My Dark Nights

I was at the edge of darkness. It’s not pleasant, your world slowly becomes wobbly, you constantly battle between sin and right living {righteousness}, call into question your faith beliefs and search for honest faith when your world is shaken.

But you hope to press through the valley of darkness believing that somewhere ahead there is light, holding on to the principles of your faith because light is a better option than darkness.  Sometimes a lightening bolt tears a dream apart leaving you with questions for your God, and these life experiences expose our mental and emotional fortitude.

A crisis of faith is often preceded by trials of seemingly unanswered prayers or unrelenting life circumstances, which shake us to the core. Yes it becomes so severe that you wonder if God is there.

A crisis of faith causes you to seriously question whether what you believe and live by is true.”

Crisis Point

I have struggled and faced my own crisis of faith when my wife and I lost our first child who was 4 weeks old {And I will tell the story of how our health care system needs urgent overhaul}. My fervent prayers for his life were unanswered, even though I was ready to give up mine for his. I was loved by many but a sense of abandonment settled over me and I didn’t know what to do. I felt those in the faith community did not know how to respond to my crisis or how to walk me back from the edge of darkness.

My life was at a crossroads. Do I walk away from my community of fellowship? Do I wrestle with and question the validity of my God or do I abandon my faith to explore life on my own terms? Responding to my crisis of faith became paramount if I was to survive as I was spiraling to depression {Yes, I will return to this silent epidemic in our society in a subsequent blog}.

I saw this crisis of faith in the lives of some of the great men of God in the Bible. Men who did some of the greatest exploits that have ever been done in the name of God. Men like King David, King Solomon and Joseph who we have read about, studied their lives and felt that we could never match up to their walk. Yet, these men reached such a great crisis point in their lives that some of them asked God to kill them and lamented their hatred for life (see Ecclesiastes 2:17).

I believe that Jesus of all men, suffered his own crisis of faith. Jesus is fully God, but He is also fully human. In the Garden of Gethsemane just before Jesus was arrested he prayed that if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me (Matthew 26:39-40). That “cup” to which Jesus refers is the suffering he was about to endure. It’s as if Jesus were being handed a cup full of bitterness and suffering with the expectation that He drink all of it. He struggled with the need to accept the torture and shame that awaited Him.

Walking Back from the Edge

All of these men ultimately chose not to abandon their faith. They were able to have a crisis and not lose their faith. How then do we overcome a crisis of faith? For me, it was important to be emphatic and patient with myself, and to examine my life to see if this was a gradual process. Our relationship with God is unique. Don’t compare your faith to others. Just because someone is praying more frequently than you or more active in fellowship doesn’t mean that God takes your concerns less seriously or that he loves you any less.

Like Jesus, my faith did not exempt me from life’s troubles. I experienced depression, and loss, and fear but nothing caused as deep a questioning of my faith as the loss of my son. I have come to realize that faith is not meant to be circumstantial. It means trusting in the midst of pleasant as well as painful situations. Acknowledging this did not silence the questions that arose, but I have embraced them as part of the process of growing as a person.

If you’re silently struggling with your faith, you are not alone. Many people are silently struggling with theirs. A crisis of faith could be a fundamental life trial. I am thankful for the few men and women in my life (both Christians and non Christians, Pastors, friends, colleagues and a professional therapist) who helped to walked me back from the edge of darkness. 

You can too. Talk to someone. Today I am more resilient.

In the meantime, keep your chin up and keep the Faith!

Making Cents for At-Risk Youths in Guyana by Derise Williams.

SiddiqaSiddiqa Shabazz, a 21-year-old school drop-out became a single mother at the age of seventeen and now has two children ages three and two years old. These days her main sources of income are braiding the hair of friends and neighbors and operating a trampoline on weekends.

After the loss of her mother in 2016 who was her main support, Siddiqa found herself depressed and struggling to provide for her two children.  It was at this point that a village leader told her about a business entrepreneurship program being launched to target at -risk youths in her community of Sophia. Sophia is a former squatting settlement which still is characterized with high levels of crime despite having been regularized over ten years ago. It was for this reason that Sophia was selected under the IDB-financed technical co-operation, Support for the Implementation of the Citizen Security Strategy as a community that can benefit from the intervention.

From Risk to Opportunity

The Youth Entrepreneurship Program, popularly called YouthBiz592 [1] because of its focus on youths in business was implemented through a collaboration among the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Business. The program provided entrepreneurship and life skills training to 87 young people considered to be at-risk from various communities in Guyana with an aim of providing support towards reducing negative behavior and to provide economic empowerment to this specific population group. Under this three-month program, participants received coaching on starting a business, and benefited from opportunities for work attachments with established firms. Networks were developed between students and with trainers and moral support and guidance were provided for persons who felt they did not have the skills and behavior to contribute meaningfully to society.

Birth of an Entrepreneur

In April 2017, Siddiqa’s journey started under the program. Although she facedFun Park 2 challenges such as being unable to work during the period of training and time away from her children, she was able to persevere thanks to the financial support and childcare provided under the program. Based on her business proposal, Siddiqa benefited from a US$1,500 grant which she used to expand her “Kids Fun Rental” business with the purchase of additional trampolines and a generator that allowed her to increase her working hours. In addition to the grant financing received, Siddiqa opined that the skills learnt on business strategies, socializing, empowerment and even parenting have been instrumental in expanding her business.  She now is not only able to comfortably afford her living expenses but also making a difference to someone else by hiring an employee who helps her with her business.

From being overwhelmed with the responsibilities of providing day to day for her family, under the program Siddiqa has transitioned to a life full of zest. Her self-confidence has dramatically improved. Currently she is in the process of applying for another grant to further expand her services to a full party service and rental. She has even decided to continue her schooling and will taking a few subjects inclusive of English and Mathematics at the next Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CSEC) exams. “I would recommend such a program to anyone, said Siddiqa, “since it changed my life.”

At its closing, the program was deemed successful with 85 out of 87 beneficiariesFun Park 2 completing with an attendance averaging over 83%. 84 business plans were submitted, out of which 72 were approved and 66 beneficiaries receiving grants of up to US$ 1,500 to start their business ventures. The program was able to institutionalize a business model on youth entrepreneurship within the Small Business Bureau since this was the first such program implemented in Guyana. The success of the program has led to its replication where at-risk youths in 20 communities across Guyana will benefit from entrepreneurship training under the Citizen Security Strengthening Program.

About our Blogger

Derise WilliamsDerise Williams is a Senior Operations Associate at the Inter-American Development Bank Country Office in Guyana.  Since joining the Bank in 2007, Derise has worked in the Operations Department with responsibility for supporting the supervision of the Bank’s portfolio of development projects in the areas of transport, institutional strengthening, public sector management and housing and urban development. She also worked in the Procurement Division at the Bank’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Derise has extensive experience in operations, project and procurement management which she readily applies and has helped to drive the successful completion of several Bank operations which continues to improve the lives of Guyanese. Working at the IDB provides her with the opportunity to be innovative and creative in delivering results especially in the areas that she is most passionate about, that is, justice, security, youths and the poor.

Previously, she was a Commerce Officer at the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce from 2004 to 2007 with responsibilities for domestic trade and creating a conducive environment for business. She also lectured at the University of Guyana in the Department of Economics. Derise holds a Bachelor Degree in Economics with Distinction, Post Graduate Diploma in Development Studies with Distinction and a Master’s Degree in Project Management from the University of the West Indies.

 

[1] 592 is in the international dialing code for Guyana

FOR THE CARIBBEAN, GOOD LIVING NAH LANG LIFE.

This is a re-posted blog of 2014 exploring the development challenges the Caribbean faces in diversifying its dependence away from the traditional development paradigms and re-constructing regional development to help it punch above it weight as small island states.

“Good living nah lang life” is an African Guyanese proverb that translates to mean that the good life won’t continue indefinitely without sustained contribution from the one giving or living it and that nothing free and easy lasts forever.  I could not help wonder if this proverb can very well reflect the state of Caribbean development ……..TO READ REST OF THIS BLOG CLICK ON THIS LINK THE CHALLENGES FACING THE CARIBBEAN BLOCK

 

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