For any Christian, baptism is a cause for celebration, a passing from one life to another, from darkness to light. For the two women of the Deborah’s House who were baptized at the beginning of this month, this event also symbolizes the transitions that are already happening in their lives. But of course, in order to appreciate the new lives they have now, you need to know what they were living through before.
When Rosario* came to the shelter, her face was covered in bruises. Her husband had hit her so hard that her jaw had become dislocated. Not only did he abuse her, but he also hit her seven-year old son. Jorge tried to keep his mother from finding out about the violence that he was suffering, but it was only a matter of time. When she finally realized what was happening, she had the incredible courage to leave her husband, together with her two children, and to come and live at the Deborah House. Rosario is now getting back on her feet. She now has a good job at a plant not far from the shelter. Her face has healed, and so have some of the emotional scars left by her husband. She dreams of having her own home, of opening up a beauty salon, of a better life for her children. This is the new life that is now possible for her.
Marta* and her son Juan* came to the shelter about a month after Rosario. While most of the women in the shelter come from some part of Mexico, Marta happens to be Cuban. She left her country years ago when she met and married a Mexican man – the same man who abused her. She is now in the process of getting her papers in order so that she can stay and work in Mexico, at least for a while, although her heart still remains in Cuba. Marta was very nervous at her baptism, which took place on a rocky beach near Tijuana. She said that the water was so cold that she felt like she was going to die. One of the hermanas joked to her that she did die – to her old life.
Life for these women is hard, even once they have reached the shelter. Their bodies and spirits need time to heal, time before they can start to recover from the nightmare that they were living in for so long. They still face many struggles that range from the lack of privacy in the shelter itself to homesickness to trouble raising their children, who have often been affected by the violence that they saw or experienced at home. Life is not perfect for them, and it never will be. However, thanks to the Deborah’s House and everyone who supports it, they now have a chance at living a life with dignity and hope. These two women experienced the mercy and grace of God in the support and help of everyone at the shelter. Now they have made a public commitment to live in that grace for the rest of their lives. The new life has begun!
By Becky Hall, volunteer at Deborah's House, september 2010-January 2011. *Names have been changed for confidentiality