When our family first arrived in Benin with our eight-month old child, I had an overly romanticized view of my role as a missionary wife.
Feeding Malnourished Children Gives an Opening for the Gospel
by Teena Ovenell, missionary to Benin (from Sowing by Grace)
It wasn’t long into our first year of ministry before I realized how much time it would take for me simply to keep ourhome. I soon became discouraged, often reflecting at the end of the day on how little had been accomplished. It became clear that some of what I had envisioned myself doing in ministry was not realistic. How would I find time to visit women in the village and build relationships?
A special opportunity for ministry arose when a woman came to our homewith her little baby girl Awa. Awa was a couple of months old but in size she appeared to be a newborn because of her mother Nafisa’s low milk supply.Awa’s mother resorted to asking other nursing mothers to help feed Awa from time to time, but they had to meet their own babies’ needs first. In the local village the cost of formula was prohibitive for her. As a mother with a little one my heart ached for Nafisa.
When we bought formula in the village ourselves and gave her a one-week supply, Nafisa brought Awa to see us every week. Soon we had women coming to our door at all hours of the day with ill or malnourished babies. God’s plans are better than our own! What better avenue to share the gospel than with the physically needy. As more children came, formula became expensive and hard to keep stocked. Then a GDMMissions team brought the ability for us to produce formula locally, making it more cost-effective and accessible. On average, ten women now come weekly for a supply of formula. One of the exciting results of this is that not only are we getting to know women from our village, but word has spread and women from six other area villages are coming to us for help. This is one of the ways that God showed the power of having a medical clinic that could meet the villager’s physical as well as spiritual needs.
Returning to my story, Awa is now almost a year old. Although she and Nafisa do not come to our home for formula any more, I see them from time to time in the village or they pass by to visit. It is exciting to see how Awa has grown. I wish it was always the same happy ending for these little ones. Unfortunately, since we began distributing formula we have lost five children. It is the ones who have suffered the longest without proper nourishment or whose mothers have passed away who never seem to be able to catch up.
Pray for ourfamily that we would be found faithful, making the most of every opportunity to demonstrate and share God’s love with these women and their little children. Pray also that God would open their spiritual eyes so that they might share in the joy and peace that can only come by having a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father.