Some readers may find this story upsetting.
‘I will never forget how happily I used to live,’ says Fernanda* from Colombia. ‘My family and I had our own land... and that was everything we needed to live and to be happy: our land and our family.’
One moment changed everything...
It was a rainy, May day.
Laughter. Perhaps a cup of coffee. Two women sat sharing their day-to-day – just as friends do all over the world. Perhaps they discussed their children – Fernanda is a mother of two – or their grandchildren. A moment of blissful ordinary... before it all went wrong.
Fernanda and her friend found themselves suddenly surrounded by a group of armed men. They had come seeking revenge against her friend’s son for his involvement with a rival group.
Before her eyes, her friend was murdered.
One of the children, defiled.
And Fernanda’s own body violated against her will.
Happiness turned to horror in the space between one sunrise and sunset.
‘The consequences of what I lived through didn’t allow me to go on with my life being happy or at peace’, says Fernanda. ‘My life became full of worries, restlessness and instability. I thought I would never smile again’.
So devastating were the emotional effects of her trauma, and so profound the changes in her, that Fernanda’s relationship with her husband fell apart. She lost everything.
At the age of 49, Fernanda ended up struggling to provide for her youngest son in a noisy and insecure area in an urban sprawl in a different part of the country. Often, she said, they endured hunger and racial abuse.
As with many other trauma survivors, the surviving did not necessarily feel like living.
And then it changed again...
Then, one day, Fernanda met a leader in the area who told her about Tearfund’s partners, who were running a programme through the local church to help people like her. A place to receive practical, emotional and spiritual support.
‘God sent angels to my life to support me, they are the pillars of my life. The church became our home, our refuge,’ she says.
Through this project, Fernanda was also given some money with which to start her own business – a small independent shop selling shoes, clothes and accessories.
This allowed her to move forward, benefitting Fernanda, her family and the wider community. Now, she says, she lives a thankful life, full of hope and with a deep desire to accomplish what the Bible says, ‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15b).
We are so grateful that Fernanda’s story is one with a brightening future, but what happened to her, unfortunately, is not unique.
Global estimates published by WHO indicate that about one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence. This number is significantly higher in areas of armed conflict, where gender based violence is used as a weapon of war.
Please continue to pray with us as we stand together with women like Fernanda all over the world.
We know that Jesus came that we might have life in all its fullness. We thank you for Fernanda’s hope. Please bring healing and restoration where the joy of living has been stolen by traumatic experiences, particularly for those women who have experienced sexual violence. May we, as your body, share your compassion for them, and have the wisdom to know how to serve them effectively.
*Name changed to protect identity