“When a mother is hungry, she prepares a meal for her children.” – A Ghanaian Proverb
The morning after we checked into the shelter, I found mom in the kitchen making breakfast for me. Her face was still bruised, and I imagine that her heart was too. But mom didn’t show it. Her bruised face radiated with a warm smile. At the shelter, mom made home-cooked meals for her children.
When mom was hungry, she prepared meals for her children. When mom was hurt, she comforted her children.
I was twelve at the time, and my little siblings were two and four years old. They were too young. They didn’t know what mom had been through. They didn’t know why we rushed into a police car. They didn’t understand why we moved from our home in Montreal into a shelter in Toronto. They didn’t stare at the faces of other hurt women at the shelter. At the shelter, our fierce mom became frail. They can’t remember. I can’t forget.
When mom moved from Ghana to prepare a better home for me in Canada, she didn’t think we would make a women’s shelter our home. We shared a home with strangers for four months. Mom didn’t eat much at the shelter. She didn’t talk much either. Mom spent most of her time at the shelter cooking, cleaning and reading her favourite words in the Bible:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6).”
Mom believed that her present sufferings were not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in her. The shelter wasn’t her home. Her home is the house of the Lord. Her stay at the shelter was temporary. Her stay in the house of the Lord will be forever.
Mom was born and raised in a mud house in Anomabo, Ghana. Most of mom’s ancestors lived inside mud houses. Her other ancestors lived—or died—inside a slave castle named Fort William. Mom’s father died when she was a little girl. Mom and her five siblings were raised by her mom. But she had a breakdown, and mom was sent to live with her oldest brother and his wife.
When she moved into their house, they pressured her to quit school so she would get married to a wealthy man. Mom refused. They tried to force mom into marriage by punishing her with violence and impossible chores. Still, mom refused. Mom read a Bible given to her by her mom for strength. Mom’s brother stopped paying for her education when she was fifteen and forced her into full-time work. Mom was in grade nine at the time.
Mom was introduced to my father a few years afterward, and they married when she was nineteen. My father bruised mom’s heart with other women. And he bruised her face with his hands.
They had two children: my older brother, David, and me. But my father abandoned mom in Ghana when she was pregnant with me. He moved to Nigeria to start a new family. When I was a baby, mom traveled alone with me through dangerous roads and forests in Nigeria to beg him to come home. He refused. And that was the last time mom saw him.
Mom returned to Ghana and hungered to feed her children. She worked as a seamstress for the remainder of her time in Ghana. She was my breadmaker and breadwinner. She was mom and dad.
Mom organized a Bible study in our home. The Bible study attracted many of our neighbours. It also attracted scorn and slander. Some accused mom of using the Bible study as a cover for prostitution. They shamed mom. But mom is unashamed of the gospel. They pressured her to give up the Bible study. She refused. The Bible study developed into a church plant. Some of the members of the Bible study still go to that church today.
Mom applied for immigration to Canada and she received her permanent residency to Canada when I was six or seven years old. I received mine three years later. Mom remarried shortly after she moved to Canada. They had two children: my half-siblings, Ronny and Nadia.
But my step-father bruised mom’s face too and he threatened to do worse to her. So we moved from our home in Montreal into a shelter in Toronto.
When we moved out of the shelter, mom returned to school to become a personal support worker. We lived on welfare and government housing for years. Mom hated welfare. She tried several times to reject welfare. But the government insisted that we needed the money. She didn’t want to depend on the government. She wanted to depend on God.
Mom worked two full-time jobs. She forced herself out of the welfare system and government housing, and she purchased her own home.
The night we checked into the shelter all those years ago, mom told me to remember her bruised face. She told me to remember all the scars she’s suffered for me. She told me to remember her sacrificial love for me. So I wouldn’t forget that God loved me even more than she did.
Before I knew God through Jesus Christ, I knew about him through mom. I knew God loved sinners, because mom loved me. I knew God was long-suffering, because mom suffered long for me. I know that Jesus hungered to satisfy me with his righteousness, because mom hungered to feed me.
This is the perseverance of mom. This is the power of God.