Maria is 20 years old. She is one of 10 siblings, with five brothers and four sisters. Years ago, when she was still very much a child in the eyes of the world, her mother passed away, followed by her father just a year later. In her culture, when there is no father or grandfather, the eldest brother in a family becomes the caretaker for any of his unmarried sisters. With both of her parents gone and no family patriarch left, this became Maria’s story.
Though her eldest brother took her in and provided a roof over her head, Maria was still expected to earn her keep, so she began cleaning homes. Her wages were low, there was little promise of ever getting a raise, and she felt uneasy and unsafe. Her brother was the recipient of nearly all of her meager earnings.
As young women in her country do, Maria had been collecting for herself a dowry to be given to her future husband. She didn’t have much to offer, the most valuable and treasured piece a tea set given to her by her mother.
Just a tea set. It doesn’t sound like anything of importance. As I sit here and type, the shelves above my desk hold a variety of tea pots and cups and saucers, sets I’ve collected from here and there: white china with colorful flowers from my wedding, a brightly colored set given by my sister as a Christmas gift, several delicately painted, flowered pieces handed down from the women in my husband’s family, a tiny set meant for children’s play. They’re all special to me, but none carry anything close to the value and cultural significance of Maria’s. No, Maria’s tea set was much more than an heirloom. It was all she had to her name.
When Maria heard there was a place she could go to receive training in cosmetology, sewing, and literacy, it was a glimmer of hope: the Shama Women center. Cosmetology, which includes the art of henna, is a viable trade and one that is looked upon with admiration. In her country, a woman’s appearance brings either great honor or great shame upon her family. Here, by God’s grace, was the opportunity to represent her family well, to honor the parents she’d lost, and to obtain a respectable skill and have the chance to support herself.
Monthly tuition for students (a legal requirement that serves as a means of protection for the women) is $1 a month. Just $1—spare change, perhaps, for me, but an impossible amount for this young woman with nothing of her own. Nothing, except…
Maria decided to risk everything and take a leap of faith.
She sold her dowry and her mother’s tea set.
She placed her future in God’s hands and gave it all—literally everything she had—to Him, trusting that the training she would receive in the Shama Women program would radically change the trajectory of her life. I believe with all my heart that it will.
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much…” (Luke 16:10)
Maria’s faith is the kind that moves mountains. It’s the kind of faith I want to have.
Rebekah Crosby is a wife, mom, and grammar enthusiast with a passion for storytelling. You can find her at writetheroughdraft.com.