The alarm goes off. I reach over and thrash about until i find the noisy culprit and grouchily flip it into silence. I lay there a few moments longer underneath the mound of covers dreading that moment when I am forced to emerge from such comfort. I finally convince myself and scurry to the shower.. and return to my room to take my place there in the doorway of my closet staring at my rack FULL of clothes wondering what on earth i can wear. Mostly i peruse the newest additions... just recently added to begin this new year of school. Clothes come off the hanger slip over my head and fall to the floor as i assess my options. Finally it is decided and i fly down the stairs to stand in the doorway of another "closet" as I face the next dilemma of my morning. What to eat for breakfast. There is the different boxes of cereal.. there is toast.. eggs... last nights supper.. so many options. I open the refrigerator grab the juice and pour some in a glass as i sit down to eat my first meal of the day. My eyes scan the newspaper dad had brought in from the mailbox before he left for work quickly flipping the pages until they settle on the comics. ..My stomach and mind being delighted all at once. I run to do my hair and put my "face" on... steal several last glances in the mirror and then run out the door and hop in the car with my best friend as we head off for our first day of school. (16 with a passenger wasn't necessarily legal at this point :D )
This marked the end of two months of "freedom." Sleeping in late... swimming... white arms turning tan under the watchful rays of the sun.. shopping.. spending the money we made from the different jobs we had... staying up late around camp fires and in front of screens catching the latest movie. At 16 that was "THE LIFE!" Boys were on the brain and parents were seen as obstacles in our road to freedom. We were flying high.. with the radio blasting. Responsibilities were minimal and we took full advantage. I look back on this time and there are some good memories and we still get good laughs from some of those crazy days. There was a lot of wasted time and energy but we thank God that He didn't leave us there. Soon after, we both started feeling the call to come away from that path that was so wide with distraction whose end was destruction.. and to follow a wholly different way. We looked at our lives and realized we were really standing in miry clay and desperately needed saving! And we found The Savior... or rather He found us!
And now... we are here. And we have another 16 year old in our lives.. but her story looks a little different.
She wakes up in a house the size of that bedroom that used to be strewn with my clothes and shoes. Her alarm is the cries of her baby sister who joined the family several months back. She rises and in the darkness of the morning and dresses herself and her baby boy and heads out the door.. walking along the dirt paths crossing numerous streams and ditches to be in school by 6. There is no wondering what wear... she has one uniform. There isn't a bathroom with a nice shower to wash the sleep from her eyes. There is no wondering what to eat. Instead of bringing in the newspaper her dad brings in alcohol on his breathe and violence in his hands. She gets out of school at 5 that evening and hurries home to change before arriving at our door to pick the little man that shares her eyes. She sits a spell and then heads back down to her home to attend to the numerous chores and homework that awaits.
When she has a break from school there is no swimming... and there is no shopping unless she can find a place to earn money. Dad doesn't have any extra cash to give to his eldest daughter.. it is needed to quench a thirst that never is satisfied. She helps her mom take care of the 5 littler ones and there is her own that needs her attention. And she works.. usually washing someone's laundry. When asked to go out to eat chicken and fries for lunch she eagerly consents. We don't go far... just out of the slum to a place nearby... a 10 minute ride. And food is placed in front of us and we eat.. and talk. She shares that she has never been this "far" out of the slum. I wonder at that statement. 16 years spent in the slum... never leaving.. food is bought at local shops and when new clothes are required there is the local market. Always just those same paths... the same dirt and dirtiness. The chicken fulfills its destiny and is fully enjoyed.. as is evidenced by fingers licked and a smile shining. But half is saved and wrapped in a napkin to take home to the little ones who wait. When school is on break there is one meal a day in her home... the same thing 7 days a week, ugali and skuma. Tea in the morning to get them by until dad makes it home at night.
Lots of neighbor girls share her situation. Girls like we were in 2008 but they with young ones that share their features gracing their hips. In her school there are at least six other girls who have children. She said one has a six year old. Many around her simply drop out and forget school and what could come after that... submitted to living the life that they have always known. But she has chosen school... trusting there is something MORE to life than babies.. and men taking.. and then leaving you to deal with the one growing inside.
She has dreams for the future... 3 more years of school and then she wants to get a job so she can help her mom and siblings.
At 16 i don't think many of us were considering finishing school so we could support our family.So we encourage and help when we have the resources sufficient. She comes to church and listens and learns and we speak of the ONE who can do something. The only One who change this all and give hope and a future. We pray and trust that the Spirit is working and that eyes would be unveiled and her heart will receive revelation and LIFE.
Sometimes we talk and wonder if there is something MORE we should be doing right now. Moving all the way to Africa to babysit?! We were doing that back at home... but now we don't get paid. And people ask about ministry and we tell them and wonder what goes through their mind. There is the mentoring every evening and the bible study and feeding on Saturdays... but... babysitting??? And someone with an evil voice bent on our destruction speaks and says.. "and you expect people to support you?" "your wasting your time... your wasting their time." And we rebuke the evil and turn to the pages of scripture.. Then we see how the angels rejoice over just ONE. and why should we do any less?!
So by His strength and grace alone we will be faithful where He has placed us as we pray and seek ways to serve Him and the one's like her better!