God’s goodness, mercy and healing


[notice]A monthly column on purpose, passion and power in Jesus.[/notice]

Jenna coffee
Hannah Viviers, left, and Jenna-Leigh Bilong having coffee at a coffee shop owned by Sihle Magubane, centre.

Something a lot of people don’t know about me: I spent a lot of my time as a child in the rural areas with my granddad and gran. On a number of occasions I lived with them for long periods of time.

At times I’d also visit with my great-grandmother. Her home was tucked away in the mountains of Zambia’s Southern Province. My great-gran’s home had treacherous terrain that made it very difficult to get to by motor vehicle.

One of the things I remember about her place was the peace. And quiet.

None of us ever understood why anyone would want to live so very far from anything or anyone!

My great-gran’s living was really what we call “living as close to nature” as possible. There we drew our water out of rivers … There was no electricity. My great-gran even cooked out of earthen clay pots — not a steel or iron pot to be seen anywhere!

At both my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ homes, when food was served, we’d break up into our groups, sit in a circle on the ground and eat from the same plates.

Looking back now it’s a childhood memory that makes me smile.

It gives me a sense of being connected and belonging … It reminds me of a time in my life when I was surrounded by people who were that down to earth.

That part of my life was decades ago.

Just like my great-gran’s home was tucked away in those mountains, so was this memory of sitting on the ground and sharing a plate of food with other women.

However, that memory came back to life when I met Jenna-Leigh Bilong!

You have to meet
We’d met through Linnette Durant; a mutual friend, who kept telling us that “we had to meet!”

“You are so alike!” Linnette would tell me.

“Playing dead, it’s something so many women do in their lives. Maybe not the way I did it to escape him killing me that night, but women play dead in many other ways.” — Jenna-Leigh Bilong

“The way you rave about your husbands!

“Your love for God!

“The two of you must meet!”

Linnette also felt that Jenna would be ideal to speak at a regular women’s function I host called ‘The Beautiful Series Event’.

The purpose of the event is to remind women that no matter what has come against them, they CAN reclaim their beauty, their power and their purpose.

So when Linnette told me about Jenna — I knew, even without meeting her, that she was precisely the kind of woman we were constantly on the lookout for to speak at ‘The Beautiful Series’.

But far more than that, I wanted to meet the woman I kept hearing I just “had to meet”!

Meeting Jenna-Leigh
Eventually I gave Jenna a call. She was incredibly excited to hear from me!

Now here’s why this is significant — Jenna’s a pretty BIG deal!

Some of you may have seen her reading the Afrikaans News on ETV and kykNet. Her on-air presence is followed (and adored!) by millions of people around the country.

She’s also a published author, most well-known for her book Goedheid en Guns (Goodness and Mercy).

Oooooh the story and testimony behind this part of Jenna’s story is far too much to share briefly here — I couldn’t possibly do it justice!

Anyway … I’d wanted to convey just what a big deal Jenna was. Yet, that first time we spoke over the phone, she made me feel like I was the star!

When we met, it was at my friend Sihle Magubane’s newly-opened coffee shop.

There again I saw Jenna’s interaction with everyone she came into contact with — treating them with genuine honour and that spirit that said: “I see you, and you matter”. That’s Jenna.

Our first meeting was utterly profound.

I asked her about her life:

“Where to start!” She laughed.

Jenna bookParts of Jenna-Leigh’s life
Her life was layer, after layer of stranger-than-fiction incidents.

She started telling me her story by saying, “I was raped a couple of times …”

She was about to continue sharing — like what she’d just said was terribly insignificant!

I was like: “Wooooo! Hold up! Say what?”

“Yeah,” Jenna answered. “It happened. It was sad. But God’s healed me from all that.”

Jenna and I are both journalists, so I think she totally got my hunger for details!

What? Who? Where? When? (Maybe not the how) but HOW does something that SIGNIFICANT happen and you be this OK?

To my last question, Jenna just repeated: “God healed me.”

She told me of her days of living in a squatter camp. At the time she was married to a man who beat her almost every day!

Playing dead
Jenna said to me, “One day, as he was beating me, I looked in his eyes and I knew that this time he meant to kill me.”

There are people we encounter on this earth who create a deep impact that catapults us to astounding levels.
Through their story.
Through their courage.
Through their triumph.
And even, through their brokenness.
But especially through their healing.

She shared with me how she “played dead” to survive that beating.

“Playing dead,” Jenna continued.

“It’s something so many women do in their lives.

“Maybe not the way I did it to escape him killing me that night, but women play dead in many other ways.”

(Jenna has a talk she gives on this topic of “Playing Dead.”)

When our visit was over, I didn’t want to leave her presence. I’d learned SO much from her in such a short space of time.

In the days that followed our meeting I couldn’t stop talking about her!

Eventually, I think my husband got tired of hearing, “I know I’ve said so much about Jenna but I have to tell you this …” And then I’d rave about Jenna all over again!

There are people we encounter on this earth who create a deep impact that catapults us to astounding levels.

Through their story.

Through their courage.

Through their triumph.

And even, through their brokenness.

But especially through their healing.

As I relished the time I’d spent with Jenna I remembered how “at home” I’d felt in her presence.

Desperate to belong
I think one of the reasons Jenna possesses this gift of truly “seeing” people is because there was a time in her life when she was desperate to belong somewhere.

When I’d asked her about why she’d put up with years of severe abuse from a man who she knew was determined to kill her, she’d answered: “Because his family made me feel I belonged.

“That was something I’d searched and craved for so long.

“So even when he beat me, at least I belonged somewhere — and that kept me there.”

Today though, Jenna is married to a beautiful man who honours the gift she is to this world.

She told me: “You know it’s God when you’ve looked for belonging all your life then end up married to a man who loves you and his surname is Bilong!”

Profound right?

Jenna’s our keynote speaker for this Saturday’s ‘The Beautiful Series Event’.

There, she’ll be sharing one of the layers of her story which she’s titled: “Purpose through the Pain: My life, from squatter camp to television.”

Jenna embodies The Beautiful Series message of taking back our beauty our power and our purpose.

However, for me her life story goes beyond that.

It testifies to God’s promise to heal the broken-hearted.

Jenna’s healing is a powerful thing. But her miracle doesn’t stop there. It’s clear that healing pours out of her, dripping abundantly wherever her presence goes.

Needless to say I can’t wait to hear her speak on Saturday!

*The Beautiful Series Event is a regular function I host. It’s aimed at empowering women to truly live their God-given destinies. We use the event as a platform to share powerful testimonies such as Jenna’s. As such I’m constantly on the look-out for stories such as hers- stories that show God’s amazing Power to heal, restore and catapult us into greatness no matter what we’ve been through.


  1. when and where are the “Beautiful Series” events held?