'I received a beautiful letter from a girl telling me what God has done for her through Casa Vida. She now has hope for her future,' smiles Angela Lowe, who volunteers at the Dili shelter for abused women.
'The letter said I'd been like a mum to her. It's something I'll always treasure.'
Angela and Jenni Bottrell are MAF wives. While their husbands fly planes, they throw themselves into their own ministry among broken lives. Volunteering at Casa Vida Internacional, a non-profit organisation, they're both passionate about caring for girls under-18 who've been sexually abused.
Located in Dili, Timor-Leste's capital, this 'House of Life' opened in 2008 and has since welcomed over 150 girls from all over the country. As well as offering a safe home, counselling and an education, Casa Vida provides vocational training to help girls transition from school to employment. There's a bakery, café and handicraft business where they can learn practical skills. Growing physically, spiritually and socially, the girls slowly become reintegrated into society.
Crafted with love
Angela started volunteering through an Australian friend, who ran a card making group with some of the girls. Angela loves craft and was thrilled to join in – it was clearly a 'God-connection'.
'When I joined in 2005, I asked God what my role would be in MAF as I don't have any formal qualifications. The response I felt God give me was simply, "Love people."
'Even as I moved countries, that call has continued. When my Australian friend left, the girls were very emotional. I saw that the little we'd been giving them actually meant so much.
But Angela's little craft group has impacted her just as much. She puts it quite simply; 'The girls now have a piece of my heart.'
Jenni tutors English. When some people wonder what her job has to do with flying – and her answer is, 'Not a lot!'
But it does have to do with transformation, which is certainly part of what MAF is all about.
'I'm called to serve MAF, and everything I do is part of that,' Jenni affirms. 'I volunteer with Casa Vida because seeing transformation in the girls' lives fits perfectly with MAF's vision. Whether it's flying planes, programming flights (as I did in PNG), or tutoring English, I'm paying my part in bringing change in people's lives.'
Grace Pitanuki, HR Manager at Casa Vida talks about transformation too. 'To change somebody's life, bring a smile, bring hope – that's what we do here for vulnerable women and girls,' she says.
'And it's not just for the girls,' Grace continues. 'When they leave, we aim to change the way they think so that they take responsibility for other vulnerable people too. That way, whole communities can be changed.'