Learning Gratitude in Suffering

Feb. 22, 2021

Maria Jarocki

2020-2021 Missionary


I’ve lived in Brazil since I was a little girl, but I never really stopped to think about the pain and suffering our homeless population goes through. 

That changed this past year.

In my experience, when you encounter Jesus and start to live your life for Him, you are much more aware of your neighbors, their needs, and how you can be a light for them as a Christian. Longing for change, I entered a group here in Brazil called 'Casa Vincular' for some time before the pandemic happened. This program serves food every morning and evening to the homeless population and provides them with shower rooms and clean clothes for them to use on a daily basis. 

I've seen homeless men and women that have encountered the word of God through us volunteers, who were able to get jobs, and buy their own houses. I've seen men and women that overcame a very difficult situation such as addiction because they were moved by something they heard from us.

Working with such a vulnerable group made me think even more about the amount of suffering there is in the world right next to us and how we don't always realize it or respond how we should as Christians. I am reminded of Jesus' suffering and how he looked at each of the people he encountered with dignity and love. 

Mark 5: 25–34 comes to mind, where a woman with severe bleeding was cured just by touching Jesus' clothing. She was seen as unclean because of her condition and Jesus not only acknowledged and loved her, but He restored her dignity in front of a large crowd. I assimilate that with the homeless people that we help - they only want to be heard and seen. Some of them just need a smile or a word of encouragement that will show them that they are loved and cherished and that their circumstances do not define their worth.

There was a particular situation that was very impactful to me. One of the girls that came to our center daily was pregnant and always looked very sad. She was very quiet and never talked to anyone. 

One day I sat next to her and held her hand and started singing a worship song and she started crying. 

We talked and she said even though she was 16, she was happy about the baby, but her boyfriend was not supportive and very abusive. She mentioned she was scared to have a miscarriage. After hearing this I immediately spoke to my director and she notified another organization that worked with women suffering from domestic abuse. The girl was transferred to the center so that she did not have to return to her house. A couple months later, she came back with her healthy baby, looking happy and safe.

Bringing this into the present, I think about my students and how they are completely transformed when I approach them with loving words and encouragement. One student in particular once told me that she was grateful for school because even when she saw her parents argue and have a hard time, she felt peace when she was online with us. I was thankful that despite all the suffering and hurt going on in her house, she still found comfort and happiness in that environment. For me, that’s what teaching is all about.

As a teacher, my goal is for my students to strive for good, form them to desire to reflect the love of Jesus that they learn about. 

Despite their circumstances, they’re able to understand that He works for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. Even though they are young and still learning many concepts of religion and who Jesus is, I try to speak the truth so that they know who they are in God’s kingdom. These two stories just fill my heart with gratitude for everything that I have and for being able to share some of this love that Jesus teaches me everyday.