God gives us courage in place of fear
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. – Isaiah 41:10 NLT
When Claire’s** husband passed away, she struggled to care for their four young children while dealing with serious chronic health issues. Claire was poor, but she built a life for her family outside of Uganda’s capital city.
Nearly five years after her husband’s death, a foreign investor purchased a nearby plot of land, and Claire’s modest house increased in value. When her late husband’s relatives learned of the development, they came to Claire’s home and announced they were kicking Claire and her children out of her home, selling it and keeping the profits.
Though a woman’s right to shared property in a marriage is guaranteed by Ugandan law, a widow is often at the mercy of her deceased spouse’s relatives, who use her vulnerability to lay claim to any property that belonged to the couple. Panicked, Claire reported her relatives’ threat to local authorities. The perpetrators distorted the truth and moved forward with their illegal plan and met with a potential buyer who readily agreed to the deal.
The day before the sale was to go through, Claire discovered what was about to happen. She learned about IJM from a counselor in her community and immediately called the Uganda office. An IJM attorney quickly called the interested buyer and warned him that the purchase was illegal and the buyer agreed to delay the sale. Though Claire was safe from immediate danger, she needed long-term legal protection. IJM’s staff arranged for legal mediation to establish Claire’s right to her property.
One morning, Claire, her relatives, the interested buyer, and IJM attorney Juliet Musoke, gathered for a legal meeting of life-and-death importance. While the proceedings took place Claire courageously stood up to the perpetrators. Juliet explained to them that their actions were illegal and indefensible–and that she was willing to take them to the highest court in the land to ensure Claire and her children were not left destitute and homeless.
When the perpetrators realized that Claire would not be bullied into homelessness, her relatives dropped their claim. Juliet drew up a legally binding document for all present to sign, stipulating Claire as the sole owner of the property. The message was clear: Claire was not alone; she was not disposable. The law–and strong advocates–were on her side. Her response was simple: “I am overjoyed,” she told IJM staff.
Today Claire is safe. She and her family live with hope for a secure future. IJM aftercare staff assist her in her pig-raising business, a sustainable income source for her and her children.
When IJM Uganda launched an intensive program in Claire’s community to protect widows’ property rights, they asked her to speak to the audience. Before a crowd of nearly one hundred people, including local government officials, press members and church leaders, Claire shared with grace and confidence the truth; she and her children can now live in peace.
Claire’s story is merely one of thousands that exist so prevalently in third world countries. God used her story to speak to so many others of His love. He used the IJM attorney to help fight her battle and show just how important even one of his children are to Him. Just like Claire, we all may experience some sort of injustice, bullying and betrayal in our lifetime. No situation is too great or too small for God. Ask him to intervene. Depend upon him to rescue you and when you are given the opportunity yourself to help others, do so. Give to the poor. Pray for the displaced. If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord and He will repay you! (Proverbs 19:17)
*Excerpts taken from Susie Larson’s book, “Embracing Your Freedom”
**Not her real name