Meet Joyce, a fourteen-year-old teenage girl who suffers from depression. Joyce was barely two years old when she lost her father. After her father’s death, her relationship with her mother grew distant. A few years later, her mom began a relationship with another man, and together they moved into his home. Joyce was hopeful for a happier childhood. Instead, this new home became the worst place she had ever been.
Joyce’s stepfather had children of his own. All his attention went to them. Joyce’s mom was unable to keep up with expenses for Joyce’s day-to-day life or her education. Instead of a fresh start with a new family, Joyce was forced to take on manual labor jobs like cleaning dishes at a restaurant and crushing quarry rocks, which are used mixed in cement for building, to sell. She was only eight years old.
Frustrated at the situation, Joyce’s mother began abusing her for even the smallest mistakes. Joyce eventually left her mother to live with other relatives, thinking it would be better, but all she felt was abandoned and hopeless.
Evangeline John, a Young Life leader in Lagos, Nigeria, met Joyce while Evangeline was doing contact work. Out of that relationship, Joyce experienced love in a different way, a way that felt refreshing and new. Evangeline shared not only the word of God with Joyce, but she also invited Joyce into her personal life. This act of generosity, paired with the unconditional love from Evangeline, demonstrated the love that Jesus has for Joyce. She began a relationship with Jesus after hearing about that love at a Young Life club that month. It was an easy decision because she had already seen Jesus’ love in action from Evangeline.
Joyce has never seen a person as kind as Aunty Evangeline, and within just a few months, she no longer dwells on the days of suffering. She has moved back in with her parents but doesn’t feel depressed and trapped as she did before. This kind of renewing, hopeful love is life-giving, and she plans to keep running after it.
Did you know? Young Life in Nigeria started in 2015 when the late Joseph Madu moved to Lagos to start contact work and developing leaders. In 2016, Young Life Nigeria had its first club. They currently have 220 volunteers in 28 ministries.