NORTH AFRICA (BP) – “If you want me to go to Africa, I will go,” vowed the 10-year-old girl as she put down the Girls in Action study book. She was actively involved in the missions education program of Woman’s Missionary Union, and she paid close attention to what she was learning in her study material and through meetings.
Thirty-five years later, Vivian Carter* fulfilled her promise to God. For the last eight years, Vivian has worked with women in Northern Africa. She has helped them develop skills so that they can set up their own small businesses and market products. They have also learned about bettering their health.
“The idea was helping women to help other women,” Vivian said. “And to share our life stories.”
Volunteers from different countries as well as local women showed peace and love as they interacted with them.
“We embraced women from different cultures and religions while we shared the story of the Son,” she said. However, sometimes even good things must come to an end.
In the spring of 2020, she and her co-workers closed a project which had centered on small businesses. With little interest in the Good News among the women and the pandemic preventing them from selling their wares, Vivian and others decided to make some changes.
“With all these factors we felt sure that God was closing this season,” Vivian said. “Most importantly, we felt called to two new endeavors.”
Starting and waiting for changes is not new to Vivian. She understands that all things work together for those called to God’s purpose. Although she had made a commitment to Him at a young age, she, like many young adults, rebelled. She then married a non-believer.
“I was 32 when my husband left me for another woman,” she said. Shortly after that, God called her again while she was reading Isaiah 6:8.
“Yes, Lord, I will go but I don’t know how with three small children to raise on my own,” she said. Although she told no one about this re-commitment, her parents offered not only to pay for a volunteer trip to Hungary, but also to take care of her children. It would be the first short trip of many to confirm her determination to serve. When her children were through college and doing well on their own, she took early retirement from teaching school to become a full-time worker in northern Africa.
“My favorite memory during these years has been to see women grow to love each other despite our differences,” Vivian said.
She is preparing for two new ventures.
One is a program designed to start the process of healing from emotional and mental pain and trauma. Using Scripture stories of struggle, pain, betrayal and loss, participants share in a healing activity and pray for each other. They also learn to express their own personal hurt while relating to people from the Bible who experienced suffering.
She said that emotional, physical and sexual abuse is a big problem where she lives. Like in the U.S., the problem “crosses all faiths and socio-economic statuses” with one difference.
“In the states, I would help a woman move to a safe place, but here there are no shelters,” she said. “And the woman keeps silent because of the shame if anyone finds out.”
Vivian said she hopes that in addition to helping women deal with trauma, the program will also multiply the opportunities to share the Father’s love and reconciliation.
“Anyone who completes the course is encouraged to start a new small group,” she said. “And later there are follow-up programs about how to forgive and how to cope with COVID-19.”
She and her co-workers also hope to create an internet presence to answer people’s questions and lead them to the Gospel.
“The lostness is overwhelming, here,” she said. “And consequences of accepting a new faith is great – banishment from your family, or even worse, death threats.”
Vivian knows that even with COVID-19, changes in focus and lack of religious freedom, God has always been in control. She asks that believers pray the following:
That Vivian will become more fluent in the language of the people group she serves.
For the women with whom Vivian worked who still do not know Jesus
For the groups in the new program to help heal wounds and multiply into more groups that help others. Earnestly pray that the website will be a way for people who are seeking truth to find it.
A little girl’s big prayer is stirring in northern Africa.
Janice Backer is a contributing writer for the IMB.