Written by: Gicky Soriano (AKA: Dad)
In an article entitled, “World’s happiest countries,” it asks the question, “What does happiness mean to you?” If one were to gather a common consensus of answers, happiness would mean being healthy, having enough food to feed yourself and your family, and enough money to do what you want and buy what you want. For people in general, it also consists of a nice home, decent clothes, a car or two, cable TV, and good times to spend with family and friends. And furthermore, happiness means being able to speak freely without fear, to worship the god of your choosing, and to feel safe and secure in your own home.
With this in mind, a London-based nonpartisan think tank, set our to rank the happiest countries in the world that would meet this criteria. They came up with a top ten list from Ireland to Norway for happiness-seeking people to consider.
In a less fortunate corner of the globe there once existed a Jewish settlement in the heart of the Gaza Strip called Netzarim. It was reported that there was not much to Netzarim aside from a neat grid of white cottages and a few patches of grass struggling to grow against the native sand. Here and there were a cluster of trailer homes, some chicken yards, hothouses for lettuce, and a patch of mango trees. Although Netzarim existed as a tiny community of 32 families, it was the cause of great commotion in Israel.
At the time, Netzarim was the most vulnerable of the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. She was situated in a place where a dense Arab population lived. These neighboring enemies just down the road will never accept this Jewish settlement. This community and the Israel army contingent that guards it have become a favorite target among Palestinian militants. In spite of suffering the death of four soldiers and the intensified pressure for its removal, the settlement of Netzarim stood its ground and was the last to be evicted by order of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Inside Netzarim, the atmosphere was tense and the soldiers are on high alert. The military had fortified their position and strengthened the number of their troops. The settlers had been ferrying their children to school in a neighboring Jewish community in a bulletproof bus. An extra hour is added to the trip in an attempt to avoid the hostility of the Arab villages. Netzarim’s settlers do not complain much. In fact, a teacher named Shlomit Ziv replied, “I don’t live where it’s comfortable to live, I live where it is important to live.”
In truth, happiness does not depend upon the circumstances of a country, but upon the calling of God. By faith Abraham left the comfort of his home when God called him to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. What is more fulfilling than to be called by God to a place of His choosing. A place where He can plant you and grow your life, not only to blossom, but to become a blessing for others who will come after you?
I left my home in Manila some 22 years ago seeking first the kingdom of God and to live righteously in His sight. My quest has led me to pursue the study of God’s word and to shepherd a number of Filipino-American churches scattered along the California coast. I am called by God to live, not where it is comfortable to live, but where it is important to live. “Where,” might I ask, “is God calling you to live righteously for His kingdom?”
*Below are some images from a trip earlier this summer while visiting the grandparents. We were in a city called Burlingame. Went to one of those sushi restaurants with the floating boats that revolve and you pick out what you want to eat right then and there. It was pretty fantastic. <3 Happy Sunday, everyone!
Photography by: Jeff and Natalia Cruz