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Archive for April, 2015

ImmaculeeImmaculee Ilibagiza lost most of her family during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. After bravely hiding for 91 days in a three foot by four foot bathroom where she starved along with seven other women, she was eventually saved and went on to emigrate from Rwanda to the United States in 1998. She is now a popular speaker and writer sharing her faith and her message of forgiveness and peace worldwide.

 

I heard the killers call my name.

            A jolt of terror shot through me, and then the devil whispered in my ear again: “Now they know who you are … now they know where you are…”

            My head snapped back, and I was thrown completely off guard. Why did they call out my name – how did they know I was here? Were they coming to the bathroom?

            I tried to call on God, but all I could hear was the negative voice blaring in my mind … along with the vicious, sadistic chants of the killers echoing through the house. Clothes soaked in sweat, I fumbled with my faith.

           There were hundreds of them this time. They were yelling at the pastor, accusing and threatening him. “Where is she?” they taunted. “We know she’s here somewhere. Find her … find Immaculee.”

            They were in the pastor’s bedroom right on the other side of the wall. Less than an inch of plaster and wood separated us. Their footsteps shook the house, and I could hear their machetes and spears scraping along the walls.

            In the chaos, I recognized the voice of a family friend. “I have killed 399 cockroaches, “ he boasted. “Immaculee will make 400. It’s a good number to kill.”

           As I cowered in the corner, the devil was laughing at me: “They know your name … they know you’re here. Where is your God now?” (Immaculee Ilibagiza, “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust”, pg. 129)

           

Immaculee Ilibagiza survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which nearly one million – or three-Immaculee's familyfourths – of all Tutsis in Rwanda were killed. Even infants did not escape the Hutu marauders once they were found. All of Immaculee’s family were killed except for one brother who happened to be out of the country studying at college. In this picture are Immaculee’s parents (both killed), Amiable (who survived because he was away), Damascene (killed), Immaculee, and Vianney (killed).

Immaculee was born in 1972. At age 23 she was studying electrical engineering at the University of Rwanda when the genocide began. She happened to be at home on Easter break when the killing started. It turned out that this was a blessing from God for her. All of the Tutsi students at the University were massacred a few weeks later.

There had been trouble between the Tutsis and the Hutus before. In 1959 The Hutus massacred 100,000 Tutsis. There was another persecution in 1973. Hatred was seething below the surface for many years.

Then suddenly, the Rwandan president’s plane was shot down. The president was a Hutu and was on his way back to the capital of Kigali. This assassination sparked another genocide. The government seized the radios and told all Hutus to murder every last Tutsi in Rwanda. The slaughter took place throughout the entire country, even in small villages like Immaculee’s.

When it became obvious that the uprising was not going to be small or temporary, Immaculee’s father told her to run to the home of the local pastor for shelter. Though the pastor was a Hutu, Immaculee’s father would not believe that the godly pastor would participate in the killing of innocent people.

This kindly Hutu pastor hid Immaculee and seven other women during the holocaust for 91 days. He had a small bathroom off of his bedroom that was not used much. The bathroom was 3 feet by 4 feet. They had to take turns sitting on the floor. The taller women held the younger girls on their laps. The pastor fed them scraps that were leftover from meals so that his family members would not get suspicious. While in hiding Immaculee lost over 40 pounds and when finally freed weighed only 65 pounds.

The women could not speak or make any noise in the tiny bathroom because it had thin walls. Hutu marauders came by the house often looking for them. They had seen Immaculee and several others go into the house but no one had seen them come out. The brave pastor kept them hidden in the tiny bathroom and tried to steer the killers away whenever the marauders came to his house. Though the pastor was a Hutu he could have been murdered as a traitor for hiding the women. Several members of his family knew the secret of the hidden women, but not all of them. Fear of reprisals was strong and the pastor would not endanger anyone else.

The walls were only 1” thick and often Immaculee could hear the Hutus calling her name as they searched for her. Immaculee turned to God for comfort and strength. Many times she was just sure that they would be found and hacked to death as many others Tutsis were. They could hear the sounds of Tutsis outside begging for mercy only to be brutally tortured and killed. Once the Hutus were infected with the blood lust they went about seeking all Tutsis to kill. Work throughout the whole country was postponed and came to a standstill it seemed until all of the “cockroaches” (Tutsis) were exterminated. It is extremely difficult for us to understand this. It is hard to understand man’s inhumanity to man. We remember the German holocaust against the Jews, Japanese persecution of Chinese and many other events in history. This was tribal warfare. Both were black; both were Rwandan. How could this hatred exist?

The killers never found Immaculee or the other women. Living through that horror the only thing that kept Immaculee going was her faith in God. She knew deep inside that her mother and father and two of her brothers were dead. But she knew that they were in Heaven and she would see them again. They had died brutally, but she would later find out that all had died nobly while protecting others.

left to tell coverWhile in the bathroom, Immaculee had a dream that she would be working for the United Nations
someday. She knew she would need to know English. She had nothing else to do and really no one else to talk to in her situation since utter silence was maintained at all times. She asked the pastor for a French/English dictionary and some books in English. (Immaculee spoke the Rwandan dialect and French. The Belgians had brought French to the educated in Rwanda. Immaculee explains more of this history in her book, which you will not be able to put down once you start reading it.)

What wonderful hope and faith Immaculee had. In just a few weeks Immaculee taught herself English. Though the devil would often tempt her to give up on God, she would always turn to God for strength. She never gave up but actually believed that God had a future for her. There was a purpose for all of this horror, she was sure.

And indeed after the genocide ended Immaculee did get a job at the United Nations. She eventually emigrated from Rwanda to the United States in 1998. She has married and has two children. Immaculee went on to receive five honorary doctoral degrees. She has written a number of books.

Immaculee’s goal has been to promote peace. In fact, Immaculee astonished many people when she returned to Rwanda to find the man who killed her father. He was expecting her to hate him. Instead, she offered him her forgiveness. Immaculee longs for the hatred and killing to end. If one side is able to forgive the other then peace has a chance. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Truly Immaculee has followed Jesus.

For a live interview with Immaculee that will touch your heart go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Od6V6Z3ug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Imagine going to work every single day in a slum area. Everywhere you walk you are slushing through the worst imaginable sewage. You walk with your head down in case someone from the tenement above you throws their slop out their window. The streets are filled with homeless men and women and children. Most are lying in a drug-induced stupor. Many of these will die soon. You cannot help them all. You are only one person.

But you can be faithful to your calling and follow where God leads. You can do all you can for even a few people. You can make opportunities for the young, especially, so that they can kick their drug habits and look forward to a totally different life. You accept this call for the long term knowing that poverty and danger from gangs will be your daily lot in life. You have very little outside help.

Jackie PullingerWhat kind of a person does this? A person who loves her Savior Jesus Christ and accepts His love for the lost will do this – a person like Jackie Pullinger.

Jackie was born in London in 1944. After attending the Royal College of Music, she left for the mission field. She went to Hong Kong in 1966, where she is still ministering.

 

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.
(Matthew 25:40)

Jackie Pullinger knew that she wanted to be a missionary from the time she was a young child. Even before she really knew what missionaries do she made the decision to be one in her Sunday School class at age five when she heard a missionary speak.

Growing up, Jackie put her thoughts of missionary work aside and lived as any other young girl in Britain. Eventually she went to the Royal College of Music.

After visiting with Christian friends she had a dream about missionary work and was determined to follow her girlhood dream and serve the Lord on the mission field. She decided to go to Hong Kong. She would end up working in the Walled City, a place known for violence and drugs.

As you can probably imagine, there is much more to the story about how Jackie ended up in such a place. You can read the exciting story of how God led her to one of the most horrifying places to work in the world in her autobiography written with Andrew Quicke, Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens. Make sure you have plenty of time to read; you will not be able to put this book down.

Opium and heroin abuse – “chasing the dragon” – was and still is an epidemic in the Walled City. Walled CityThe Walled City was a mere six acres, but had a population of at least 30,000 people.
Many of the addicts used a method where they smoked the opium rather than injecting it. Injected drugs were very strong and it was too easy to overdose.

When Jackie got to Hong Kong she started a Youth Club. Many of the boys who came were members of the Triad gangs. These boys were rough and used to violence, including murder. They were skeptical of this British woman but gradually over the years as Jackie continued to live among them they began to trust her.

Who else would live in one of the most dangerous places in the world for the rest of her life? Most missionaries who went to Hong Kong only stayed a few weeks or a few months. They had money and lived in nicer homes. As soon as their money ran out or they got tired of the filth of the Walled City, they went home. They did not have much credibility with the gangs. The gang members expected Jackie to leave like all the rest. But Jackie not only stayed, she lived among them.

One by one many of the gang members became Christians. When the gang members kicked the drug habit they stayed away from drugs for life. The boys turned to Jesus. Many of them went on to witness to their families and former gang friends. When the addicts who really wanted to change could see the miracle of healing that faith in Jesus brings, they were willing to listen to the Gospel. Not all accepted the truth, but many did.

Some were afraid of going “cold turkey” from their addiction. The pain of the withdrawals was horrific and some even died during withdrawal. But many of those who turned to Christ for forgiveness and trusted in Him for their new life never went through the withdrawals. Some didn’t even have so much as a headache. These miraculous healings helped to draw others to Christ.

Jackie Pullinger & friendsNot everyone of course had complete relief. And some who turned to Christ did not reform immediately. They needed help. Jackie opened up homes and soon many were begging her to give them a place to stay and overcome their addiction. Jackie would try and keep them for as long as possible while they reformed and really learned how to live a Christian life.

Many of the boys who had been converted worked in the homes. This freed Jackie to continue to go out into the streets and tell people about Jesus.

Over the years Jackie’s efforts led to an amazing degree of success. She not only helped gang members kick their habit, but she even had a chance to speak to some of the dangerous gang leaders. She won their respect. In fact on one occasion after vandals destroyed her Youth club, a gang boss sent guards to watch her building and make sure it didn’t happen again.

The gangs had a rule that once you were a gang member you were a gang member for life. It was dangerous for the boys to leave their gangs. Jackie told them that they could not serve two masters. They had to choose the gang or Jesus. The boys who left the gangs could expect severe retribution or even death. Here again God intervened. Jackie got the gang bosses to promise that they would not bother the boys who left the gang.

You see, strange as it may seem, the gang bosses did not like their men on drugs. A drug addict could be worse than useless. They wanted to make money by selling drugs to others, but they wanted their own men to be drug free. Since Jackie had success in getting men and boys to give up drugs completely, and the gang bosses had been unable to do this, they had much respect for her.

The drug bosses renounced their claims on any boys who became Christians. This was unprecedented in Hong Kong gang culture. Truly it is a work of God.

Years rolled by and Jackie opened several more homes. The work expanded and with the help of some American missionaries she set up the St. Stephen’s Society. It is still in existence today and is one of the most successful organizations in the world, rescuing hundreds of young people from a life of misery on the streets. For some very heartwarming and encouraging stories go to the web page of St. Stephen’s Society, ststephenssociety.com.

The Walled City was eventually pulled down and cleaned up in the 1990’s. Jackie has continued her work there. Today there are over 200 people living in different homes coming off of drugs and being helped to a new life. The work has expanded to other countries including the Philippines.

Jackie Pullinger continued to give her life to the poor and forgotten. You will be blessed when you read her amazing testimony. Her desire to reach the lost for Jesus is being realized every day as those who were rescued from drugs then go out into the world with the Gospel. Many now have a sweet life in Christ instead of a bitter life on the streets thanks to Jackie’s faithfulness.

 

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For the last 8 months I have posted stories on women who lived during the Old Testament times. Let’s look at life for women in Old Testament from creation through the times of the kings. Then we will ask the questions, “Why did things change from the way God originally created men and women? Why were women treated so poorly during Old Testament times? Why are things different now?”

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26-28).

God created both men and women in His image. This means that they share the same identity – children of God. There are differences between men and women, but both have the same humanity.

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God sent them out of His beautiful garden. There were consequences for each one of them. Eve would now have pain in childbirth. Adam would no longer be able to just pluck fruit from the trees but would have to grow things in ground that is cursed with thorns.

Neither Adam nor Eve would be perfect anymore. They now had sin natures. They would now be selfish and be looking out for their own interests rather than just thinking about pleasing God. The sin nature would be passed down to all humans. The whole world is cursed. Things are not the way they were before the fall.

Life became patterned after God’s pronouncements at the fall. Men worked outside, taking care of growing crops and animals. Women worked inside, cooking, sewing, and raising children. At harvest time everyone helped including the children. Life in the rural areas was happy and fulfilling.

The Ideal wife could be summarized in Proverbs 31:10-31. Following are a few verses from that passage:
Prov 31 25 to 27An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard. She extends her hand to the poor; and she stretches out her hands to the needy. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.

She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

Whether we are talking about women in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or today, all of these abilities describe the godly woman. These characteristics are timeless. But one thing we notice is that very few women actually achieved this level of lifestyle during Old Testament times. The Proverbs 31 woman gets the praise for what she has accomplished. This is what the Bible tells us. But apparently the Jewish leaders did not read their Scriptures.

In reality in Old Testament Israelite society women were not allowed above their station as allowed by the Jewish leaders. The Rabbi’s did not believe that women should be educated. Clearly they were violating the Scriptures by not allowing women to do any of the tasks that we see in Proverbs.

In our day it seems strange that women were treated so poorly. We are used to having freedom to go to school, to work outside of the home, and even to
be in leadership positions. While not every woman has such a successful husband and can afford to buy land and have servants, most women are at least allowed to participate in meaningful work. Of course the calling for women is still inside the home if she’s married and has children, but today women can work outside the home as well. Women go to school and start businesses. Women are teachers, missionaries, and executives.

How did the change come about? Why were things so bad for women in the Old Testament but now are better? Christianity is the answer. If you look at other cultures, such as the Muslim culture or the Hindu culture, you will see that women are treated like objects because of their religious beliefs. Women are no better than furniture in those cultures, to be used by the men however they wish. But everywhere that Christianity has gone, women have been treated better.

women follow JesusJesus is the One Who changed things. When Jesus came, He treated women differently than the rabbis of His day. Jesus modeled the way that men were supposed to treat women. He shocked His disciples on many occasions when He gave so much time to women, but He expected the disciples to learn from Him. He expected them to see that in His kingdom women as well as men were to serve. He did not hand out specific job descriptions; He meant for women to follow Him in whatever way they were called. For most women this would still mean being a good wife and mother. Other women were single or widowed and Jesus affirmed them in their callings as well.

When Jesus met the needs of these women He gave them new life – physically, socially, and spiritually. Jesus gave women back the dignity of the Proverbs 31 woman.

Jesus also restored these women to the position they had before the fall. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve went about working in the garden as equal stewards. There was no conflict between men and women until sin entered the world. Then the temptation to be selfish would affect all people. That is the essence of sin – I want my own way, especially if it means I can boss you around.
Jesus changed all of this when He taught that we are to think of others before ourselves. Now, as we love and serve Jesus we will love and serve others. We can live the way we were meant to when God created us.

05_Flatbed_2 - JUNE   Original Filename: 76548479.jpgMy sisters, let us keep a biblical view of womanhood. This means that we must study how Jesus treated women and how women responded. My prayer is that more preachers would also take time to read, Proverbs 31, Luke’s Gospel and the book of Acts, and examine their own presuppositions concerning what work that women would be allowed to do in the Church. I pray that they would seek Biblical answers. I pray that men would be more like Jesus as they allow women to follow their callings.

What Jesus inaugurated, the Church should extend. With the spread of Christianity women can serve along side of men to take the Gospel to the lost.

 

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When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. (Hosea 1:2,3).

We don’t know any more details about Gomer except that she was a hosea and gomerprostitute, the daughter of Diblaim. The Bible is silent about how willingly she went along with Hosea. We know that she stayed with Hosea and had some children. Then she took off again into her old lifestyle. She seems just the opposite of Rahab, another famous prostitute.

Rahab remains one of the most famous women in the Bible. But Rahab’s story is quite different from Gomer’s. Matthew tells us in his Gospel that Rahab is an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). Rahab is also honored as a woman of great faith by the writer of Hebrews, “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace” (Hebrews 11:31). James the Lord’s brother tells us, “And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:25) Rahab saved the spies that Joshua sent into Jericho. This led to Israel’s victory. Because of Rahab’s faith and obedience to God, her family members were saved when the Israelites conquered Jericho. She is remembered for her faith and courageous actions.

Gomer is not remembered this way. Her only service was to marry Hosea and have children. Her part in God’s plan was to be a symbol. Hosea was to go through this strange marriage in order to give Israel a picture of its own idolatry. God’s purpose was to make the children of Israel see that they were unfaithful to Him and that punishment was on the way.

The works of the Israelites produced wicked fruit. God intended them to see this in the naming of Hosea and Gomer’s children. Gomer’s children would also be symbols.

And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. (Hosea 1:4)

Recall that Jezreel was the place where Jehu had slaughtered all seventy of the wicked Ahab’s sons. It was the place where wicked Jezebel had died. (See post 8/5/10) God destroyed one kings’ reign after another in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. There was never one single good king in the Northern Kingdom. The king reigning in Hosea’s time was Jeroboam. His royal household would be punished too. (See post 3/7/15)

Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.” …. When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.” (Hosea 1:6, 8,9)

Gomer’s second child was a girl. Her name, Lo-ruhamah, means “not loved”. Gomer’s third child, another boy, was named Lo-ammi. Lo-ammi means “not my people”.

What a sad picture for the Israelites! If I were a true believer in God at that time, Hosea’s words and actions would be devastating. To hear God’s judgment against their nation in those terms should have caused the Israelites to repent and seek God’s forgiveness. Instead they continued in the most disgusting kind of idolatry possible.

Through Hosea, God expressed His wrath:

Say to your brothers, “Ammi,” and to your sisters, “Ruhamah.” Contend with your mother, contend, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband; and let her put away her harlotry form her face and her adultery from between her breasts, or I will strip her naked and expose her as on the day when she was born. I will also make her like a wilderness, make her like desert land, and slay her with thirst. Also I will have no compassion on her children, because they are children of harlotry.” (Hosea 2:1-4)

We can relate to this as we are intended to relate to it. God is separating from his unfaithful wife. We know from history that the Northern Kingdom was indeed punished when the Assyrians completely overran them and caused complete devastation.

Yet God would remember His covenant. He would not completely forsake the Israelites who would repent and seek Him. In the next part of our story we see another picture of this.

Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.” So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. Then I said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.” (Hosea 3:1-3)

Hosea buys Gomer backGomer had run away and was continuing in her harlotry. We do not know how long she was gone. God instructed Hosea to go and buy her back from the man she was living with. Apparently Gomer cannot go home with Hosea unless some remuneration is paid to the man. Hosea brought her home and renewed his marriage vows with her. This time, Hosea says, you will stay with me and stop being a prostitute. Hosea promised to love Gomer and be faithful to her. We are not told how Gomer responded.

Hosea continued to prophesy to the Israelites. He warned them of their punishment if they did not repent and return to God. On the other hand, just as Hosea was willing to take back his unfaithful wife, God would take back His people if they sought Him again.

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,
For you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take words with you and return to the LORD.
Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity,
And receive us graciously,
That we may present the fruit of our lips.”….

For in Thee the orphan finds mercy.
I will heal their apostasy,
I will love them freely,
For My anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
He will blossom like the lily,…

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
Whoever is discerning, let him know them,
For the ways of the LORD are right,
And the righteous will walk in them,
But transgressors will stumble in them. (Hosea 14:1-9)

What a beautiful picture of forgiveness and restoration. Some scholars think that Gomer was only a metaphor and not a real woman. I disagree. God often used detailed physical pictures to teach Israel. What about Gomer? Did she listen to her husband’s prophecy and learn from it? Did she repent and become faithful to him?

We do not know what happened to Gomer after she returned home with Hosea. Perhaps living with Hosea and seeing his faithful love to her she repented. It would be nice to think that she became a believer and finished her life as a good wife and mother.

Certainly, God gives us a picture in Gomer’s story of His faithfulness and love towards us. No matter how bad our sins are, if we truly repent God forgives us and then does even more – He heals our sins and loves us freely. He will continue to answer us and look after us. “Whoever is wise, let him (her) understand these things.”

 

 

 

 

 

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