Our Big God Adventure: Episode 12 — From the deep hole of depression to the ‘one set of footprints’

In the last episode missionary Lydia Venter shared how God brought good out of a brutal attack on them. But there were also darker, lingering consequences of the attack that had to be faced and overcome, she writes in this week’s episode

For the first month or two after our attack, our home was constantly filled with people coming to encourage and pray with us. We felt strong. Kenyan friends wanted us to move away from our home, offering us free accommodation, but we refused to be intimidated by the enemy. We would not leave until God said it was time!

At about that time we had also lost a huge donor from the UK — £1 000 (R21 000) per month. It happened at a crucial point since we had been feeding about 120 children each day — the only decent meal for many of them. We refused to stop with the feeding programme, which meant sacrificing in many other areas. Life became extremely difficult for our family.

Meanwhile I had enormous trouble sleeping. The tiniest sound alarmed me, to not even mention my reaction when the dogs started barking. Wilco is a deep sleeper, so many times I’d try to wake him without success, and that caused me tremendous anger which and strong feelings of guilt later on.

I found myself “guarding the house” at night, moving from window to window. I was slowly falling into a deep pit of depression. I struggled to concentrate when reading God’s Word and my prayer life became basically non-existent. I felt like I was sinking deeper and deeper in a bottomless, dark pit and the only thing that kept me going was my children.

Over the next couple of months, I would try to share about my emotional state with Wilco as well as with some of our friends, but it seemed that nobody understood. My friends tried to encourage me by quoting Scriptures, but that just added to the feelings of guilt and anger. It was a terribly lonely time for me. In the meantime, I went through all the motions as we ran YASHA Mission Academy, trying to help those who were so terribly impacted by the recent tribal clashes. We organised a sports event, prayer meetings and had a lovely graduation that year. All this while I was dying inside!

Grade 0 graduation, November 2008

Psalm 143:7-8 — Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. 

We used to celebrate Christmas on the evening of the 24th, so after a lovely family celebration, I woke up on that Christmas Day, knowing that I needed to take matters into my own hands. Wilco found me packing a bag and when he asked me about it, I responded: “If I don’t book myself into hospital today and seek help, I might consider a much darker option …”

Wilco drove me the 40km to Valley Hospital where the Matron, Lydia Obwanga, welcomed us in her office. I sat there like in a trance, while she gave one look at me and matter-of-factly declared: “Acute post traumatic depression!” She then started sharing with us her story of starting the hospital woman alone, working day and night, until she fell into a deep depression herself. Wilco, who, up to that point, didn’t really believe in the seriousness of my condition, became convinced.

Christmas Eve 2008

Mrs Owanga was the angel God had sent to bring me good tidings. She cared for me on a personal level, carrying the presence of Christ as she was a born-again Christian herself. On Sunday, the 28th of December, the Lord clearly spoke to me. “It took Me 7 years to get the ‘you’ out of YOU”, He said, “Now I can start using you.” Oh W-O-W. Glory! Hallelujah! The atmosphere was saturated with the air of Jesus, our King.

For the next few days, I continued bathing in the presence of the Father, until I was finally released at Old Year’s Eve. A week later my medication was stolen from our vehicle in Nakuru town, together with some other stuff. I then decided that I would not replace the medicine and, although I was still fearful, especially during the night, I continued praising the Lord for complete healing and deliverance.

One night, in early February 2009, as I was walking to lock our gate which was quite a distance from the house, I suddenly realized something profound — all fear was gone!! I was set free by the power of the Holy Spirit and by His love. I raised my arms towards Heaven, thanking and praising my Father. It was a complete work, as I never suffered from depression again. Sure, I might occasionally feel down for a day or so, but my hope in Christ was fully restored that evening.

November 2008 staff praise and worship session led by Pastors Erastus and Pauline Maina

Never again will I judge depression or look down upon it. Trauma gave the enemy an entrance in my soul and wounded my emotions. Ihad literally dreaded each day, as all I could see was darkness ahead. Yet later, I could look back and see one set of Footprints in the sand. Jesus never left my side – not even once. The Lord used this to not only give me a discerning spirit around this matter, but also a heart of compassion and empathy for those suffering such oppression.

Over the years since then I have dealt with many people facing short- and long-term depression, giving them the surety and hope that Jesus’ presence remains with them even in the darkest hour, and that they can rest in His love without guilt or shame. He is faithful and He WILL deliver His own.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me. He delivered me from all my fears. (Ps 34:4)

In the next episode I will share about the arrival of our son, Teday, who was found under a bush during the post-election clashes in Kenya and taken to the Bondeni Police Station from where he was finally taken to Arise and Shine Children’s Home in Molo. Many people talk of Before Christ and After Christ. We talk of Before 2008 and After 2008 :-D In all of that, the Lord proved Himself faithful on our behalf. What a Champion He is!

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