Single mothers, fatherless son helping other families facing abandonment through global ministry

Thembi Myeni (L) and her son Solami Myeni (R).
Thembi Myeni (L) and her son Solami Myeni (R). | Courtesy Thembi Myeni

South African-born ministry leader Thembi Myeni will never forget the intense grief and heartbreak she felt the day the father of her son denied paternity and left her to raise her small son, Solami Myeni, and his brother as a single mother. 

Myeni, 59, told The Christian Post in an interview that there was no easy way to prepare for a life of single motherhood and no easy remedy to the abandonment her son felt. While raising her son in South Africa, Thembi Myeni said she saw him harboring unforgiveness and showing sadness from the pain of not having his father in his life. 

For many years, she felt rejected and unresolved guilt. When her son was 9 in 1999, he attended a boarding school in South Africa, where he read the Bible with a teacher who taught Scripture to children during free periods.

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In the summer of 1999, when Solami Myeni was home on vacation from school, Thembi Myeni remembers accidentally walking in on her son reading Scripture from the Bible one day. At that moment, she said she began to ponder God in her heart.

In the years to come, Solami and Thembi Myeni began to study the Bible together, and nine years later, in 2008, they both gave their lives to Jesus Christ. Through the transforming power of the Lord, both their hearts began a healing process, and they began to live holy and redeemed lives.

Over a decade later, as believers in the faith, the mother-son duo said God ignited a fiery desire and compassion in their hearts for others. Their eyes opened to see a dire need for other single mothers and fatherless children to learn about the life-altering power of Jesus Christ. 

Thembi Myeni joined with another single mother, Jeanette Munsami, and with the help of her son, they founded a ministry in 2019 called Single Moms Raising Sons. The ministry seeks to pass on the healing touch of the Gospel to others suffering through single motherhood and fatherlessness.

"Me and the other woman who co-founded our ministry both have our own experiences with what it feels like to be a single mother. Being a single mother is a unique experience for every mother involved. Being a single mother, for me, involved juggling between work and family and not being able to even answer questions that your kids are asking," Thembi Myeni said.

Jeanette Munsami (L) and Thembi Myeni (R)
Jeanette Munsami (L) and Thembi Myeni (R) | Courtesy Thembi Myeni

"When Solami went to boarding school at 9 years old, and I found him reading a Bible, I didn't know what it was all about. But, fast forward to when he was nearly 20 years old, that's when my intimacy with the Lord actually grew. Ever since that time when I found him reading a Bible, it seems to me that Solami never felt fatherless again because he had a connection with God as his Father," she continued. 

"I think stemming from there, Salami knows exactly how it feels to have God as his Father. That's why he is better positioned to lead these young men in our ministry to a Father who will never leave nor forsake us. I think both of us have experiences of the Person of Jesus filling a void in us." 

Five years after the global ministry's inception, hundreds of single mothers and sons without fathers have been exposed to Bible studies in South Africa and parts of the United States, Canada, Zimbabwe and Ukraine through the nonprofit faith-based organization's on-the-ground and virtual efforts.

The Bible studies — which have been translated into the various languages it currently supports — are unique to the struggles faced in single motherhood and fatherless sonship. 

'Identity in Christ'

Single Moms Raising Sons offers six camps catering to the needs of male children and teenagers ages 6 to 12 who are growing up without a father, one camp for ages 13 to 18 and another for men ages 19 to 24. 

"Our camps all start with biblical teachings surrounding the topic of identity. When we teach on identity, we teach these kids specifically about identity in Christ," said 34-year-old Solami Myeni, who has worked primarily with males in the ministry setting on the ground in Durban, South Africa. 

"Every single thing stems from there. ... When we teach them about love and respect, all of these things then go from: 'I respect those who respect me,' to 'I am respectful because I am,' and 'I love because I am.' And we teach them that everything draws from their Maker in Christ."

Another theme that the ministry's Bible studies teach men is forgiveness. 

"Forgiveness is a tough one. I can say that in the first class we ever taught on that topic, there were a lot of tears in the mentors and in the boys. It is a topic that we actually get excited about, but we know it's never an easy one," he said. 

"We understand that some of the boys say very early, 'I can't forgive.' In those cases, we have to take more time outside of the camps. We take them offline, and we check on them at home, and we keep working with them." 

The Bible-centered programs for fatherless men ages 19 to 24 offer three camps.

The first camp is called "Who am I?" The second camp is "Who does God say I am?" The third camp is called "Who do I choose to be?" 

"The 'Who am I?' is very important because a lot of these boys think that because their mothers have suffered through immense pain, they are then useless and nothing like their fathers, and this has been entrenched in their minds," Solami Myeni said. 

"We work through those emotions all the way through to 'Who does God say I am?' and 'Who do I choose to be?' These sessions help them rediscover themselves and understand who their Maker says they are."  

For men ages 25 and over, the ministry offers a structure called Memoranda Fire in which roughly 20 men spend time together bonding, discussing and working through different issues in a therapeutic fashion.

"One of the reasons our ministry targets men is because we identified some of the major issues in society when it comes to males growing up without fathers. Those issues are high rates of suicide, the high rate of violent rape offenders, high risk of runaways. These are usually the majority of kids that are raised by single mothers who are fatherless," Solami Myeni said.

God's promises for single mothers

According to the ministry website, Bible studies that cater to single mothers cover various life challenges by guiding women to look at their issues through a biblical lens. 

Topics covered include "self-worth, shame and regret, forgiveness, doubt and discouragement, trauma recovery, grief, fear of the future and 'does God even see me?'" 

The study takes the mothers on a "journey" to learn from and draw wisdom for "your own life." Through the study, mothers learn to "denounce and reject the shame and lies that keep you from embracing your true identity in Jesus Christ" and "conquer the bitterness, regret and past disappointments" that hold them back. The study also helps the mothers "discover the incredible promises and calling" God has for their lives. 

"Close the door to fear and doubt to walk in complete confidence in your future," the website reads. "We know that being a single mother is hard, but studying these single mothers in the Bible stories to be a reminder to you that God has not forgotten about you. And as he saw these women through, He will see you through as well." 

The ministry helps single mothers be better equipped to raise their fatherless sons and helps the fatherless sons understand his identity and role in his home and as a child of God.   

"One of the things we try to do through the mothers' Bible studies is we try to have the mothers understand herself in Christ, and what Christ says about her. Because a lot of times, she gets ostracized by society and by the Church. We want her to understand what God said and not what maybe somebody else who may be carrying their own pain says. And we want the fatherless boys to understand himself and his true identity in Christ," Solami Myeni said. 

"Encountering Christ doesn't mean there won't be challenges. But, even for me, when I first encountered Christ as a fatherless son, through the pain I experienced from not having a father, there was always a peace that surpasses all understanding that I had from knowing Christ," he continued.  

"Even in the darkest of times, I often explained to other people that as a fatherless son, it sometimes felt like I was breathing perfectly fine underwater because I had Christ. But, there's also an undeniable frustration that comes at times, that says: 'But my God walks on water, why do I have to breathe underwater?' But then, the peace of Christ always comes in to remind me that regardless of where I am, even if it feels like I can't breathe through the ups and downs of life, He is with me, and He'll never leave me or forsake me."

A voice for the voiceless

Since discovering Christ and journeying through Bible studies as he has aided in spearheading the ministry, Solami Myeni has kept himself from holding onto resentment towards his father for abandonment.  

"Being in Christ is very peaceful. I think my journey with Christ and just having Him, even in this situation, made it just so smooth, and I literally have zero resentment towards my father. I have nothing like that," Solami Myeni said.  

"Now, it's just a matter of how I use my past experiences to help other men and boys and how I need to teach others and share with them how to let go, especially in situations where a lot of the guys have had bad experiences with their fathers involving extreme rejection." 

Thembi Myeni said she writes Bible studies for women and interacts mostly with women on the ground more than with the boys when running the ministry alongside her co-founder Munsami and her son. 

"For me, the most rewarding part of running my ministry is to see the women finding stories that they identify themselves within the Bible and seeing them beginning to know who God is and how God sees them," she said. "My hope for my ministry is to continue to see the lasting transformation in people's lives and for them to want to build more communities where they invite other women and men to be part of the Bible studies."  

"A lot of times, these stories in the Bible about single mothers and their plight are studies that are rarely preached from the pulpit. I just love seeing how the women groups have grown to numbers in the hundreds simply because these women are able to see their stories covered," she continued.  

"It gives a voice to women that often feel voiceless and it feels to them like God knows their stories and knows them each personally. That's why these stories are in the Bible. These stories begin to transform their lives because of their willingness to go through the program and they begin to experience true forgiveness, even after abandonment and rejection."

Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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