Advocating for Those in Despair
Gëzime* was eagerly awaiting the birth of her first child when war erupted in Kosovo. Her husband joined the Kosovo Liberation Army desiring to help defend his family. One day Serbian soldiers came to their home, killed Gëzime’s husband, and assaulted her so violently that she suffered a miscarriage.
With nowhere else to go, Gëzime returned to her parents’ home, struggling to deal with her grief and shame. When the war eventually ended, Gëzime’s parents pleaded with her to remarry so that no one would suspect what she had suffered at the hands of her attackers.
In an unusual story of redemption, Gëzime met a man whose own wife had been raped during the war. Her attack had been so violent that she died, leaving behind three young children. This man agreed to marry Gëzime knowing what she had suffered.
Gëzime never knew her first child and could never get pregnant again, due to extensive scarring from her attack. However, she became a second mother to three children who loved her dearly, and they were able to comfort one another in their loss.
Six years ago, Gëzime’s second husband died, leaving her widowed once more. Since that time, her oldest son has married and now has two children of his own. Gëzime lives with this son and his family, enjoying being a grandmother. Her financial situation is difficult, and yet Gëzime chooses not to focus on her difficulties.
When the director of Healing Unseen Wounds first met Gëzime, she was actively reaching out to women who have suffered as she has. She could have easily focused on her own victimization and loss, and yet she has chosen to advocate for women like herself.
While Gëzime never asks for anything personally, Healing Unseen Wounds plans to construct a greenhouse at her son’s home so Gëzime and her family can grow much needed vegetables. Not only will this family be able to provide for their personal needs, but Gëzime should also have excess produce to sell and generate a small income.
Despite the pain and loss she has suffered, Gëzime is a light to her community. May she also come to know the light of the world through the relationships she builds through Healing Unseen Wounds. Give to the Unseen Wounds project.
From Hopelessness to Healing
Hanife* was a 24-year-old mother of five when her husband joined the Kosovo Liberation Army, leaving her at home with the children. One night Serb soldiers entered Hanife’s home, sexually assaulting her before setting her home on fire.
As Hanife watched her house burn, she begged the soldiers to kill her, knowing the shame of her assault would haunt her. However, the soldiers insisted a bullet would be a gift they were not willing to grant her. When her husband returned home and discovered what had happened, he abandoned Hanife, taking the children with him and insisted she would never see them again.
For a year, Hanife lived with her parents until her father could find her another match. This time she would be a second wife, joining a couple who had been childless for several years. This couple only wanted Hanife for her child-bearing ability, planning to cast her out once she had produced two children. They treated her like a slave and threatened to tell the community of her shame if she refused to comply.
Once Hanife delivered a second daughter, the first wife asked her husband to get rid of Hanife. However, he insisted that she stay to nurse the baby until the child’s first birthday. During that time Hanife became pregnant again, this time delivering a son. By this time, her husband cared for her and would not cast her out. Hanife eventually became pregnant again with twin boys.
Hanife bore five children for her second husband, but she never forgot the five children who had been taken from her. When her oldest daughter went to college, Hanife went to the school to try and talk to her. She refused to speak to Hanife, accusing her of abandoning them for another man.
It was then that Hanife understood the extent of her first husband’s betrayal. She told her daughter what had really happened, encouraging her to verify the details with her grandmother. Now that Hanife’s older children know the truth, she is able to have contact with them and her five younger children have a relationship with their five older siblings.
In the fall of 2019, the Healing Unseen Wounds project coordinator, Belize, and Alliance workers Connie Seale and Melissa Singfiel met Hanife for the first time. She and her family lived in a house with only one heated room and no running water. More of the home is usable in the warmer months, but when it gets cold, the family of eight crowds into one room that functions as both living room and kitchen.
Healing Unseen Wounds arranged for a well to be dug on the property. The day of the well opening was one of great excitement, and when the water began to flow, Hanife declared it was like every holiday rolled into one. Once the family had regular water, Healing Unseen Wounds was also able to build them a greenhouse so they can grow their own vegetables.
Hanife and her family are so grateful for the simple gift of running water. Pray that through the kindness of Healing Unseen Wounds this family will come to know the One who offers living water.
Alliance Women has set a goal of raising $32,000 for the ongoing Healing Unseen Wounds project. This money will provide two years of trauma counseling through mental health workshops, two years of business consulting, and funds for women to purchase beehives, sewing machines, cows, and greenhouses. Prayers and financial gifts are appreciated. Give.
Guided by Jesus
During the war in Kosovo, Belkize* worked as a teacher in a village just outside her hometown. One day, as she approached the village on her way to work, she noticed it was very quiet—not even the dogs were barking.
As she continued toward the school, one of her students called out to her from his front stoop, “Teacher, something has happened in the village. Go home!” Belkize assured the boy that the village seemed peaceful and she continued the short distance to the school. When she arrived, the school was locked, so she turned to head home.
Eventually, Belkize reached a bridge and noticed about a dozen Serb soldiers loitering beneath it. She was gripped with fear knowing they might harass or assault her. In that moment she inwardly cried out, “Jesus, please hold my hand and guide me!”
Miracle on the Bridge
As she began to cross, the Serb soldiers suddenly came up onto the bridge, but Belkize continued to move forward, her hand clenched in front of her as if being led across. She had difficulty weaving her way through the group of men, occasionally bumping into them, but she continued on amazed that the soldiers never reacted to her.
A bus approached on the road beyond the bridge, and noticing the young woman in such a precarious position, the driver waited for her. Belkize eventually broke free from the group of soldiers and ran to the bus.
As she boarded all the passengers cheered, wanting to know how she had gotten past the soldiers without being harassed. Belkize replied, “There are only two answers I can think of, either God made me invisible or He made them blind!” Everyone on the bus agreed God had performed a miracle on the bridge that day.
Healing through Understanding
In 2019, now a pastor’s wife, Belkize felt led to start Healing Unseen Wounds, a project to assist survivors of wartime rape. After watching a television interview about the plight of Kosovo’s wartime rape survivors, Belkize contacted the women’s center director who appeared on the program, offering some humanitarian aid the church has recently received.
During their initial meeting it was clear that there was potential to partner further, and a fruitful relationship developed. In less than a year, Healing Unseen Wounds has helped five families in the Drenica region with micro-enterprise investment and over 30 women with trauma therapy, but there is so much more to be done. To support this project and others chosen by Alliance Women, give here.
Belkize often thinks of God’s faithfulness to her that day on the bridge, particularly when she hears the stories of women who were brutalized during the war. She says, “Everything God does has a purpose. I believe He allowed that situation to happen to me so I can understand the rape survivors more and love and care for them well, because I could have very easily been one of
Healing Unseen Wounds
In the center of Kosovo’s capital city, Prishtina, sits Heroinat, a striking monument dedicated to the nation’s estimated 20,000 victims of war-time rape. While the nation anonymously pays them tribute, these survivors of the 1998–1999 war in Kosovo still struggle to give voice to their pain.
Rather than finding justice, this community of women has been marginalized by society and rejected by their families. Many were divorced by their husbands and put out of their homes. Others have kept their secret from their family members, fearing the consequences should anyone discover what was done to them.
Today, these women continue to live with unseen wounds of psychological trauma, shame, and marginalization. The judicial system has failed them, and they are victimized a second time by a society that sees their suffering as a shame upon their families.
Alliance Missions in Kosovo has partnered with the Dardania network of churches to address this significant need. In the Drenica region of Kosovo the project, Healing Unseen Wounds, is helping war-rape victims using a two-pronged approach to bring healing and Christ’s love to this overlooked and underserved community of survivors.
First, Healing Unseen Wounds seeks to provide trauma counseling to help heal emotional wounds. In August 2019, the project held its first trauma counseling event led by CAMA worker Lisa Ramsey, bringing together over 30 women.
The women were initially wary, since they are usually asked to dredge up painful memories and retell their stories of assault. However, at the end of the training the women’s center director exclaimed, “We don’t feel this today, we feel energized and hopeful, and that’s different. We didn’t have to talk about what happened to us, and the activities really helped us feel better.”
EMPOWERING IMPOVERISHED WOMEN
Second, Healing Unseen Wounds provides microenterprise investments. With the purchase of a cow, beehive, greenhouse, or sewing machine, women can meet their basic needs and generate a modest income. Connie Seale of the aXcess team and I are leading English classes, building relationships with women, and helping to identify those who will be recipients of these funds.
These simple investments bring hope. Since the project began, Healing Unseen Wounds has helped five families with investments such as these, but the need is great. There are still many survivors living at or below the poverty line, and Healing Unseen Wounds is eager to empower more women to provide for themselves and their families.
Alliance Women has set a goal of raising $32,000 for the Healing Unseen Wounds project. This money will provide two years of trauma counseling through mental health workshops and two years of business consulting and funds for women to purchase beehives, sewing machines, cows, and greenhouses. Prayers and financial gifts are appreciated. For more information, visit www.alliancewomen.org/give.