Influence

 the shape of leadership

Rescuing the Hurting

A Conversation with Bethzaida Garcia

Chris Colvin on July 10, 2018

For Bethzaida Garcia, her story takes a backseat to her message.

“When I speak at churches, pastors want me to share my story,” Garcia says. “But it’s more important to prepare leaders.”

Her ministry, Life in Your Hands, offers support to victims of domestic abuse and awareness to church leaders all over Florida. Her story is, unfortunately, not a rare one.

Married at a young age, Garcia found herself in an abusive relationship. She had no choice but to flee her native Puerto Rico and relocate to Florida. Now, Garcia’s experiences drive her passion to make churches a place of safety and recovery for victims.

“My personal goal is to see a domestic violence awareness ministry in every church,” Garcia says. “We need to spread the word and let people know there is help out there.”

Although domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of culture, Garcia has seen firsthand how certain aspects of Hispanic culture perpetuate it.

“There is a term, machismo, that means the husband is the king of the house,” she says. “This word is used in many Latino homes as an excuse to treat wives badly. It’s a twisting of the biblical principle of submission.”

The first step toward becoming a place of refuge and healing is to talk about it rather than hiding it.

Education alone isn’t enough to address this complex issue, Garcia says.

“In the United States, we have the education and we have access to news, but we still have domestic violence,” she says.

Churchgoing families are not immune to these problems. In her role as a victims’ advocate, Garcia has spoken to church members and even pastors’ wives who have suffered the horrors of domestic violence.

Yet Garcia believes the Church can provide the solution. She says the first step toward becoming a place of refuge and healing is to talk about it rather than hiding it.

“It’s a topic we can miss,” Garcia says. “We talk about drugs and alcoholism. But domestic violence is affecting our homes and children.”

Domestic violence affects every church, whether we realize it or not, and each congregation needs a strategy for dealing with this issue, she says. The danger is that the victim and abuser often share the same faith family.

“The first thing we have to do is ensure the safety of the victim,” Garcia says. “No one should ever be told to stay in an abusive relationship, a dangerous situation.”

Once protected, the victim can then seek recovery. That may look very different in each situation, but the result is always the same: The victim must receive reassurance of the Father’s love.

Garcia has seen how domestic violence awareness can strengthen churches. Her life verses are Proverbs 24:11-12: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?”

“It is our spiritual responsibility as ministers to take action,” Garcia says.

And when churches do step up, God blesses their efforts in remarkable ways.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 edition of Influence magazine.

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