Massai Land | Nairobi, Kenya Mission Photography
On our third day of ministry, we got in our vehicle knowing we'd have a bit of a drive to our destination, but we had no idea what we were in for. Our mission was to bring food and supplies provided by a church campaign, to a village in south Kenya. After hours of driving in really tough terrain, we were more than ready to meet the people, so when we'd see a village approaching, we'd get excited thinking we had arrived... but then we'd keep going further... and see another village... but then keep going further, and this continued until we were literally driving in the middle of nowhere, with no water or green in sight, without any form of road, searching for this tribe we so desperately wanted to meet.
Finally, we arrived to a single metal building that was their church. The moment we stepped out of the vehicle in the hot 105 degree heat, we heard singing that was unlike anything we've ever heard before. My mind flashed back to an old VHS documentary we watched in my anthropology class in college, and this didn't even compare. The people had gathered hours before and were worshiping and praising the Lord for the food we were bringing in their traditional song and dance. It was amazing.
See it for yourself:
After introductions and a little time, the women started coming up to me in groups asking for their photo to be taken as they had been watching me do so since I arrived. The second the photo was taken, they'd run up to my camera and try to see the photo for themselves. It was terribly bright, in direct sun, in the middle of the day, so shading the screen was a challenge in it of itself, but eventually they saw their photo and joy immediately came to their faces. This process was repeated time and time again with their family, girlfriends, and babies. They even danced for me.
Moments like that make me realize that women, in our vast complexities and differences, can be so similar. We all want to be known and loved. We all want to celebrate who we are, and share our story. These women were no different.
But then over the course of our time there, I learn about these women's lives. I learn that they hustle all day long to provide for their family, walking miles upon miles each day, working in the 90+ degree heat without much water or food. I learn that they get forced into marriage super young to men their father's age in order for their father to win some cattle in exchange. And then I learn that before their young marriage they're forced into female genital mutilation simply because its tradition, oftentimes with unsafe tools where death is a real possibility from over bleeding. And if they survive all of that, they then become moms at age 12, 14, 16... only to get pregnant over and over again, having more kids as the process continues.
These women aren't like me. Their lives seem like a story you'd read from a book written hundreds of years ago. But this is today. This is now. These women are brave beyond my knowing, ruthlessly strong in every way, and incredibly beautiful in their colorful attire and endless attitude of gratitude.
We should celebrate all the women in our life, as we all experience life in its hardships and victories. But I can't help but think that we need to raise these women up. These unbelievably brave women. We need their story to be known, and we need to celebrate who they are.
My hope is that this isn't just another photograph you see online or in the news, and quickly dismiss thinking that can't possibly be true or that there's just no way to help. Because you can.
On the last day of our trip, we went to Christian Mission Aid's Girls Rescue Center. This safe haven is a place of peace and hope, where the girls escape to if they're courageous enough to leave their homes on foot with nothing, without knowing what might happen. Here, they're given a bed, food, education, community with other girls, and skills to radically change their life. A new life!
This rescue center is exactly how you can directly help these women. The workers there are equipped with everything they need to fight these issues, and save these women's lives, changing the culture one women at a time.
If you'd like to give, even just $10, you can do so now. When given your options, select Community Development - Girls Rescue Center and it will go directly to them. Let's put an action to our voice and help these women.
On our journey home, the experience didn't stop. Just a few miles in, our team leader had announced that Billy Graham had passed away just hours before. I'm not sure what it was, if it was my time at Northwestern where Billy Graham was once president, or the fact that we had just witnessed one of the toughest communities in the world, but the timing of it all seemed unreal. It called me to pause and ask myself, "Would I be here without his legacy in my life?" I'll never know the answer to that, but I'm so grateful for him and all the others that give of themselves 100% each and every day for the cause of the gospel. We need more of you.
Lastly, here's some phone photos from my family of our trip that day: