War widows restore hope and dignity

By October 9, 2012

Sierra Leone (MNN) — Bound together by a common goal of becoming self-sustaining, 85 widows call themselves War Widows for Christ. Each lost a husband in Sierra Leone's bloody civil war. Each has six or more orphans who depend on them for food. And each widow has dignity and hope for the future, thanks to a program developed by Baptist Global Response.

BGR's seed program, Project Restore Hope, produces enough food to sustain the widows and orphans and an excess they can sell to pay for basic necessities. Widows are also provided a monthly food supplement until their crops are ready to produce. Watch a video about Project Restore Hope.

"The Grafton war widows are a good example of living with zero margin for any crisis that would lead to a poor harvest," said Mark Hatfield, BGR area director for Sub-Saharan Africa.

"These ladies don't have wage-earning jobs or products to sell to make up for a bad harvest. They have taught me a lot about living in faith," Hatfield added.

Margaret Tucker started War Widows for Christ after losing her husband in the civil war and struggling to provide for her children. Many widows are considered social outcasts and have little or no prospect for remarriage. The widower's family will often take the children and all the family's possessions, leaving the widow penniless.

A Catholic priest donated land for the war widows to grow and harvest peanuts. The priest also asked Tucker and the other widows to care for a large number of orphans living in an abandoned movie theatre. Each war widow took on several orphans to feed and care for; Tucker herself looks after 22 orphans.

"I formed this group so we can engage ourselves in good things, something that was of God, so we can sustain our lives and our children," said Tucker. "When we [first] came together, we used to…think about what happened before: how they killed our husbands, how our children died.

"We forget about that now when we come together and sing and praise God together."

Members are expected to participate in the study of God's Word. Most of the women in Tucker's group are Muslim; some have developed an appreciation for Scripture. Several have surrendered their lives to Jesus.

Pray that war widows would share the Good News with everyone they encounter.

War Widows for Christ began on a three-acre hillside plot near Tucker's home. Their work has now expanded to include a 30-acre rice farm outside Grafton. Seven widows live on the property to care for it, while others make a weekly commute.

BGR said two other communities in Sierra Leone have joined Project Restore Hope.

"If the war widows can transform their community into a caring, productive community, [others] could adapt that model," said Ron Hill, a retired Southern Baptist missionary. Ron and his wife, Sharon, had served in Sierra Leone from 1992 to 1997.

"This could change the mindset of communities from 'we are helpless to do anything about our situation' to 'we can come together and impact the problems in our community.'"

Resources needed to sustain the war widows and Project Restore Hope are provided by the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. Empower communities and individuals by clicking here.

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