Ministry offers safe place for women suffering abuse
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — At the bottom of the hill that runs through the slum of Guarari stands a two-room building.
Despite its humble appearance, the building is a refuge for many of the women who live in Guarari. The Costa Rican missionaries who come here regularly seek to make it a place of unconditional love.
“Jesus never intimidates women, hurts them, or sexually threatens them,” Shelley Snitko says while teaching a Bible study to some women here.
For many of the 40 women sitting with her, trusting Jesus is difficult because of both his masculine character and the troubled circumstances they believe he allows them to live in. Snitko, a member of a short-term team from Huntsville, Ala., appeals to these spiritual obstacles by contrasting the character of Jesus with the oppressive men that control many of these women’s lives.
“Jesus is the light in the darkness, hope for the hopeless, peace for the restless,” Snitko says. “He is everything.”
Melanie Wilson, a missionary with ReachGlobal, initially became involved with ministry to the women of Guarari after going there in January 2012 with a short-term team.
“After getting to know the Costa Rican missionaries, I was really excited to join with them because they pretty much are the only people working in Gurari consistently,” Wilson says.
Serving with street-smarts
The ministry, which has been active in Guarari for six years, is led by Costa Rican missionary Hugo Salas. Salas grew up living on the streets and says that experience gave him a heart for others suffering from hardship.
“God gave me the vision to work in a community like this,” Hugo says. “And I began to get involved in this type of community work. I became dedicated to the ministry and the kids.”
The ministry leads Bible studies for the women and children, and also teaches women crafts like jewelry-making and painting to generate more income for their families. Salas says that in the six years the ministry has been working in Guarari, the spiritual state of the community has improved.
“We’ve been teaching the women how to love their children,” Salas says. “But apart from that, we are doing Bible studies and discipleship. Not just for the women, but also for the teens. All this is simply for the reason to tell them about the love of God.”
According to Wilson, one of the main goals of the ministry is to provide a physical place where the women can take refuge.
“It is one place where the women and children can come and it’s safe,” Wilson says. “Many homes have physical abuse, sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, drug abuse. Violence is everywhere in some form or fashion, sometimes just one of those things and sometimes all of those things. So it’s a safe place where there’s no violence.”
Redemption on display
Wilson says that one of the most powerful testimonies to the power of God’s word that she’s seen in this community happened this past June when a short-term team from Huntsville came to work with the Guarari ministry for a week. In October, Wilson had sent a prayer request asking the team to pray for a young girl who lived in Gurari and was the leader of a drug-trafficking gang.
“We sent them a prayer request to pray that God would work in the gang leader’s life and that the gospel would transform her life,” Wilson says. “We started praying in October, but then kind of forgot about it.”
To the amazement of the short-term team and the rest of the women in the community, the gang leader came with her mother, sister, and daughter every day to the June Bible studies that the short-term team held.
On the last day of that week, the women and the short-term team were trying to fill time while waiting for a pizza to be delivered. One of the ladies from Huntsville came to the front of the room and gave her testimony about her daughter who’s been heavily addicted to drugs. The woman talked about how she copes with that and how it affects her relationship with God.
As she spoke, the mother of the drug dealer cried uncontrollably. Afterward, the mother and daughter came forward.
“This is what I’ve done to my mom,” the daughter said.
“They really were touched by God’s word so we’re praying that the seed was planted and it will grow,” Wilson says.
Despite these small victories, Wilson says spiritual opposition is strong.
“Spiritually, it’s just hard to break through the hold that Satan has,” Wilson says.
As the ministry establishes itself as a place of refuge for the women and continues trying to drown out the darkness of sin with the light of Jesus, the missionaries say their greatest need is prayer.
“I would say to anybody who reads this, pray for the protection of the missionaries there and that the spiritual light that is there will shine brightly and Satan will be thwarted in all of his efforts,” Wilson says.
© 2013 EFCA. All rights reserved. ReachGlobal News is a division of EFCA-ReachGlobal.