Reflection for January 2016 on the theme Be Courageous

October reflection – God in the midst of difficulties

Julie Brackenburg

By Julie Brackenburg

Since ending her official roles in GB. Julie has complete studies in Theology and worked as an Ordained Minister in an Inner Sydney Mission church for many years. Her family has grown from 5 children to include a foster daughter with Down syndrome, 5 in-laws and 16 grandchildren. She now belongs to an informal house church group, worships in many disparate settings and continues life-long social activism working for people in government housing, refugees and non-violence/peace movements. Her special joys include still being married to Laurie, reading, gardening, choral singing and travel.

Some of us are blessed. We are born into a loving, financially stable family. Our friends are similarly blessed as we grow up with every educational and emotional benefit available. We enjoy our teen years and in young adulthood further our education at University or find rewarding and meaningful work. In time we form stable often life-long friendships, some marry and are able to afford homes and provide for children, whose lives will in many ways mirror those of their parents.

If we have been part of a faith-based community – which I guess is most who are reading this reflection – we are often blissfully unaware that our life is NOT the life of about 90% of others in the world. We often see our own lives as “normal” and available to anyone who, if not born to it, can attain this “good life” by hard work and diligence.

In the main we do not suffer oppression, deprivation of the basic needs, chronic physical and mental ill-health, gender inequalities, warfare and homelessness, imprisonment and injustice. We find many small things to upset us – no parking spaces at the shopping centre, internet connections that won’t work or are too slow, occasional illness, disobedient children, the old lady at church who just talks too much and takes up our time.

For us JOY is usually not a huge problem. It is, like our good mental health, just part of our lives – or if it is not, it is probably merely a temporary lack of JOY and equanimity. But are we talking about JOY? Or is this rather the happiness and gladness that are experienced by the fortunate in the world?

What then for the other 90%?

Those whose childhoods are marked by political uncertainty and instability, fear, hunger, lack of education, poor health care, inadequate housing, childhood disease and early death are, surprisingly, the majority of children born into the world today. We do not have to go to third world countries to find girls whose childhoods are spent horrific situations that include abuse, poor parenting, few educational opportunities and lack of adequate adult nurture and care.

Many, many children grow up in such circumstances – without a great deal of happiness. But they often find JOY. When we are willing to share a time of caring and give encouragement lives can be transformed from physical poverty to emotional and spiritual wealth. Enriching a girl’s life need not be providing “things” but may mean insight into her daily life and small measures of support which may come through something as simple as a continuing, reliable relationship or providing a firm, loving, nonjudgmental presence to which she can turn and return.

For girls and women living in and near poverty JOY itself is a source of life. Many, in difficult places living awful lives, find JOY in the small and seemingly insignificant daily happenings in life – the care of a neighbour, the sharing of food, the ability to help another. Whilst we can talk about Empowerment and Bright Futures – as outlined as themes for this year’s Day of the Girl Child on October 11th – many find JOY in so many other ways and places – a small flower, a sunset or sunrise, a healthy new baby, the love of family. Empowerment can bring changes to lives but it is a concept far from the lives of many. JOY however is all embracing and inclusive and is the “right” of all made in God’s own image.

Sharing our source of true JOY – our trust and relationship with Jesus and God – is what Girls’ Brigade is about. We have the privilege of walking alongside girls in their formative years – as youngsters, teenagers, young women – as they are setting their paths in life AND even more importantly the paths in which they will guide their families and communities.

May the JOY of the Lord be your strength today and each day you walk on his wondrous earth.

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