The stories of African orphans – written by the missionary who befriended them 13 years ago – are rare, raw, real accounts of their lives they thought nobody cared to read or hear about. For others who’ve been abused and rejected, their pain is still too difficult to share – even with the woman some have called “mama Becky” for over a decade. For the author and her spiritual children, writing their memoirs validated lives marked by purpose and destiny.
A prestigious group of Christian leaders agreed at its recent convention, bestowing an award on the author who earned the trust of boys, girls, young men and women whose stories she’s privileged to tell in heartbreaking detail on their journeys to discovery of personal value and worth.
The orphans’ stories of abandonment and suffering, along with tales of their heroic supporters, recently received First Place-honors among writers and speakers, including renowned worship leader Michael W. Smith at a ceremony in Tennessee.
No longer nameless and faceless, the children and young adults are honored with publication of their memoirs in “A Bruised Reed,” the title of the winning book, and a term the prophet Isaiah used to describe God’s care for broken people.
“I know you bore your souls in hopes that other children will be spared some of the pain you went through,” author Becky Spencer wrote, dedicating the memoirs to more than a dozen young men she first me in 2006 on a mission trip to Swaziland, Africa.
“To those of you whose pain was still too raw to voice it, we will be here for you when you’re ready,” Spencer told the young adult men who banded together as boys to survive unimaginable suffering and terror as orphans.
The book of memoirs, which earned the Golden Scroll Award at the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (ASWA) annual gathering, highlights the men helped by the ministry Spencer co-founded with her husband, Tracy.
“A Bruised Reed” also chronicles the lives of girls and boys rescued from hunger, abuse and rape, and their welcome at a care home the Spencers’ non-profit, Grand Staff Ministries (GSM), built in Swaziland with funds from donors in the United States.
For her advocacy on behalf of widows and orphans, Spencer is known as “The Fight Lady” among Christian leaders, including New York Times bestselling author Eric Wilson, who praised “A Bruised Reed.”
“These pages brim with the hope of transformation and the honesty of hardship and heartache,” said Wilson, author of Fireproof, October Baby and Samson, in endorsing the memoirs. “You cannot help but be encouraged, challenged and inspired.”
The acclaimed worship leader was awarded the Golden Scroll Lifetime Achievement Award for his distinguished service in ministry with Spencer and other winners. As honored guest, Smith led worship and appeared in a group photograph with the authors, including Spencer on Aug. 28 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee near Nashville. Several literary genres were represented, and plaques were given to first- and second-place winners.
Her third trip this year to Eswatini – the country changed its name last April – didn’t end with needed rest for Spencer at home in Buhler, Kansas after six weeks of ministry in Africa. There, the Spencers met ministry partners, visited the home, feeding kitchen and preschool GSM oversees, and traveled to the homesteads of children whose education is funded by American sponsors.
Instead of returning to her home, Spencer booked a flight to Nashville at the behest of writer and speaker, Linda Evans Shepherd, who said the missionary/author’s book impressed literary judges. Shepherd, the AWSA founder, presented an award for the memoirs, just like the story of the abused girl Spencer had visited days before in Eswatini.
It’s that reward – rescuing children – Spencer strives for. “I’m grateful Jesus lets me be part of what He’s doing. All the praise goes to Him. If there’s any crown for me, I will joyfully fling it at His feet, for He deserves the glory,” Spencer said.
One rescued treasure is now shining. The girl – withdrawn, hungry and neglected like many orphans – was taken to safe haven at Shepherd’s Care Home, where she celebrated one year of loving family nurture this August.
“What really brought home the fact that she’s thriving in our care home is the response of a pastor who had not seen her for a year,” Spencer said after receiving the award. “She ran up to Pastor Walter (Mgodlola), threw her arms around him, and hugged his wife too.
“He acknowledged she was thriving physically, emotionally, spiritually and emotionally in our care,” Spencer said. “We are just so, so grateful for what God is doing.”
Like the girl’s amazing transformation, Thabisa and Nomsa are treasures discovered in deep spiritual darkness, children who are beginning to flourish in the light of Shepherd’s Care Home.
Here is Spencer’s account – one of 18 or so memoirs – told by children rescued from horrific conditions:
“Seven-year-old Thabisa’s heart pounded when she heard the key rattle in the lock of the front door. She hurried through the dark one-room house to her little sister, Nomsa, hoping to keep the four-year-old quiet when their dad burst through the door.
“But she needn’t have worried. Nomsa was limp, too weak to rise from the dirty foam mattress she was lying on. The girls had been out of food for days now, locked inside with no way to beg for help from a neighbor. People had quit listening to their cries a long time ago, avoiding the stench of their waste that permeated the air around their mud and stick building.
“Thabisa cringed at the sound of her father’s footsteps. Her body went numb at the sound of his belt sliding through the loops of his pants. His abuse was worse than being alone and hungry. He slowly unzipped his pants and reached for Thabisa. She had no energy to fight back, no will to resist him when he called for her to come closer.
“Didn’t anyone outside the locked door know what was happening to Thabisa and Nomsa? Couldn’t anyone help before he used them again?
Heartbreaking as the story is, there are other tales like it but, at least, these girls are safe.
Other lives, like Colani Mncube’s, now shine, thanks to care from spiritual and financial supporters in America like Penny Takeda, whose support predates GSM’s ministry in Eswatini. Mncube is a diamond treasure- albeit an older one – of Takeda’s and GSM’s mining for precious lives in Eswatini’s shadows.
“GSM changed my life in a very big way,” said Mncube. “I have been to school and have a degree today through Grand Staff (and Takeda), and I am forever grateful for that.”
The Spencers met Mncube on one of their early trips to Swaziland, and supported a ministry that housed and fed him and other orphans. When the leader lost integrity with Tracy and Becky, they continued relationship with Mncube and his friends, even providing financial support for college- and vocational-training for them. Today, Mncube remains close to the Spencers, and is considered an asset to GSM.
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SOURCE: Assist News, Steve Rees