Grace is a widow in her sixties. She is beautiful, in her own way. Her brown eyes and the lines on her face tell a story, and this gives her an elegance that can only be admired. She has lived a life of tears and joys. She has much wisdom to share.
Grace is smart. She knows how to work a field and coax crops into growing with hardly any rain. She knows how to turn only a little into a meal for an entire family. She can haggle prices in a vegetable market like no one you'll ever meet. She can sew a hem and quiet rowdy hens and rock a child to sleep. She is trilingual and loves her rich cultural heritage. Oh, Grace has stories that can make you laugh and cry at the same time.
She was born into a time of financial difficulty, with parents who struggled to keep food on the table. This is why Grace was unable to finish school, not because she was unintelligent or lazy. She isn't sure how old she was when Grace dropped out to help her father work their land and to help her mother raise her younger brothers and sisters the best she could.
Eventually Grace married a farmer, just like her dad. She loved and respected her husband, and he cherished her. They had three children: two girls and a boy. They were the apples of Grace's eye. When they had children of their own, Grace could only thank the Lord for bringing her so much joy. Twelve beautiful grandchildren, all with big smiles and eager minds and little hands ready to help out around the house whenever they came to visit.
Grace grieved when her husband passed away. His body was older than his mind. As a widow, Grace struggled with her own finances. She tried to keep the crops alive on her own, but she faced her own physical ailments that made hard labor difficult. A bad back and achy knee had plagued her for several years now. Grace did her best, but each day was a challenge.
Sometimes life doesn't go the way you want it to. One-by-one, Grace's adult children died from a terrible disease, leaving their children in their grandmother's care. While Grace adored each of her grandchildren, her world crashed into a reality of fear and desperation. She could barely provide for herself, let alone for twelve growing grandchildren that filled her tiny house beyond belief. How could they all fit by the time they were in their teens, if they made it that far?
But Grace works on. She keeps a smile on her face, because she'd rather work in joy than in sorrow. Her desire is for each of her grandchildren to finish school, because this is what Grace wishes she could have had. And at the end of each long day, after managing to find something for her large family to eat or sending her babies to bed with empty tummies and tear-streaked faces, Grace retires for a few hours.
Slowly and painfully, bad back and all, she gets on her knees and prays to her Heavenly Father to come and provide a way for her grandchildren to make it through the week, She pleads with the Lord to provide food for the next day, to have compassion on her family. Grace is getting older. Her body is beginning to fail her now, just as it did her late husband's, but she refuses to give up hope. Without her, her grandbabies will be alone. Grace believes her God is a God who saves. She repeats this to the children every morning and every night. And she waits.
Grace's story may sound similar to the story of your own grandmother or even great-grandmother, although most likely filled with more tragedy and loss. If you were to ask your great-grandma what she remembered about her childhood, she would probably share stories of working hard each day to keep food on the table, of living in constant worry that the crops would fail and leave the family hungry.
The story I shared about Grace is like the stories of millions of women in Africa today. They aren't just nameless statistics. They are people. They are grandmas. They are hard-working women who know what it means to sacrifice, to love, to lose everything in the world that is dear to them and keep on surviving. These women are strong. The Lord has not forgotten them.
God desires to use those of us who have been blessed with prosperity to love those who are needy. His heart is filled with compassion and mercy and love.
The truth is that many adults in Africa are dying from AIDS, leaving their children as orphans. And in countries like Kenya, the elderly are left to provide for their young grandkids with no means of income.
How can you change any of this? Consider sponsoring a child and helping to support an impoverished family. You can be one to lift the burden from the shoulders of the elderly. You can provide a family with hope in Jesus.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Two years ago: Making Memories