It had been a long church service, in true South African style, and I'd struggled to stay awake in the hot tin-roofed building. But sitting in front of me was evidence of the brokenness faced by so many in the township of Overcome. I had heard how poverty, crime, and addiction were tearing families apart; now I listened to Jacob telling a story that was difficult to believe – that is, until I saw the deep sorrow in his wife Prisca's eyes.
Prisca was pregnant when Jacob had been arrested several months earlier. A friend of theirs had offered to take care of her and their toddler; instead, this man had locked the boy up and hired Prisca out as a prostitute. Jacob had just been released from prison to discover that everything he owned had been stolen, his son was malnourished, and his wife was being horribly abused. To make things worse, when their baby was born not long afterwards they found drugs in his system – the result of his mother's addiction and coping mechanism. Both Jacob and Prisca were full of grief that they hadn't been allowed to bring their new son home.
Without money, without work, and without hope, the family was on their way to end it all when they walked past our church and saw a foreigner standing outside – it was Rachel, one of the students on my team. They told her their story and she invited them in.
Jacob encountered Jesus that night. The next day they came back, and while one of the guys on the team spent time with Jacob, Rachel and I ministered to Prisca. As we talked, she wept with shame over her own sin and what had been done to her. "I'm ready to give it all to God," she told us. She surrendered her life to Jesus, and we prayed with her to forgive those who had abused her.
As we continued to share with Prisca what it means to be a new creation, she mentioned that she loves to sing, and began singing a song she remembered from her childhood in church: "My Jesus, my Savior, Lord, there is none like you!" Rachel and I joined in, "shouting to the Lord" in that stuffy tin building. Before we left for the day, Rachel gave Prisca her Bible. Later that evening the pastor went by to see them and found Prisca reading her Bible and singing.
Every day, Jacob, Prisca, and Tevyn came back. Every day we prayed together that God would provide for them and that Baby Jacob would be allowed to come home. Then one day they didn't come. Worried, we asked around, only to find out that it was good news: both Jacob and Prisca had found jobs. Not long after that, they were allowed to bring their baby son home.
Names are changed to respect the family's privacy.