By Joy S M
In 1993, my dream of getting married and having my own family came true. I was so happy to be married to a man who shared my spiritual beliefs, and in my mind I had no doubt that we would have a beautiful family strongly anchored in Christ. I was so happy; my joy was full.
However, this lasted only three years. Our son was about a year old and my husband started going to college. Besides his small, unsuccessful business, he didn’t have any other job and so I was the main provider. I always worked full time in order to meet all the family financial needs.
By 1999, things had deteriorated and my husband had become very abusive to me and our children (my daughter was two years old at that time). He spent most of his time out of the home, but when he came back he would demean me and find every reason to beat the children. He become verbally, emotionally, physically, and financially abusive. If I didn’t give him money whenever and however much he wanted, he would unleash his anger on the children.
During this time my church leaders invited my husband and me to meet with them. At each visit my husband would somewhat apologize and our church leaders would ask me to forgive him. Then after a while the cycle of abuse would start all over again. Always the same—nothing ever really changed.
My children started wetting their beds, my son become very withdrawn, and my daughter complained of constant abdominal pain. I admitted her to the hospital but the doctors could not establish what was wrong. At this point I realized my children were psychologically affected by the constant abuse, and I knew I had to do something about it. This was in 2005, and we were living in Tanzania. I decided to put my son (age 9) in a boarding school because his grades were bad. Also, he was very socially withdrawn and never said anything other than by the occasional tears silently running down his face.
In 2006 my husband tried to strangle me, laughing while he did it. The more I struggled, the more his squeeze tightened around my neck. Finally, when I was too weak to struggle anymore, he let me go. This and other incidents scared me so badly that I had to run for my life. When I did, my children and I found ourselves without any clothes and without a home. And then he went to the police to get me arrested and cause me to lose my job (I was working for the U.S. Peace Corps). My church leader took us in for two months, until I rented a small house in another part of the city.
A year later he started stalking me at work and making threats via the phone. Fearing for my children, I sent them out of the country to live with my sister. I remained in Tanzania because I had a good job, but three months later I was also forced to join my children for my own safety.
In December 2007 I came to the U.S. for studies. Since then I have graduated with various degrees, including a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree in 2014. After being separated from my children for five years, they finally joined me in the U.S. in 2012 and are both now doing really well. Currently I am working as a Human Resource Specialist intern on a one-year OPT work permit. After that I don’t know where I’ll go, but I am optimistic something will work out so I can continue to be with my children. One thing I know for sure, I don’t want to be separated from my children again.
Throughout the many challenges of my life, I have often turned to fasting and prayer for help and strength. In prayer I have told my Heavenly Father all my worries and that I was trying my best but needed His help. He is a faithful God and I knew he would always be there for me. Answers to my prayers came in different ways, through my children, through church leaders, and through other “earthly angels.” I never gave up because I knew my Heavenly Father loves me and he had a plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11).
I also immersed myself in serving others, and this helped me to forget my own pain and, at the same time, strengthened me spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Reading from the scriptures and singing songs with my children also really uplifted me—it was like God was speaking directly to me as we would read and sing.
In doing this, I have seen his hand working miracles in my life. The Lord’s word has been a light to my feet and to my path (Psalms 119:105). The Lord has always put me in places where I could progress. I still face challenges, but knowing I have a Heavenly Father who watches over me has given me strength.
When my family is in danger, the Lord warns me through dreams. I know He will never let me suffer beyond that which I can endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). I am so grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who suffered for all our sins so we can go back to our Heavenly Father. I know I am where I am now because of my Heavenly Father.