“Right Now You Have the Power to Say, ‘I Will Not Let Their Story End Like This.'”
This is the fourth time I’ve sat down to write this post… With a lump in my throat and a weighted-down heart, I’ve been having a hard time getting my thoughts on paper, because this story absolutely wrecks my heart. Stories like these make me want to shout from the rooftops, “Why is this still happening??” TODAY. In 2016. How have we allowed this to happen and not step in until now? These are the stories, and not just stories, but the REALITIES, that push us to keep going, keep raising voices, keep traveling across the world and across the U.S. sharing at church after church, school after school, meeting after meeting; because these kids have stories that need to be heard. We cannot allow this to keep happening. We cannot keep silent any longer. We cannot turn a blind eye to the problems that we know are there in the hopes that someone else will act. I firmly believe that our eyes are opened to things that break God’s heart, not so we can feel bad for them, but so we can DO something about it.
That being said, today I want to introduce you to a girl who is so close to my heart. After meeting this young woman for the first time and hearing her story, I couldn’t keep it together. I couldn’t help but cry and ask God WHY. It’s so unfair, absolutely unbelievable in the worst way, it’s just so utterly wrong and hard to wrap my mind around.
Bridget was 14 years old when we met in December. She came for a speech therapy evaluation with her jaja (grandma), whom she lives with. Bridget had a smile that lit up the room. We talked about typical speech therapy things, Bridget’s strengths and areas for growth, her interests, and what her typical day looked like. She didn’t say much, and it was clear that she had some difficulty with speaking and understanding language. Although she was 14 years old, she had never been in school. Can you imagine? I can’t. I then asked her jaja about her main concerns for Bridget. What Bridget’s jaja said next took the air out of my lungs.
“The neighbor men call her over, and because she doesn’t understand and can’t say “no” she goes… she’s too trusting… then they rape her. This has been happening for years. We had her tested once for hiv, but we couldn’t afford the second test. We don’t know if she has the disease or not.”
My stomach sank. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Instantly, the need to protect this girl boiled up within me. Somehow I felt completely out of my league and like a protective mama bear who was ready to take on the world, both at the same time. Where would we even begin? The social worker from Mercy and I continued asking questions. “What do you do in cases like this in the U.S.?” she asked me. I had absolutely no idea what to say. It doesn’t happen, I thought… We began brainstorming ideas and different options to make sure Bridget would be safe. After we finished talking with Bridget and her jaja, we scheduled an appointment for the next week, and they went on their way.
The following week, we started speech & language therapy to begin working on verbalizing yes and no and understanding and responding to questions. The next month, we found a boarding school for kids with disabilities near where we live, and we enrolled Bridget, along with four other children from Mercy, for the upcoming term. This boarding school would ensure that Bridget would have a safe place to live, and it would save her family a lot of money on daily transportation costs. She could also receive physical therapy to help with her motor challenges. I wish we had a photo of the moment when we talked to Bridget about going to school! She was so excited to finally have the opportunity to learn with other kids!
After returning from a brief trip to the States in April, I visited Bridget’s new school to see her and the other kids from Mercy. As we stepped into her classroom and the teacher called her name, Bridget leaped up from her seat and waved, running to us with arms wide open and the most radiant smile on her face. Even though she was in the first grade class with mainly younger students, it was so evident that she absolutely loved school. She was overflowing with joy!
Bridget has now been in school for six months, and she is learning and growing so quickly. She’s soaking up everything like a sponge and making friends with the girls in her dormitory. She has a new sense of confidence and innocence about her, and finally she’s able to be a child again without any fear. I visit Bridget’s school every week to continue speech therapy. Spending time with Bridget and seeing how God is working in her life is always a highlight of my week. God is definitely in the business of restoration, and we are so humbled to participate in the life-changing work God is doing!
Thank you to those of you who have been supporting us prayerfully and financially over the past 9 months! We have witnessed miracle after miracle in the lives of the 50+ kids and families we are working with. None of this could happen without your partnership on this journey. Webale nyo!
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O lord my god, I will give you thanks forever!”
-Psalm 30:11-12 (NLT)