“Rejoice Always”: Hope, 4 Years On

Friends and Readers,

Thank you for spending your time today, reading this blog, and praying for the many people it advocates for.

For obvious reasons, today is a sad and solemn day. For those of you who do not know, as of today, it has been four years since the Chibok schoolgirls were kidnapped by Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram. 276 innocent young women were kidnapped and condemned for simply going to a school that was deemed “sinful” by Boko Haram (their name in Hausa, the local language in Northern Nigeria, means “Western Education is sinful.”)

Over these past four years, approximately 164 of the young women were either freed through negotiations, or made their way out themselves. This is a cause for beautiful celebration. Continue reading

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April 2018: Where are we in the war to free the Chibok Girls (and those like them)?

With April 14th, 2018, coming up soon, I have created a facts sheet of where the Chibok girls’ situation lies, as well as to encourage prayer for them this week. To share this information by print and/or digitally, view, share, and download this flyer.

On April 14th, 2014, 276 women, ages 16-18, were kidnapped by Boko Haram, a muslim terrorist group. Four years later, here are the facts:

  • 164 of the young Chibok women have escaped or been freed.

57 of the Chibok girls were able to run away from Boko Haram members shortly after being kidnapped; afterward, one Chibok girl by the name of Amina Ali was found on May 17th, 2016. The Nigerian government and the International Red Cross freed 21 of the Chibok girls on October 13th, 2016, in exchange for four Boko Haram members (source). 82 more Chibok girls were freed on May 6th, 2017, in a negotiation by Mustapha Zanna, an ex-lawyer to the creator of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf (source). On January 3rd, 2018, Salomi Pogu, along with another kidnapped young woman (outside of the Chibok girls) Jamila Adams, was found by the Nigerian military, having escaped from Boko Haram with Jamila Adams.

  • 112-114 of the Chibok girls are still in captivity.

Counting up every instance of where the Chibok girls have publicly been freed, there is approximately 112-114 Chibok girls still left. Many women who claimed to be a part of the Chibok girls were seen in a video released in January of 2018, claiming that, concerning coming back home in freedom, “by the grace of Allah we are not coming back.” After much prayer and thought, ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY was continued, seeking to be faithful to Christ in this particular situation. While these young women may be telling the honest truth, there is also a big chance that they were coerced into believing these things. Whatever the truth is, Christ can still do a miracle here, freeing these girls.

  • The State of Chibok, Nigeria

In 2016, BBC reported the state of those in Chibok, Nigeria—many of whom are waiting for their daughters, kidnapped by Boko Haram, to come home. One father, given the name Daniel to protect his and his daughter’s identities, said he called her mobile phone after she had been kidnapped; the person on the other end of the line was a member of Boko Haram, who said that the phone number belonged to his wife (source).

Even in the face of such tragedy, many of these people still keep up hope. “’I gave birth to that baby,’ one mother said of her kidnapped daughter to BBC. ‘Even if she comes to me with a gun in her hand, let her kill me, but I will still welcome her.’”

Now, it has been said in some reports that Boko Haram still has an enclave in Northern Nigeria, contrary to the claims of the Nigerian government, who has said that Boko Haram has been defeated in the Northern region of Nigeria (source). Still today, no one can know the truth, for sure.

  • What has happened to the freed Chibok girls?

Many of these freed Chibok girls have bravely gone to the United States in pursuit of higher education, while the majority of others have been undergoing psycho and social therapy, having been able to go and see their families only on a few occasions.

One Chibok schoolgirl, faced with the possibility of going back to Chibok, tried killing herself (source). Fortunately, she did not pass away from her attempt, and was only injured badly.

These girls, so easily identified by numbers alone, are real young women; each with their own abilities, skills, interests, and dreams.

Not only this; but there are still hundreds of people out there, waiting for their loved ones—the Chibok girls—to come back home. Each day, they wait; they hope; and they pray.

 

As long as these girls are not with their families, we will pray for them, too. Please join us, this April 14th, for a day of prayer for, and awareness about, the Chibok girls.

Because they are not just OUR girls… they are His.

To share this information by print and/or digitally, view, share, and download this flyer.

As of late, I have read this article, where Amina Ali Nkeki stated that she is “not afraid of Boko Haram,” because “they are not her God.” This young woman is so fearless! This post is in tribute to her. Please pray that Amina Ali Nkeki, the first Chibok girl who was freed, would trust in Jesus– and would be further down the path of healing mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually than ever.


Do you know Jesus?

3000 years ago, God became a Man. And because He knew that we would never be able to save ourselves, He gave Himself so that we could be saved– not based on anything we did, but solely based on accepting what He did.

Learn more about this Man, and how you can be saved by Him, here.



Please pray for (get the prayer sheet for this, here)…

  • The Chibok girls, and Leah Sharibu. Leah is the only girl from the Dapchi school kidnapping who is still not home– all because she refused to renounce Jesus. Please pray that she would be able to be free, soon.
  • The families and loved ones of the Chibok girls, and Leah Sharibu.
  • For increased awareness of the plight of the Chibok girls and Leah Sharibu, this week. As we approach April 14th, please pray that Jesus would put the Chibok girls in the world’s spotlight; pray that the Nigerian government would not give up trying to save these women.
  • Amina Ali Nkeki. Please pray that she would trust Jesus, and would be more healed than ever.

Thank you for your prayers. ❤

Urgent Prayer Request: Please pray for Leah Sharibu.

As the only girl who was not released out of 110 young “Dapchi girls,” Leah Sharibu is still in Boko Haram captivity as of today, March 27th (source).

Her father, Sharibu Nathan, got the news that she was to be released on Saturday, but has since been waiting for her freedom (source). Both the media and the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, wrongly informed the public of Leah Sharibu’s freedom, and later Idris defended his statement, explaining that the media misquoted him about the “Dapchi girls” (source).

At age 15, Leah is being held simply because she refused to renounce her faith in Jesus. Boko Haram members ordered her to recite the Islamic profession of faith, but she told them she didn’t know how to recite it, and that she was not brought up Muslim. Boko Haram said they would free her when she learned, and recited, the profession of faith (source).

USA Today reported that her father said this about her persecution: “My daughter is alive, but they wouldn’t release her because she is a Christian.” Alapade Agoro, chairman of a party in opposition to President Buhari’s political party, boldly insinuated that the

BRINGBACKLEAH

A picture of Rebecca Sharibu, Leah’s mother (on the left) and Leah. Photo credits: Kemi Filani blog

current Nigerian government and President had a bias toward helping Muslim girls (but had no real, true evidence to back up his claim). “It is obvious that the federal government negotiated to get the other (Muslim) Dapchi students released,” He said. “It has now become a crime to be a Christian in Nigeria,” USA Today reported (source).

 

Some may ask, “Why in the world would this young woman not just renounce her religion if it meant sparing her from pain and great potential harm?” This is a valid question. Most people would (and actually do) try to avoid suffering at any cost.

 

Could God have willed Leah to go through this extra time of pain? Is it God’s Will that Leah would suffer and be without her family & loved ones, in order to stay true to Him?

Many proponents and teachers of the Prosperity Gospel would say no. But the Bible says differently.

When trying to figure out the will of God in our lives, Christ brings guidance through the inspired words of the Apostle Paul, in Romans 12:2.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
(New International Version)

The pattern of this world says to that you’ve got to climb your way to the top. It tells you to be a good person, but to ultimately bite back in this Dog-eat-dog world.
It tells you to run away from all types of suffering and inconvenience, no matter what that means for anyone else. “Don’t feel like it? Don’t worry– what really matters is honoring yourself first.” It tells us to pursue passion, even at the expense of honor, as Elizabeth Elliot writes. It tells us to inflate our egos with knowledge, to wield power only full of human force, and to build our kingdoms made of sand as high as possible before the waves of death wash it all away.

This world tells us to follow our hearts. But again, the Bible says differently. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV).

Society tells us that if the majority of people agree to it and/or is doing it, that must mean it’s okay/true/acceptable.
But Jesus, in His great Love for us, says, “No, my child. Listen to and follow me.” Even when it means you are following Him, seemingly alone.

Leah, in the face of being completely alone, has not conformed to the pattern of this world. She has not held to the belief that lying to get out of suffering was the way to go. She, as a Believer, did not back down from her simple belief in Jesus as her Lord and Savior. And she found out His Will: “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God,” and “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12-13, ESV). Acts 14:22 does not say that going through trials is the way we are saved, but simply that trials are bound to happen in our walks with Christ. As much as it hurts– and pains our Heavenly Father– trials and persecution are valuable, and are apart of our lives as Believers in a fallen world.

Nathan Sharibu also told reporters, “…They told her they would release her if she converted, but she said she will never become a muslim. I am very sad, but I am also overjoyed because my daughter did not renounce Christ” (source).

Please, let’s pray, pray, pray for this beautiful daughter, sister, friend, and most importantly, Daughter of the King, as she experiences this horror. May Jesus show Himself faithful on her behalf!

This post is dedicated to all those who are currently suffering persecution of any kind. May Jesus strengthen you, encourage you, and faithfully lead and guide you down paths for His namesake. ❤


Do you know Jesus?

In our deepest, darkest suffering, the testimony of still holding on to Christ and proclaiming that He is good, even in our pain, can be nothing short of shocking to the world.

Perhaps you have somehow found yourself on this page, reading this blog post, and wondering, “Why would a 15 year old girl choose to remain so faithful to Jesus?”

Friend, let me tell you the truth, today: It is because Jesus is God, He is Risen and reigning, and is lovingly interested in and involved in every detail of our lives. To learn more about this living, intimate God, here.


Please pray (find the prayer sheet, here)…

  • for Leah. Please pray that she is protected by Jesus and His angels, and would continue to put her faith, trust, and hope in Christ as she experiences whatever she is experiencing.
  • That others would come to know of this, and would know more of what is happening in Northern Nigeria.
  • That the remaining Chibok girls would be released, in Jesus’ timing.

Thank you for your prayers!!! May Leah be taken care of!

March for Our Lives: Remembering the Chibok Girls

As many today march for the end to school violence through gun control, I believe there is another form of school violence that should be remembered and upheld, too.

I spoke about it in this post. While the Chibok school girl kidnapping has little to do with gun violence (though the use of guns in their kidnapping played a huge role), these young women– innocent, intelligent, and full of promise– were taken from the free world, to the outrage of many.

But are they remembered, still today? This is not meant to make anyone feel guilty, but rather, convicted and encouraged. As we see thousands upon thousands of Americans stand up and say “#NeverAgain,” I pray that we remember these precious young women– and that those with the power to save these young women from Boko Haram, and protect children from terrorism of any kind, will determine in their hearts that such kidnappings, tragedies, and pains should “Never Again” happen, as well.

Today, please pray for these kids, parents, and people in general marching so that gun violence never again happens, and please keep the terrorism happening in Northern Nigeria, especially to the girls and women of places like Chibok, in your prayers as well.

May we look forward to when Jesus comes back, and we can, with a sigh of complete relief and Peace, say “Never Again” to the pain and tears happening all around us.


Do you know Jesus?

Jesus came once, to die for the sins of the world. And He is coming back, again, to right every wrong and set up His Kingdom in a new earth, and a new heaven. This is cause for great Hope and celebration! Read more about these amazing promises, here.

He Wins the War: Hope for the Weary

Over a month ago– on February 5th, 2018—two people were burnt alive in Alau-Kofa village, which is in close proximity to Borno state’s capitol of Maiduguri. This horrific information has come just as the military has said that Boko Haram has been defeated1.

“Saying they have been completely defeated is pushing it too far,” Major General Nicholas Rogers has said concerning the fight against Boko Haram1.The government and military has said much, but things and events have said otherwise, to the anger of those fighting for the Chibok girls—and now, also for the Dapchi girls.

Just yesterday, March 13th, people at the center of the #BringBackOurGirls movement declared that the Nigerian government has 7 days to find and free the 110 “Dapchi” girls, or face “a lawsuit on the grounds of criminal negligence.”2 Obviously, the world is demanding the truth, and real action.

But what if those things never come? What if, for all our striving and demands, our actions and best laid plans, these girls are not freed in our time frame, and Boko Haram continues to at least look like they are definitely winning the war? These are hard, pressing times. Times where the Nigerian military does not want to perform aerial attacks, for fear of killing the very girls people are demanding they save. They are weary of trying to find and apprehend Abubukar Shekau, leader of one faction of Boko Haram, because he is using these precious people as human shields1.

Human. Shields.
Innocent young women and men, their lives put on the line so that these wicked people can live, and continue to do evil.

As I was thinking about this—about how horrific and unjust it all is—one thought came to mind: Jesus knows exactly what these people are going through.

You see, as far-fetched as it all sounds, Jesus was our human shield.

For sinful people who were indifferent or hateful towards Him, “…he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV). Jesus took the blow we, evil sinners, deserved. He took upon Himself the wrath of God, so that we—the ones who have brought it on in the first place—could live3.

Jesus did all of this—only, He didn’t do it because He was forced to, as these innocent people are being made to. He did it of His own free will, choosing to completely obey His Heavenly Father.

I might get hate because of this; I know how racy it made be to compare a normal, everyday person to the leader of such an evil terrorist organization as Boko Haram. But answer me this: Is there such a thing as “big sins” and “small sins,”—that is, is there sins that are more damning than others?

Not just according to us, and not according to society—not even to Christian culture. But biblically?

There is one sin that can never be forgiven, and that is to reject Jesus Christ as one’s Personal Lord and Savior. But other than that, while sins that vary and differ based upon their consequences and who they hurt, I believe James 2:10 says, “If you have committed one sin you are guilty of all.” All sins are equally heinous, as John Piper has said4.

Bottom line: Jesus knows exactly how these hostages feel.
He knows exactly how every outraged mother, father, brother, son, daughter, and sister feels. How the incredibly frustrated, discouraged, angered members of Bring Back Our Girls feels.
He knows my discouragement—and yours, too.

He sees the bloodshed, the tears, the dirt and sin. He hears the cries, the screams; the silence of brokenness.

He hears your sighs, listens to every prayer. Yet, nothing has seemed to change—for the better, at least.

Friend, as everything seems to be getting worse, I have one final question for you: Do you trust the God, who took on the wrath and anger of God the Father upon Himself, to save and free you? Do you trust that He is good, and has good for you, even in this pain?

Look to Calvary, and know two things: Jesus Loves you. And He is in control.

 

As sin abounds, hearts continue to break, and demands are made in this sometimes hellacious world, I encourage you to look to Calvary amidst your much-needed prayers, demands, and actions. I encourage you to remember, no matter how it all ends up: satan may be “winning battles,” but Jesus has won the war.

He wins. May that carry you through. ❤


Do you know Jesus?

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.”
(Isaiah 53:4, NIV)

On all accounts—from how people viewed Jesus, to the actual pain and suffering God put upon Him, Jesus suffered the worst pain of any person, ever. But why?

Isaiah 53 goes on to say, “By His wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). “How?” You might ask?

These are two HUGE questions; and while I am only a human being, I would love to help you find and understand the answers. Read more about these questions, here.


Please pray for (you can get prayer sheets, here):

  • Wisdom for the Nigerian government, as they work on freeing the “Chibok” and “Dapchi” girls. President Buhari wants to negotiate with Boko Haram for the girls’ release; please pray that he would turn to Christ, and would be led of Him.
  • The “Chibok girls.” Pray that Christ brings them home soon.
  • The “Dapchi girls.” Pray that the government listens to activists, and works to bring them home, soon, too.
  • Those praying and protesting for these girls’ release; that they, we, would trust in Jesus alone, and would allow Him to strengthen us.
  • That Boko Haram would be crushed, and all “human shields” set free.

 

Thank you for your prayers!!!

1 https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/boko-haram-kills-two-as-military-says-group-defeated-20180205

2 http://www.africanews.com/2018/03/14/nigerian-gov-t-given-7-days-to-bring-back-chibok-dapchi-girls-or-face-charges//

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-cup-consumed-for-us

https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/are-all-sins-equal-before-god

 

The True Worth of a Woman, Part 2

On Thursday, March 1st, 2018, ten people—6 soldiers and 4 policemen—were found murdered by Boko Haram in the governmental headquarters of Rann, Nigeria, after suffering an attack perpetrated by Boko Haram. According to reports, two female humanitarian aid workers were kidnapped1 (though some reports say three2). Because of the warfare, MSF (Doctors Without Borders, aka Médecins Sans Frontières) decided to leave the location for the time being, until the attack had ceased and aid workers were not directly in harm’s way. Please keep these women, their families, and the families of those who passed away in this attack in your prayers.

The selflessness of these female aid workers is a virtue that all women could aspire to. Selfless and brave, these women were made the victims of this ferocious attack… and it brings up the question, “What does a noble woman truly look like?”

These women can reflect a part of that answer; but, to see a virtuous woman in her fullness, we can read Proverbs 31. I know, I know… for many women, this passage of scripture can bring them both awe and discouragement all at the same time. But, in this post, with already reading about and knowing that a woman’s true worth and identity is found in Jesus Christ, I thought it would be practical—and hopefully, encouraging!—for us to study how this woman “who fears the Lord” lives, and what she truly prioritizes (Proverbs 31:30). It’s a little lengthy, but I pray that whatever you do read of it will strengthen you.

The Proverbs 31 Woman

First off, I find it interesting that this description of “The Wife of Noble Character” is parked at the very end of Proverbs, a book known for its Godly wisdom. In Proverbs, “Lady Wisdom” is sought as incredibly valuable (Proverbs 8:11), and it is honestly so affirming that God’s Word speaks of what a wise, God-fearing woman looks like; Christ truly does care about who we are, not only as people, but specifically as women; and He cares about what we do to show who we are.

This being said, I also want to say one thing: Girls, we are going to fail at being “the Wife of Noble Character.” Big time. It’s easy for me to look at this passage and feel overwhelmed at how perfect this woman is, but honestly, our value is not found in if we are the wife of noble character or not. Our worth is placed in Jesus alone, His death, and His resurrection. As many other commentators have said, cannot be everything that this woman is simultaneously; rather, it is a goal, one that we will be growing toward (and shying away from) our entire lives.fail .jpg

Whoever you are, take a deep breath, and allow God’s Word to speak to you.

Proverbs 31:10-12

A woman of God—who knows Jesus Christ personally, and walks with Him daily—is an incredible blessing to any Godly man seeking a wife. This woman, who loves Jesus and is daily enjoying a personal relationship with Him, is described as having the full confidence of her husband, bringing him good, not evil, all the days of her life. Women, make Jesus—spending time with Him, walking in His ways, and being rooted in His Word—the foundation of your life. The more you know and understand Christ’s Love, and the more you are filled with the Holy Spirit, the better you will be at being wise, faithful, and loving towards those around you—including your husband (even if you don’t have one yet!).

Proverbs 31:13-15, 21, 27

She’s sacrificial. As an outpouring of Christ’s Love in her life, the wife of Noble Character makes caring for all those within her household—even at the sacrifice of getting up early to do so—a high priority. This woman’s mind, because of her relationship with Jesus, is on how she can best love the people around her— which is, in this context, her husband, children, and even her “female servants.” She is not up and running around because she has to be; at her core, she is showing sacrificial Love because she knows that that is how God, in Christ, Loves her.

Proverbs 31:16-19, 24, 26

She’s wise and hardworking. Notice how this Wife of Noble Character is not strictly a “stay at home mom”; while this is definitely a role she plays, she also has incredibly important roles outside of the house. Contrary to what many Christian leaders have said about women basically being second-class citizens (citing Genesis 2:18, which I expanded upon, here), 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 supports the idea that, in Christ, women are different from—but not inferior to—men. The woman found in Proverbs 31, knowing that she and those around her are all equal in Christ, uses her God-given brain, hands, and talents to make wise, resourceful business decisions.

More than this, this wife of noble character doesn’t just use her talents for her own profit; she uses all that she is to bring glory to God. This can be seen, perhaps most obviously, in verse 20.

“She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:20, NIV)

She’s generous. This woman, again filled with the Love of God and daily walking in a personal relationship with Him, values those that society marginalizes. As a woman within the historical context of Ancient Israel, women themselves were usually marginalized and limited3. With this fact in mind, the idea of this woman, who is both business-savvy and generous toward the poor and needy, is one that was very against the “mainstream” culture of the day. Though society limited women greatly—and still does, today—God sees women as made in His Image, just as capable as men in Christ to be lovingly generous to all those around, especially the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:25

She’s full of Life. This one can be hard to read, especially for those of you who have suffered for what seems like forever, in whatever situation you are in. But instead of having this verse discourage you, I want to encourage with its Truth: that, in Christ alone, there is always Hope.

Perhaps, at this point, you are hanging on by a thread. Everything and everyone has been stripped from you; you can’t seem to get your bearings on where you are at right now, much less look forward to the future. Your way feels dark. Your past haunts you. You are heavy with grief and an endless amount of questions.

Sister, despite what everything around you is saying, I want to encourage you to cling to the truth– the Hope– of Scripture. This verse does not say that the wife of noble SHE LAUGHS.jpgcharacter has a wonderful life; the Bible tells it like it is. Yet, it describes this woman as “clothed with strength and dignity,” and “being able to laugh at the days to come.” What is the source of this woman’s strength, dignity, and joyful outlook on life?

The fact that God has never, and will never, leave her. And that, no matter what has happened, what is happening, or what will occur, He Loves her, and is completely in charge of every day of her life.

The Worth of a Godly Woman

This noble woman is not merely beautiful on the outside (though her beauty is of at least some interest to her– Proverbs 31:22). She is a woman saved by Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection; a woman grounded in the Love of Jesus—a precious treasure, beautiful inside and out, always becoming more like Christ as she follows Him, day by day.

Women are a reflection of who God is—proving that He is a God who Loves true beauty; a God who is concerned with the intimate details of His childrens’ lives; a God who is compassionate, empathetic, and nurturing, always providing for those He Loves. As you look at the women around you, today (including yourself, if you are a woman), praise Jesus for them. See their true worth, in His eyes.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
(Proverbs 31:28-31, NIV)


Do you know Jesus?

The woman of noble character did not become noble by merely doing everything she is described doing; she did not come to God, all cleaned up because of her own efforts. Instead, she only needed to come as she was, allowing Christ to change her, from the inside out.

Learn more about this God—who Loves us as we are, and does not leave us that way—here.


Please pray for (get your prayer sheet, here)…

  • Women in Northern Nigeria. Pray that these beautiful people would come to know Christ, and that much would be done to improve their situation.
  • “The Dapchi girls.” 110 young women were kidnapped February 19th, 2018; please pray that they come home, soon.
  • “The Chibok girls.” Please pray that the 112 young women still missing would be freed, soon.
  • For the salvation of all people. Only when Christ is the Lord and Savior of a person’s life, will all women be seen and treated with real dignity, respect, and love.

 

How have you treated women? Is it with God-given dignity and love (This includes yourself if you are a woman)? In what ways do you need to grow to be more like Christ—and the wife of noble character? Ask Jesus to cleanse your heart of any sin, and allow Him to work and move in your life in powerful ways.

 

Thank you for your prayers!

1 https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/261172-rann-finally-police-speak-boko-haram-attack-disclose-death-toll.html

https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/03/boko-haram-attack-halts-aid-in-remote-nigerian-town/

http://religion.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.001.0001/acrefore-9780199340378-e-45#