Coming Home~A Family Restored
By Jennifer Thomas
What I saw in the slums of Nairobi was heart-breaking, even more so because it
was a physical reflection of my own brokenness.
A Parents Aware Testimony
"Coming Home~A Family Restored" Commentary
My story is probably not one that you would hear every day. I'm 22 years old,
and for a year and a half I lived in Nairobi, Kenya, as a teacher and a
caretaker for AIDS orphans.
Even my childhood was a bit exceptional. My mother was just 16 years
old when I was born. As a child I watched her go through three marriages, three
divorces, and drug addiction. When I became a Christian at the age of 12, I
decided that I would follow God rather than the lifestyle my mother was leading
at the time. But I still had issues to overcome from my childhood experience.
I went to Edison High School in Fresno, which gave me excellent
preparation for further academic work. At 18, I headed off for Mount Holyoke
College in Massachusetts,
where I studied physics for two years before leaving for Kenya on a semester
service trip. I moved into a house in Nairobi where 25 orphans lived. After two
months I decided to stay and help with their schooling.
What I saw there, in the slums of Nairobi, was heart-breaking, even
more so because it was a physical reflection of my own brokenness. I wanted so
badly to do something~to "fix it"~that I stayed and taught. What I refused to
admit was that both of these problems~brokenness in Nairobi and also my own
heart~required God's intervention and healing.
Upon my return last February, I was both physically exhausted and
feeling disconnected~like I was drowning. Although I was a Christian, in my
insecurity I found myself questioning whether God would ever accept me.
Given all this, my greatest surprise has been the healing I have
experienced in the months since coming home. God is using Parents Aware
Discipleship (PAD) to bring tremendous healing to both my family and myself.
My mother attended PAD before I did. When I was in Kenya, she was
constantly praying for my safety and that I would come home. Through PAD she was
also addressing her own issues.
Upon my return I moved in with my mom and my 14-year-old brother. I
heard such good things about PAD from my mother, pastor, and friends that I
decided to see what it was all about. I am now participating in PAD for the
The questions in the PAD curriculum are helping me to diagnose my own
brokenness. Questions about feelings helped me to recognize that I had become
emotionally numb. The acceptance and prayer from my group have made it possible
for me to be willing to feel again.
One of the biggest examples of healing occurred through my PAD
homework. One of the homework assignments covers gender roles in a marriage
relationship. The first time I attempted to complete this assignment, I wasn't
able to come up with words to describe how I felt.
The second time I was able to process this further to the point that I
am now able to say I have hope that it would be great to have a husband who
would love my mother (or even me!) as Christ loved the church.
Things started to happen quickly after my first session in PAD: I went
back to college; I am studying to become a teacher and I am getting straight
A's; my brother's grades have skyrocketed; and my mom has been making really
smart decisions. She bought a duplex and saved $6,000 by writing the contracts
herself without using a realtor. She is working while pursuing a teaching
My mother and brother are solving problems and communicating in ways I
have never seen them do before. They are sharing their problems and being honest
about their feelings. At first I thought there was something wrong but over the
course of a few months I began to see the healing that has taken place.
Learning how to communicate with my PAD group also helped me to
communicate better with my family. My first PAD coach, Judy, was an excellent
listener. From her and another group member, Dianne, I learned that I could
share my thoughts and feelings and that people would not only accept me, but
love me enough to pray for me. I can say the same thing about my current PAD
group. If I share about something I wish I had done differently, they help me
see how to approach it better the next time.
I am also more willing to communicate my problems and feelings with my
family and to ask for help. This is the main reason why the current semester at
college has been so good. I come home and tell my family about my hurts,
disappointments, and triumphs of the day. We come up with solutions together
that actually work
I even told them when I didn't turn in a paper because I thought it
was due the following week. A year ago I would have been too ashamed to tell my
family or to talk to my professor. This time I was able to arrange an alternate
assignment and to tell my family. They were able to encourage me and to tell me
about times when they did something similar.
The three of us have been connecting really well. It's fun solving
little problems like "who's going to rinse the dishes" and "where are we going
to put the dresser," when it used to be no fun at all.
One of the things I struggle with is responsibility. I'm always
forgetting things~in school my homework was often late. By attending PAD every
week and bringing my study guide and doing the homework, God is helping me to be
responsible and to complete what I begin.
I'm experiencing the truth of God's word in my life. The memory verses from PAD
stay with me throughout the week, reminding me of the healing that God is doing.
On my ride to work or school, I say the memory verse and it helps encourage me
for the day.
When I first started looking at what the Bible says about my identity
in Christ, I can't say that I experienced its truths. Now that I have been
addressing my issues, I am finding that I really am a daughter of God and an
overcomer in Christ.
Parents-Aware Discipleship is a 12-week, small-group study for all Christians
ready to address relational issues in a supportive, safe setting. Sessions are
offered in Fresno, Calif., in March and September, beginning with a four-hour
orientation for those that train as coaches. Or, the PAD curriculum is available
for churches and Christian organizations that desire to run their own groups.
For information, email Parents Aware.