December 2022 newsletter
Joanne Miya, Tanzania
Greetings from Uzima Centre. We hope and pray that you are doing well. Maryknoll Lay Missioners has asked that we close the year by reflecting on one of our core values, joy.
If the Tanzanian people have anything to teach us, it’s that joy is a choice. During one of my first years here, I met a woman plastering the outside of her very small, mud-block house. She seemed determined to hold it together a bit longer with mud plaster. Lacking the necessary mason tools, she was applying the mud using her hands.
What struck me most was that she was going about it so cheerfully. We talked for a bit. Her brother, who worked in the capital, had assured her that one day he would return and build her a proper house. Until then, she was happy with what she had. Cynical me thought, “Yeah, sure he’ll come back. I wouldn’t count on that.” Her joy came from being grateful for what she had. I heard that years later her brother did return and built her a house, so you just never know.
That encounter has stayed with me all these years. Thinking back, what did she have to lose? She could have been bitter about her situation, but what good would that have done? She chose joy. St. Paul tells us, “In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Cor 7:4).
We do have a choice. We can face our challenges with a positive and joyful attitude, or we can be miserable. At Uzima Centre I meet people facing what seem to be insurmountable problems, including poverty and HIV. For the children born HIV-positive, all they have ever known is daily medication and monthly hospital appointments.
One of the happiest children in our program is Joyce. She is not only HIV-positive, but she also lives with a disability. She is currently getting around with crutches that are too big for her. For rugged areas, her mother carries her. Although we typically don’t purchase health insurance for our clients, we made an exception for Joyce. She should get her insurance card this month, and we will be working with her mother to get Joyce a proper medical assessment to see what can be done.
I have never seen Joyce without a smile. As the American singer Jane Marczewski (aka Nightbirde) said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”
Jackline had been suffering from uterine fibroids. Surgery was finally performed, and she has recovered well. The entire time she was sick, we could see that her son, Malima was worried. Now when he comes to Uzima Centre, he bounces into my office to greet me, smiling from ear to ear. Malima is happy because his mother was sick and now she is better.
Here a simple illness can lead to death, especially if, like our clients, you have a weakened immune system. Every January during the support group meetings someone is bound to announce, “We are grateful that we made it to another year! Many people didn’t.” It’s a joy just to be alive.
Research professor Brené Brown summed it up well. “It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratefulness that makes us joyful.” It’s that simple.
Gratitude is a prerequisite to joy. Grateful people are joyful people. The people at Uzima Centre take nothing for granted, and as a result, they are grateful for even the little they have. It shows in their joy.
In December, all the children in our program receive $10 to help with the purchase of school supplies. To see them get excited about $10 shows just how little they have. In January they show us what they bought. Sometimes it’s a backpack, a school uniform or shoes. They start the new school year feeling “smart.” What joy $10 can bring!
Please know that through your prayers, donations and encouraging words, you are bringing joy to your sisters and brothers at Uzima Centre. We remain grateful for each of you. This Christmas season, let us rejoice in Christ’s birth, forever grateful for God’s infinite mercy and love.
And remember: “A joyful heart is good medicine” (Prv 17:22).
Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Now and through Dec. 31, thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!