Mareli Knop

Beyond Brokeness

I was born in South Africa, but at the age of two I immigrated with my parents to Brazil, South America. Maybe the clash of cultures was too great for us to bear. My mother was always unhappy for leaving her family behind, and my father never succeeded in anything, no matter how hard he tried. He was very strict and did not allow any freedom in our lives (friends, parties, boyfriends etc.). They are divorced today.

I was never “one of the girls,” never had money for clothes, going out, etc. I had no social skills; I was very shy and passive and I did not have friends. My schoolwork was poor.

I started having eating disorders at the age of 15. Food seemed like the only thing I had control over. Anorexia, bulimia and diet pills consumed my life. If I could not be successful, I thought, at least I could be thin.

At the age of 19 I fell pregnant and decide to abort the baby. Afterwards, I tried to study to become something, but I was always interrupted by getting involved in dead-end relationships. I was looking for love and acceptance at any cost. The cost was my health, my education and my sanity. I also developed a great hatred for my father, which affected my whole being. I blamed him for everything that went wrong in my life. I was 21 and I was a failure.

My mother was concerned about me and suggested that I take a year off. I went to South Africa to find myself. In the country of my birth, I felt like I was in a strange land, hardly able to understand the language.

And yet, the family I came to live with showed me incredible love, acceptance and care. I was very shocked by their attitudes, because my family knew nothing but conflict and strife.

On my third day in the country, I went to church with this family. Though the minister spoke in English (my mother tongue is Brazilian) I understood the invitation to find hope, forgiveness and a future through Jesus. This was for me! That day, I invited Jesus Christ to be my Forgiver and Leader.

He set me free from my eating disorders, my fears and insecurities. He delivered me from my hatred to my father, and today we have a good relationship that we have been working on. He has blessed me with a Christian husband who has walked with me on the painful path of healing and restoration, and has accepted me just for who I am: “a lost girl in search of life.”

I got involved with a non-profit organization, which cares for the homeless, fatherless and widows. I enrolled in theology classes, and started to learn about this God who loves and accepts unconditionally. It is now nine years and seven months since I gave my heart to Jesus, and He has transformed me from a passive girl into a totally new woman. I am confident that with Christ, I will never be alone again.

Today my husband and I manage a center that cares for mentally challenged people. I also counsel women who have been through the same things that I have.

I know that life in this world is never going to be perfect, but every day with Jesus is a day to grow and give to others the same comfort that He gave me.

Do you feel lost, trapped, like you do not really belong anywhere? Do you suffer with eating disorders? Do you feel afraid and rejected? Did you have an abortion? Have you encountered broken relationships and family strife? I’ve been there. And I have found that Jesus can bring a healing touch to ALL of it.

Mareli Knop


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