Rebuilding a Widow's Life

Medicine failed. Witch doctors failed. And Addi’s body continued to fail. Fever and body aches put him in a perpetual state of decline. Subira, his wife, looked on helplessly as Addi became weaker and weaker.

Soon, the man who had taken such good care of their family of seven, who did everything he could to send their children to school, whom Subira had spent more than a decade of her life with was gone.

Subira, at 32 years old, was a widow.

The Misfortunes of Widows

There were few things in her society worse than becoming a widow. Though more than 258 million women around the world are widows, many have “historically been left unseen, unsupported and unmeasured in our societies.”1 Subira had most likely witnessed the ostracism widows—young and old—endured in her region. In the middle of their grief, they’re stripped of their dignity and seen as cursed.2 They’re forced to live a life devoid of happiness, deemed unworthy to partake in community celebrations where their presence could bring bad luck. Many widows are kicked out of their homes, denied their right to an inheritance or forced to endure hostility from their relatives or in-laws.3

Widow and children

Many women around the world are living as widows and face extreme difficulties trying to provide for their families.

Such was the case for Subira. As was custom, Subira had gone to live with her husband’s parents after their marriage. Now, after Addi’s passing, she was fortunate they didn’t force her out, but they ensured her life was miserable. They dishonoured her in front of her children and treated her with malice.

Subira had considered moving back to her parents’ house, but she knew she and her five children would only be a burden to her aging parents. She tried to adjust to her in-laws’ hostility and ill treatment, maybe thinking the days would get better, that time would heal the grief and bring reconciliation. Addi’s parents seemed to care for her children. But as the days passed, their abuse of Subira continued.

Finally, Subira had enough. She could start a new life. It wouldn’t be easy; life for widows was never easy. The Loomba Foundation, an organization working to end discrimination against widows throughout the world, reports that “Hazardous work, loss of paid work due to care-giving responsibilities and employer discrimination, lack of social welfare provision across the spectrum of needs, harmful traditional practices, illiteracy, preventable disease and inadequate post-conflict security create significant barriers to widows rebuilding their lives.”4

But despite the barriers, Subira could try to rebuild her life; she just couldn’t do it while having six mouths to feed on her own. The poverty she experienced as a widowed woman demanded she leave two of her children with Addi’s parents.

Widows

Widows around the world—both young and old—face harrowing struggles that often strip them of basic human rights and their dignity.

It was probably one of the most painful decisions Subira had ever had to make, but there would be a chance of a reunion—if she could find a decent job.

Seeking Better Opportunities

Subira rented a room in a new village, which happened to be close to a church led by GFA pastor Lachlan. The young widow took her two oldest children and youngest daughter with her, while her two middle girls stayed with her in-laws. She found a job cleaning clothes, dishes and floors in the homes of the rich.

Besides not having the financial means to stay in school, Subira’s children also carried an overwhelming grief over their father’s death, which took away any desire to pursue a future of purpose.

Because of their poverty, Subira’s two eldest children had to sacrifice their education. The additional expense of school supplies would only deepen their financial crisis.

“Even the smallest recurrent costs associated with education can prove too much for low-income families when incomes fall,” reports the Loomba Foundation.5

Besides not having the financial means to stay in school, Subira’s children also carried an overwhelming grief over their father’s death, which took away any desire to pursue a future of purpose. They were only in the 10th and 8th grades.

Sickness That Leads to Life

Rebuilding a new life had its challenges. On her way to work, there were days when Subira would listen to the singing or the prayers coming from the nearby GFA church as she walked past. Those days, she felt a strange peace overcome her that she didn’t understand. She didn’t realize it was the Holy Spirit beckoning her.

Many children are living in poverty.

There are more than 500 million children of widowed mothers, many of whom have inherited poverty that has led to them no longer being able to attend school, like Subira’s children (not pictured).

One day, Subira fell sick with a severe stomachache; then her body started to swell. She couldn’t spend the little money she earned by cleaning houses on pursuing medical treatment, nor could she afford to take a day or two off to recuperate, so she trudged on, working through whatever illness was coursing through her body.

Perhaps remembering the prayers she had heard or the peace she often felt when she was near the GFA church, Subira attended a worship service. She sat watching, listening, hopeful. When the service ended, Subira approached Pastor Lachlan.

Could he please pray for her, she asked, sharing with him about her health struggles.

Like every GFA pastor, Lachlan welcomed the opportunity to share Christ’s love with others. He knew the power in Jesus’ name and freely prayed for Subira. Thereafter, with her permission, he visited her home to pray for and encourage her and her children in the Lord.

Visiting Subira’s family, Pastor Lachlan saw their poverty. He also learned more about Subira’s struggles, of her being a widow and of having to leave two of her children behind. The grief and hardships she and her children experienced gripped Pastor Lachlan’s heart. He prayed for her often.

Two weeks later, Subira’s stomachache vanished, and her body quit swelling. She and her children knew it was through prayers to Jesus that she had been healed—and they devoted their lives to worshiping Him.

Now part of the body of believers, Subira didn’t live as an outcast widow or as someone to be feared because of the bad luck she might bring. Pastor Lachlan and the people in his church loved Subira and her children. They prayed for them and embraced them into their family.

Sisters of compassion serving a widow in need.

GFA national workers help alleviate widows’ suffering, offering them friendship and opportunities that will uplift them from poverty and help restore their dignity.

A Gift to Alleviate Her Poverty

But being part of the family of God didn’t mean all their problems went away. Subira and her children still endured the unforgiving grip of poverty. Even cleaning five to six houses every day didn’t provide enough income to rent a larger room, resume her children’s schooling or bring her two middle daughters back into her home.

Wanting to improve her situation, Pastor Lachlan asked his leaders to gift Subira with the grocery items and supplies she needed to open a small business, which would provide her with opportunities to bring in a better income. Receiving this gift brought Subira joy and hope.

Subira set up a shop inside her rented room, and people from the village began buying groceries from her. From her earnings through the shop and cleaning houses, Subira has been able to continually restock and provide for her children. Though she has not yet been able to bring her two middle children back into her home, there is hope that one day they will be reunited as the poverty that had sought to bury her slowly disappears from her life.

“God is great,” Subira said. “He found our lives precious in His presence and lifted us from the pit of our death.”

Support At-risk Widows

It’s estimated that nearly 1 in 10 widows live in extreme poverty.6 It’s a poverty that only deepens their grief and may subject them to exploitation and a life of meagre existence.

A widow beside her children and a goat she was given from GFA World.

Like this widow pictured, Subira received a gift from GFA workers that will improve her economic situation and give her and her children a better future.

Young widows with dependent children, such as Subira, carry an extra burden, wondering how they will take care of all their children’s needs. But GFA national workers are bringing new life to widows at risk. They’re helping alleviate their grief and providing a support system that can help them through the difficulties of widowhood. By providing income-generating gifts; vocational training; food, clothing and other basic essentials; and the assurance of God’s love, GFA workers are supplying means by which widows can rebuild their lives.

You can join GFA workers in their ongoing, lifesaving ministry to widows and show widows like Subira that their lives matter.


Help Widows and Abandoned Children



*Names of people and places may have been changed for privacy and security reasons. Images are GFA stock photos used for representation purposes and are not the actual person/location, unless otherwise noted.

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