“we become witnesses to transformed lives” ; A 3-part series

Part 3

…I understand what it means to have everything taken away, what it means to be displaced.  I haven’t had to live through a genocide, but our family did have a tragic turn of events.

August 27, 1966—-I was nine years old, my father moved us away from everything familiar to a small northern community where life was cold and harsh. Prior to the move my father sold everything we owned and squeezed what possessions he could into a small U-Haul trailer. Not only had we lost everything that had been part of our family –friends, pets and even our furniture. My mother, brothers and I literally moved from a comfortable life to the place of having nothing to eat. Upon arriving in this new community, my father announced that he would not be living with us, he had another house and person that he had chosen to live with. With that, he left us with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, with some tomato soup, a loaf of bread and some milk. So began a decade of poverty and hopelessness.

Without the kindness of a few people in this new place, including a landlord who helped us with food, and made sure that we had a place to live even though we couldn’t pay the rent, and who helped my mother find a retail job, we might not have survived. My mother had very little education; but she was able to afford to put food on the table and to care for her children. I grew up very fast – I had to. I had to help my mother raise my brothers.

My mother’s dreams were simple – that her children would finish school and that they would not end up in jail. She deeply wanted us to have chance, a better life than she had.

As a young girl, I was a dreamer. I believed if I wished or dreamed long enough or hard enough things would come true.  It seemed fitting that the first song that I danced to with my new husband was the Everley Brothers, “All I have to do is dream.”  But it wasn’t long before the wish and the dreams were shattered. The dream died.  The marriage crumbled.

From 1966 until 1978 life took many twists and turns, countless wishes and dreams were dashed.  In the fall of 1978 a friend introduced both my husband and I to Jesus. And for the first time, wishes and dreams were replaced with faith and hope.

Everything started to make sense.  A verse from the bible became our guidepost.

“Here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

The world was turned right-side up.

My life has turned out the way I had hoped it would. That young bride is still married to her “Dream.” We have raised our family and had not only survived some difficult seasons, we have matured and grown and our life has purpose.

For years we were caring for others through relief and development agencies and the local church. We knew that we had been blessed to be a blessing.

But that was greatly enlarged when we were introduced to Opportunity International.

This work that I do everyday alongside some of the most amazing supporters who make it possible, makes our entire families life make sense.

My life story connects me in some strange way to Beata’s story and every Opportunity International client. And at the same time I am very connected to the story of our supporters because of the generosity of others extended to our family in difficult times. My husband is my biggest cheerleader and supporter because he has met our clients and is witness to the wonder of it all. My mother…well she is a prayer warrior for our clients and colleagues and somehow this work blesses her life beyond measure.

I know that my calling is to be a matchmaker and to live life generously. My husband and I are connectors. We are called to be change agent for others.

I know that my experiences of being displaced, abandoned, living in poverty were not in vain. I understand deeply what it means to be given a chance.

I also know that my life has exceeded anything I could have wished or dreamed for…a wonderful marriage,  real family, amazing friends, a great education and more than enough material needs and wants.

“I have learned to give not because I have much, but because I know exactly how it feels to have nothing.”

Blessed to be a blessing.

This is the stuff of transformation.

***

I am so thankful to Doris for sharing her encouraging and inspiring story. Working with Doris and her organisation reminds me of CS Lewis’ words from Mere Christianity: “Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. Christ is the Son of God. ….He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call “good infection.” Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”  A Christian then, being a transformed person through the love of Christ, lives a life full of loving relationships.

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