Dias de gozo / Days of joy


Here we go! My 8th month as a Fellow with IJM is starting and I can still say that God is great!

As promised, today I will write all about the Dia de Gozo/ Day of Joy. But first, let’s get a little nerdy and read some definitions about joy:

The word “joy” comes from Old French joie, from Latin gaudium joy, from gaudēre to be glad. In Spanish, the word “joy” translates to “gozo”.  And it’s defined as:

  • A deep feeling or condition of happiness or contentment.
  • Something causing such a feeling; a source of happiness.
  • An outward show of pleasure or delight; rejoicing.

A Christian definition of joy defines it as an important fruit of the spirit, as it is listed right behind  “love”.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

So, a day of joy would be a day where you have a deep feeling of happiness or contentment, an outward show of delight, a day full of love and the fruit of the spirit!  It would be a day full of laughter and thanksgiving, right? We cling to the idea that every day should be a day of joy but if we are honest, not all of them are. Let me tell you about two days full of joy that I have experienced recently  (well, three if you count my birthday last month!). I hope that you find encouragement in them.

As you can see in the picture from my last blog post, Chelsea (my roommate) and I had fun working on a celebration that the office organized called “Dia de Gozo”. It was one of the best days I have experienced thus far. What was it all about? Well, basically, it was a day for all of our clients (children and adolescents that have been victims of sexual assault) and their families to come and enjoy a normal, fun day with us.  I was in charge of organizing the 23 fun activities for the kids and the parents, and thank God, the team helped me with this! We had a cool mix of everything: jump rope, basketball, soccer, memory games, volleyball with balloons, three legged race, chubby bunny, a photo booth and many other cool things designed to give the families a fun day to forget about all of the trauma that they have been through. Between church volunteers, IJM staff, our beneficiaries and their families, we had around 300 people there. This day was full of moments where the kids could act like children and simply enjoy their childhood. It was impossible to tell which kids were victims of sexual assault and which ones weren’t because each child was smiling, happy and playing. For these few hours, there was even JOY in the eyes of the parents of the victims, because they knew that they were not alone in their fight; there were also other parents there fighting for justice for their kids by partnering with us. It was, to me, a little piece of heaven.

voluntarios Collage

Here are pictures of some of the volunteers:

 

actividades Collage

some pictures of the activities

The day that you are able to prove that justice is possible for the poor is also a Day of Joy. Let me tell you a little bit about one of the cases we have been working on. Since she was six years old Micaela* was victim of sexual violence. Let me share with you the praise we wrote about her case on our bi-weekly prayer bulletin:

  • For years her neighbor abused her and as a result of these rapes, Micaela* had several pregnancies. Her aggressor forced her to have two abortions but a baby was born of her third pregnancy. Sadly, the baby died months after he was born. In 2010, when Micaela was 15 years old, she and her family came to IJM in search of help and in search of justice. After a three-year trial, on August 21st the sentence was finally given to Micaela’s aggressor. He was found guilty and he has been convicted to serve 23 years in prison! We give thanks to God for showing us favor in the final hearing, and we thank Him because Micaela and her family can now rest knowing that securing justice is possible.

* Pseudonyms have been used for the protection of these IJM clients.

Why is this important to me? I have seen Micaela at the office before. Most of the time she was super shy and would avoid eye contact. I also saw her at the “Día de Gozo”, and she was one of the happiest teenagers there! We even got the chance to play basketball for a while –she won. But this day, this was a Day of Joy indeed! (Read Micaela’s full story here)

The day after the sentence was given to her aggressor, the IJM team decided to celebrate with Micaela and her mom. We invited them for lunch at our office. I was sitting across from Micaela at the table. She had come straight from school. She had her black backpack and was wearing her uniform, something like a white lab coat and a blue sweater.  We were all having fun and enjoying the food. But then, Vanessa, the IJM lawyer assigned to her case, started talking to Micaela about the reason why almost 20 people were sitting down to have lunch with them. I could clearly see Micaela’s reaction to the news that the man who had so severely traumatized her would be in prison for the next 23 years. Her head went down, her eyes started to stare at the floor, and a deep silence took over the room for a few seconds as Vanessa told her what had happened at the hearing. Micaela knew the last hearing of her trial was held the day before, but she did not know about the sentence. When Vanessa finished telling her that this man was going to finally pay for what he did to her, Michaela’s eyes went watery and she looked up again. The fear was gone and JOY was the only thing I could see in her eyes. At this point, Micaela´s mom was crying and what she said next is something I will never forget: “Thank you. Thank you because I have no family and you {referring to the IJM staff} are my family. You have been my family in this long process. We were not alone. Thank You”.

As you can imagine, some of the people from the team were trying hard not to cry, but I am not that strong, so I did cry. Tears of joy! They were tears of joy because I know that one life has been changed forever. I had a feeling of happiness that comes only when restoration is not just a dream, but a possibility. I would say that the team felt an outward show of delight that comes from knowing and understanding that harm from this man is no longer a possibility for Micaela now that her perpetrator is been held accountable for what he did.

While Micaela’s mom was expressing her gratitude for the patience and perseverance that her lawyer and social worker had shown for the past three years, and while Micaela was surveying the table full of people who had been there for her through one of the hardest chapters of her life, just one thing came to my mind: This is a glimpse of what heaven will be like. This is a glimpse of heaven on earth.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will exist no longer; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away” Revelations 21:14

Love to you all and talk to you in my next post!

 

* Don’t forget: If you are able to support me financially, you can donate online using the link below. I am really thankful for any amount you could contribute; it may make a difference for me to keep serving on this project.

http://www.ijm.org/get-involved/internships-fellowships/support-internship-or-fellowship

Please make sure you select my name ANDREA RODRIGUEZ on the Intern/Fellow section or the donation won’t go toward my fundraising goal. If you are in the USA all donations are tax deductible, and please let me know if you are able to donate, so I can keep track of all donations. 

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