‘I am so sorry for the mother I have been. Will you forgive me?’

Tahmina lives in Central Asia, and suffered abuse as a child. When she grew up and had a daughter of her own, she raised her in just the same way. She showed her daughter very little love, and more often great harshness. Her daughter Aisara is now 32. She is used to this cold relationship with her mother, and was amazed when Tahmina came to her recently saying, “I am so sorry for the mother I have been. Will you forgive me?”

Aisara wanted to know what had caused such a softening in her mother’s heart.

Tahmina explained that she had met a woman called Olma – one of Innovista’s local leaders.

Olma knew all about the lives of women in her region. These are women in bondage, and life is really tough. Living in villages with no electricity, their lives involve carrying water home from the towns, sometimes as far as 100 miles away. These women often suffer physical and sexual violence, and emotional abuse, from men including their husbands, and even at times their pastors. This abuse is commonplace and goes unchallenged.

But Olma had a vision. She knew that even these women could have hope. She trusted that Jesus’ love was enough to transform their lives. Having been trained by Innovista, Olma started leading a close-knit, supportive group of women. She shared the love of Jesus with them, and as they turned to follow him, they had to meet very quietly, away from the eyes of the secret police and the authorities.

As the group grew in strength, Olma told them, ‘Women, you are brilliant. Now you need to serve other women. You need to give the world your gifts.’ And the extraordinary idea for a women’s retreat was born.

Now, six times a year across this risky, hard-to-reach region, Olma and her team run five-day retreats for women in desperate need of connection and spiritual refreshment with others just like them. They spend their time studying God’s word, as well as sharing spa treatments, tears, and a lot of conversation. They address the deep pain of depression, abuse, loneliness and neglect, and Olma’s team point these women to Jesus, the great healer. They help women to discover their own gifts, and figure out how to use them for good in their lives.

The women say, “‘I spent five days in paradise.’

It’s like finding an oasis in the desert.’

My eyes opened. I became free.’

Olma believes that these oppressed women have a God-given purpose to fulfil – and she longs to see them delivered from the ‘deserts’ they live in.

Tahmina came to a retreat last year. She listened to Olma’s story of being abused as a child and how Jesus has helped and healed her. This resonated deeply with Tahmina’s own experience of childhood, as well as her experience of motherhood, knowing that she inflicted the same wounds upon her own daughter. For the first time in her life, Tahmina had the space and support to reflect on her sadness and shame, and found release from it.

Tahmina’s testimony of healing and total transformation is wonderful – but it isn’t unusual. On every retreat, women’s lives are being changed. And by extension, so are the lives of their children and their whole communities.

Olma tells us, ‘No one but Innovista gives me leadership support like this. Innovista has my back. Innovista helps me to reach out to more women, more deeply, and more effectively. Innovista helps me not to burn out in midst of such persecution and when I see so much suffering of the women”. Without Innovista, Olma wouldn’t be doing what she’s doing. And without Olma, these women would still be in the desert.

Please give today to support Innovista’s work in hard to reach and unlikely places, and help us raise up more leaders like Olma, to bring change to their communities with the hope of Jesus.

*All of these names have been changed for the women’s safety, and in order to protect the ministry of our local leaders.