Helen lugged a bucket of millet to the market. The hot sun beat down as she walked with the hunched back of a woman carrying a burden. At each stall she stopped, and at each each stall she was greeted with a frown and quick shake of the head.
She wanted only a few dollars. Enough to buy her 2-year-old baby some food. Maybe some clothes. But her bucket remained full. She felt invisible.
But Helen wasn’t invisible. Someone noticed her stooped back and the dry, brittle hair of a woman suffering from malnutrition. Most important, she noticed Helen’s gently swollen belly and knew that both Helen and her unborn child were in urgent need of intervention.
“More than six months pregnant and malnourished, Helen was visibly tired when I met her that day,” remembers Celine Ouedraogo, a Child Survival Program (CSP) staff member at the Apostolic Mission Church of Barkundba in Burkina Faso. Celine approached Helen and told her about the new program the church was preparing to launch in their village. When she told Helen about all she and her children would receive — medical care, nutritional support and education — Helen burst into tears and threw her arms around Celine.
“It is God who led your feet to me this day,” Helen said to Celine. “Forever I will bless the day we met.”
Celine didn’t know then, but Helen’s situation was far more desperate than she realized. Helen’s husband, Idrissa, was an alcoholic and regularly beat Helen. She did what she could to keep the peace in their 10- x 10-foot home. She farmed their small plot of land, sold millet at the market and cared for their son, Hubert. But even then, there were nights when Helen found herself banished from their home by her husband, forced to sleep on the hard-packed dirt, covered only by a woven doormat.
“While crying, I slept outside and kept in my heart a firm assurance that my husband would change one day,” says Helen. “My hope was that one day he would become a model to his children.”
Three months after joining the CSP, Helen gave birth to a daughter, Noellie. She enrolled in the center’s income-generating activities program, and soon learned how to more efficiently cultivate their land. In addition to millet and sorghum she planted watermelons, a highly marketable fruit in her village. In less than a year she hired plows and began reaping a generous harvest.
All while her husband, Idrissa, watched — at first with suspicion, and then with interest. He began to attend church with Helen, and soon began meeting with Timothé, their pastor. Today, Idrissa has stopped drinking and says he is working hard to regain his wife’s trust. He is studying as an apprentice with a welder, and hopes to one day start his own business.
Helen is relieved to finally have a husband whom her children can look up to. But her dreams for Idrissa do not end with him providing for their family — she has bigger dreams for her husband.
“I want my husband also to accept Christ, find a decent job and take care of our children,” she says. “It is already a great success that he has stopped drinking and is training for a job. Many thanks to CSP!”