Widows in West Africa bonded by faith and community are evidence of God’s restorative love

By Susan Akyeampong |

Dorcas Widows Project West Africa team, during their visit in February.

Across West Africa, widows often confront a brutal reality. Ostracised by some traditions, they can be left feeling isolated and vulnerable. Widows are more likely to face discrimination and economic hardship, with a staggering 1 in 10 widows globally living in extreme poverty. As Marthe Chantal Ngoussa, President of the Cameroonian charity Widows in Distress, says, "The death of the widow begins with the death of the husband."

Recognising the challenges faced by widows, SIM’s Dorcas West Africa ministry steps in to bridge the gap. Although they offered microloans to women in difficult situations; the Dorcas team recognise that true support goes beyond material needs and their approach has evolved significantly. Their ministry blends the gospel message into all aspects of their work, providing both spiritual growth and practical support.

Remarkably, the widows themselves are the driving force behind the project within each Dorcas church group. They've fostered a life-giving family, which in turn, breaks down societal barriers. Lucia, a Project Manager at Dorcas West Africa, has witnessed this transformative power firsthand. There’s a lively WhatsApp group chat that Lucia started. It's so active with daily encouragement, jokes, memes, and positive conversations that she barely needs to participate herself. Widows who initially feared joining a group filled with despair instead discover a vibrant and faith-filled community.

Dorcas is a family affair for Lucia. Following years of missionary work in Niger with her husband, Lucia took over leadership of Dorcas West Africa at her mother's request. Lucia's mother, now 87, still works for the ministry she founded in 2006 after becoming a widow herself. This deep connection runs through Dorcas' leadership.

The three women heading the project in different countries are all friends, some knowing each other from family ties or Bible college back in the early noughties. Lucia believes this familiarity fosters strong collaboration – "Instead of growing wide across different countries, I really want us to grow deep” she tells me. This is also why there is an emphasis on the individual's personal growth and spiritual development. This close-knit network has allowed for peer support and effective training.

Today, Lucia can say she's witnessed countless widows find renewed hope and a sense of purpose through Dorcas, a testament to God's work in their lives even after loss.

Jane*, from Niger, has seen her daily life transformed by the project.

A key challenge some women face is illiteracy. To bridge this gap, the Dorcas team distributes SD cards loaded with the Bible in audio format, along with Christian messages and music. One such woman, Jane, from the Dorcas community, was listening to a message about forgiveness.

When listening, the Holy Spirit reminded her of a long-standing grudge against her uncle, who had once stolen her inheritance from her. Deeply moved, she defied years of estrangement and went to his compound, to the surprise of her Muslim family. “She went solely to tell him she forgave him” Lucia tells me, “And she was so excited to do it”. The immense joy she felt from forgiving him, and releasing the hurt to God, is a powerful testament to the project's impact, even causing shock within her traditionally unforgiving family.

Jane's story shows how Dorcas West Africa strengthens the women's faith. This faith allows them to bless people in their communities, which often have different faiths. As such, the women become living testaments to God's power to give us identity, purpose, and change lives.

For Lucia, the evidence that their work is changing is seeing widows actively participate in church life. "It's when I see women as part of the congregation, active members of the church body," she says, "that's when I know we’re seeing a glimpse of God’s work in changing people’s mind through this ministry " This passion for justice is core to her heart for this work. "How can I, as a Christian woman, see injustice and say I don't care?" she asks. "What these women are going through is wrong."

It reminds me of God’s own heart for justice, how he shares and outworks this in us, and how work like Dorcas’ is vital to dismantling these prejudices and seeing a slice of heaven here on earth.

Clearly, this impact extends beyond the church walls. Empowered by their faith, widows are finding their voices and becoming agents of change within their communities.

Pray that: 

  • Through Dorcas ministry the widows would find God’s peace, love and joy.
  • For leaders as they face daily many challenges and situations that God would give us in every country
  • In every Dorcas family, wisdom to shine Jesus and love well.

SIM Asset Publisher Portlet

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SIM Asset Publisher Portlet

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