I am Rebecca, originally from New Life Church Biggin Hill in the UK. My husband and I are currently living in Clarens, South Africa, to serve Dihlabeng Church. I am a registered midwife and before moving to Africa in September 2021 I had spent the past 3 years specialising in caring for vulnerable women which included women who were victims of domestic abuse. This provided me with the opportunity to learn more about domestic abuse and the challenges that women face. When I joined Dihlabeng Church a Basotho lady named Mme Topsy approached me with her heart to start a ministry for the vulnerable women in the community. As a result, together with another Basotho lady: Mme Mathapelo, we have begun a ministry into this called Hope Restored.
What’s the problem?
Globally, 1 in 3 women have been a victim of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is a prevalent issue that the Church needs to respond to. South Africa has the highest rate of domestic abuse in the world and rates are higher for women who are of a black ethnicity or from a poor demographic background. This demonstrates the level of domestic abuse in Clarens’ township area of Kgubetswana. There are very few services in South Africa for these women. Our aim for this ministry is to educate women on what domestic abuse is and to share the hope of Jesus with otherwise hopeless women.
Through spending time with Mme Topsy and Mme Mathapelo I hear regular reports of yet another woman they know in the community who is being abused or has been raped. Many of these women have suffered abuse, often at the hands of their husband, for years and years but cannot comprehend how they would live and provide for their children without their husband’s income. Some of these women work but would still not be able to afford for their children to go to school on a single income, and other ladies are unable to find work and even with government grants struggle to provide for their own and their children’s needs. It breaks our hearts that so many of these women have nowhere to turn. This is why we felt called to set up Hope Restored.
How are we responding?
We launched in November 2021 with a Saturday afternoon gathering at our church building. 18 women attended this first session and we taught about what domestic abuse is and its impacts, as well as the identity we have in Jesus and the hope that can be found in him.
9 women responded for prayer: there were many tears, hugs and I believe many chinks in the chains began to break that day.
We have continued to meet monthly and open the invitation to all women. We have desired to create a safe and supportive place, where women can come to learn and can ask questions, as well as to raise a community of women who can not only stand up against the norm of domestic abuse in their culture but also share the eternal hope that can be found in knowing Jesus Christ.
We gather around 20 or so women each month, educate them on the signs of abuse, the impacts on the emotional well-being of women and their children, and present what the Bible has to say about this.
Alongside this, we are starting to meet one-to-one with women who need additional support emotionally, spiritually and/or practically.
Although we are not trained counsellors; there is very little on offer to women living in townships by way of counselling, especially free services. It has been challenging at times, but we are seeking to be a listening ear, a comforter, a friend and to point them to Jesus. This one-to-one support also enables us to identify women that need practical support, especially if the abuse is such that it is not safe for them to remain to share a home with the abuser. For these women, we look to be able to help them obtain clothing, food and other items that they may need. We do not gift cash, however, if a woman might require electricity, for example, we could support her by topping up her electricity card. We rely on donations from Dihlabeng Church for this.
We realise though, that to have more of an effective impact on this crisis of abuse against women, we also need to educate and support the men who are abusing. As a church, we are looking to establish a men’s ministry to target the issue of abusive men and fatherlessness in this community. We know that domestic abuse is not just a crime that women are a victim of, we have also been supporting women who are the abusers.
What impact have we seen so far?
We have seen the grace of God as He has worked through this programme. The local police have become aware of the work that we are doing in this community. We recently met with the police commander to discuss the work that we are doing and to look into partnering with them. They are keen to be involved where they can, whether that be accompanying us into a home which could potentially be dangerous or sharing at our group sessions about how the police can support with prosecutions and keeping the family safe. The more we step out into this ministry, the more we realise that what we are embarking upon is a big task. We need the Holy Spirit’s leading in this!
I was deeply moved at our most recent gathering to hear the impact these women are having in their community. One lady – we’ll call her A – shared that she was at home in bed one evening at around 9pm, when she heard a knocking at the door. She went to the door to ask who it was but was too scared to open it due to it being unsafe to open the door at night. The voice gave her name – we’ll call her M – and said that she would tell A why she was there if she opened the door. A said that usually she would not have opened the door, but she remembered what we talked about at Hope Restored: that we need to be here for one another. So, she opened the door and let M in. M was crying and shared that her husband had been beating her, but she managed to get away. A said that because of what she had learnt from Hope Restored, that she had the boldness to talk with this woman. A not only acknowledged with M that the way her husband is treating her is wrong, but also had the opportunity to share the gospel and the love of God with M.
I don’t know what M went away thinking that night, but I am trusting God that there was a seed planted in that woman’s life. I am so humbled to hear stories of these women acting on this new knowledge they have through this ministry: these women are going home into their communities and getting alongside one another, sharing with them what they have learnt and the gospel. I can see the ripples as we empower these women and see them spread as they empower others that we would not otherwise reach. I continue to be in awe of how God uses us for His gospel advance. It is truly humbling.
How you can pray:
Team – Please pray for our team that God would grant us strength, wisdom and confidence as we support these vulnerable women.
Community – Please pray that the community would be transformed by this ministry as ladies are empowered to impact the lives of those around them.
Women – Please pray that as Hope Restored continues this year, that we would see many women come to know Jesus, coming to understand their identity in Him, and finding hope in Him. Please pray that this would give them a boldness to speak out against what they have suffered and that they would find complete freedom from abuse.
Article written by Rebecca Brown
You and your Team are doing amazing work, lead by the Holy Spirit.
My Husband and I soon are moving to Clarens. I would really want to help where I can and to be part of this inisiative as my calling is also to assist women.
We will be based in Clarens from early Sept.
Herewith my contact number:
Tel: 060 741 9597