Picking Up the Pieces of a Shattered Life
Some years ago a concern that most parents had about their daughters in North Africa was marrying them off, but 17-year-old Mariam’s parents were especially concerned.
Though beautiful, their daughter had mental abilities that doctors said were lower than those typical of her age, and they feared she would degrade the middle-class family’s honor by failing to have any children and living in poverty.
Mariam* was used to being alone; her siblings were much older than her, and they and her nominally Christian parents gave her little care or attention. That loneliness continued, sadly, after they married her off to a wealthy man who treated her more like a maid than a wife.
“He told me, ‘You are a child, you are stupid, and I don’t love you,’” the now 36-year-old Mariam said. “My husband used to beat me hard on my body, face and ears so that I lost hearing. I installed hearing aids, without which I can’t hear.”
“My husband used to beat me hard on my body, face and ears so that I lost hearing.”
His family also used Mariam as their maid and cook, and her husband spent more time with his mother than with her. It turned out that he was infertile, and they had no children. Her own family continued to ignore her and her problems, and when a neighbor man began to express strong feelings for her, she found her first-ever hope of love irresistible.
What appeared to be real love vanished when her husband found out.
“My husband discovered this relationship; he divorced me and kicked me out of the home,” she said. “Even my family rejected me and sent me to a shelter, where I suffered a lot because no one understood my problems, and they used to tell me: “You are divorced, you are an adulteress.’ I couldn’t defend myself because what they were saying was true.”
People at the shelter treated her as everyone else in her life had – badly. She begged her brother to take her out, and he managed to find another shelter run by a native Christian ministry. It was there that she experienced real love for the first time.
“I felt accepted, loved and secure, which I had been missing very much,” Mariam said.
Native missionaries taught her to read and write, and she began to read the Bible, attend church services and pray. She learned hairdressing at their vocational training center, and workers helped her become healthier through diet and exercise.
“I felt that God has compensated me for the many weary days I have spent,” she said. “The shelter became the place where I feel comfortable.”
Mariam is not where she expected to be at this point in her life, but she has hope of a better journey. Native missionaries throughout North Africa are caring for vulnerable and poor people like her through many such community engagement programs. Please consider a gift today to help them serve the multitudes of broken, hurting people.
*Name changed for security reasons