“The journey hasn’t been easy but I always remind myself, ‘I was in the pit, but the Lord sent help.’ I know my story won’t end in ashes but in testimony.” – Yvonne Mtafuta
As a 12-year-old, Yvonne stood outside the door of the classroom trying to hear the teacher as she waited for her clothes to finish dripping rain from her long walk to school. She felt thankful the administrator at the school gate let her in even though she was so late. She thought of her mom at work with a kerchief around her head to try to cover the bruising around her eyes. Her dad’s words of abuse rang in her ears, and she tried to push them aside and focus on learning in spite of her lack of sleep.
As an ICCM-sponsored child, Yvonne was so thankful for the opportunity to go to school. She prayed for her sponsors every day and knew they were also praying for her.
Over the next few years, as Yvonne’s dad struggled to keep jobs, the cycle of abuse and stress continued. She tried her best to navigate school but constantly worried about her family and felt ashamed of her test scores.
One day when she was 19, she prayed, “Lord, what kind of life is this? Please help us!” She felt a spirit of boldness and decided to take action. After some searching, she found a home for rent and convinced her mom to pack up and move with her two younger sisters while her dad was at work.
That same day, her mom received a message from her dad threatening to kill her when he came home that night. He didn’t realize they had already left.
After graduation, a leader in Yvonne’s church, Neddy Dingili, encouraged her to volunteer as a Sunday school teacher while she figured out what she was going to do next. She agreed reluctantly. She wanted to help but didn’t have confidence that she would be good at teaching. Slowly, she began to realize her special skills as a teacher. She had compassion for the kids and understood the daily challenges they faced and found ways to encourage them and build them up.
Yvonne decided to pursue her teaching certificate and became a teacher at Pendo Grade School. She worked there for six years and started an after-care program for kids who are at risk while their parents are at work.
Around the time that Yvonne started teaching, she began to get to know Vickie Reynen at church. “Vickie was a mentor sent by God.” In 2015, they worked with other women in the church to start the Thrive advocacy group. Yvonne blossomed in the companionship and safety of the group as they met regularly to pray and support each other.
Today, Thrive partners with Set Free to educate students in ICCM schools around Kenya about gender-based violence and how to protect themselves from human trafficking and other abuse. They teach girls how to stay in school with the help of Wunders menstrual hygiene kits, which are made locally in partnership with SEED and TWK. Yvonne also works for TWK to track savings and loans for the members.
“It is pure joy to provide for my family with my work,” Yvonne said. “I know my story won’t end in ashes but in testimony and to give hope to other brokenhearted people. Maybe someone will need to hear this, ‘The Lord always provides and will never leave you.’
“I have forgiven my dad. My heart is healed, and I am Set Free to Thrive and lift up others.”