For Martha, a single mother living in Mexico, life is not easy. Her husband left her two years ago. Now she works six days a week to provide for herself and her teenage daughter.
Martha (whose named has been changed to provide anonymity) leaves early in the morning and comes home around 6 or 7 p.m. each night. The stress of life is visible on her and her daughter; they both struggle with anxiety and other health problems. Martha testifies that if it were not for God’s presence and help in her life, she would not be able to make it.
The number of single moms in Mexico is increasing and many have few resources or help, according to John and Shirley Wind, career missionaries in the country.
As a result, the Winds' ministry team saw the need to provide encouragement and hope for these women, whether single, a single parent, divorced or widowed.
"When I talk with the single and older unmarried women," said Shirley Wind, "they feel they do not have a place in the church. The divorced feel left out and sometimes ostracized."
And so they began designing a special conference for women in these situations. About 130 women arrived at the Rotary Club in Merida, Mexico, earlier this summer ready to be encouraged. They were not disappointed.
The team putting together the conference had found a speaker, Neffer Ortega, who had similar experiences as her audience. Ortega and her husband had directed a family ministry program in Venezuela for several years before her husband passed away from cancer.
As a widow left to raise two children on her own, Neffer is intimately aware of the struggles women in similar situations face.
Neffer threaded the theme, "Springs of Hope," throughout the day's sessions. She addressed the pain and loneliness women on their own can feel, while pointing them to the true source of wholeness – Jesus Christ.
Each session - "Connections that Encourage," "Single or Feeling Alone," "Free to Love" and "Facing Temptations" - unveiled struggles single, widowed or divorced women may face and ways to deal with them.
Neffer’s message resonated with many of the women. "I didn't realize that I am accepted and loved by God, just as I am," said one woman. Others, who heard about Jesus' love for them for the first time, made a commitment to follow Him. By the end of the conference, several women had eagerly asked when another conference would be held.
"It was such a blessing to see the joy on the faces of the women ... knowing that they left with hope," said Shirley Wind. "Some left with a new faith in a God who has a special interest in the lonely, the misunderstood and the widows and their children."
(Photo of the Springs of Hope conference courtesy of CRC Communications.)