There were two planks of wood bridging a stream to enter the property. There was a newly dug grave to the right. There was grief everywhere else.
It was a tragic love story. Jehoveness was the one still living, but she was dying from a broken heart. Her husband passed away 5 months before. Now her and their 4 children were alone. His mother lived across the road. Once her son passed, she banished his family. He died from Malaria. But their traditions believe that no matter what the cause, it was his wife’s fault.
I put my hand on Jehoveness’s extremely thin shoulder. My mother-in-law hadn’t been easy. We laughed over being the daughter-in-law’s that would never measure up. She then admitted that she and her children were starving. More painful than their physical struggle was the evident loss of her dignity. She had known a life of possibility. She knew her value as an individual, a partner, and a wife. Her beloved was gone and because of cultural beliefs, all possibilities went with him.
Volunteers from LUSH Cosmetics were coming to help Save the Rain build rainwater harvesting systems in her village. It was clear that Jehoveness needed not only clean water and food security, but the infusion of laughter and love that comes when cultures collide and the sweat of hard labor is involved.
During the construction, volunteers and neighbors gathered and laughed as they learned to create solutions together. Jehoveness’s mother-in-law came to investigate the emanating joy. It had been a long time since laughter could be heard from her son’s home. Certainly, none since he had died.
Jehoveness stopped breathing at the sight of her. Then nature created an opportunity. Instantly, it began to pour and everyone ran inside the house – even her mother-in-law. The storm gave her courage. As people settled to wait out the rain, Jehoveness got up and returned with a book. She sat next to her mother-in-law and opened it. It was filled with pictures from her wedding day. Her mother-in-law put her hands over pictures of her son. She spoke about her love for him. Jehoveness looked at her and said, “I love him too.” Silent healing followed. Then the rain stopped and people got back to work.
Once her rainwater harvesting system and garden were done, it became clear that she needed work to sustain her family’s future. So we offered Jehoveness a job.
Since that day, she has helped thousands of families create a better life. She is respected as a mason and a solution maker. She even cares for her mother-in-law from time to time. Jehoveness’s story is a return to sovereignty. Through acts of service, her dignity had been restored. She is a phoenix who never stops rising.