In celebration of International Day of Families, we honor and recognize the hundreds of church leaders, volunteers and staff that sacrificially give their time and energy to our Families for Life program and, more importantly, to the men, women and children whose lives have been changed through the volunteers’, leaders’ and staff’s love in action.
A place to go. People who love you. Somewhere you belong. A place to settle down. Home defines place, family, belonging. Identity and compassion.
Regardless of country—Papua, Indonesia, India, Malawi or Democratic Republic of Congo, home is often defined in these similar ways. In fact, it’s likely how you define it as well.
And yet, for many, the ideals associated with ‘home’, and their dreams for family, are a far cry from the reality. Instead, they grapple with broken marriages and relationships, gender injustice, arguments over resources and decision making, difficulty communicating with their children—the list is long and weighty.
But thanks to your support, couples around the world are experiencing renewed hope in their marriages and families through a program we call Families for Life (FFL) program.
Partners like you have helped couples to grow and flourish together as God’s Word describes through FFL programs that restore relationships between husbands and wives to their fullest potential and recalibrate thinking around family and marriage.
In FFL, couples are invited to a workshop to explore biblical and cultural components of marriage. There, they learn that one entire book of the Bible is devoted to the theme of love and marriage—the Song of Songs—a book that is marked with metaphors of love and filled with messages of friendship, attraction, fulfillment and commitment.
After studying Song of Songs, husbands and wives discuss together what it means to be forever friends and intimate companions. They discuss what husbands and wives bring to their homes, and more importantly, to each other, and come to recognize the critical importance of nurturing and loving one another as a couple. Your generosity is radically shifting mindsets for many couples as they discover that a spouse can and should be someone you trust, spend time with, enjoy, confide in, talk to about anything and for whom you willingly sacrifice.
Behavioral Change Curriculum
Layered atop of this biblical study, Families for Life integrates a culturally relevant, story-based curriculum that addresses misbeliefs about women, the importance of valuing and respecting one another, gender equality and biblical sex in marriage. The curriculum is designed to address critical issues among couples and raise questions for reflection and opportunities for change.
As couples’ beliefs around marriage and family shift, so too, do behaviors. Reductions in gender-based violence, alcohol abuse, poverty and unfaithfulness become apparent. Husbands begin to include their wives in decision making processes, wives learn they, too, can contribute to their families resources through income-generating activitIes, parents come to realize the value of educating their children, both girls and boys, and families begin to diligently and intentionally plan for their futures. As perspectives change and mindset shifts occur, deep-seated conflicts are tackled, harmful traditions are questioned and children and generations to come are impacted.
Beyond the powerful restoration of relationships and the resulting behavior-changes that occur, FFL lays the groundwork inside the home for our other programs to have a truly sustainable impact. When we acknowledge the centrality of the family unit in dictating and defining identity, beliefs and behaviors, we tap into the most effective way of impacting sustainable change across a multitude of areas—physical, social, emotional and spiritual. By ensuring both man and woman, boy and girl, are equally valued, given equal opportunity and are equally empowered, the impact of our programming is magnified tenfold.
A Beautiful Vision
God has illustrated to us what He intends for marriage—unity and harmony in diversity and oneness. Marriage should be a sacred reflection of this fullness of life as God designed. Yet, every culture and every marriage fails to reach this standard. The goal of Families for Life is to reach homes and churches with critical lessons that reveal God’s beautiful vision for marriage, and leave behind tools, training and structures for churches to extend these messages for multiplied impact.
Thanks to your support, we’ve completed six country-specific curriculums and trained over 25,000 couples through churches, savings groups and community gatherings in Indonesia, India, Burundi, DRC, Malawi and Haiti. The program is rapidly growing, with plans to expand in the next year to Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Cambodia and eventually Sudan.
Home is, indeed, where our hearts are. It is where mutual honor and support, care and commitment and physical attraction between wives and husbands should grow in every corner of our world.
“I used to drink and spend all our money when I was paid after work. Now, after being in an FFL workshop, I come straight home to my wife and give it to her to spend for the needs of our family. We decide what to do together.” - Husband, Burundi
“In our village, we are seeing less and less violence. People are not coming to me to intervene in cases of violence against women because of this program.” Village chief, Malawi
“I want to tell you, my wife, that I have not honored you as I should. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?” - Pastor Semiti, Democratic Republic of Congo
Deborah Dortzbach is the Senior Program Advisor for World Relief. She has been involved in church-based HIV/AIDS prevention and care since the early 1990s. Prior to joining World Relief she directed MAP International's HIV/AIDS programs from 1990-1997. Doborah is the author, with W. Meredith Long, of The AIDS Crisis: What We Can Do (2006), as well as Kidnapped (1975), which chronicles her 1973 abduction with her husband by the Eritrean Liberation Front while they were working as missionaries.