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A father to the fatherless

The Bible teaches us that God is deeply concerned for vulnerable people, and especially widows and orphans. In the Law he commands, “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.” The book of Psalms says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” The prophet Isaiah reminded the people of their responsibilities before God, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” In the New Testament, James tells us that true religion is practical, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Wilfried Zaha is a very skilful and successful footballer. He plays for Crystal Palace in the Premier League and internationally for Ivory Coast. Recently he spoke about being homeless when he was 6 years old. One day an older brother met him from school and took him to a shelter where his whole family was now staying. His family had lost their home. Later they stayed with relatives until they were given a three-bedroomed house where the family of 11 people lived. Wilfried shared a bedroom with his 5 brothers. He says, “I have been that kid who had nothing and now I have the opportunity to help people, so why not?”

When he was 16 Wilfried signed his first professional contract and vowed to donate 10% of his earnings to an orphanage in Daloa, Ivory Coast, called “Tomorrow’s Hope”, that is run by his sister, Carine. He says, “Me and my mum would pray and say to God, ‘You have done this for me, I am going to give back’. My family, especially my mum, are heavily Christian, so it felt like a duty to help. I feel like my life is a testament to God helping me – 100 per cent. So as soon as I was able to help, I helped. That’s why, with everything that’s going on now, if I have the opportunity to help out, then it’s a no-brainer.”

Wilfried doesn’t like speaking about donating a percentage of his wages to the orphanage, “I haven’t spoken about it much, because it’s a duty for me. I have been there, and I just want to help. I thank God he blessed me with the opportunity to be a footballer and now I have the things I couldn’t have as a child.”

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Thought

There are no atheists on the battle field

In the past month more coalition soldiers have died in Afghanistan than in any previous month. Many of them are young men. They died in a foreign land far from their families and home country. Our soldiers, alongside others, are seeking to protect the Afghan people from the Taliban and the world from terrorism.

As you read these words British soldiers will be on duty in Afghanistan putting their lives on the line again from snipers bullets and roadside bombs. All the soldiers I have heard interviewed have spoken with great dignity about their determination to do their duty. They know the dangers. They have seen some of their colleagues killed and maimed and know that one day the same thing may happen to them. Their courage is a great example to us all.

In a recent interview a senior soldier said, “There are no atheists on the battle field.” When men and women face the real possibility of death they inevitably ask vital questions which the rest of us seek to avoid. Many of us try to escape from reality and give little thought to the future and to eternity. When you carry the bodies of your fellow soldiers back to camp and know that you might be next it is important to find answers to the big questions.

The hope we all need is found in Jesus Christ. He died as a young man at the hands of those who hated him enough to want to kill him. Their hatred was irrational, but they saw him as a threat to their interests and their way of life. As he died he prayed, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Those who loved him took his body down from the Cross and lovingly laid him in the tomb.

On the third day Jesus rose from the dead! The tomb was empty and he appeared many times to his disciples. He gives a living hope to all who trust in him. The “intellectuals” of every age, in their comfortable little world, have scoffed at the idea and declared resurrection cannot happen. What do they know? Those who live in the real world, like the soldiers in Afghanistan, pray to the living God and commit their lives to Jesus. He always hears such prayers and promises that though we die yet shall we live.