By Daniela Spevak
For many people around the world, the summer of 2014 seems so long ago we can hardly remember what we did. With all of the world’s events, disasters, and political turmoil since then, we have shifted our focus onto something else—and rightly so. But for many Liberians, 2014 was devastating as so many lives were taken from their families.
I, too, tend to forget how recent the summer of 2014 still feels to many Liberians. Through the Samaritan’s Purse Ruth Project, I work with Ebola widows; women who lost not only their husbands to the Ebola virus, but in some cases, were themselves infected yet survived. When I first met these women, it was hard to distinguish between their hopelessness, desperate physical need, depression, and poor condition of their spirit. Widowed survivors struggle to understand why they were spared while their husbands or children died.
I have often found myself listening to a widow share how she was the first one from her house that contracted the virus. She survived, but her husband and child died. I remember silently but urgently praying to God to give me the right words of encouragement. But what could possibly be right about all that? How is there even the right encouragement in such a situation? Who am I to tell this woman not to cry, to be thankful for being alive, to move on with her life?! But aren’t those the words that are supposed to serve as comfort to a grieving person? Somehow they did not fit into this conversation, and I remained speechless. My heart was breaking for her, and I didn’t know what to say. I sat there, listened, occasionally shed a tear with her, and held her hand. No wise words came out of my mouth …and I was so thankful for that! God didn’t want me to speak, nor to use words of comfort, nor to act smart and explain how she should move on with her life, trusting God along the way.
Yes, my presence there is to serve these widows, to comfort them, to teach them livelihood skills, to teach anything that would help them get back on their feet and care for themselves and the multitude of children that they were now left with. Moreover, the main purpose of our Samaritan’s Purse Ruth Project is to share the love of God with them and to pray that they experience it in their hearts. One widow shared with me that she thought God hated her and that is why He took all her loved ones from her. However, now, after all the time we spent with her reading the Bible and teaching the biblical trauma healing, she thinks differently and she knows differently. She met the God of love.
The journey of grief is a period of time that can take years to bring a person to new beginnings. Even though there is still so much pain in the hearts of these women, they have been learning about God’s love for them and how He is offering to take their pain away when they bring it to the Cross. I am so grateful to God for working in the hearts of our project’s widows. He has been showing His love for them in many practical ways. Now they are growing spiritually and being strengthened physically too.
I am happy to share that all of them have gone through personal finance and business management trainings and now own businesses. In addition, we have trained them in gardening skills, and most of them began growing vegetable gardens that produce enough (or even more!) to supply their family with food. They have come so far … we have come so far … since 2014! Our focus is on the future; with all the bumps and bruises that will still come along the way, our eyes are fixed on Jesus, sustainer and healer of all!
The Year of the Lord’s Favor
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.