Naomi Duff and TEAM missionary Anne Hoyt are reaching out to women in Chad’s sex industry and helping them realize their true worth as daughters of God. Today, Naomi shares some insight into what they do and how the Vulnerable Women Initiative in Chad is helping these women find hope, healing and purpose through Christ.
It’s the third day that Rita is in labor. I rush her from the hospital to a specialized mother and child unit. N’Djamena traffic is at its worst at 7:30 a.m., so we crawl along, but every bump in the road produces a gasp of pain from the exhausted mother-to-be lying on the back seat.
At the next hospital we rush to get an ultrasound. In that tiny room Rita’s dark eyes lock with mine: they are heavy with panic as the technician says slowly, “I… can’t hear a heartbeat.” In that moment, it’s as if our own hearts have stopped. Rita has had an arduous pregnancy and has endured harsh medicines to treat HIV and other STDs in order to protect her child. I shoot up a silent, desperate prayer and then hear, “No, hold on…” The slow but rhythmic beating of the baby’s heart rings out and we all let out deep sighs of relief and thankfulness. The baby is alive; she is in distress and needs to be delivered by C-section immediately, but she is alive!
By God’s grace baby Nao is born, healthy and weighing around six pounds. However, Rita is distant, vacant and refuses to hold her daughter. This is no ‘normal’ postnatal depression. Long before the baby was born, Rita made it clear that she intended to give the baby to her estranged mother in the south of the country. The baby’s father has had no contact with Rita since discovering that the baby was a girl, and it is a mercy that the grandmother is willing to take her.
Many women we work with have complicated deliveries which relate to their own life traumas. Rita ran away from home at age 13, hopeful of marrying a man that seemed to love her. She became pregnant, lost the child and then lost one boyfriend after another. Many women here have told me, “Without a husband I have no value.” So, with each broken relationship, Rita’s hope of finding value and respect in this society melted coldly away. Shame, despair and disappointment were all part of the journey that lead her into prostitution and caused her to detach emotionally in order to ‘survive.’
Rita is despised by her society and many consider her to be unworthy of love, care and even the gospel. I look at Rita: her head is bowed as she risks a glance at her beautiful daughter and I can’t help but reflect… that could have been me. If I had experienced her heartache and endured ill treatment in this society, it is probable that I would have fallen into a similar trap in order to survive and gain independence from those who hurt me. I am reminded of Jesus’s grace in John 8 and the stark lesson that none of us have the right to condemn her!
When I visit Rita, her request is often the same: “Will you share a Bible story with me?” She is quick to tell me her favorites: an estranged child who is welcomed home (the prodigal son, and Jacob and Laban), a despised and bereft woman who has her dignity restored (Ruth) and a prostitute who is forgiven and honored (Rahab). Rita now knows these stories by heart. She once asked me, “Please pray that I have the courage to turn to God and do what I know I need to.” I ask you to pray the same prayer for her. Without God’s help, it is surely too hard for Rita to offer her shattered heart for healing or to dare to hope for a better future. Yet healing is possible and it is God’s desire to give her life, hope and a future.
In the Vulnerable Women’s ministry, our vision is to see broken and lost women find hope, healing and salvation through Jesus. We long to see women’s dignity restored and for them to find sustainable employment to support themselves and their children.
After six years of working closely with the women, we are finally at the point of being able to open a small Rehabilitation Center. The Center will invest in women who are ready and willing to change. The Bible-based syllabus will provide spiritual, emotional and practical support for the women. We will offer work placements and training in life skills to help them find new employment, and prayer and counseling to help them find healing.
We urgently need staff for the center! We need people with a heart for the lost and hurting who have experience in any of the following areas: creative arts, counseling, teaching, outreach, business and much more. If you think you could contribute in any way to this vital work on a short-term or long-term basis please contact us. Women like Rita long for your encouragement and help.
The Vulnerable Women ministry reaches Chadian women trapped in prostitution or living with domestic abuse, HIV/AIDS and more. They seek to help these women find hope, healing and purpose through Christ and to help them develop skills which will enable them to live independently and with dignity. Their vision is that these transformed women will reach out to the lost and hurting in their own communities and that the local church will increasingly engage with those who are vulnerable and marginalised. Click here to learn more about the Vulnerable Women Initiative in Chad.
Click here to read a recent Horizons article about the ministry and learn more about how God is using Naomi and Anne to help vulnerable women discover their worth in Christ.