How Do We Make a Difference In the Midst of Suffering?

By: Rachel Davis

As she cleared away the leftover teacups and cookies, Julie apologized for the mess. Her family had just celebrated their elderly neighbor’s birthday. I smiled as I told her not to worry about the mess. Little did I realize that she was showing me a beautiful demonstration of what it means to be family.

During my recent visit to South Africa, I visited with one of our Wellspring scholarship recipients. We have just started supporting her high school education fees within this last year so this was my first time meeting her in person. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I didn’t expect to leave their home feeling the way I did.

This scholarship recipient, Julie, is a sweet teenager from the Congo. She arrived in South Africa a few years ago as a refugee with the reassurance that her family would soon follow. However, as she was staying with her uncle, his girlfriend, and his girlfriend’s two children when Julie’s uncle decided to leave. She then got word that her family was not going to join her in South Africa after all.

With this reality, she was left stranded and her uncle’s girlfriend, Samantha, was left alone to figure out what to do. As a now single mom, Samantha didn’t have the space or resources to take on another child, let alone a girl who was not directly related to her. She could have kicked Julie out, but she didn’t. Instead, her resolve to support and love Julie only deepened.

Samantha researched school options for Julie and found Congolese events in the community so Julie could learn about and feel connected to the culture. Samantha also looked into adopting her. She continued to advocate and push for this child despite hard circumstances. But most importantly, she gave Julie a family: a place to be loved and to belong.

The family lives in a modest apartment, yet their lives are full of love. As they started to plan for dinner during my visit–a meal that usually involves their elderly upstairs neighbor, as well–they talked together about how creative they could get with the few ingredients they have in the house.

As I visited with them, I felt a deep assurance that this is what life and living out the gospel looks like.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13: 15-16).

Living out the gospel includes responding to the needs around us. It means welcoming our lonely neighbor into our home. It means making space in our families for a child who has nowhere else to go.

While I am keenly aware of all the complexities and the vast amount of need and suffering in the world, I am also confident that this is where we start in order to make a difference: we become family to those around us.

 

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