John Bradshaw - Conversation with Norma Nashed
She was born in Israel, raised in grinding poverty, but today she leads an organization dedicated to the welfare of orphans. Her name is Norma Nashed. I'm John Bradshaw, and this is our conversation.
John Bradshaw: Norma, thanks so much for being here. What a blessing to have you.
Norma Nashed: Thank you for the invitation.
John Bradshaw: It has been a remarkable journey. Today you lead an organization called Restore a Child in many countries around the world, on several continents, dedicated to the wellbeing of orphans. But let's go back to the beginning and learn a little more about you. You were born in a little town in Israel and raised in fascinating conditions. You became a pilot. You became a personal friend of the king of Jordan. There's a lot to cover here, so let's go back to the beginning. How did it all get started?
Norma Nashed: It started when, you know, I was born in a small town near Jerusalem, and... it was like the upper room that Jesus talked about, that he, you know, borrowed for the last supper. And... you know, my grandparents were not poor. They had their own business, private, and they were doing well. But then my father moved to Jordan. And he was educated, too, you know, with French, English and worked for an American company with high salary. However, we lived in one-room house with no kitchen and no bathroom, no water.
John Bradshaw: So why was that? I mean, it sounded like it didn't need to be that way, but it was, so what was going on in your family?
Norma Nashed: My father, he thought he needed the money for himself.
John Bradshaw: So as a consequence, the children and his wife...
Norma Nashed: Suffered.
John Bradshaw: Yeah. How many kids in the family?
Norma Nashed: Seven.
John Bradshaw: Okay. And you lived in a one-room home?
Norma Nashed: Yeah, with the two parents, nine people.
John Bradshaw: Okay. So you were raised, what was the religious background of your family?
Norma Nashed: They were Orthodox, Greek Orthodox.
John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.
Norma Nashed: But my mom was a spiritual woman. So as soon as somebody reached her with the message, she accepted it.
John Bradshaw: Okay. So she committed her life to Jesus?
Norma Nashed: Yeah.
— All the children followed with her?
— All the children.
— Okay. And what was dad thinking?
— Too selfish to think of us.
— Ah. Okay. So let's talk about your upbringing a little bit. You were raised in Jordan?
— What was life like as a kid in Jordan those years ago?
— Of course, we loved it. However, we lived with the refugees. We were not refugees, but we lived with them. And the United Nations considered us as refugees, and they gave us a card for food. So when we went to school, we would get breakfast free and lunch free, so that was good deal.
— Oh, sure, absolutely. School was what... fun experience, difficult? How did you do in school?
— No, I loved it, because the first two years I went to a Catholic school. And the first thing I would do is run to the convent, because I heard the nuns singing. I was spiritual when I was very young, and that was my first thing to do. Before going to classes or eating breakfast, I'd go and hear the nuns singing. I loved that part of the school.
— Did you excel in school? Was it a struggle for you? Because I know later on in life you rose to some pretty interesting heights. So how did you do academically?
— You know how it is. You know, I got A's and B's. But not straight A's. Math was my difficult subject.
— Hey, A's and B's is okay. You got through school, and so you're raised in Jordan. You're a young lady in Jordan looking into the future. What did the future look like to you? Was it open, unlimited, or was it restricted? Were your options limited?
— You know, the culture is very restrictive, but, you know, I was different. I did not accept the culture. And I got into trouble in school, because I needed answers. If they tell me, do this thing because this is the culture, I need to understand why. Explain to me why not. And so, yeah, so I did not conform to my culture.
— Okay. Yeah. After school, what happened next?
— After, you mean, high school?
— Yeah, after high school.
Norma Nashed: I mean, not really even high school. I was 14 years old, middle school. And my father died. So one missionary, Dr. Robert Darnell, and his wife, Mary, they were in Beirut, Lebanon. They took me so I could go to school, continue my education at Middle East College at that time.
John Bradshaw: In Beirut?
Norma Nashed: In Beirut. And I went to two years of college. Then my mom really became completely blind, could not work. She used to sew. And she told me, "You've got to leave college and come and help me". But I'm glad. I love my mom. She was my role model, a spiritual woman. You know, she was the priest of the family. We had worship every morning and every night with her, she would do for us. So I immediately left college and went to work and got a very plush job.
John Bradshaw: So you did two years at what's now Middle East University, then Middle East College. You came home to Jordan.
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: Tell me about that job. See, what I'm interested in is following the trajectory of your life to the place where now you run an international organization.
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: I'm hearing about a girl raised in poverty in the Middle East, moved to Jordan. This doesn't sound like the beginnings of an international organization. So tell me about this job you got.
— I got a job for the president and chairman of the Royal Jordanian Airlines. And he was actually advisor to the king, Hussein of Jordan, and a personal friend, close friends. So when the king came, to meet the heads of state, to the airport, he would come and see my boss. When he would say goodbye to these people, he would come and see my boss, because he is his friend and advisor. And so I always saw him. He would come to my office, he had to. To go to my boss, he had to pass through my office. And he would look and say, "Hi, Norma. Hello, Norma".
— Hey, two things. I wonder if that was intimidating. A girl raised in poverty is now interacting with, legitimately, one of the most powerful people on the planet. You must have been shaking in your boots.
— No, because, you know, I loved the king. Even I remember when I was seven and eight years old, when I hear the sirens of the motorcade of the royalty, that's the king, I would run to go and see something, a glimpse of him. I loved the king. I was intimidated a little bit, but I loved him.
— So tell me what he was like, maybe demystify. I think if most of us think of the king of Jordan, I don't know quite what image we'd have in our head, but I would imagine somebody pretty grave, somebody pretty austere, certainly very powerful. But you kind of got to see him in a pretty regular setting, in a work setting. What was he like as a human being?
— You know, the king was very much in tune with his people, the Jordanians, and the Bedouins, the poor people. He would go and eat with them, sit on the floor in the tents with these Bedouins. People loved him. They would give their lives for him. And then, you know, he was a king, but when he was a child, he was not rich. His family were not rich. And he went and studied in London, and before that studied in Egypt in Cairo. He said at times he struggled with having money. He was not rich.
— That's interesting, isn't it? You know, I have your book here. Let me reach back here and get it. We're gonna talk about your book along the way here: "Norma: Beyond Their Tears". I think it's a fantastic book. I've read it from cover to cover. One of the things that I was interested in in this book is that you invited the wife of the king of Jordan to your home. She came. You cooked a meal. So you would spend time with royalty.
— Yes. You know, When I worked at the Jordanian Airlines in Egypt, after I left Jordan, I was the public relations supervisor at that time. And one of my duties is to meet VIPs, dignitaries. And because of climate and technical problems, the flights were not always on time. I had to stay with these people and entertain them, order meals for them, drinks for them, whatever. And it often happened... when the queen was traveling, and so I had to sit with her for a couple of hours or more. And we became friends, real friends. I would call her. She would call me. And then I invited her to my home, and she came, and I cooked for her. And she said, "I can't believe this is very tasty food".
— Oh, yeah.
John Bradshaw: So there you were, working in a major company, rubbing shoulders with very powerful people, the elite, if you like.
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: Very, very influential people. But here's an interesting thing. I read about this in your book: You became a pilot. So I don't know how unusual it was for young females in Jordan to become pilots. My guess is relatively unusual.
— The first, very unusual. What happened is the king... we did not have any Jordanian pilots. And if we had a few, they were trained in America or London. So the king wanted to start a flight training club to teach Jordanian young men to fly, and they had no money for the club at that time to do their office work. I volunteered to do the work for them. So for a year or two, I did all the work free. You know, I love to help people. And so then they asked me, they said, "You did all this work. What would you like us to do"? I said, "Train me to be a pilot," because it's very expensive...
— ...to pay for training.
— Oh yeah.
— So I started training. I had a log book in the Civil Aviation of Jordan with my name and hours flying. But I did not finish, because the war broke in '67, and I had to leave Jordan.
— What would have happened to you...
— Ooh, yeah.
— ...if you'd become a pilot, got your wings? What would've happened?
— God had another direction for me, had a plan.
— You may have become a pilot flying for Royal Jordanian Airlines.
— And flying for the king... his private pilot.
John Bradshaw: How interesting is that?
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: You are a Christian...
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: ...working with Muslims, working with Arabs. Now, you know, it wasn't 2000-and-whatever. We're going back a few years now, but what was that like? Clearly, you had a belief system that was very different than the vast majority of people around you. So you were unique. You were very different.
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: Did that work for you? Did it work against you? Did it provoke tensions? How did that work?
Norma Nashed: No. You know what? Even the Muslims could tell a genuine Christian. You cannot say, "I'm a Christian" and expect people to respect you. But if you live the life that Jesus showed us, he's our example: how to love, how to work with people, to love everybody around you, whether they're Christians, Muslims, or Jews. They're all my family. They're all my friends. And then, you know, when they offered me to work, and the only day off in Jordan and in the Middle East was only Friday. There's no other day. So what does that mean? It means I take Friday off. I have to work on Saturday, which was, for me, I couldn't do that, for I believed in this fourth commandment.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Norma Nashed: But I've never had a problem in Egypt, in Kuwait, and in Jordan. Wherever I went, I told them of my principles, my faith, and my life. I will not break that relationship with my Creator by working on a day that I don't believe.
John Bradshaw: So you were raised in abject poverty. You were offered a fantastic job, a life-changing experience... with it, certainly a little glamor involved.
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: And you said to them...
Norma Nashed: No. No.
John Bradshaw: ...no. I'd rather stay in grinding poverty...
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: ...than accept your job if it means transgressing the principles of my faith.
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: Well, how did they respond to that?
Norma Nashed: You know, they were really shocked, 'cause they haven't met anybody like that...
John Bradshaw: Right.
Norma Nashed: Christian like that. So they, you know, waited a day or two to think about it, and they interviewed many others, but ultimately I was chosen for the jobs.
John Bradshaw: Fantastic. In spite of what might have been the religious differences.
Norma Nashed: You know, especially this man, he is the president and chairman of Jordanian Airlines, you know, a very powerful man. And for him to come on Saturday, and there is no office assistant. He had nobody in the office. So all his, you know, the prime ministers and ministers and important people come. "How is it that you allow her to take Saturday off"? He said, "To get somebody like her, I would sacrifice one day a week".
John Bradshaw: Hey, fantastic, what a great testimony for your faith in God as well.
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: Hey, I just wanna remark or notice something, the clothes you're wearing.
Norma Nashed: Mmm.
John Bradshaw: Now, this is, it's specific to something. Tell me about the dress you're wearing.
Norma Nashed: Yes. You know, very town in Israel, or near that area, they have a dress code, special traditional dress. This is a traditional dress with the same colors that belong only to my town, the town of Ramallah.
John Bradshaw: Fantastic. So that's... if someone from Ramallah saw you in that dress...
Norma Nashed: They would know.
John Bradshaw: ...they would know immediately you're one of us.
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: Fantastic. So your Middle Eastern heritage... you've been away from the Middle East now probably much longer than you lived in the Middle East.
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: Speak to me about your connection to that heritage and what it means to you today.
Norma Nashed: Well, you know, I belong to the heritage of God.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Norma Nashed: God's people, and so on. I am not so much in, you know, not connected or so much entrenched in my culture, because the Middle Eastern cultures, you know, is this... women are submissive.
John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.
Norma Nashed: I could not be submissive. I wanted, it's okay, I will obey, but I needed answers. If there's something I did not believe in, I wanted people to explain to me why it is that I have to do what they're asking me. And that was against the culture.
John Bradshaw: Sure, sure. Maybe that's the kind of drive...
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: ...the kind of tenacity a person might need who would want to lead an organization.
Norma Nashed: Yes.
John Bradshaw: You've gotta be an advocate for orphans. And today that's exactly what you are. Let me just start down that road. You were working in the airline. Eventually you came to the United States. How'd that come about?
Norma Nashed: I came to the United States, because actually the truth is that my boss, the chairman and president of the airline went and started his own company. And the man who came to replace him was very fanatic. "And who is this woman that's keeping... you know, there's no working on Friday". You know, I worked on Friday; I didn't take it off. And so they said, they told him, "She's Jewish". You know, in the Middle East, they're against...
— That's right, if you're keeping the Sabbath, you're a Jew.
— Yeah, I'm a Jew. Even my cousin told me, "You are a Jew". "I'm your cousin". "Yeah, you are a Jew". I'm honored to be a Jew, really.
— Yeah, sure. So it was time to go, huh?
— Yeah, so what they did is they started sending me letters. Every Sunday I come they have a letter from the lawyer: you were absent yesterday on Sabbath. Three times, and I stopped. I had resigned and applied to come to the States, which usually takes a minimum of four or five years, sometimes more. You know, quota, you have to wait for your turn.
— Oh yeah.
— In less than six months, I got the visa, immigration.
— Did you sense at that time that that was the leading of God? I expect you did. Now let me ask you this. Did you see, did you sense at any time that God had a larger purpose for you? You work in the airline. It was great. You're doing well. You're living in Jordan. Where did that idea start to emerge in your life? Wait, God has a life in ministry for me. When did that occur to you?
— That occurred only when I had cancer. I was working, you know, for the headquarters, and I got cancer. Immediately, I knew God had a purpose other than, you know, being office manager or whatever they call it.
— You know, I find that very interesting, because when many people get cancer, they start to think very different things, such as, why in the world? Why would this happen to me? And, my life may well be over. Those are understandable things. So cancer revealed to you that God had a purpose for you. We're gonna find out more about that in just a moment.
— Welcome back to "Conversations," brought to you by It Is Written. My guest today is Norma Nashed. She leads an organization called Restore a Child. Norma was raised in grinding poverty, understands how children struggle, particularly orphans. And so she has dedicated her life to helping and ministering to orphans. We're gonna lead into that, to your life of ministry, in just a second. But I wanna ask you about something you said a moment ago. I asked you, when did you get a sense of God's calling, the greater purpose for your life? You said that came to you when you had cancer. Tell me about that, how you discovered you had cancer, and how, very clearly, God brought you through that.
— Yes. You know, I was misdiagnosed by one doctor. And so, it's a... you know, a rare disease. It's in the blood, but shows on the skin.
— And then there's only one place in Maryland that treats it. It's very rare. Very few people have it. And so, because I was still working just for two, three months, and then I decided it's time to give my life to God. So I had gone for treatments, but then I knew it's time for me to move. And so I left my job, and knowing that I have no job, no medical insurance, no husband to take care of me. I am not rich. I didn't have a house. I was renting two rooms, one for me and one for my son. And...but I knew that God would take care of me. Amazing feeling! I did not cry. I did not say, "Why, God, me? Why I have cancer"? I was happy, because I knew God is doing something for me. Something good will come of it. I didn't know what will come out of this cancer. But several times my life was dotted with miracles. I could tell God was working for something good for me.
— Mm. Mm. How else did you see God work? He clearly brought you through that. You were healed, cured of your cancer, and you've been cancer free for many years. Talk to me about one or two other times that you've said, "Wow, this is God working in my life".
— This is one, you know, I tell you, because, when I had cancer, I had a friend in Egypt. And he heard that I have no job. I have no home. I have no medical insurance, nothing, no husband. How can I take care of myself? And his wife was my best friend, and so, she died of cancer, too. But he called until he found where I am. I didn't have a home; I was with somebody, staying with people. And he told me, "Norma, if I don't help you, I will never forgive myself".
— "I will take care of you. I will pay for everything. Go, rent a place and everything. Don't worry about it". I said, "Okay, I will rent a room in a basement, and I'm happy with that". He said, "No, you rent a nice apartment with a swimming pool, and enjoy your life. And don't worry even if it's forever: I will always pay for you".
— He paid for me every month $3,000 for rent, for medical, for food, for anything I needed. And I saved some of it, too.
— Miraculous, isn't it?
— It is.
— That's God stepping into your life. When there was no one to advocate for you, somebody from out of the blue stepped in and said, "I'm there for you".
— Because God knew. He had a purpose. He knew I will be available to serve him. I really wanted to do what God wanted, opens up for me to do.
— You know, it's interesting, today you minister to orphans around the world. And it's fascinating to me to see how God ministered to you. You're born into very challenging circumstances, but then God provided you with an education.
— Missionaries stepped in to raise you. You found yourself in Middle East College, now university. God seemed to be placing you here. Again, you mentioned your friend who came through for you when you had cancer and no means of support. So God advocated for you. He stepped in to help you when you had no help.
— Now, let's talk about the transition. The one who'd been ministered to, you decided at some stage it was time for you to minister to others. And God placed it on your heart to minister to orphans. How'd that come about?
— Actually orphans is the focus, but children in general. Hungry, hungry children. I couldn't stand knowing some child doesn't have food.
— You were raised very hungry.
— Yes. Yes, I was raised, you know, very poor, and sometimes we had no food.
— Yeah, listen, everybody feels bad about hungry kids, everybody everywhere. You ask anyone, "How do you feel about hungry kids"? They say, "Oh, it breaks my heart". And the vast majority of people do nothing about it. What was different about you that this was, maybe it was your experience, your upbringing. I don't know, you tell me. What was it about you that something within you sort of broke?
— Or maybe was galvanized, however you wanna explain that. And you said, "I'm stepping out in faith. I'm gonna do something to help these kids".
— Yes. The area, the apartment where I rented was an upscale area just across, you know, in Silver Spring. But when I go shopping and I come, these Black, African American children, they would run after me. "Please give me a banana, give me an apple, give me..." What's wrong with America? Why are these children hungry? I couldn't believe it. Of course, I gave them all they wanted. And every time I worked, I worked more for them. I really made it my mission to start helping those children around my own backyard. And they trusted me enough, the parents, because I was so good to them, that they let me go into their homes. Usually, I'm different color, they don't want me in, but they know I love their children. And inside their apartments, expensive, 1300 a month for rent. And these, nothing, there was no furniture. There was nothing. Just, you know, they have rugs there. So that's all they had. Why? They were there. I asked them, "How come you are here? It's very expensive". They said, "The government pays". So the government pays for them to stay poor.
— How did you respond to that?
— Yeah, I couldn't, you know, but I... and then, eventually, I wanted not just feed them; I wanted to teach them about Jesus. So I would ask the mothers, "Can you allow them to come with me to church"? And they said, "Yes". So I would buy them clothes. I'd take them and wash them, put their clothes on, and take them with me to church. And then, you know, we had potlucks, and after that spent time with them and bring them back. The parents were very happy with me. We became very good friends. But this was only in my backyard. But I knew there are other children in the same, in Washington, DC, in Maryland, Takoma Park, all these areas that are struggling, poor children. I started working for them, too. You know, there is in Maryland, there is Safeway and Giants. These are the biggest stores. And Kohl's and Toys for Us, I'll go to them. I need toys for Christmas. I need clothes for these children. I need food for them. They gave me, they would put, you know, these carts with our name, and every day they would fill them, the people. I didn't have room for them. I put them all over my apartment, on the porch, on my friends' garages and my son's garage, wherever I can find somebody to store this food so I can distribute it. And it was fantastic. You know, I was happy to have the children have everything they wanted. And so this is how I started.
— That's how you started. How did Restore a Child grow? I mean, clearly something was happening here. When did it and how did it occur to you that this was gonna be a full-time ministry?
— No, right away I knew, because I had cancer, you know. I didn't want to work. I wanted to take care of my health by, you know, following the rules of health, nutrition, sunlight, exercise, and so on, and then studying God's Word was very important to me, and that drew me more to Jesus. And Jesus always said, "Let the little children come to me". Jesus loved little children. When he was preaching to people, he said, you know, they would sit all day without food, and Jesus had compassion on them, and he fed them. So I had to do the same. I want to follow Jesus' example for children and adults, but the focus is on children. And this is how it is. And God provided for all my ministry. But then I had in my heart two countries, very close to my heart. As a child, you know, either the newspapers, we didn't have a TV, but I heard about the famines and struggles of the Ethiopians.
— Ethiopian children, they are like, you know, with malnutrition, dying because they have no food to eat. And then south Sudan with the war, 20 years, and children run away. They have no home. They are in refugee camp. So this is where I started my ministry: Ethiopia and south Sudan. And then grew from there until we become around 20 countries. It was too much for me. We reached Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, I did all these five countries, but now we stay focused on Indonesia, and then, you know, east Africa, Ethiopia. Congo is in the middle, but Tanzania, Kenya, you name it.
— I'd like you to explain for me your philosophy of ministering to children and orphans. What is it that you see in the Bible? You've touched on that, but speak about this from a biblical perspective. What is it that drives you sort of theologically to do what you do?
— You know, when I was reading the Bible, I really was studying, not just reading. I read my Bible many times, but when you study it, it's different. So even in Isaiah, chapter 1, one verse touched me very much - 1:17, it says, "Do good; seek justice, ... defend...orphans". Well, so plain. So, what are we doing for orphans? So I started a movement called the "do" movement in 2010, yes, and that is defend orphans.
— Beautiful. And, you know, I shared it with the churches, and people were happy, and schools. And then, in my studies, I studied Isaiah 58; 58 is a beautiful chapter.
— It is, it really is. Yeah.
— And so people say, "Lord, we pray; you don't hear. We fast, and you do not notice". He said, "Is this the fast that I have chosen"? Five to seven, "Is it not to share your bread with the hungry"? If you see the naked, that you clothe him. And do "not...hide yourself from your own flesh". Listen to these words: You are not covering them up. This is your flesh. These naked children and people hungry and naked, they are yours. This is your own flesh. So what do I do?
— Yeah. Well, what did you do? It sounds like you got pretty busy, pretty active.
— Immediately, yes. I started, you know, feeding the hungry. That's a very big part of our ministry. Clothing and so on, it's not as difficult, but we do, 'cause children in Africa are on the streets without shoes, without hardly any clothes. And I have many pictures of them. And then Jesus said, you know, the strangers, you know, "I was a stranger, and you took me in". Strangers are like refugees. So the first refugee, I went to camp in Congo. I traveled all the way to Congo just to be with orphans and refugees. And there was a school of 1,000 children, auto school. And they, you know, had no food to eat. They had no food at home, and they had no food at school. How can they focus on their studies? So the first thing we did, it was so simple, just feed them. Okay, cook a meal for them every day, good meal. After one year I received a letter from the government in Congo, education ministry, saying they did very well in the exam, the government exam. They said, "Because you fed them". They were able to sleep better and study and do better in school. One meal.
— There's no question most of us have got no idea what poverty and hunger, starvation, is. We have no idea. We think we know, we see the pictures, but it's very, very difficult for us to actually comprehend it. But we do have a biblical mandate to do something about it, whether we understand it or not.
— So, it's really a command to do something about it.
— Yeah. And God actually says that he is the creator of the rights of orphans. He created them, and he said, "Don't rob them of their rights". We are stealing from them if we don't give them the basic needs. It's food, sustenance to live. Every day when I eat, I pray. Even if I don't pray at other time, I pray at meal and pray for these kids who are hungry.
— Where is Restore a Child now? You've mentioned some countries. Roughly how many countries are you in right now?
— Now we, you know, after I work in a country for 10 years or so and establish them and, you know, build whatever they need, their water, dig wells for them and so on, then I move on to another one. So now we have 10, 11 countries.
— Including, I think, interestingly enough, the country of Ukraine, which, as we speak right now...
— ...is locked in a very tragic war. So, we've got a couple, three minutes here. Tell me about what's going on in Ukraine with your work there.
— It's doing really very well, because before the war, three years ago, we built four schools in Ukraine. Why four schools? I don't usually build more than one school.
— So this is Restore a Child building the schools?
— Yes. When I say...
— Yeah, no, no, no.
— Restore a Child.
— Wanted to make sure everybody knows that this was your organization that did this.
— Yeah, Restore a Child, we built four schools. Usually we don't build more than one school in one country, but at that time, God impressed us to build four schools: one in the east, one in the west, one in the north, one in the central, in all directions. And now because of the war, there's no school. But these centers, these schools are now shelters for refugees in Ukraine. They come, they have safety. We have food. We have warmth. We give them blankets. We give them medications, everything they need. And if they need transport, they want to leave, we have buses that will take them to Poland or Romania, wherever they want to go.
— It's gotta be heartbreaking for you knowing that you have, and I know this is true for the church and other agencies as well, it must be heartbreaking for you to know, you know, you know people there, they're leading the work, and their lives are just being upended. How do you internalize that?
— You know, that's why I'm going. I wanted to go last month. But because I have problem with my lungs, they told me it's very, very cold, freezing temperature. You cannot survive here. So I'm waiting for it to warm up another few weeks. I am going there. I need to be there to see the children and see the needs. And our goal is more than, you know, feeding them and protecting them. They cannot miss their, you know, they have emotional, now they are traumatized. We need to see how we can bring the experts to, you know, counsel them and to teach. Now we want to start education for them. Even in those centers, we can still teach them.
— Fantastic. There's more. We'll learn more about this in just a minute. Her name is Norma Nashed. Her book is "Beyond Their Tears". I misspoke moments ago when I said that she wrote the book. I mean, it's her work, and it's her story, but the book was written by Dr. William Johnson, a name you may well recognize, and it's very well written. There's another book to talk about, too, a book for kids: "From Orphan to Missionary: The True Story of Norma Nashed". Similar story but it's presented for children. We'll talk about that in a second. This is "Conversations" with Norma Nashed. I'm John Bradshaw from It Is Written. We are back with more in just a moment.
— Welcome back to "Conversations," brought to you by It Is Written. My guest is Norma Nashed, who runs an organization called Restore a Child, ministering to kids and with a special focus on orphans. Norma, talk to me about the nuts and bolts of Restore a Child. How does it work? It's a donor-based ministry, correct?
— Yes, it is donor-based now, but the first three years or four years I had some money that I saved, you know, retirement. I took it all out and used it for ministry.
— So that's how it began? You just depleted your own funds?
— I couldn't, you know, really, I could not ask people to help if I had money in the bank. There is no way. Once, really, once I had only $100 in the bank, I started what they call fundraising. And, you know, it's not really... when I read 1 Chronicles, chapter 29, David, King David, was building the temple. And he talked to the leaders first before he talked to the people. And after he told them, "I gave all my resources," then he came to them after he had given. And he said, "God knows the intent of the heart". It's not just what you gave. What intention we have, why are we giving it? God knows. God sees.
— So that's what you did. You gave all you had.
— And... when you were broke, you said, "I might need some help with this".
— But do you know what David said? Which I really, I don't like the word "fundraising". David said to these leaders, at the end he didn't tell them, "Now give because I gave". No. He said, "Who is willing to dedicate himself to the Lord today"? It's about the heart.
— Mm-hmm, sure.
— And when they heard him say that, they all gave, and then the people all gave.
— So, talk to me about how this works, the nuts and bolts. The money is contributed to Restore a Child, so now you've got something to work with. But who are these children and where are these children? And how do you find the children, and then what happens in their daily experience? Day to day, what's Restore a Child doing?
— Yes. You know, it's easy to find them if you have the trusted people in the countries.
— So on my board, on our board, we made sure we have people who are, you know, executives, who travel, and so they go, they travel, I don't have to pay, I don't have to take the time, so they pay for everything, and they go get the reports from the area of people they can trust. And they recommend them to me. Then I have to travel to these countries and make sure these people I can trust. Now, even if they are from the church, I have to myself be convinced these people are trusted people. This is not our money.
— This is God's money.
— It's an important work.
— Very important. And so then we start, you know, whether it's building a school, building a home for orphans, and working with the church locally. This is how I started it.
— And today you've mentioned 10-plus countries. You were in as many as 20. I'm sure that number would ebb and flow as...
— ...demands and supplies vary. Talk to me about some of these kids. So maybe there's a story or two you can tell me about, children who were rescued from poverty or helped from some terrible situation. Explain to me about how your ministry is making a difference in the lives of these kids.
— There are many, many, many stories, but I might mention two or three. One of them was a girl, could not go to school, very poor, in Indonesia. So we took her to the orphanage to, you know, stay there and go to school. And she was a very good girl. We could see that she is smart. And after she finished high school, we sent her to college. She finished university as a mathematician.
— Oh, wow.
— Yes. She got married when I was there. I took her picture in Indonesia. And then she came to work in a school next to our orphanage. And she and her husband are both mathematicians, so they come and tutor the kids.
— Oh, how nice.
John Bradshaw: I don't know much. And then, you know, this is what she wants to do. She is giving back. She said, "You helped me. I want to help these kids". Isn't that fantastic?
Norma Nashed: It's amazing.
John Bradshaw: I've gotta ask you this. What would've become of that young lady had she not intersected with Restore a Child? What sort of future did she have to look forward to?
— Nothing. She would maybe get married early, or run away from home if she was, you know, unhappy. You know, there was no future for them. Another boy was from Congo, and we found him. He was 12 years old, on the streets. Of course, he had to go to school. He had to be fed. So we took him to the orphanage. And when he finished high school, he wanted to be a medical doctor. And we did send him to medical school. He graduated. Now he is running a clinic. He said, "I want to help only the poor people. I don't want money". He is helping the poor people in Congo.
— At the risk of being redundant here, he was a 12-year-old boy wandering the streets.
— Now we know what future he had. He had no future.
— No future.
— And now he's a physician?
— Yes, he is a physician.
— Working with the poor.
— That's a great story.
— We give them hope. You know, poverty creates low self-esteem, and no hope and no dignity. They have nothing.
— And it tells you something, too, doesn't it? You know, you may see some wayward child. I don't know quite what term to use and be as politically correct as I need to be these days, but you see a kid wandering the streets with no parents and no hope and no nothing.
John Bradshaw: But within that child there's great potential. You know, you can't see a homeless child. You need to see a physician, a mathematician...
Norma Nashed: An engineer.
John Bradshaw: A world-changer.
— An engineer.
— Yes, everything. If you see the title of my book, "Norma", the title of my book, my bio is "Norma: Beyond Their Tears".
— I see beyond their nakedness and their tears. I see what they would become if I help them, if you help them. And then not only that, the whole world would be better. America would be safer, because if we take the kids from the streets and give them hope and give them a future, then they will not be targets to terrorists and violence and crime on the street. If we leave them on the streets, then they come here. They "export" them to do damage in other countries. It is our duty to go and, you know, really save them from this environment and from this destitution and nothing.
— So you've been leading this organization for a number of years now. Look into the future. If, if you... And I know undoubtedly you have plans, but you must also have dreams.
— And maybe there are some things you could do, or you would do if you could do.
— If you could do.
— What are some of those things, the things that, like, here's what we haven't done, but we'd love to do?
— Yes. What I would really love to do is feed 100,000 children every day. That's my dream.
— You think it could be done?
— What does it take?
— It takes, like, a dollar a day.
— No, seriously? A dollar a day?
— Yeah, to feed a child. In some countries 50 cents a day to feed a child. In Chad, it's the poorest country in the world, and they are dying. We built a nutrition center. These kids were coming, and they couldn't serve them all. And they were sending them back to die. I said, "How? How come? Please, never, never reject a starving child". They need to eat; we have to provide that, the least we could do. And so now all the children come. They stay a month or two. They need to go to the hospital; we pay for them. They go restored, happy and vibrant again.
John Bradshaw: Hey, let's come back to that.
Norma Nashed: Mmm.
John Bradshaw: So I don't believe you're exaggerating. So the fact of the matter is that there are places where you are that if the kids don't get fed, they die.
— They die.
— That doesn't really happen in the United States. I mean...
— No, not here.
— We've got more food in our trash cans...
— The trash cans.
— ...than some towns have in the supermarkets. You know?
John Bradshaw: So that's what you're dealing with. With Restore a Child, it's literally, in some places, life or death.
Norma Nashed: Or death. We save children. Our ministry now is saving children in many countries. How can they stay without food for weeks? No food, nothing.
John Bradshaw: Yeah.
Norma Nashed: And all what we need to do is one meal a day. How can we not offer them the one meal? Just even sandwich, something to eat.
John Bradshaw: Yeah.
Norma Nashed: We are Christians. And when Jesus comes, he said the standard of his, or the measurement of his judgment, is going to be what?
John Bradshaw: Mmm.
Norma Nashed: When he said, "We'll have two groups, on my right and my left". And on his right he will tell them, "Come, you blessed of my Father". Why? "Because I was hungry, and you fed me," number one. "I was naked. You clothed me. I was thirsty. You gave me drink. I was sick. You visited me. I was a stranger. You took me in". So these are the five areas we work with. We will feed the children. We will, you know, if they are, you know, naked, really they are in the cold, we have to give them warmth, give them blankets, warm clothing. We do that all the time. Water, we dig wells, make sure they have water. Sick? I work actually with, you know, Dr. Dick Hart of Loma Linda University for 10 years. We have built three pediatric wards for children. And now we are building a clinic for the Maasai people in Tanzania. We've got to...
John Bradshaw: So in terms of looking out for kids, and I might have cut you short before you got to your fifth one there, but it's not just plopping food down for them. It's not serving food for them only. Here's a meal, presenting food, but...you said pediatric wards, hospitals, nutrition clinics. Well, this is very comprehensive, isn't it?
— It is very comp...because it's the whole person.
— How would you make a person whole? Not just by food, and then bringing them to know Jesus.
— That was my very question. And so let's talk about that, because in some places it's not like you can conduct an evangelistic series, some places very difficult. So you are reaching the heart via certain means. Let's talk about how that's going.
— Yes. You know, when we... that's why we build more schools now than homes of orphanages, and we are not the only one. If you look at Save the Children, World Vision, they don't do anymore orphanages. But they keep the children in the community, their own community, and provide for food and education for them. But our children, we do that for them. And so, because we are in charge of the school, we can know what to teach them. And it's very important to me to bring them to know God and to bring them to know Jesus Christ.
John Bradshaw: Mmm. It's life changing, isn't it?
— Let's talk about the books. So this is the book Dr. Johnson wrote, "Norma: Beyond Their Tears". "The amazing story of an Arab girl who became a champion for orphans". It's amazing how you came from...being absolutely destitute to having an opportunity to choose a life where you moved with the rich and famous, but you said, "God will come first".
— That door closed. God opened another door.
— Now you're in ministry.
— Ministry, yes.
— How about this book? I like this from Restore a Child: "From Orphan to Missionary: The True Story of Norma Nashed". And it's presented for children. It's beautiful. Why'd you do this?
— I didn't do it. God did it. I tell you, because one girl, she graduated last year from Southern Adventist University here in Collegedale, and she is a nurse, but she's an artist also. So she said, "I want to write your story," for, you know, kids. And so she wrote my story. It's a beautiful, it's just the way she wrote it...
— It's really well done.
— ...and illustrated it. And I'm hoping, you know, with these books, it's not intention to sell them. We don't sell. The intention is to feed hungry children and starving children.
— Now someone's concerned. They said, "I'd like that book". And you just said we don't sell them. You better explain how people can get these books.
— These people, you know, the books, my bio, "Norma: Beyond Their Tears" is on Amazon.
— And it is in all Adventist book centers.
— So people can buy them from there.
— That's easy to find.
— Yes, and then they can write to us. We will send it to them.
— And the same with that book. It is being printed, actually, this week. "From Orphan to Missionary," it is for children. If you want to impact your child for God, if you want them to learn how to serve others, get this book, because it is a life-changing book for children.
— You know, you touched on something really important. Kids, orphans, the impoverished, the disadvantaged, they need to be ministered to. Kids who are not poor, impoverished, or disadvantaged need to be encouraged to minister to them, to minister to others. Right?
— We've gotta somehow break kids out of this selfishness we breed into them. And by exposing them to stories like this, that's what's gonna happen. Okay, tell me, if somebody wants to support Restore a Child, how do they go about it?
— You know, on our website...
John Bradshaw: Yup.
Norma Nashed: ...restoreachild.org. Actually, the book, "Norma: Beyond Their Tears," last year a university film department produced a film on this book. It's called "Shadow Child," and it's on our website.
John Bradshaw: Okay.
— People can view the film, and they can support us in Ukraine. We have four schools now that are shelters to refugees. We need to feed them. We need to keep them warm. We need to educate them. We need to give them medications. It's a big expense. And we are very small. We grow by word of mouth. So I would like everybody who listens or sees this... this conversation, share it with somebody else. See what you can do. Everybody can do something, because at the end, it's what you do for Jesus. It's not, because he says, "If you do it unto one of the least of these", one, "you have done it unto me". At least one, the key word is "one". Help one. Save one. And that's all.
— You've seen God do some spectacular things for you.
— Honestly, you came into the world, every child comes into the world full of hope and promise, but that was snatched away from you pretty quickly.
— God had bigger plans. The hope and the promise were restored. And your ministry, your life, your experience has been one of God's leading. It's been a life of...it's been a life of faith. You know, "I wanna help kids, so I'm gonna spend all I have. and, oops, I'm down to my last $100".
— Faith is easy to listen to.
— It's easy to hear your story, and it's so inspiring.
— But faith is not always so easy for some people experientially to experience, to manifest. We've got about 60 seconds. I'd like you to take that time to speak to somebody now. Talk about...how they can take a step of faith to allow God's will to be done in their life. You've done it all your life. How would you encourage other people to live a life of faith?
— Yeah. You know, it is easy... Everybody has good intentions. We all have good intentions. We want to help. We want to serve God. But young people, they need to go to school. Then they want to get married. Then they want to have children. Then they want their children to grow and go to school. And then their children get married. They become grandparents. And then the time flies, and they have missed the boat. Don't do it. If God touches your heart to do something for him, trust him, that he took care of me. He provided for everything for the ministry, expertise, resources. He can do the same to you.
— Amen. You don't wanna get to the end of your life and say, "I missed the boat". Norma, this has been a joy. Thank you. God bless you. I appreciate it immensely.
— Thank you.
— Restoreachild.org, if you would like to know more. And I hope you would like to know more. Thanks for joining us, with Norma Nashed, I'm John Bradshaw. This has been our conversation, brought to you by It Is Written.