Mar 27 2009

Poverty and difficulty canít suppress joy

By Monte Mace, CFCA writer/editor

How do you remain positiveóeven joyfulóin the face of discouraging, overwhelming or dangerous circumstances?

Thatís what I wondered after I met Lourdes, a tranquil mother of seven in Legazpi, Philippines. I had asked the local CFCA staff to arrange interviews with single mothers so I could learn how they manage on their own.

The first mother I met was Lourdes. She came out of her bamboo house at the edge of the city when we drove up. Coconut and palm trees created a quiet, shady yard.

One of the first things I noticed was her missing left hand. She told us her husband had attacked her during an argument five years ago and cut off her hand. He was sent to prison.

Lourdes and her daughterLourdes needs to support herself, her children, and her aging mother. But she isnít able to do much work with only one hand. Her eldest daughter sells food on the street in order to earn about $60 a month. That income, plus the assistance provided by CFCA sponsorship of 12-year-old Nika, allows the family to survive.

As I photographed her, she smiled easily. She seemed at peace.

As we were leaving, I asked:

ìWhat gives you the strength?î

ìI just gave it over to God,î Lourdes said. ìPlus, my mother is there for me and gives me moral support.î

During two weeks visiting CFCA projects in the Philippines and meeting many sponsored families, I found myself repeating this thought: ìWhat a joyful spirit they have.î

At one gathering, an elderly widow named Constancia stood up and said she no longer suffers from ìnagging fearî about how to obtain food, clothing and health care.

ìGod is merciful. He answered my prayers and gave me CFCA,î she said.

ConstanciaThe audience laughed as she told how she had learned to eat new and unfamiliar strange food. She beamed as I asked to photograph her. As I sat next to her for group photos, she held my hand. Later Constancia gave me a thank-you gift, a book in English entitled, ìMore Stories of Life and Laughter,î a book of life lessons by a Filipino priest, Father Bel San Luis, SVD.

A younger woman also gave testimony. Maricel, 23 at the time, explained that the death of her father when she was 4 began her familyís spiral into ìchaos.î But her mother did not lose hope and supported her six children by working as a laundry woman.

ìIn the midst of crisis, God never abandoned us,î Maricel said. ìIn 1990, I was chosen for CFCA sponsorship. I came to realize that someone in a faraway place loves us in a very sincere way.î

Maricel said she was able to complete a college education and now works as ìa humble kindergarten teacher.î

The Filipinos I met exhibited humility, gratitude for their sponsors, a love of life whatever the circumstances, and trust in Godís willóin short, a joyful spirit.

Learn about the CFCA documentary filmed in the Philippines, “Zamboanga: Poverty, War, Music.”

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