When her teenage daughter became pregnant, what could have turned into a mother’s utter shame, guilt and disgrace turned into a story of Christ’s love, redemption and power through her church.
by Family and Faith Magazine writer, Ensebe Akunta
“I started to realize that I was looking for love in the wrong places and that the kind of love I really wanted was from my father,” Amanda* confessed. Her father had paid her scant regard throughout her life. He was not married to her mother and they did not relate well when she was growing up.
Amanda’s family circumstances are not unusual. In 2007, Jamaica had 35,344 live births out of wedlock, a little more than the capacity of Jamaica’s National Stadium. But things are changing for better because according to the January to September 2017 Provisional Birth Statistics from the Registrar General’s Department, this number was reduced to 20,238.
Under the law, Amanda is not yet a woman but is legally allowed to engage in sexual intercourse. At 16, she was taken out of a house by the police after she had changed out of her school uniform in a back alley and gone to visit her boyfriend. This 19-year-old man had completed school, had no job and lived on his own with financial support from his sister and his mother who lived abroad. The police took both Amanda and her boyfriend to the station and called the girl’s mother, Dawn*.
Dawn is a Christian who volunteers regularly at her church. Dawn said that Amanda had gotten baptized at 11-years-old and often served with her in the church. The single mother said that a few weeks after the police station incident, she bought a pregnancy test kit. Amanda’s results were positive.
“I went into mourning,” Dawn revealed as her face took on a more serious look. “I told Amanda, don’t ask me any questions or expect me to make any decisions about punishment or anything for three days. Because I had been reading and meditating on 1 Samuel 16 where God asked Samuel how long he would mourn for Saul. And God was teaching me that it’s okay and it’s healthy to mourn for a time. If you don’t allow yourself to do that you’ll mourn in an unhealthy way probably the rest of your life and don’t even recognize that anger and bitterness with people is just you mourning something that happened long ago,” Dawn reasoned.
She explained that she took that time to fully feel her anger, shame, disappointment, frustration, hurt and every other emotion that came with the news. After three days, she made up her mind to move forward and shared the news with her Pastor.
Of course, the issue of sexual immorality in the church had also been the focus of national attention during the same period of time, with social media confessions from known personalities and allegations and arrests of church leaders. Like the current slew of Hollywood sex scandals, it seemed to be something ‘everyone knows about but nobody talks about’. But the numbers are not silent and it appears that about half of the young people who attend Church have had sex.
The National Family Planning Board’s 2008 Reproductive Health Survey indicates that 46% of young women and 60% of young men aged 15-24 who have ever had sexual relations attend church at least once a week.
Dawn recounted that the Pastor and his leaders lamented the fall of their young congregant as if she was their own child. It is a small, close-knit church, led by a youthful pastor, who had not faced this situation before, she explained.
The Pastor said, “We prayed about how to respond and just followed the direction of the Lord”. They accepted the Lord’s challenge to face it in a God-honouring, Bible-believing way, so they met with Dawn and Amanda.
The Pastor and other church leaders determined that Dawn had tried her best but Amanda, knowing God’s standards, had made some bad decisions. Amanda, however, showed repentance about her sexual immorality in her speech and in her behavior. The Pastor declared “We believe that while the sex was a sin, the baby was not” in keeping with Psalm 127:3 – Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
Additionally, at a regular meeting of the church membership, the leaders reiterated that sex outside of marriage at any age is a sin and unacceptable, but the resulting children are not. So, their decision was to love and support Amanda as she had recommitted to remaining a Christian and get help to make better decisions.
This gracious treatment of Amanda was peculiar because as the news soaked in, other church leaders and congregants would go to Dawn and share stories of being told to leave their church as youngsters because of teenage pregnancies.
“I heard stories of teenagers having abortion for fear of their deacon fathers finding out. Of little girls being sent away to country relatives. Of pastors’ sons denying that they are the father and just a whole heap of painful hiding and rejection” Dawn lamented.
Clearly, when Dawn chose to tell her Pastor and Amanda agreed to meet with them, the church could freely apply 1 John 1:9 (KJV) – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Beyond Amanda’s confession and repentance her reform included attending professional counseling to speak about the issues that influenced her to sin in the first place; continuing regular attendance at church and starting mentoring relationship with a mature Christian.
Existing sex education programmes in Jamaica focus on teaching children how to engage in sexual intercourse that does not result in disease or procreation. But they do not teach how to build stable life partnerships through healthy friendships then marriages before committing to sexual intercourse.
Both hospital and police staff encouraged Amanda to sign up with the Women’s Centre Foundation to continue her education. But it was her mother who told her that while continuing her education was important, she also needed to learn how to have healthy Godly relationships with men.
Dawn reasoned that, “This would give Amanda hope for sex in the right context of marriage in the future. Because after baby born, the ‘feelings’ don’t go away! Who tells pregnant teenage girls that they can still look to get married some day? And how do they go about achieving that? It’s still on their minds, but who’s talking about it? And how do they raise their children well? I’d love to see Women’s Centre or the Church or somebody teach them about that! Because as single parents we don’t always know how to”.
Throughout her pregnancy, Amanda had continued to regularly attend her church where she received encouragement and practical advice about motherhood.
Today the baby is born and bringing both joy and sleepless nights. Amanda says that her church’s love has been overwhelming as members donated cash gifts, baby clothes, furniture, diapers, motherly advice, rides to the clinic and much prayers. The baby’s father visits occasionally.
There are no guarantees that as Christians we won’t sin, make bad decisions or mistakes. But in Romans 8:35 – 39, God has says that nothing can separate us from His love. He is not letting go. Why should we?
*Names and places have been changed to protect the identity of the family involved.
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