by Dennis Dalman
The statistics are grim: Every 15 seconds somewhere a woman is beaten in a domestic dispute; each day, three women in the nation are murdered by boyfriends, spouses or ex-spouses; one in four women is abused in domestic situations.
Pastor Brenda Engelking knows those statistics all too well. She is on call, all hours of the day or night, to help victims of domestic abuse. A Sauk Rapids resident, Engelking works throughout the greater St. Cloud area, including with the police departments of Sartell and St. Joseph. She has high praise for the dedicated support shown by Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes and St. Joseph Police Chief Joel Klein.
“They’re so awesome and so supportive of this ministry,” she said. “We’ve worked on domestic cases together so we have the same understanding.”
She is currently the care pastor for The Waters Church in Sartell.
Despite the tragic stories she hears, Engelking doesn’t ring her hands or wallow in despair. She tries to remain upbeat, which isn’t too hard to do because she knows there is always hope. She helps others to move forward, to move beyond being stuck in a victim’s mentality.
“It’s important to move women out of their victim-hood,” she said. “We have to work on what’s wrong with them, otherwise they keep going back into bad relationships.”
That is not to say abuse is the woman’s fault. Abuse is never justified. But too many women, because of the ongoing abuse, she explained, begin to develop a victim mentality, making it seemingly impossible to break the relationship and move on.
When she is called to help on an abuse case, she will network, often with local police aware of the case.
There are three aspects of Engelking’s work. First, she trains churches and pastors how to deal with domestic violence. Second, she works with victims of any kind of trauma (sexual, physical, emotional and psychological). She also oversees three mentoring programs – one for women, one for teenagers and one for children. She works with the women; she and Becky Pomeroy run the children’s program, and Kelly Newell runs the teen program.
Safety is the number-one priority, and a tight security program is maintained at The Waters church.
Engelking earned a degree in criminal-justice studies from St. Cloud State University in 1995. She then began training law-enforcement personnel about domestic-violence issues for Stearns County and did a lot of consultant work. For two years she ran the women’s program at the Anna Marie Women’s Shelter in St. Cloud.
About a year ago, Engelking decided to start her own non-profit ministry, dubbed BKE Ministries (BKE being her initials). Her vision statement is a simple but powerful one: “Speaking truth and empowering change.”
She has been a credentialed pastor through the Assemblies of God for a year.
“I love my work because God created me to do it,” she said. “God has called me to do this. It’s not fun work. It’s stressful work where you can make a lot of enemies and people disagreeing.”
But Engelking is totally dedicated and committed to her work because she herself had undergone many tragedies. Her father was killed in an accident before her birth. Her family struggled with addiction, violence and mental illness that left Brenda at one time questioning God’s character and love.
When she was in college, memories of those childhood traumas were reawakened when she discovered radical feminism. She began to champion many causes through activism in feminist issues, domestic violence, sexual assault and pornography. Her work on those issues brought her praise, honors and many awards.
However, by the age of 25, she realized she could not solve all of life’s problems on her own. She began to feel empty inside, in need of a savior. It was then she was opened to the power of Jesus Christ and God.
She then plunged into her work on behalf of abused women and children, chemically dependent people, homeless veterans and help in providing housing services to low-income and mentally-ill people.
Engelking gives many inspirational presentations at various churches and groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
One of her goals, she said, is to convince all churches to take a strong stand against domestic violence and to be shelters from the storm for women and children harmed by domestic abuse.
“The church needs to stand up and take a stand against domestic violence,” she said. “Churches need to be safe places for women and children.”
She also asks people to support her ministry in any way they can.
Her website is www.bkeministries.com. Those who want to offer her support or anyone in need of her services should call 320-267-8285.
Engelking and her husband, Matthew Engelking, have two adopted pit bulls named Moses and Esther.