CURWENSVILLE — It was a mission’s trip two years ago that was the catalyst that led to a Curwensville woman’s commitment to record an incredible story of a young African woman and her struggle to survive a series of harrowing experiences.
Rita J. Taylor, author of “A Story of Hope,” gives an account of the woman who was sold into slavery when she was barely older than a toddler, lived in the African wilderness for several years, had her children removed from her custody because her husband thought her not intelligent enough to raise them and her struggles to support herself, both to live and receive an education.
Taylor said she believes she is part of a divine plan for this woman whose life to date has had numerous supernatural interventions.
Taylor said she has wanted to visit Africa since her daughter, son-in-law and their family lived and worked in Swaziland for a year, several years ago.
“An opportunity came up in 2017 for me to go on a missions trip there. I wanted to take my kids back to where they lived and worked. I raised the money to go. I had always had the curiosity to go and see where they lived and see and experience another culture,” she said.
Taylor said one of the ways she came up with the funds was to self-publish a 30-day devotional booklet. “That paid about half the cost of the trip. I was really surprised at how far it went,” she said.
She said the flight to Africa departed from John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, N.Y., and landed in Johannesburg, South Africa. When they departed, Taylor said she had an accident when she picked up her heavy luggage and it twisted, causing her to injure her knee.
Taylor said those making the trip were picked up by an international worker who came with transportation and a trailer to haul their luggage. With the worker was a young woman that Taylor now calls Tammar. Tammar is not her real name and Taylor said if she were to disclose it and persons from her past discovered it Tammar’s life would be in great danger.
During the six-hour ride to the college where the mission’s trip participants where staying, Taylor said she began speaking with the woman and felt herself drawn to her in a way that she had never experienced before.
She said because of her knee injury, she was placed on light duty and stayed back at the college working there. “During that time, Tammar began seeking me out and talking to me.” Their talks were quite emotional and gut-wrenching for Taylor who said at first she wasn’t sure whether to believe the young woman until the missionary confirmed her stories were true.
“We would cry. I would cry. She would start crying because it brought up numerous bad memories for her but as we cried together she poured her heart out,” she said.
The young woman was sold to another family for the purpose of marriage when she was 5. Taylor said Tammar told her her family was large and her parents could not afford to care for all their children so at age 5 she was sold to a man for the purpose of becoming his wife. Taylor said Tammar was severely beaten often by her new mother-in-law and others in the family for failing to perform tasks beyond her years such as returning with an entire herd of cattle after taking them to an unfenced area where they would graze. Tammar escaped them by running into the African forest, thinking the wild animals that inhabited the forest were less dangerous.
During the time she spent in the forest, approximately three years, Tammar lived for a time with a pack of baboons. “Her time in the forest was beyond my imagination. She had to forage for herself while dealing with snakes and insects. She had to sleep on the ground. She had no shelter and during her time there she was growing and her clothes didn’t last. She was never attacked though,” Taylor said. It was during the time she spent with the baboons, that the animals realized she was ailing – perhaps near death, and led her out of the woods where she was found and taken to several hospitals to recover.
While she was recuperating, doctors at the hospital mandated she return to her family and a grandfather was located. Taylor said Tammar stayed with him until he died and then she went back to her parent’s home. “She was a stranger to her brothers and sisters, most of them were very young when she was sold so they didn’t know her,” she noted.
Tammar’s family decided she should go to school. Taylor said African residents do not receive free education and most who do attend school stay until their funds run out. After she left school, Tammar married and had two children. Her husband put her out because he determined she was not intelligent enough to raise their children.
“Tammar found herself in the streets. She had nowhere to go and had to do what she could to survive,” she said.
It was during that time that Tammar had a man come to her and offer her a large amount of money. “He told her to take the money and use the funds to get herself and her two children off the streets,” Taylor said. Through more divine intervention, detailed in her book, the woman attended college and as a pastor is sharing her faith and working to build a church.
It took her approximately 18 months for Taylor to write the book. “There was a lot of back and forth with Tammar as I was writing and sometimes there was a language barrier,” she said.
Taylor said she received copies of the book about three weeks ago and she now knows what the book’s first proceeds are meant for. Tammar was invited to attend a pastor’s conference in Israel where she will receive further training. Taylor said she does not want any accolades for the book, “I am pushing a cause because I am pushing for her. Where she has come from and is going is such a miracle,” she said, adding “I am doing this for her. I have come to love her like a mother would. I am anxious to see where she goes.”
“A Story of Hope is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s website or by contacting Taylor. Taylor said she will also be scheduling some local book signings with the details to be announced.