I’d already seen photos of Angel and knew she had a survivor’s story. When I finally met her in Goma of the Democratic Republic of Congo, I was deeply moved. She possessed an uncertain, almost apologetic demeanor, but she also exuded the sober determination of an overcomer—one that preserved her and her two young children through many harrowing years of conflict.
As we sat together, I was able to gently coax her life’s story to the surface. She slowly began to relax as she realized that I didn’t think the tragic events of her past were something she should be ashamed of, as does her culture, but that I admired her for her perseverance.
As our conversation grew deeper it also turned darker. Angel lost her father and mother as they were fleeing Hutu forces in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of ’94. Angel found herself parentless, homeless, and on the run. During the ensuing years she was repeatedly raped by marauding troops, and she became pregnant twice, giving birth to a daughter, Queen, and a son, Brian.
With three mouths to feed, life was a constant and desperate struggle for survival. Angel was always very resourceful at finding work, but each stint was short-lived and insufficient to sustain her family. If it were not for Queen and Brian, Angel admitted she would have opted to take her own life to escape it.
But then Angel heard about a training center in Goma where women could learn sewing skills to help them support themselves and their children—and even more importantly, they offered free counseling for troubled souls. Without hesitation she went to the center—the first, real glimmer of hope her weary eyes had ever seen.
Angel had found the Women of Wellness Center, a longtime partner with the Victims of Sexual Violence Ministry of Heaven’s Family, an oasis that shines forth the love of God in a very dark place.
Upon arrival, the staff noted that Angel manifested all the classic indications of trauma and abuse: severe headaches, weeping spells, stomach problems and high blood pressure. Surrounded, however, by women who shared her painful experiences, and strengthened by biblical counsel, encouragement and the love of staff members, Angel began to stand with her head held higher. And it was in that place of refuge that Angel gave her heart to Jesus.
As Angel grew stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually, leadership skills began to surface. She found a niche at the center and is now involved with acquiring business relationships with markets that will sell the purses, dresses, baskets, artwork and pastries that are produced by the women of the center. Angel has also opened her home to another single mother, showering her with the love of Jesus.
After suffering so many hardships, this lovely lady has become a shining example of a life wondrously restored to dignity, hope and purpose—our Creator’s desire for us all. And Angel’s transformation is just one of the many glorious fruits produced by those who’ve generously given to the Victims of Sexual Violence Ministry.
As I neared the end of my time with Angel I asked if I could meet her children—an obvious source of joy in her life. When Queen and Brian arrived, I could see that they were the epitome of every hope and dream this once weary woman could sustain—healthy (thanks to daily nutritional meals provided by the Food Ministry of Heaven’s Family), polite, and dedicated to their educational studies. It was obvious that Angel is a wonderful mother.
I reveled in that moment, feeling the Lord’s pleasure in that which I’ve been privileged to be a part. Angel is living proof that though our sorrow may last for the night, His joy will come in the morning.