Living with Joy

Seth - Cypress, Texas
Entered on November 10, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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I believe in living with joy.

This past summer, I went with my dad on a business trip to Ethiopia, where the company he works for decided to hold their annual business conference. At first, the meetings were boring, but on the last day, the trip became much more interesting when everybody split into groups and went out on field visits to see several of the local families that were being sponsored through the company.

I had little idea of what to expect. After driving for about thirty minutes, our small group got out of the land rover and walked into a little, open-air shack alongside the road. Our translator introduced us to the mother of the family, who offered us the only piece of furniture in the house, a twin bed, to sit on. After waving hello, shaking hands, and giving hugs to the growing crowd of children gathered around the door, the mother of the house told us her story.

She is the first wife of several in a polygamist society, which means that her husband has younger wives around town to pay attention to and so gives no support to her and other older wives, leaving them to fend for themselves. She has five children, and has had four miscarriages. The younger few of her children sleep on the bed, and she and the rest of her children sleep on a mat on the dirt floor. Her only sources of income are from her seventeen-year-old son’s job in the fields and from the money through the sponsorship of her ten-year-old daughter. She struggles each month to pay the sixty-cent rent for her 12-by-12 foot house, and is shunned by many of the other women in her village because she is a Christian in a predominantly Muslim area. Through it all, she manages to give her children hope for the future, be it through the money from the sponsorship (the sponsored child currently wants to become a doctor), or through any other means possible (the seventeen-year-old son attends night school whenever he is not working).

Obviously, I was amazed by her story. Any and all problems that I had been dealing with seemed minuscule compared to her day-to-day life’s struggles. However, it was not her poverty that touched me the most—it was her final words to us as we were leaving. Even though she asked for our prayers, she told us not to “feel sorry for her, because she was lucky to be a Christian and have so many blessings.” These words completely stunned me. Here was a person living in horrible conditions on a tiny income, yet was telling us that she is thankful for her blessings and is actually living with joy.

This experience has taught me that, whatever I face in my life, I do not need to worry or be sad because of challenges or hardships. I am able to trust God and live with joy, because I know that I am, just like the lady in Ethiopia, very blessed.