What the pastor had to say about my abusive relationship.

It is very common for Afrikan women to be heavily involved in the church and for the social ideologies and expectations to be influenced [or sometimes created] by the church. This is a story of two Afrikan couples; Karabo [translates: flower] and Langa [translates: sun] and Kamikazi [translates: queen] and Nii [translates: King]. It is a story about the lives of each prior to, during and after their relationships with each other. The women are victims of domestic violence and both seek help from the church. This story reflects some of the many stories of various Afrikan women’s experiences and aims to reflect one of the common responses of the church to domestic violence.

Before you start to read, this is a TRIGGER WARNING that the story is of domestic violence.

2 Samuel 13, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” [The rape of Tamar]

Karabo and Langa had met 4 years ago when she was 23 years old and he was 25 years and boy, were they in love. When they met, Karabo was a vibrant woman, who enjoyed going to church. She went for Tuesday prayers, Thursday fasts and Sunday. She was in the choir and also helped in the children’s ministry. Langa was a fantastic man, so caring, hard working, and adventurous. When they started getting to know each other, it was beautiful. They learned so much from each other and they fell more in love with each other as days went by.

One of the things Karabo liked about Langa was that he was interested in knowing who she was, what she liked and believed in and why. However after a year, Langa’s interests in Karabo changed to where she went, whom she was with and what they were doing [kind of like how Amnon became obssessive with his brother’s sister Tamar; 2 samuel 13]. He got angry regularly when she got home but “it was not a big dealKarabo assumed he was just worried. Langa then started to tell her not to go to church so often because he said he felt like she no longer made time for him. Karabo thought this made sense so she decreased her days of church to just Sunday. She also found herself not hanging around her friends so often. Three years down the road, then four, and they are now tying the knot in front of the congregation.

Just a few months into the marriage, Langa came home and Karabo was not there. When she got back he was furious and hit her, pushed her on the wall- smashing her head across the hard cement. She started bleeding and crying but he said nothing. This happened not once but many times before Karabo decided to visit her pastor one Sunday after church so she could get some advice on what to do during what she considered trials and sufferings. When she got there, she poured her heart out to the pastor. She expressed that she loved her husband but she was hurting.

The pastor said, “There is nothing the Lord will put you through that you cannot handle. These hard times are preparing you for a bigger and better harvest. They will make you stronger. Just pray about it. Pray more and be patient.

The pastor reminded Karabo what the Lord said in Luke 17; 3, “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” So he told her, since Langa had apologized, she should forgive him and keep praying.

Karabo started a fast for 30 days. She also started going to a women’s prayer group. She believed this would help her in giving her strength. After prayer group, the women talked about how glorious it was to be a wife, the responsibilities they had and the shame that was in divorced women. Karabo always refrained from participating in these conversations. One night, she talked to the leader, who was her elder about her situation hoping to get some advice. The leader said the same thing the pastor had said to her. When Karabo suggested that she was going to leave her husband,

the leader of the women’s group said, “No, you must not. It will bring you so much shame. Can you imagine the pain you will bring to your children? Bring all your troubles to the Lord. He is listening to you. Do not give up. Just pray about it. Pray more. Be patient with your husband.

The woman’s leader went on to remind Karabo what the bible said in Judges 19; 2-3, “ But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, her husband went to her to persuade her to return.”

Karabo had a longtime best friend called Kamikazi. When Kamikazi got married, it was the most unfortunate thing that she endured the same behavior from her husband, Nii. Kamikazi and Nii were madly in love when they met. They took trips together and went to museums and did different activities. But things quickly changed for Kamikazi even before she had married Nii. This one time, Kamikazi got beat by her husband and he almost choked her to death. Another time, he locked her out the house the entire night. This one time, he threw a bottle of Heineken at her and it knocked her out unconscious.

Kamikazi desperate came to Karabo for help since she had been married for much longer than she had.

Karabo looked at her in the eyes and said “be patient with your husband. It probably will not happen again. Take your burdens to the Lord and he will not forsake you.” and she reminder her what Ephesians 5:21 said.

After few months after having children, the abuse [for both] was more emotional and mental but after the children had grown, it always returned to the physical. And still they took their troubles to the Lord, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Some days, they went to the alter with broken bones and other times they went to the alter with tearless cries for they had no more tears left . Still they talked to their pastors and women’s group leader but still they said the same thing. The pastor and women’s leader said the same thing even when they had visited them in the hospital, for what they knew was a result of an abuse. Karabo and Kamikazi did not want their children to live through such an experience but they ended up raising children with broken limbs and hearts.

One night, Karabo was home waiting for her husband to come back after she had had a long day at work. He came back and started arguing loudly about how he had called her during the day and she had not picked up the phone. He called her useless and incompetent. He said that his father did not raise a man so weak to deal with a woman so stupid like her. As she tried to say that she did not answer because she had a meeting that she had told him about, he got angry and slapped her across the face. He threw her across the kitchen floor and she hit her left temple on the edge on the wooden table and….

One night, Kamikazi was out with one of her girl friends for diner. Nii came to the restaurant where she was, so furious and angry at something she did not know and he told her to get in the car and leave immediately. Wondering what was wrong with her husband, Kamikazi went to the car and drove home with him. When they got there, he started saying that she was a good for nothing wife. He said she did not know how to raise their children right and was weak. As she tried to ask him what he was so angry about and telling him she had nothing to do with anything, he got so angry and grabbed her by her neck. Grasping for air, she tried to push him off but he was too heavy. She began reaching out for a knife that was on the kitchen table. She grabbed it and….

How many women’s lives will end like Karabo? How many women will live the rest of their lives paying for a self-defense crime in prison like Kamikazi? How many women will visit the pastor and be told the same thing Karabo and Kamikazi heard? What does a family in a violent relationship look like to the church? What makes domestic violence and intimate partner abuse difficult for the church to address?

Note:

  1. the characters in this short story are fictional but inspired by true stories from different women across the Afrikan continent.
  2. even though this is short story of two heterosexual couples, this can happen with couples across the gender spectrum.
  3. lastly, the roles in this short story can be reversed as well- violence is not only man to woman.
  4. Here is some published statistics about the church’s response to domestic violence by church members themselves, a Huff post about the pastors‘ perceptions on domestic violence, and analysis of domestic violence cases in different Afrikan countries.

 

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