A Widow’s Heart

Jo is a longtime Mission India supporter and volunteers her time at our Grand Rapids office. She sat down with me recently to talk about her own experience of losing a spouse, and to reflect on her compassionate concerns for the plight of India’s widows.

Q. Tell me a little about yourself, Jo.

A. My husband, Ray, and I had a son and a daughter. He owned a business in Grand Rapids for 16 years. We found out he had cancer in 1994, not long after he retired. The doctors gave him 12-18 months to live, and he passed away on April 23, 1995. It was three days before his 73rd birthday.

Q. What was that like for you in the early years?

A. It was a big adjustment at first. We were married for 34 years, and death doesn’t sink in right away – sometimes it seemed like Ray was just away for a while. It took a long time. I had to learn to do so many things that Ray had always taken care of – I had to make sure the car got an oil change, and I had to learn to do the finances. It was tough at first. After a while, those things got easier.

Q. What kind of support system did you have?

A. I had a lot of support from my church, and my family and friends. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have them coming alongside me.

Q. How did God show His faithfulness to you during that time?

A. Especially during Ray’s illness, I could feel God beside me. He was there with me every moment since. I have no idea how non-believers go through that kind of loss without God.

Q. Many widows in India don’t have that kind of family support. In fact, often widows are rejected by their late husband’s family – perhaps even labelled as “cursed” for angering the gods and causing their husband’s death. What do you think that would be like?

A. I just can’t imagine that feeling of rejection. I would have felt so alone, so helpless. I didn’t suffer anything like what these women experience. Your family means everything when there is a death. To have them turn their backs on you…

Q. You talked about how God walked through those difficult years with you — can you imagine believing that the gods had punished you by taking your husband?

A. I would have had so much emptiness without the Lord. If I could be there with those women, the first thing I would tell them is about God’s love —family support is so critical, but only God supplies for all your needs.

Q. What do you think about the ministry Mission India has for widows in India? This could be through a Church Planter knocking on the door and offering to pray, or a literacy class where a widow becomes educated for the first time, or even through their child attending a Children’s Bible Club and telling their mom about Jesus.

A. I think it is so wonderful. I am sure that being part of a community like that, and hearing about Jesus — it must make them feel so wanted, and give them a lot of help in their situation. Obviously they feel so empty and alone. This has to give them such strength and hope to get through their situation.

Q. How does it make you feel to know that your support of Mission India is helping reach widows like yourself in India with the Good News?

A. It gives me a wonderful feeling to know that in some small way I am helping them. God calls us to care for the widows and the orphans. I never thought about how fortunate I am to have been born in the United States, where women are valued. And I want to share this need with other people here, to make them aware of how these women in India are suffering.

June 23 is International Widow’s Day — an opportunity to raise awareness about the millions of widows in our world who are surviving in poverty and social ostracism. 40 million of these widows live in India.