I’m convinced Grace Emmanuel School is one of the most joy-filled places on earth.
At no time is this more evident than the moment students are released for recess. The students sprint out of their classrooms, running for the basketball court or the open field to play soccer, climbing on the playground equipment, or sitting under the church to play rocks or giggle with friends. The yard fills with laughter and shouts, and I can close my eyes and feel the goodness of God.
All of these students live without fancy material possessions, and most come from unhealthy family situations. Some sleep on the dirt every night. They have never been on a roller coaster, never go out for frozen yogurt, never go miniature golfing or to the movie theatre, never get Happy Meals with a toy inside.
Yet time and time again I am reminded that these passing pleasures are never the source of true joy.
Today I am visiting the home of two brothers, a 2nd grader and a 4th grader. As I walk into the door to their home, I feel like I am in a dark cave. A tiny stream of light is all that carries through the one small window in the concrete. I sit on the hard bed belonging to one of the brothers and I wonder how he gets a good night’s rest. I sweat profusely with no breeze to offer relief.
The boys have been all but abandoned by their parents. They live with an elderly great-aunt who is unable to work. They are able to eat because their neighbors—mostly extended family—come together to make sure no one goes hungry in their little community.
As I prepare to leave, I ask Jean Kendy if he would sing. Although hesitant, he decides to take a shot at it. In his native tongue, he begins to sing “Our God” by Chris Tomlin.
And again amidst the obvious poverty, there is joy. Joy coming from our great God.
“Our God is greater, our God is stronger. God, you are higher than any other. Our God is healer, awesome in power…And if our God is for us, than who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us, than what can stand against?”