“The deeply rooted inner trauma of being mentally and physically abused by an alcoholic stepfather during my childhood and teenage years had scarred me with a constant cloud of self-doubt, depression, and confusion,“ says Julia*. “I was moving through life never finding joy in anything.”
Then Julia met Navigator Anna Marie Peterson, who invited her to walk through a discipleship and counseling program in her home.
“My experience with Anna Marie helped me break some extremely powerful strongholds that had me in bondage all my life,” Julia says. “I couldn’t relate to God because I thought He couldn’t love me like He loved other people because I wasn’t worthy. I now feel His love, His protection, His empowerment and most of all, His peace.”
Anna Marie could tell countless stories like this one. Instead of looking away in shock, she steps into the distress and enters the pain.
“Family abuse is present in all areas of life,” Anna Marie says. “Every Sunday morning, domestic violence and abuse enter the doors of the church. It’s important to realize that we are in a fallen world.”
More than four decades ago, Anna Marie was the victim—beaten and silenced by a family member she was supposed to be able to trust.
“I tried to disciple young women, but kept what happened to me a secret because of the shame associated with it,” Anna Marie says. “It’s only been in the last 15 years that I’ve begun to talk about it and work on it through discipleship.”
Working as a Navigator under the umbrella of Church Discipleship Ministry (CDM) and as an advocate with the domestic violence advocacy program within her church denomination, Anna Marie labors on behalf of families who pay the price of forced silence and denial.Things get very personal when she works with individual women in the living room of her home. She guides broken women (no more than four at a time) through 28 three-hour study/discussion sessions that explore the nature and effects of abuse. The sessions also focus on the healing path of facing brokenness, rebuilding intimacy with God, and finding forgiveness. Scripture memory cards for each session remind the women of God’s promises as their wounds begin to heal.
“In the midst of crisis, the response most needed by a victim of domestic violence is to be heard, believed, and supported,” Anna Marie says. “These women need practical advice about safety issues, but they also need help understanding their situation from a theological perspective. They need a spiritual advocate.
“God is moving among churches across the country,” Anna Marie says. “It is so helpful when I can partner with the church. We can do so much more together.”
It’s not a squeaky clean ministry. It’s heart-breaking. It’s next door to everywhere. But so are The Navigators. “I’m looking for lifelong laborers,” Anna Marie says. “That’s what I’m doing—four women at a time.”
Julia’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.