What did Mary know that made her rise early that Sunday morning to be the first at the tomb to see the resurrected Christ? What made Hannah wait with such conviction for her miracle son, even after years of disappointments and anguish? What did the Shunnamite woman know that even in the face of the death of her only child she would twice say: all is well? (2 Kings 4:24-27)
There’s something about the persistence of a woman that’s able to break through overwhelming darkness. Because when a woman is filled with the love and spirit of God, she’s a gatekeeper for her home and an anchor for her family amid life’s storms. There’s no daughter of God who can’t stand as an intermediary bridge between heaven and earth for her loved ones. As women, we are always birthing something, always nurturing something. Whether it’s a child, a business, a ministry, a friendship; we are always in position. We are the gatekeepers, the intercessors, the prayer warriors, the fighters.
And we don’t relent.
We will fight for our turf. We will fight for the ones we hold dear. Like Mary of Nazareth in the Bible, we are a threat to the enemy of our soul. As the Scripture declares: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15). Because of this promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ through the virgin birth of Mary, we have the ultimate victory over Satan and the destruction he seeks to bring. Therefore, as women of faith we are called to the battlefront and equipped for the battles of life, knowing that our Saviour wars with and for us.
Content warning: This story contains mention of pregnancy and infant loss and suicidal thoughts. Please read with discretion.
Mary Wacuka knows this path of life’s battles all too well too. Nine years ago, she was an eighteen-year-old girl who’d just begun married life with her husband in a small village in Free Area, on the outskirts of Nakuru, Kenya. The couple immediately faced some financial hardships because they both worked low-paying casual and often temporary jobs. Nevertheless, this didn’t matter, they were prepared to withstand anything—together. So, in their first year of marriage, the couple was blessed with the exhilarating news of a pregnancy.
“When I learned that I was going to have a baby, I was hopeful. I started making plans. I wondered if it was a boy or a girl. What type of person would he or she become? These thoughts kept my mind occupied and excited,” recalls Mary.
However, Mary and her husband had only begun to share the good news with family and friends when tragedy struck. A routine visit to the clinic in the fifth month of her pregnancy delivered devastating news: she had lost the baby. The baby’s heartbeat had stopped.
In that moment, her world stopped. Darkness began to envelop her mind and her heart was heavy-laden by the grief. Because how do you carry a child within you for such a short time and just before you enjoy the news, the blessing is snatched right out of your hands? How does a gift you’d only just begun to rejoice over end so abruptly?
The loss marked the beginning of nine tumultuous years of six miscarriages, an emotional rollercoaster of immense joy that was soon followed by moments of heartbreak. It was the most devastating season of Mary’s life.
Whenever it seemed like the storm was over, another tragedy was around the corner.
“I carried my second pregnancy to term and gave birth to a healthy baby. The baby brought so much joy to our lives. He was doing great and developing well until the fifth month, when he started crying uncontrollably. I tried everything in my power, but by the time we got to the hospital, my baby lay motionless in my arms, still swaddled in his blanket.” Mary says amidst tears.
Nothing could ever prepare a mother to bury her own child. Mary was walking a road that seemed dark and unbearable.
Yet, something inside of her told her: it’s not over.
However, when the third, fourth, fifth and sixth miscarriages followed, Mary’s heart could hardly take any more.
“Every time it happened, I would wonder why. I wanted answers but there were none. The doctors told me that it was just bad luck. The miscarriages strained our marriage; I became withdrawn and would always tell him to find someone who could give him a baby. But he was very supportive and encouraged me to trust in God,” recalls Mary.
So, with her husband’s support, they kept trying.
Beauty for ashes
When Mary received news that she was pregnant once again, she was apprehensive.
“I asked my friends at church to stand in prayer with me. As much as I was worried, this time I was also confident that God was in control,” recounts Mary.
Even when Mary didn’t want to get her hopes up, she just couldn’t shake the assurance that this time would be different.
At the clinic, the doctors confirmed that everything looked fine, but Mary still needed to be watchful. With every subsequent visit to the clinic, came reports of positive results that the baby was fine and developing well. Gradually, weeks turned into months.
“I truly believe that God’s hand was at work and cleared the way for a miracle to occur,” says Mary.
The blessings kept coming. In the seventh month of her pregnancy, a neighbour directed Mary to the Compassion project at Kenya Assemblies of God, Free Area, where they were recruiting additional beneficiaries into their Survival program.
When Betty, the social worker at Kenya Assemblies of God, met Mary, she couldn’t believe all the hardship Mary had faced. In addition to that, she was also carrying a high-risk pregnancy.
“Hearing her experiences from previous pregnancies was so heart-rending. The Survival program staff at Kenya Assemblies of God decided to immediately recruit her. We knew that her situation would have to be monitored around the clock,” Betty said.
Mary’s recruitment into the Survival program couldn’t be timelier. Around that time, she started experiencing difficulties with the pregnancy.
On the doctor’s recommendation, Mary couldn’t engage in any vigorous activities, which left the burden of providing for the family solely on her husband and placed a strain on their finances.
Yet, Mary says, beaming with excitement, “The staff at the project were very supportive. They assured me that they would cater for all my needs. They cleared all my hospital bills and provided all the prescribed medicines/supplements, as well as food and household items.”
It’s because of mums and babies like Mary and Blessing that Compassion continues to support local church partners as they care for parents and caregivers through Survival, tailoring the program to meet specific needs. Had Mary not been recruited into the program, she may have had to bear the financial burden that the pregnancy accrued.
Mary’s delivery was also complicated and required surgery. The medical doctors took extra care to ensure a safe delivery of her baby. Mary gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Blessing Jesee, two months after she joined the Survival project.
“I wept with joy the first time I held my baby in my arms. I could not but think that she was a blessing. Had it not been for God and the care I received from the project, Blessing would not have survived,” says Mary.
All things work together for good
While Mary was still rejoicing over her new baby, she was discharged from the hospital to return home to a cold welcome. Mary’s marriage was on the rocks. Her husband’s demeanor had suddenly changed.
It turned out that a relative had convinced him that the child bore no resemblance to him.
Things became unbearable. Mary felt unsafe in their home and decided to move out.
She suffered severe depression that had her bedridden for about a month, leaving the care of her baby to friends and family.
“I reached such a low point that I contemplated taking my own life,” Mary recalls. “I took Blessing to a river not far from home. I sat on the bank with Blessing wrapped in her blanket and sobbed, when a drunk man accosted me and started rebuking me for what I was about to do!”
Mary had decided to end her life and her baby’s life that day.
She recounts, “The drunk man, whom I believe was used by God, reminded me that my baby was called Blessing for a reason. He encouraged me to take heart and persevere and that everything would be alright.”
Though her situation was hard, Mary decided then to look to God with the eyes of faith.
The Survival program ensured that Mary received the support and medical treatment she needed to overcome the depression. Through individual and group trainings and counseling sessions, the project staff helped her to see how she is loved of God and opened her eyes to her potential and ability. She also became a part of a community of other mums in the Survival program, who supported her and built lifelong friendships with her.
Mary fully immersed herself into the Survival program activities and learned how to make handwashing soap, which she sells at the local market. With this and the other skills she has acquired from the Survival program like business management and budgeting, she is now able to provide for her family.
Blessing has also thrived at the centre. Having received all her scheduled vaccinations, she is strong, healthy and beaming with confidence.
Today, Mary is filled with renewed hope and a determination that is fueled by the miracle that is Blessing. Her daughter is a constant reminder of how God makes beauty from ashes. How He gives us a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. (Isaiah 61:3)
“Before Blessing came along, it felt like there was no reason for living. But now, every time I look into her eyes and see her hope and the optimism, I am rejuvenated and reminded of what a blessing she is to my life. I want to give her the best life I can,” says Mary.
This is how a lineage of faith-filled women begins and carries on. Mary births Blessing and every day she tells her little girl all that the Lord has done for her. And Blessing bears within her heart this story which will one day be her compass whenever her path is unclear and she cannot find her way. So, God uses one mother’s story as a reminder to her daughter that He is love, He is good and His faithfulness endures from generation to generation (Psalm 119:90).
“Teach them to your children, speaking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19)
Mary and Blessing wouldn’t be where they are today if it wasn’t for the grace of God and the support of the Survival program. Would you consider giving today and being a hand of God’s love and mercy to mums and babies like Mary and Blessing?
Your generosity has the power to change lives forever.