laughing matter.

Extrapolate. What if there was no female friend to hold the door? What if the floor around the squat toilet inside was filthy and you had to pull up your sari and rest the top half of the door against your forehead to keep it from falling? What if you believed that the little structures, dark and dank and scary inside, were really inhabited by demons?

Smelling an overflowing latrine from 20 feet away might persuade even a Westerner to think similarly, even if only metaphorically. In truth, I don’t like the few outhouses I’ve been forced to use in the States, nor many of the spooky national park public facilities, and I certainly avoid, if I can help it, those portable potties hauled in on trucks for public events or construction work sites.

When Your Septic Tank Problems Bring Embarrassment

My last attempt at toilet empathy. About 10 years after we had moved into our home in West Chicago, Illinois, our neighbor across the back yard knocked on the door and apologized for needing to complain about the standing, stinking water that was seeping into his property.

“I think you may be having trouble with your septic system,” he reported, embarrassed to have to point this out.

I called two septic companies. One told me I needed to have the whole septic field replaced; it would cost us $10,000. The other service man diagnosed another problem, but his estimate was about the same as the first. Then I went to the DuPage County Health Department and asked what septic firms they would recommend. I called Black Gold, whose reps complained about the septic map drawn by the original company that laid our field that was now leaking.

“Would the health department let us get away with a layout like this?” he asked his partner. They both obviously thought the field plan had been rendered by some septic idiot. Sure enough, after spending about 45 minutes prodding our three-quarters-of-an-acre lot with long poles, I was informed: “Lady, you don’t need no new septic field. The lines of what’s there ain’t connected to the tank.” His fee was $3,000. I made a garden out of the areas that were torn up by their repairs.

Many people in Asia draw water from smelly, vile ponds - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
Vile, brown liquid that some in Asia count on as their water source.

So what if I lived somewhere that permanently seeped smelly, vile, germ-ridden, brown liquid? What if the river at the back of the land was a running sewer, and my grandchildren couldn’t romp and splash in it? (As one writer vividly describes: “In stagnant reaches, methane bubbles up through the grey-green water, and the stench of rotten eggs—hydrogen sulfide—wafts into homes.”) What if the fields were filled not only with animal feces but the excreta of some 300 neighbors?

You come up with your own empathy-building stories.

Communities Band Together to Improve Sanitation

A family in front of a GFA-provided outdoor toilet and sanitation facility - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
A family in front of a GFA-provided local sanitation facility.

Prime Minister Modi and his teams are sold on community-led initiatives, and so should they be. Change works best when a whole population is committed to seeing it happen.

Elizabeth Royte wrote: “The Indian government is rewarding certified ODF villages by moving them to the front of the line for road or drinking-water improvements. It has launched an advertising campaign that exalts Swachh Bharat mascots, like the 106-year-old woman in Chhattisgarh state who sold seven goats to build two toilets. It has enlisted cricket and Bollywood stars to exhort people to use the new latrines.”

Community development often works best when it is exactly that: an idea that grows out of the mind of some visionary who lives within the locality that has a need, a visionary who is not only capable of strategic thinking but also feels empathy and who is moved by compassion by the people nearby—his or her neighbors. And when a whole community becomes involved in “cleaning up its act,” there are few powers on earth that can withstand such initiative.

Now what’s interesting about Gospel for Asia‘s stories surrounding sanitation is that it is the local pastor in the village, who out of concern and knowing that open defecation is a deadly disease-breeding potential, exercises his compassion to love his neighbors by being concerned about the availability of latrines.

This is an excerpt from one of Gospel for Asia (GFA)‘s stories called “Welcome to Their Toilet” that talks about how one community was forced to use the open fields to defecate because they had no other proper place.

The local GFA pastor, Vidur, understood the villagers’ struggle. He himself had been ministering in the area for more than 10 years. Knowing people’s lives were at risk whenever they used the fields as their toilet, he wished there were a way to help them.

Then he found out Gospel for Asia had started a program to promote sanitation in underprivileged areas. Excited about the opportunity to help his community, he asked his leaders to build four toilets in the village.

That’s when Janya and her husband, Lalan, gladly offered some of their land for one toilet.

In January 2013, when the villagers saw a concrete outhouse rise out of the dusty ground, they poured out their gratitude to Pastor Vidur and the church.

“[This] saved the lives of people from illness,” shared one villager.

Even the village leader expressed thanks. “[The church] is always concerned about the need of people and works hard for a brilliant life for the community,” he said.

What an extraordinary example of love in practical action.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” —Luke 10:27

On the Brink of Innovations, Change in Sanitation

Toilet technology is on the edge of remarkable, cost-effective, ecologically friendly frontiers. They’re becoming self-cleaning and solar-powered. A solar-powered toilet that converts waste into charcoal that could then be used as fertilizer.

An indoor toilet that works like a garden composter, spinning the contents and reducing odor and the number of dangerous pathogens. Portable rickshaw toilets. A community bio-digester toilet designed to convert human waste into gases and manure. Once ideas begin flourishing, there is no limit to what can happen.

I’m banking on Prime Minister Modi’s ODF Campaign to be successful. The hardest pull of any new effort is most always at the beginning, but once new ideas start rolling, they gather momentum. Some of the new toilet technologies may become catalysts as well.

In addition, there are hundreds of international organizations working on sanitation solution. They understand that one size does not fit all the variables that make up the particulars in this vast discussion, but added all together, it is a prohibitive association with evidence of remarkable dedication.

“And when a whole community becomes involved in ‘cleaning up its act,’ there are few powers on earth that can withstand such initiative.”

A Canadian doctor, one of those “creative renegades” unhappy with the condition of the world and one whom I have come to admire and love, was appointed as a Provincial Health Officer in the highlands of Papua, New Guinea.

While making an aerial survey, he and his team discovered one village that was distinctly cleaner and healthier. Far below them was the evidence of what turned out to be a pastor with some basic health training who had taught his people those lessons, and the difference could be seen from the air. That one flight changed their lives. They began to search for a more integral way of ministering and soon began using and teaching a community health evangelism methodology, which had been developed in Africa.

Sometimes we get lost in the details on the ground. We need to stand back, take deep breaths and find some way to gather broader assessments—some kind of aerial view. Progress is being made; it’s just a little harder in some places than in others. I’m proud that Gospel for Asia is one of the players. Last year, GFA helped provide 10,512 toilets for needy communities throughout Asia.

Shout Out to Toilets!

Christianity has everything to do with sanitation. We serve a God who is expecting us to help restore the world He created to its original design. That is a world, among many other things, without rampaging diseases. One day, Scripture promises, it will be a world without death and suffering. So in this interim, let’s hear a shout out for all the toilets in the world!


Saving Lives at Risk from Open Defecation: Part 1 | Part 2

This article originally appeared on gfa.org

To read more on Patheos on the problem of open defecation, go here.

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October 18, 2018

The average young adult in America looks forward expectantly to a life free from the rules of home; free to build their future; free to make their own decisions. They look forward to the world of adulthood that they see being living out around them.

This is natural and, therefore, to be expected.

A Life of Willing Sacrifice for the Lord: GFA School of Discipleship - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

However, there are also those who have responded to the call of the Lord to present themselves as a “living sacrifice” forsaking their own dreams to be set apart for His work. The Apostle Paul describes this as their “reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

It is not possible to present ourselves as a “living sacrifice” unless we do it as a “willing sacrifice.” Doing so requires an entirely different mindset.

Paul explained that mindset in his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 2:5-8). Although Jesus had all the riches of Heaven to enjoy for all of eternity, He “made Himself of no reputation and took the form of a servant.” This required that He humble himself.

The Creator gave up everything to become a willing sacrifice for us. That is why it is our reasonable service to do the same for Him.

If he gave up everything that we might live, should we not give up everything to live for Him?

The GFA School of Discipleship is one year of willing sacrifice in which students commit to serving the Lord above self.

It all begins with a willingness to present themselves, not to GFA, but to the Lord. The School of Discipleship is simply the instrument the Lord uses to help the willing students understand a true life of willing sacrifice in the Lord’s service.

Students learn under the tutelage and example of GFA staff members. Principles of godly living taught in the classroom are lived out in service and holiness as a lifestyle.

A willing sacrifice is one who chooses to be holy, that is, set apart from the world and unto the Lord. So, what is the School of Discipleship student really sacrificing?

He or she is sacrificing the world and the things of this world – all of which are passing away and are, therefore, nothing to be held onto.

In contrast, they are laying hold of the eternal things of the Lord. They are, thereby, becoming vessels fit for the Master to use to accomplish His purposes.

Is that too big a sacrifice? Many will say it is. Scripture says it is reasonable. “Reasonable” is just another way of saying that it makes sense. And it does.

Are you wondering how the Lord can use you? Are you willing to become a living sacrifice? Read more about the GFA School of Discipleship and prayerfully consider submitting your application to join others whom the Lord is shaping and using.

Want more information? Visit our website and request a free Information Kit.

“I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” –Romans 12:1


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September 15, 2018

One Year That Will Change Your Life Forever - KP Yohannan - Gospel for AsiaThe GFA School of Discipleship may be the most unusual school in America. The school functions in the classical style of discipleship training where students are not just taught but are also mentored.

In New Testament times, formal education ceased at age 13, then a young man would follow a profession, most likely the same as his fathers. If he chose to become a teacher, a scribe, a rabbi, a philosopher or politician, he would enter into a program of study under the tutelage of an experienced leader. In effect, he would become the shadow, imitator and emulation of a teacher, learning not only how to make his living but also how to live according to the values of his master.

Jesus chose 12 men from a variety of backgrounds and occupations to become His disciples during the three years of His earthly ministry. These are the men who first come to mind when Christians hear the word “disciple.”

The point of the process was for them to become like Him—to learn the truth He taught, to apply that truth to shape their values, and to put it into practice in ministry. Unless told to do otherwise, a disciple would follow and study not just the master’s teaching, but the master himself.

The GFA School of Discipleship gives students the opportunity to live within a community of believers whose passion is to love Christ and to serve others. Students become an integral part of that community learning what it means to be committed to Christ, to learn more about Him, and to learn how to live in a more intimate relationship with Him, allowing the Lord to guide their paths.

During their entire experience, these select young people enjoy the privilege of serving others by participating in the ministries of GFA. At the same time, the School of Discipleship is a ministry of GFA to the students.

The three main pillars of this one-year, immersive experience are the study of and submission to God’s Word, making Christ known through missions and evangelism, and personal character transformation.

Jesus told a parable of two men who built their own houses. One built his house on a rock. The other built his house on the sand. When the storms came, the house on the rock stood firm. The other man’s house was destroyed. Jesus called the man who built upon the rock a wise man. The other, he called foolish.

He compared them to people who read the Scriptures. Some read and let the Word inform and transform them. Others read the same scriptures but are unwilling to submit to living like the Master. It was not the rock or the sand that made one man wise and the other a fool. It was the difference in if they let the Word of God change them or not.

That is the point of discipleship. A disciple has a willingness to become like the Master by learning His Word, allowing Him to change us to be more like Him, and to let Him direct our paths so that we serve Him wherever He sends us with His message.

The humble, caring leadership of experienced, dedicated Christian mentors makes the School of Discipleship “one year that will change your life forever.”

To learn more about the School of Discipleship, visit this page on the GFA website.

To read more posts on Patheos on the GFA School of Discipleship, go here.

A free information kit is available online. Simply fill out the form and we’ll get your package on the way.

In the meantime, enjoy this video of Rachael, a former School of Discipleship student, as she tells how she was impacted by her experience.


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August 23, 2018

Go Tell It on the Mountains - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
Titus literally has to climb mountains like these to minister to people in churches in this area, as well as villages that have never heard the Good News.

Gospel for Asia (GFA World), Wills Point, Texas – Discussing Titus, who literally has to climb mountains on foot to minister to people.

When Jesus told His disciples that His plan was for them to go into all the world, He meant ALL the world (see Matthew 28:19–20). Starting with the first 11 and Paul, followers of Jesus have been going wherever they need to go to share Christ’s love.

Whether that’s to our neighbors or whether it’s to people living across the globe in a far, distant country, they all have one thing in common: They need to hear about Jesus. The Bible says that whoever chooses to believe in and follow Him shall be saved (see Romans 10:13). But that Scripture verse is followed by several questions that must be answered honestly by every Christian. Not the least of these questions is “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?”

Titus is a GFA-supported pastor who wanted to share Jesus’ love with others since he was just a young boy. Both of his parents had become gravely ill when a pastor visiting people in his village came to Titus’ home, shared about Jesus, and prayed that his mother and father would be healed. When the Lord answered that prayer, the entire family responded positively to the Good News.

Titus pastors a thriving church and has already established two other fellowships in the mountains. He literally has to climb mountains to minister to people. Many homes, like those in the photo above, can be visited by foot. The only access to these mountain people is on footpaths, many of which are extremely steep and difficult to climb.

Some of the people in these homes and villages don’t want to be reached. They covet their isolation. They don’t want to be bothered by anyone from the outside. For many, it may provide a feeling of security. Titus knows that he has the real security these people need and that it can be found only in Jesus. He also knows they will never hear about Jesus unless someone goes to them and tells them.

It doesn’t matter to Titus that he will spend a goodly part of his long day climbing the mountainsides and descending into the valleys when no one has heard . Rejection is difficult for any of us, but imagine how we would feel if we had spent hours trekking up a steep mountainside to visit with people and they refuse to welcome us.

Titus understands that some of us sow the Word of God without seeing any fruit. He knows that our responsibility is to go and tell. In God’s infinite wisdom, He guides our footsteps—a good thing to know when climbing steep mountain trails—and His Holy Spirit convinces the hearts of those who will listen.

He may have to climb that mountain—and the next one, and the one after that—many times before those who hear call upon the name of the Lord. And so he goes. Day after day and mile after mile to tell others about the one person they need to know. His name is Jesus.

The fact that the church he pastors and the fellowships he has started are thriving is evidence that, despite his weary body and his worn-out shoes, the Lord is bringing the increase wherever this ordinary man ventures out to introduce people to the Jesus of whom they have never heard.

Please add Titus and those like him to your prayers. Pray that as they makes their difficult treks, God’s grace would be sufficient and that their feet will become even more beautiful as they shares the Lord’s love with others.

As you pray, ask the Lord where He would have you go to minister His Word. It may be next door. You may not have to climb high mountains to get there, but the Lord will consider your feet to be as beautiful as Titus’.

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June 22, 2018

Widowhood is a State of Social Death Asserts Gospel for Asia - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
In places where traditional women missionaries face persecution, Sisters of Compassion are welcomed as trustworthy counselors and friends of the community.

Widowhood.

No one can imagine the pain that follows the death of a spouse until they have experienced it. Suffice it to say that the only way to describe that pain is that it is, indeed, unimaginable. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, the indescribable pain of the loss lingers long after you expect it to.

Two Scripture verses have been a comfort to me as I have experienced the pain of which we speak. One is from the Old Testament; the other from the New.

“A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation.”
(Psalm 68:5)

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
(James 1:27)

A Biblical perspective on widowhood is essential for Christians everywhere. As followers of Jesus, we have a sacred responsibility to care for and comfort widows. This is especially true in some Asian nations where widows are treated as outcasts.

In some of the poorest regions of these countries, widows are a burden. In times past, they would be burnt alive while their husbands’ bodies were cremated. Today, many widows are made to leave their families and forced to beg in the streets. Some are sent away by their husbands’ families who want to prevent them from inheriting money or property. Despite legislation aimed at protecting widows, regressive customs are difficult to overcome.

The treatment of women in general and widows, in particular, is nothing new. Even during his earthly ministry, Jesus condemned the Jewish scribes and Pharisees for devouring widow’s houses (see Mark 12:38-40). Mistreatment of widows is common, especially in developing countries and in places where Christian compassion is nonexistent.

One source observed that widows in India have a “pronoun problem.” The estimated 40 million women widows in the country go from being called “she” to “it” when they lose their husbands.

Mohini Giri, a former Nobel Peace Prize nominee, says that “Widowhood is a state of social death,” and women are forced to live with “many restrictions which affect them both physically and psychologically.” In many cases, they are forbidden from working or associating with mainstream society.

Widows are trapped in an emotional prison because of the bad luck they are thought to bring. According to Hopegivers, a faith-based non-profit organization, widows are “easily set aside, much like you would toss out an old chair. But that is not God’s way. All lives have value, regardless of age, gender, or circumstances. He has a plan and purpose for every person – and that plan and purpose exist until death.”

These are some of the reasons why one of the major ministries of GFA-supported Sisters of Compassion is caring for widows throughout widowhood.

With hearts that ache for hurting widows, Sisters of Compassion honor them by sharing the love of Jesus, providing clothing and other basic essentials, teaching them income-generating skills, and providing them with the tools necessary to use those skills.

Sisters of Compassion are specially trained women missionaries with a deep burden of showing Christ’s love by physically serving the needy, underprivileged and poor. After completing Bible college—and sometimes several years of ministry—they go through an advanced six-month course of study, learning about leprosy care, family counseling, hygiene education and other practical ministries.

Before these women missionaries re-enter the field, they don a uniform of humility. Made of handspun fabric, the traditional saris they wear mirror the clothing once worn by the lowliest servants in Asia, immediately showing everyone that the women missionaries have come without any agenda but to love others. Although it looks foreign to Western eyes, their uniform has a special and easily recognized meaning in Asia. Over the years, women from many Christian denominations have taken on this uniform to demonstrate a desire to serve the needy without thought of personal gain.

In places where traditional women missionaries face persecution, Sisters of Compassion are welcomed as trustworthy counselors and friends of the community. With this acceptance, they freely share Christ’s love where they otherwise couldn’t even set foot.

Sisters of Compassion are eagerly welcomed as caregivers, counselors, teachers and friends. Without the uniform, they would be greeted with speculation.

The Sisters of Compassion are a select group of women missionaries who have chosen to participate in extra training and to spend three years working among the widows, orphans, lepers and others living in abject poverty and in need of the love and care that others are withholding from them simply by ignoring them.

Demonstrating compassion is, in and of itself, the calling of every believer. However, it is the miracles the Lord does through our compassion that best demonstrate His care.

Perhaps the best way to understand the plight of widows in Asia and the impact of Sisters of Compassion is to watch this short excerpt from the acclaimed movie, “Veil of Tears.” Our prayer is that it will touch and break your heart and stir you to pray for this special ministry  supported by GFA. Please take just five minutes to let the Lord open your eyes to the need and to the sacrificial and caring work of the Sisters of Compassion among the widows.

For more on the plight of widows and widowhood, go here.

For more on Sisters of Compassion go here.

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