November 2008


There have been some gains in literacy in Nepal since the 1970s when the government began including programs for girl’s education, but the WHO statistics still indicate a huge discrepancy between literacy rates of males and females.  In 2002 the literacy rate for males was 62% but for females only 26%.

Many reasons exist for not sending girls to school including lack of household resources, high school fees, a lack of sense of importance of educating girls as they will simply get married and become an asset to the husband’s family, a heavy workload for girls in the home, a lack of female teachers and inadequate facilities.

Along with literacy programs for women, TWR staff and volunteers have recognized the need for childrens’ programs.  We visited a multi-purpose  “school” in  a dump area which provides schooling for the kids in the mornings.  We were there to see classes break up for the day and the room immediately fill with women who receive not only basic literacy but also sewing and design skills and the knowledge needed to set up and run a small business.

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A 9 year old girl said “I really wanted to go to school like my friends. But my parents stopped my schooling after 6 months of my joining school because they were not able to provide my uniform and exercise books and pencils. With heavy heart and broken heart, I had to stay back at my house to look after my younger brother at home while my parents went out to work. I used to peep out my age children are going to school with school uniform and school bags with full of books. I wished I could get opportunity like these children. Now, I am so much happy to able to study in this children education centre. I want to be a teacher in future so that I can teach those poor children like me.”

 

As a result of the sewing programs, five women have found employment in the garment and tailoring industry and three have opened their own small shops.

We visited several Women’s Literacy Projects that have been established by TWR staff and volunteers.  There was just no way to prepare ourselves for the shock of seeing these Nepali women so excited about learning under the most appalling of circumstances.

One women has opened a small area in her home and teaches everyday using a six month curriculum.  At the end of the six months, the women are able to read and write as well as do basic math.

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As we approached this home, I thought it looked pretty tiny to be a Literacy Center but was shocked to see that in fact the classes are held in just one end of it.  Twenty-four women are enrolled in this session, and did I mention that it was about 32 degrees that day.5311

As it turned out, that was actually a fairly clean and comfortable learning situation,  The next one we visited was in a “barn”, too low to stand up straight in, with the goats moved to one end to create space for the women to sit on the floor.

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Here is what one women wrote about the opportunity to learn to read and write:

“Now, I am altogether different mama. I am proud of myself in society and community. Now, I can read newspaper and I can read the Holy Scriptures. I can sign by myself. I am the happiest mama now because I will not have to suffer any more due to the illiteracy.”

I was fourteen when they shot John Kennedy. Stunned, shocked, like most everyone in those days, wondering what it meant, and what was happening. Five years of civil unrest followed, but there was still hope for America. Good men fought for a new vision of the world. But then in April of ’68 they shot Martin Luther King, shortly after he indicated that he would seek the nomination of the Democratic Party. I was enraged: how dare they! I didn’t burn cars like they did in Detroit and L.A., but I and many of my generation were dangerously angry. Robert Kennedy, a personal friend of MLK, calmed a furious nation by saying that he would set aside his concerns for his own personal safety, would run for president and seek to represent those who had just been disenfranchised. Two months later he laying dying, shot in the head by a disgruntled Palestinian, minutes after winning the California primary.

I, and many others, simply gave up hope. If everyone who represented a chance for change in the world was going to be shot, what was the point in hope? Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon fought that election, but what did it matter? We found out years later that both their campaigns were heavily financed by the same man, Howard Hughes, who wanted to keep the war in Vietnam going so he could sell his helicopters – Hughies – to the military. Both men were bought and paid for. It didn’t matter who won. That was forty years ago. Since then American politics has been a disappointing parade of the venal and ineffectual, without vision, without hope, and the nation languished.

Now, after a generation of wandering in the wilderness, hope has returned to America. A new voice is lifting the vision of a decent, caring country once again and the youth of the world, and those of us who are old enough to remember what hope looked and sounded like, are inspired. I know that are are evil men, whose hearts are filled with hatred, who even now are plotting how they might kill him, and put an end to hope. I pray that an Almighty God would frustrate those plans and preserve this fine man long enough to do the world some good.

No one man can lift a nation. But one man can inspire others to join him and many can go where one man leads. I saw it with Kennedy, I saw it with King. I hope that I can say in eight years that I saw it with Obama too.

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The churches that we visited were small and their buildings unimpressive but their vision certainly was not.  It was exciting to see the variety of outreach strategies that these churches are using to reach their community and the surrounding villages.

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We were in Nepal during the festive season, in the week running up to Deepavali which is the major celebration for the Hindu worshippers.  One church used this oppportunity to run a week long overnight camp for village children to give them a break from some of the issues caused by the extensive use of alcohol, which is an inevitable part of every celebration.

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One of the highlights of the trip for me was to meet and have tea in the home of a great man of God.  Although he long ago lost most of his hands and feet to the effects of leprosy, this in no way has limited his effectiveness in ministry.  In fact he is currently pastoring three churches.311

Although we were able to give him a radio, I am sure that he will shortly be giving it away to a new group of people waiting to hear the broadcasts.

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Youth with a Passion

As we drove through the countryside we would often see very small buildings, identified as churches by a cross on the front. We were able to visit a number of these churches to see their work and to give a radio to some members of the congregation who had already established an outreach.

We met a lovely group of young people, some who had come as far as 45 kms, by bike.  They were anxious to show us their work through a drama presentation in which they distributed, not tracts, but radio program guides, giving us some insights into the strategies for reaching an oral society.

One young lady took us out to visit some “club houses” which are new, small groups of people who gather together around a single radio and form the beginnings of a learning community and a new church.  It was exciting but humbling to see these seeds planted, marked by a sign in a tree, identifying TWR and radio broadcasting as the avenue.

 

 

 

I have to admit that I wanted to give a radio to anyone that expressed an interest as it seems such a small thing to me.  In reality, radios are just such a valuable commodity that no one recieved one unless they had already proven that they had a goal for its use, listened to a presentation on the mission and values of TWR and signed a statement saying that it would be used only for the work.

I have waited for nearly a week to write this post, not because Pam has been busy getting caught up with her news from Singapore and Nepal. But rather because I needed to calm down, as I honestly haven’t been so angry and disappointed about an issue in a long time, and that doesn’t help coherence.

I am refering to the ‘Letter From 2012’, put out by CitizenLink, the political arm of Focus on the Family. In it the fictional letter writer makes 34 points about how things have changed, all for the worse, in an Obama-led United States, from the loss of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rise of Russia in eastern Europe, to the loss of freedom of religion and speech in America. But the first 12 points, fully one-third of this nasty, right-wing screed, are devoted to wholesale hatred of homosexuality and homosexuals.

It is true that the Bible lists homosexuality as sin. That can be found in a list of vices in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. But the same list also condemns drunkenness and coveteousness, idolatry and adultery. Why hasn’t this ‘letter’ focused on them? Other lists (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Galatians 5:19-21;Colossians 3:8; 1Timothy 3:3) likewise condemn avarice and gluttony, anger and envy, lying and slander, but no other list mentions homosexuality. Obviously to the writers of the New Testament it wasn’t a big deal. Christ talked about the peril of materialism more than He talked about hell, yet He never mentioned homosexuality.

Dr. Dobson, my wife and I were happy to have followed your advice on raising our children for years. We thought yours was a voice of reason in a world of vain words. But you have just fouled your name and that of your ministry beyond recovery. It is not just your small-minded obsession with the denial of minority rights that is so troubling, but this ‘letter’ that you allowed to go out under your name lacks any shred of Christian charity, compassion or understanding; it borders on hate-mail.

The economy is in meltdown, America’s reputation is in shatters, the world is reaching out, desperate for world leadership and all that’s on your tiny mind is how does America continue to deny gay rights for as long as possible? Dr. Dobson, you have done the cause of Christ a great disservice, and if you are not thoroughly ashamed of yourself, then shame for you has lost all meaning.

Read at your own risk:
http://focusfamaction.edgeboss.net/download/focusfamaction/pdfs/10-22-08_2012letter.pdf

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