Back in the 1950s, appliance manufacturers promised that their machines would "Change Your Life!" We've since grown skeptical of advertisement hype, but in the remote village of Tongaren, Kenya, the promise is very real for a group of poor widows.
Below are just a few of the many testimonies we receive about lives being impacted and transformed by the Widows & Abandoned Women Ministry of Heaven’s Family.
No pensions, no government assistance, and in most cases, no family support. When a woman's husband dies in many parts of Africa, not only does she lose any income he previously earned, but her deceased husband's family confiscates most, or even all, of her property, leaving her and her children destitute. Grinding poverty becomes a daily reality.
Widows are made when husbands die prematurely. In their absence, women and children in poor nations are often left with nothing—no money for rent, medicine or even food. No government assistance ever comes. Other "widows," such as Miriam in the photo above, are made when husbands leave their families for other women, or to pursue lives of crime or drugs—or all of the above.
In 2014, I discovered a large group of women who were hidden all over the world. Traveling in poor nations as director of Heaven's Family's Christian Widows Fund, I found myself often meeting women who were not widows, but whose husbands had abandoned them. That usually meant that they, along with their children, were left with nothing. And I observed that such women shared the same sufferings as widows. They couldn't meet their family's most basic needs. Because they were not widows, however, Christian organizations were ignoring them. Heaven's Family was one of them.
A Blessed Buffalo: 70-year-old widow Ananda Suvarthamma, a prayer warrior who lives in Andhra Pradesh, India, wept tears of joy when she received this buffalo which she knew would provide milk for her to drink and sell.
"You come with a Bible in one hand, but what do you bring in the other?" That was a question posed long ago to the first missionaries to Kenya. "Our people need food for their souls—and for their empty stomachs!" At Heaven's Family we do our best to remember the Apostle James' words, "Faith without works is dead," and focus on the needs of the whole person. Meeting pressing needs is particularly relevant when you are serving, as we are, in some of the poorest places on earth, where so many struggle to survive from one day to the next. As one missionary succinctly summed up the importance of meeting both spiritual and physical needs: "Dead people can't hear the gospel."