For as long as I can remember, the troubles of the world have felt too big for me. I’d find myself depressed from focusing on the injustices surrounding me and couldn’t see my blessings because I was drowning in sadness. I was angry with God; how could he let all of these awful things happen? I was angry with myself; why couldn’t I do more? One night in a prayer of desperation I begged God to show me one small piece of the world that I could set right. Sucaray was an answer to that prayer.
Sucaray and I met in June 2015 after my oldest son chose for the two of us to go on an I Pour Life trip to Ethiopia as his graduation gift. Sucaray was being launched into the Global Women’s Empowerment Program, which helps women start and operate their own businesses, and was in need of a sponsor. My son and I decided to support her and through a translator we gave her the good news. We hugged her, took a picture together, and told her she was now a part of our family. She was gracious, but I could tell she didn’t completely buy in that she was ‘family.’
My second trip to Ethiopia was the following Summer and Sucaray was happy to see me, but she still seemed to be reluctant to trust me. She brought me a prescription for her son, who had recently had an eye surgery and was in need of a pair of corrective lenses. I knew she loved her children with every fiber of her being and asking for my help wasn’t easy for her, but for her son she would do anything. I jumped at the opportunity to make this happen for her and wanted to prove that when I said we were family, I truly meant it! The glasses weren’t able to arrive to Sucaray’s son until after I returned to the states, but an I Pour Life staffer was able to share photos with me, and seeing Sucaray’s son wearing the glasses made me cry like a baby.
On my most recent visit to Ethiopia, Sucaray invited my team to her home. When we arrived she was sweeping her dirt floor and offered us coffee and snacks. As I sat on the couch with her, I realized that she had more belongings than before, some furniture, and she had hung curtains to separate the bedroom from the living area. She excitedly spoke to our translator and he began to smile. He said she was telling him our story. “Our” story! I started to tear up as she introduced me to the team as her ‘mom’. She went on to explain that before I Pour Life she didn’t have any family, but now she does.
She continued to say that the business she had started was still operating, and that she had also hired an employee because she was also working in the city cleaning houses. This was a big deal. Sucary has leprosy and it’s not uncommon for people to be afraid to touch her, be near her, let alone trust her enough to let her into their home. Someone giving her the opportunity to clean their house is a huge boost to her self esteem, because she is used to feeling less than, outcast and cursed by this disease.
One of the team members pointed to a picture on the wall. She gave a big grin and went to retrieve it. It was a photo of her, her children, and me on my last visit. She took the frame apart, and behind that photo was every picture I’d ever given her. I asked her what had changed about her since the first time we met, because back then she was quiet and shy. She responded saying, “I know that you love me and I love you. We have no secrets because we are family.” Until this point, I had been pretty good at keeping myself together, I was just at the ‘eyes watering with an occasional tear cry’, but this did me in – I was in official ‘ugly cry’ mode. She gave me a hug and said she didn’t like to see me cry. I told her that these were happy tears, some of the happiest tears I’ve ever cried.
Sucaray’s story makes me emotional, but more than that, it humbles me. It makes me hopeful, and it fills me with pride for her. She has worked incredibly hard in the three years we’ve known each other. As a result, her and her children’s lives have been changed… and so has mine. I have loved her, hugged her, and cheered for her. In return, she has taught me that anyone can overcome unbelievable odds. She has shown me that a kept promise is more powerful than gold, and unconditional love has the ability to transform.