World Challenge’s partners in Swaziland are helping one very special woman find her way into God’s healing and care.
Growing up, Claudia was constantly on the move. Her parents’ jobs took the family from country to country, and her young life was a blur of one new school after another. She focused on her studies, though, and was very academically gifted, so she finished high school at age 15.
Her father felt that she was too young, however, to go to university. The idea of his daughter being alone in such an adult environment and her emotional maturity for handling it concerned him.
Instead, he put her into a local academic program that would keep her close to home. Claudia chafed at the restrictions and the idea that she could be at a university but wasn’t because of her parents. Soon she started smoking cigarettes in rebellion. When someone offered her a joint of marijuana, she thought, “Well, why not?” She was quickly hooked.
Finally, her parents decided she was old enough to go to a university, and not only that, she was given an opportunity to attend one in the US.
Freedom at long last! She could do what she wanted, go where she wanted, and no one could tell her, “No.” All boundaries on her smoking habits went to the winds. Before you could snap your fingers, she was at parties, drinking alcohol, and she got herself a boyfriend, or rather, a series of boyfriends.
Life was good, and Claudia was living large!
The Downward Descent
At some point, Claudia became aware that one of her boyfriends was doing heroin. He offered some to her, and she thought about it. How much worse could it be than the other stuff she’d tried here and there in college? Besides, she could always quit if she didn’t like it.
Before you could snap your fingers, she was regularly using heroin. It felt great, but she struggled to focus on her coursework. She missed classes; she forgot homework. Soon, she dropped out completely.
Then the worst happened. One of their friends, a guy who hung around a lot and whom she trusted, raped her.
Her dignity and self-respect felt like they’d been ripped away; a chasm yawned inside her chest any time her thoughts wandered too close to that day, to the rage and fear and helplessness. She began using heroin more frequently because, if nothing else, it quieted her frantic thoughts.
Her parents soon heard that she had dropped out; they were disappointed and upset, but how could she explain why she’d done it? They brought her back to Swaziland and then sent her to South Africa to continue with her university education. Not long after she’d begun the program, however, she was violated by another man. The idea of having to tell anyone was intolerable, and the thought of having to stay in the same program with him, regularly seeing him, was worse.
Claudia ended up running away from her dorms, but she didn’t call her parents or tell anyone. She vanished into the streets of Johannesburg like the living ghost that she felt like she was becoming.
The Long Road to Healing
Claudia’s parents were frantic. No one knew where their daughter had disappeared to in South Africa. She might be hurt; she might’ve been kidnapped; she might be trying to escape and reach them.
The situation was unimaginable, and yet the possibilities haunted them.
They filed a missing-person’s report, and Johannesburg police were able to track Claudia down. They returned her to Swaziland and her parents, but clearly not all was well with their little girl. They reached out to the local Teen Challenge, and then they brought their daughter to the center.
Claudia is now in the care of the Challenge Ministries. Each day, she takes part in the discipleship program where she is learning how God was not blind to what happened to her. He saw when no one else did; he was heartbroken when no one else seemed to care. He still has important plans for her life and her future.
Claudia has reached the point where she is able to talk about her experiences, as she did for this story. Now, though, she talks about her past with the hope that her experiences and story can help other young people avoid life-controlling situations like the one she succumbed to.
She is able to focus less on the pain and disappointment of her past and more on the goodness of God and the blessings she has. She feels that she has been given another chance.