For Kenyan Pastor Charles and his wife, Ann, the story of their family is a journey of prayer.
Like many journeys, it began with a problem. Read how prayer led to change for their family and the whole community!
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After Charles and Ann got married, they went “a long time without having a living birth,” Charles says. “About six years.” On top of this problem, people in their community began talking about the fact that he and his wife didn’t have any children.
During this time, Charles had trouble praying; he said he felt that his prayers couldn’t reach God.
That’s when Charles decided to attend a new church, where he knew people often prayed for each other and that once those needs were lifted up in prayer, God would bless people with what they wanted. “So I went there just as a person with a problem.”
When Charles told the pastor and members of the church about the problem he and Ann were having, “they received me, they prayed for me, and immediately [we] started giving birth.”
But the family’s journey didn’t end there, and neither did their problems.
“So the first baby I got, went away,” Ann says. “She died. She was a girl. By age of 14 months.”
Ann remembers that she became angry, wondering “What is happening with me?” It had taken her and Charles so many years and prayers to have their first child, and then “the first one went away.” But they decided they would keep trying.
“After a year, I gave birth to another one,” Ann says. “After another year, I gave birth to another one. So in fact, God was blessing me with babies now. Continuously. Continuously.”
Except then the babies kept coming, another every year, which led to a new problem for their family: Charles and Ann couldn’t afford to feed and care for them all. They no longer had time to do the work that would earn the family’s income to feed their growing family: Ann “cannot do anything, only looking [after] her children and giving birth to another one,” Charles says.
Though some of their children had not survived, the children they had were an answer to prayer. “I was just happy because they are there. I’m seeing them. But their lives were not good.”
As their little ones suffered from malnutrition and disease, Charles’ prayers of thanks turned to prayers of desperation. It was hardest on Ann, who was constantly breastfeeding, expecting, or both. “I was not happy at all,” she recalls. Her time and energy were exhausted in bearing children, nursing them, worrying over their sickness and hunger … and burying them. Their first two children grew weaker and died, and still, Ann kept giving birth.
“Then I got Veronica immediately, after another year. So I can say, after three years I gave birth to three children.”
After another year, Ann gave birth yet again to Daniel, very close in age to Veronica. By now, the family was left with numerous problems: sicknesses and lack of food and clothing for them all. Ann only had time to look after the children, leaving Charles to go out searching for food alone.
“We could not even have a sack of maize from my farm. It was only 20 tins — very small.”
Then one Sunday, a neighbor asked to share a special message at the church where Charles had become the pastor. Trained by World Vision through a private grant, she shared about the life-changing benefits of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy (HTSP). Spacing births by at least three years, and timing them when a woman is healthiest, saves the lives of both mothers and children.
Charles and Ann went to the clinic the very next day to learn more about HTSP. Today, from the benefits of this practice, they’re able to care for their farm together — and more importantly, their four kids are thriving.
“They can smile!” Charles reports proudly. “They eat well. There [are] no diseases … [We] are a happy family.”
And now he’s using his voice as a pastor and village elder. “Whenever we have a meeting, my first word is [the HTSP] program. How people can plan their family — and have a good life!”
Ann points to her youngest, 4-year-old Moses, with a radiant smile. “Moses is my last born. Last born.” The emphasis conveys her relief, even as her eyes reflect her pride in her healthy children.
There is deep love and easy laughter in this family, and their once-empty home now has a surplus of maize and beans. HTSP brought Charles and Ann true peace — the peace of knowing for sure that they could care for all of their children.
With the family now healthy and happy, Charles and Ann can devote more time to their farm. “Now, I am the great farmer in the area. … Now I have seven bags of beans in my [storage] here, that is full! Food security is not a problem now for me. I can work together with my wife — that could not happen before.”
Where before, Charles had felt that he couldn’t pray, today “I’m feeling it — like now as somebody who is talking to God.” And more than this, the members of his church are increasing because “They are seeing that in this church there is something new.”
Charles’ church lifts up the prayers of their community, but Charles has taught them to take their lives and families one step further: to action. “We pray, and after praying there is some action to be taken in order to get some benefits from your life.”
He explains that if a family is sick, yes, they should pray, but they should also bring their family to the health facility. “We have changed the idea of our church and the congregation at large through this program.”
Charles has also decided to bring this message to his whole community, reaching out to other churches and teaching them that prayer and action work best together for lasting change.
“I preach to them individually in their houses and share with them this topic. And now people are changing their idea.”
Charles and Ann’s personal journey of prayer and faith has changed their lives and is now changing the lives of their whole community around them! And this change is bringing continued happiness to their family.
You can both pray and take action to help change communities! The Reach Every Mother and Child Act will help bring programs that use proven strategies, similar to the one that helped Ann and Pastor Charles, to communities most in need. Together, preventable mother and child deaths can be ended, but it will take every tool we have. Tell Congress you care about this issue today!
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