The Power of Gratitude

The power of gratitude wowed me when I first met our new neighbor, Della. She was in her 80s when we moved in next door, and she greeted us with a beaming smile and a litany of how happy she was to meet us. In subsequent encounters, which were frequent, she never failed to talk about how grateful she was for her life and how much God had blessed her.

Della radiated joy. And I thought, “That’s the way to live!” Even as dementia took her memory, she continued to do a little dance and recite her gratitude on a daily basis.

Della embodied one of my favorite quotes by 19th Century theologian, Alexander Maclaren.

“Seek to cultivate a buoyant joyous sense of the crowded kindnesses of God in your daily life.”

I love the words Maclaren uses—buoyant, joyous, crowded kindnesses. I can’t help but smile thinking about the picture he paints.

So many kindnesses. So much love. A God who crowds us with His kindnesses. A God who tells us to be grateful because He knows it will make us joyful. We can be buoyant—able to stay afloat no matter what—when we are grateful. This is the abundance of life God wants for us!

The Link Between The Power of Gratitude and Joy

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (another 19th Century theologian) said “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”

Joy is not something we produce. It’s something we find in the presence of God.

How do we get into God’s presence? We worship Him. We thank Him. (Psalm 100:4)

Being thankful is our way of saying, “You are good, Lord. And what You do is good. What You choose for my life is good. I trust You.”

Expressing gratitude is like planting a seed, and joy is the fruit that grows from it. We plant a seed without seeing its fruit. We just trust that something good will grow from it. It’s an act of faith. And the harvest we reap is joy.

A life filled with thanksgiving is a life that gets better and better. And I’m not talking about faking it, speaking in Christianese, or posing. I’m not saying we should ignore the trials we’re in.

I’m talking about thanking God (along with being honest about how hard it is) in the middle of those trials—if only for the fact that He promises He is with us during them. I’m talking about being on the lookout for things to be grateful for—regardless of what’s not going well on any particular day.

Not Just an Ancient Teaching

Aside from the fact that we are commanded to be grateful in the Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:18), gratitude is just a healthy practice for life. Even modern-day psychologists report this. In 2007, Robert Emmons began researching gratitude through a psychological lens. He found that expressing gratitude improves mental, physical and relational well-being. Being grateful impacts the overall experience of happiness, and these effects tend to be long-lasting.

Author Ann Voskamp said, “Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful.”

If we want good mental health and a good life, gratitude needs to become a habit.

Lessons in the Power of Gratitude

Westerners who go on short-term mission trips often comment on the joy they see in people they work with. We are astounded that someone who lives in poverty can be joyful. But the same lessons of gratitude that apply to us apply to everyone. A lifestyle of gratitude doesn’t take away problems, it just makes them easier to bear.

A man who knows the power of gratitude.
William is grateful for training to become a fisherman.

William in South Sudan is an example of a grateful person. He was unable to provide enough for his family until he learned to fish. Now he has food for them, and an income.

William said, “I’m really thankful to God because I tried different things until I found this really was the main source of my livelihood. I previously didn’t know how to fish, so I asked people to show me and also learned by observing. Fishing is very beneficial to my family.”

Sajeda is another example of the power of gratitude. She lost everything when her home was burned to the ground and she escaped Myanmar with her family. After walking for nine days to reach Bangladesh they entered a refugee camp. The work she had in Myanmar was not available in the camp, but she was given an opportunity to learn how to sew and she took it.

A woman who knows the power of gratitude.
Sajeda has overcome many hardships, and she is grateful.

Sajeda said, “If I learn this work, I can keep my children safe. I can provide them an education. No one can steal or buy my skills.”

Instead of complaining over her circumstances, Sajeda expresses gratitude for aid workers. She said, “Without God, how can we live? God has created us and sent us into this world. He is giving us everything and feeding us. He is doing this through His agents.”

An Evergreen Virtue

Thanksgiving is a great time of year to be reminded of the power of gratitude. We generally make our “I’m grateful for” list sometime around this holiday. And at our house we go around the dinner table and say what we’re thankful for while feasting on turkey and favorite side dishes.

But gratitude isn’t something we take out of the closet for a certain holiday every year. It’s something that should be at our table, and on our lips, all year long. It’s evergreen.

Our neighbor Della lived to be 97, and I never tired of her grateful litany. In fact, I sought it out. Her joy lit up our lives, every single day.

Let us know what you’re grateful for in the comment section below. Share what you do to maintain a grateful heart. We’d like to hear from you and share your thoughts with others.

 

 

How Clean Water Lifted Kampus and His Family Out of Extreme Poverty

Life was a struggle in Enchoro, the Maasai village where Kampus and his large family live in rural Kenya. Recurring drought made it impossible to earn a living. Livestock died. Crops failed. Kampus’s wife walked long distances in punishing heat to collect water. And his children were chronically sick with water-borne diseases. Continue reading How Clean Water Lifted Kampus and His Family Out of Extreme Poverty

How Scholarships Work to Stop Child Marriage

It was one of those God moments.

I was observing a class of preschool children joyfully singing songs and reciting the alphabet in English in a rural village in Bangladesh. Their “classroom” was a dirt courtyard between shacks, but they didn’t mind. Their bright faces were intently focused on their teacher, following her lead as she moved her hands to the rhythm of the song and mouthed the words to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

As the young teacher turned around, our eyes met and we immediately recognized each other. Her name was Salma, and I had met her three years earlier when I had spent a week in the same area interviewing young girls who were at risk of being married off as child brides.

interviewing girls who received scholarships in BangladeshDuring that first trip, I listened to many heartbreaking stories of 12 to 14-year-old girls whose parents were too poor to pay for them to attend school.  Their parents felt they had no choice but to marry their daughters off to older men who could support them.

Salma was one of those girls. She was around 13 the first time we met—an innocent girl who giggled shyly with her friends as she waited for our interview. Salma told me she wanted to be a teacher, but she feared her father would marry her off. Her only hope was to stay in school.

Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. Girls who are in school are six times less likely to be married before the age of 18.

With the support and generosity of donors, World Concern provides scholarships to girls like Salma. It costs just $50 for an entire year’s tuition in a place like Bangladesh. A small amount to save a girl from the horrors of child marriage and offer her the gift of education, the ability to pursue her dreams, and escape the cycle of extreme poverty.

Salma received a scholarship, finished high school, avoided child marriage, and today, she is planning to go to college. The smile on her face says it all. She is free and full of hope for the future.

two women in Bangladesh talking about scholarships
Cathy and Salma, three years after their first meeting in Bangladesh.

After her preschool class was dismissed, we walked to a small shop where we ran into some of the other girls I met three years earlier. Dipa and Rima were running a small business, selling beaded purses and hair clips for income. They too had received scholarships and avoided child marriage.

two girls who received scholarships in Bangladesh
Dipa and Rima stand in front of the small business they run together.

As I watched these beautiful, educated young women pursuing their dreams, there was no doubt in my mind—

Scholarships work.

Find out how you can provide a scholarship for a girl at risk of becoming a child bride. 

Two Mothers, Different Worlds

How a Samburu Mom’s Unexpected Questions Changed Me

Written by Heather Nelson, One Village Transformed Communications Coordinator. 

I stepped off the plane and immediately felt the crisp air telling all my senses I was back home. After a week in the dry, scorching climate of Kenya, breathing in the Seattle air reminded me of drinking a tall glass of water after feeling uncomfortably parched the last seven days.

Still, there were two things I thirsted for more than the familiar scenery and drinkable air: seeing (and squeezing!) my two sweet boys I’d left behind while I flew across the world for my first trip to the field with World Concern.

I have the privilege of working as the One Village Transformed Communications Coordinator with World Concern, a vocation that lets me deep dive into the incredible transformational development happening in more than 30 villages in Asia, Africa, and Haiti.

The thing is, my job mostly takes place at a desk. I read technical reports emailed from the field, and I write from the comfort of my office chair. I share exciting updates with One Village Transformed supporters so they can see and feel the impact their gifts are having. It’s blessed work that I care about deeply. But until a few weeks ago, I mostly did this job from my head.

Now that’s changed.

Continue reading Two Mothers, Different Worlds

How Parents are Speaking Out against Child Trafficking

There are kids who don’t have anyone to protect them.

Alone and vulnerable, they’re more susceptible to the lies of traffickers. People who promise them good jobs, a bright future, and success, who only seek to exploit them for personal gain.

It seems promising in the moment, but before they know it, they’re trapped with no way out.

Kids as young as toddlers are being taken and sold. Abused. Coerced. Forced into prostitution.

Who will rescue them? Continue reading How Parents are Speaking Out against Child Trafficking

How to Talk to Your Kids about Human Trafficking

As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your kids from things that could harm or upset them.

But at the same time, you want to answer their tough questions honestly and help them grow into compassionate young people.

Not knowing when to bring up difficult subjects like human trafficking, where to start, and how much detail to go into are a few reasons we choose not to talk to our kids about them at all.

How are you supposed to be honest while still protecting your kids? Continue reading How to Talk to Your Kids about Human Trafficking

Can I Ever Go Home? A True Story of Child Trafficking

Cho’s family was desperately poor and in debt. All of the families in his village in Myanmar struggled to have enough food to eat. So Cho (whose name has been changed) and his friends made a plan. They heard stories about jobs that were easy and paid a lot of money in China. As young teenagers it was illegal for them to work in China, but they knew a man who said he could find work for them.

Continue reading Can I Ever Go Home? A True Story of Child Trafficking

On the Front Lines – How One Social Worker Is Protecting Children in Sri Lanka

There are some people who look evil in the face and instead of running, they step up and fight.

Niranjini is one of those people.

Living in a city at the northern tip of Sri Lanka, Niranjini began her career as a law assistant. It was here she first encountered case after case involving child abuse. Shocked by the sheer volume of children affected and seemingly “light” punishment for perpetrators, Niranjini made the decision to become a defender of children’s rights.

Continue reading On the Front Lines – How One Social Worker Is Protecting Children in Sri Lanka

Homeless – but not without hope – in South Sudan

One year ago, World Concern staff were evacuated from Wau, South Sudan, when armed conflict broke out in the area where we’re working. Although our team was able to resume work within a few weeks, for tens of thousands of people, life is far from returning to normal. More than 40,000 are still homeless and living in squalid camps around Wau. Continue reading Homeless – but not without hope – in South Sudan

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Akol Akol (far right) talks with some of the kids he served. This picture captures his love and passion for seeing the lives of these precious young men transformed. Akol Akol passed away suddenly on July 6.

Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.”

Many of you have heard the sad news of the death of a World Concern staff member in South Sudan. Akol Akol was playing soccer and sustained an injury, was rushed to the local hospital where he died 30 minutes later. He was a much beloved staff member who knew the Lord, and worked as a peace maker in his community.

Peter Macharia, our Africa Area Director, wrote this word of tribute:

“I’ll miss Akol Akol. He started soccer teams in Magai and Mayen and the young team loved it a lot. Through soccer he would share the love of Christ and engage young men on how to better their lives and stay away from crime. When I last visited South Sudan he asked me for more soccer balls. He also brought me his new wife to say ‘hi.’ They were expecting a baby.

He was deeply loved by all those that met him. He was also deeply passionate about his work, loved World Concern, was always eager to learn, and full of laughter. When he joined World Concern in 2012, he couldn’t speak a word of English, but within a very short time, he would engage in an English conversation as if it was his mother tongue. He longed to see Magai and Mayen transformed. We will definitely miss him. We are praying for his dear wife.”

Our team in South Sudan thanks you for your prayers. They spent today with Akol Akol’s family. We are praying for God’s comfort and the peace that passes all understanding to stand guard over their hearts. Through it all, we trust in the goodness and mercy of our Lord, knowing that this is not the end. We take comfort in that blessed hope of life everlasting with our Lord.

We are so grateful for the opportunity to have known and served with such a kind and good heart. We pray now for his family and our precious team in South Sudan as they grieve this great loss.  

God bless you,

Jacinta Tegman, President
World Concern