Every morning when I wake up I count ahead eight hours. That's the time difference between Missouri and Maai Mahiu, Kenya. I think about the women there. Did they have enough food today? Are the safe? How are their children? Have they found a "casual job" ( a term for a temporary worker, i.e. helping plant in a field) today or will they be forced to choose between their children starving and prostitution?
The fact that these questions even exist are almost too much for me. They are too much, if I'm being totally honest. On my worst day, my life will never be as hard as theirs. I will not ever have to choose between feeding my babies and keeping my dignity as a woman. Even if my life fell apart I would have access to government programs that would help me get on my feet and would ensure that we had food and shelter. These women have no such luxury, and so they, and often their children, enter the Commercial Sex Trade in an effort to stay alive.
Maai Mahiu is seated in the stunning Rift Valley and is home to a large truck stop that brings a great deal of business to the city. Unfortunately, much of that business is in the form of pornography and prostitution. Of the 5500 inhabitants of the city, there are as many as 600 Commercial Sex Workers made up of women and children. Children. There is the temptation to keep reading and scrolling and click away before you allow that to sink in. Babies, babies who are loved and beautiful and precious JUST LIKE MY BABIES are being used for the gratification of men's sexual desires at the cost of 20 cents an hour. Children as young as seven are full time sex workers so they can eat and live another day, to be used and abused again and again. That's hard to write. It's hard to see. But I have held their hands, and kissed their faces and sang praises to God with them and THEY ARE JUST LIKE YOU AND ME. They are created in the image of God and their lives matter. They are gifted and part of the body of Christ and have a purpose just like you and I do. The redemption of both their hearts and their circumstances can happen. For some it has already begun.
A large portion of our purpose on the trip was to encourage the local women and to assist the church, Rift Valley Fellowship, with their women's conference. We each got to share our testimonies, worship together and build relationships with some of the women (some knew more English then others). We also had the privilege of hearing some of the ways God has worked in their lives, and it was so incredible. There are a group of women known as the Women of Courage, and that they are. They have left the prostitution trade and have learned the skill of making baskets or jewelry to support their families. So many of them shared what God meant to them, how He had worked in their lives and how they trusted Him. The church, in partnership with His Voice Global, assists them with food, housing and school fees for their families. This not only changes their lives, but the lives of their children who both do not have to be exposed to the commercial sex trade and now have consistent access to education. The process can be slow, and is still filled with many challenges. However there is hope that as God redeems each situation, one family at at time, the redemption of the entire community will follow.
I have been journaling and thinking and praying for two weeks now since my return, and my constant question is "what now?". What do I do with what I have seen? How can I let it change me, instead of it being just some trip I went on once. Most importantly, how to I come alongside the body of Christ in Maai Mahiu and participate in what God is doing there? Not acting is not a choice. I am still figuring out the answer to these questions, but sharing a little bit about what happened there was the first step. So many of you reading this supported me with prayer, finances and encouragement. I wanted you to know that God did work in the hearts of the women there and that He is far from finished. I wanted you to know that God changed ME, and that I am compelled to share that with you just as much (and will continue to do so in the days and months to come).
A piece of my heart will always be in Maai Mahiu, and I will always support the work in Kenya any way I can. I have been reading the Psalms and I am overwhelmed with how many references there are to God hearing our cries and how many times David talks about God intervening for the oppressed. I see the faces of these women as I read these passages and I pray for God's swift redemption in Maai Mahiu. I also know that God provides for each and every need, so I pray Philippians 4:19 over these families, knowing that God hears and is faithful. I would love for you to join me in praying these things as well.
If you feel called to help I would encourage you to read more about His Voice Global and donate to the work being done in Kenya here. They are a part of the body of Christ and it is our responsibility to send and serve and give to help in any way we can. They are also a part of the body of Christ that can show us faith and trust in God when things seem to be at their worst. They have hearts that are tuned to praise the Lord quickly and to seek Him first as the answer to their problems. They are us. We are them. We are the body and we can work together to see God move both here and in Maai Mahiu.