When Eva’s father got drunk or high, which was often, anything could upset him. And when he was upset, he spoke harshly to Eva and beat her mother.

“In addition to his alcohol addiction, my father seriously abused drugs,” recalls Eva, now 17. “When he was on drugs, he had really bad behavior. Sometimes he said that I was not his daughter.

He made me cry because I wished my father loved me and told me beautiful words. But never in my life did he do that.”

Eva says her home in Guatemala felt like a prison. Her father wouldn’t allow the family to attend the church near their home, claiming the people there were “fake.” But because of the benefits his daughter received through sponsorship, he allowed Eva to be part of Compassion’s program at the church. Eva’s child development center became her refuge from the terror at home.

Eva stands with her family in their house.

 A larger problem

Sadly, Eva and Yolanda are not alone in suffering domestic violence. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of violent deaths among women, according to the United Nations. Violence against women is especially common among indigenous communities like Eva’s.

The situation at Eva’s home went from bad to worse one night in 2015. Eva’s father arrived home and tried to kill her mother.

“That day he took a knife and he tried to stab me in the chest. I don’t know where I found the strength to hold his arms and run outside the house screaming for help,” says Yolanda, Eva’s mom. “The neighbors went to the house and called the police.”

Her husband was arrested. While he sat in prison, staff at Eva’s child development center hired lawyers to help protect the mother and daughter. But Yolanda began to feel the pressure of social stigmas surrounding domestic violence in their community. Often, women are blamed as the cause of men’s violence.

“Neighbors told me that I was guilty because my husband was in jail,” Yolanda says. “I felt very sad because they told me that I could not generate income to sustain my daughters, so I decided to stop the process.”

After her mother withdrew the charges and her father returned home, Eva debated running away. But first she prayed about it.

"I heard the voice of God saying, 'You need to be strong. Keep fighting. I will make you a victorious woman,'" Eva says. Instead of running away, Eva spent as much time as possible at her child development center. “I found refuge at the center because I lived in a jail every day at home. I feel free inside the centre, where my soul feels happy, learning about God and how to be a good woman.”

body1.jpg Eva stands outside her house.

Miraculous Change

The workers at Eva’s child development centre were determined to stop the culture of sexism that resulted in domestic violence. So in 2017 they founded The Parents’ School, which aims to stop violence and encourage men to value their wives and children.

After a few months of classes at The Parents' School, several fathers of other sponsored children became adamant about stopping the violence in Eva’s home. They met with her father, saying that if he kept hurting his family, they would do all they could to keep him in prison for life.

Days later, Eva’s father had a dream that transformed his life.

“A few days after this group of Christian men spoke to me, I dreamed about God, and he showed me my family,” says Nelson, Eva’s dad. “He said I need to stop making them suffer or he will take my life in his hands. I was scared of my dream. I felt insignificant, and I prayed to ask to be forgiven.”

The next day, Nelson woke up and threw out his drugs and alcohol. He showered, cut his hair, and decided to make a change. He asked his family for forgiveness and, to prove he was serious, began attending The Parents’ School and church services.

That was 18 months ago, and there is still peace in Eva’s home.

“I’m working as a mason. With the money I earn I support my family,” Nelson says. “This is a new happiness that I’m experiencing, and I love it. … My big desire is being a leader of the church.”

No longer wasting money on alcohol and drugs, he can better support his family. After Eva completed an entrepreneurship workshop at her center, her dad gave her the money to start a small community store selling eggs, chicken and snacks.

“I put in practice what I learned at the center to manage my business,” Eva says. “Now it is a pretty big store with good capital.”

Eva found strength in God, who heard her desperate prayers and worked miracles through the local church and a sponsor.

“I want to empower every girl in the world who lives oppressed by abuse, poverty, anxiety or depression, to keep fighting,” Eva says. “Be brave. Please, never give up.

“Our lives can change the culture of how women are treated. We can fight with God’s support. He will never leave us alone. He always makes us victorious in Jesus’ name."  

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