Seven-year-old Joseph* awoke with a start. “Get up!” his boss’s voice roared. “There’s work to do!” Joseph jumped up from his thin sleeping mat. There was no time to wash his face or change his dirty clothes. He stumbled outside and picked up the large plastic water can and walked toward the well. He still had to build the cooking fire, scrub the floors, and water the garden. Joseph sighed as he thought of all he had to do that day.
Joseph missed his family and wished he could run away. But he had tried that once and had received a beating when he was found. As he thought about his mother, a tear trickled down his cheek. He quickly brushed it away.
Joseph’s uncle was waiting when the boy returned from the well. “Come with me,” he said. “I’ve found a better job for you.” Joseph put his clean shirt and shorts in a bag. They were getting small, but it was all he had. Then the two walked to the bus stop.
“Where are we going?” he asked his uncle as the two walked down the dusty road.
“You’ll see,” was all that his uncle said as they boarded the bus. They rode in silence until they entered a city. Then they got off the bus and walked down a street. Joseph followed his uncle into a tidy yard where the older man called out, “Namaste” [nah-MAHS-tay; greetings]. A young woman opened the door and invited Joseph and his uncle inside.
“Here’s the boy I promised to bring.” Joseph’s uncle nodded toward Joseph.
“He’s so young!” the woman exclaimed.
“But he’s strong,” Joseph’s uncle said. After several minutes Joseph’s uncle left, promising to return in a week to collect Joseph’s pay.
Mrs. Reena, Joseph’s new boss, smiled at him as she explained what she wanted him to do. Joseph liked her and worked hard to please her.
That evening Mrs. Reena invited Joseph to join her husband and her as they read from a book. He watched as they bowed their heads and talked to a god Joseph couldn’t see.
Joseph liked his new home. Mrs. Reena never yelled at him and never, ever beat him. Every evening Joseph sat with the couple as they read God’s Word to him and explained that God loved him. Joseph was amazed that anyone could love him, a poor boy servant who had nothing to offer. He loved to hear the Bible stories Mrs. Reena and her husband read to him. He felt his heart warm in the love this couple and their God offered him.
One day Mrs. Reena invited Joseph to sit down. “Tell me, Joseph,” she said. “You are 8 years old and a smart boy. Why are you not in school?” Joseph lowered his eyes and said quietly that his uncle didn’t let him go to school.
“Then we must fix that,” Mrs. Reena said. A few days later she enrolled Joseph in school. “You can help me in the house after classes,” she said gently.
Joseph loved school. He learned to read and write, and he learned more about God and Jesus. One day when his teacher asked who would like to give their hearts to Jesus, Joseph raised his hand. He wanted to be Jesus’ friend forever.
Joseph continued working for Mrs. Reena, and his uncle continued collecting his pay. Then one day Mrs. Reena told him, “I think you should study in a boarding school, one far from here where your uncle can’t find you and make you work,” she said. Joseph tried to understand her words. How could he, a poor boy, attend a boarding school?
Joseph couldn’t speak. Could he really get away from his uncle and study as other children did? He dared not hope too hard.
Next week we’ll hear what happened to Joseph. Let’s remember that our mission offerings help build schools such as the one Joseph attended. Let’s give so that other children in India and around the world can learn that God loves them.
*Not his real name