Robert was an alcoholic. He didn’t want the life, or the family, that he had. His wife Elizabeth and their four children lived in poverty. Elizabeth did what she could to keep the home their family fed and clothed, but Robert spent the little money they did have on drink, risking his health and the future of his children.
The family felt humiliated; what was happening was clearly seen by the rest of their village in northern Uganda. Elizabeth says that when Robert was drunk, he would beat her. If she heard him coming home, she would escape and climb up a tree to hide from him. She frequently ended up spending the night in the tree, too afraid to climb down.
Faith, hope and love
When Tearfund’s partner, the Diocese of Kitgum (DoK), came to the couple's village, Robert and Elizabeth became one of more than 700 married couples who took part in a training course called Faithful House. The course is designed to improve relationships between husbands and wives for the good of their family and wider community.
The idea of Faithful House isn’t just to save marriages, though. The rate of prevalence for HIV is still worryingly high in the region, despite years of intervention. The Diocese realised that, to make a real difference, they needed to tackle some of the dangerous cultural norms in the area. These included polygamy, early or forced marriage and high-risk behaviours such as drug and alcohol abuse and promiscuity. In short, if you nurture faithfulness and respect, then, to an extent, sexual health issues begin to look after themselves.
A fresh start
The training and counselling Robert and Elizabeth received has completely transformed their marriage. Robert feels relieved and free.
‘This training was God’s plan for my family,’ says Robert. ‘It was an eye-opener for us, and totally transformed our marriage. I have seen the Lord delivering me from being a slave to drinking. We are happy and are planning and working together to transform our situation.
There are plenty of ways they will be able to do this. Vulnerable couples like Robert and Elizabeth are receiving special training and support, to help them generate a proper income. They’ll learn about how to join a local savings scheme and receive training in business skills, agriculture and financial management.
The couple went on to have a church wedding at the end of the course – something they didn’t originally have. It was an important statement for the couple; God was now at the heart of their marriage.
Although his friends hated him for deserting their drinking group, his family is peaceful and Elizabeth no longer has to sleep up a tree.
Pray for this work:
- Lift up all the families like Robert and Elizabeth’s attending the Faithful House training. Pray that they will grow in their understanding, and their marriages and families will be transformed.
- Pray that, through this and other initiatives, people in this region of Uganda will be able to talk openly about HIV and how it is contracted.
- Pray for all the vulnerable individuals and couples who are learning ways they can save money and make a living, to escape their extreme poverty.
The couple’s names have been changed for this article.