To be seen…
She sat across from me on the couch, savouring the crunchy sweet taste of toast with jam, a new experience for her.
The conversation was slow, but every so often, I would get a smile or a giggle from her, and in that moment, I would see a simple contentment in her eyes.
Her big exams started that week, and knowing that she couldn’t stay too long, her eyes occasionally darted towards the window to see how dark it was getting outside, the shade of the sky being the Kibera clock.
The “class eight exam” here in Kenya is a very big deal….it determines…well, much of a life to be perfectly honest.
A successful day would mean that my young friend would be sought after by a “good school”, where she would have the opportunity to grow and learn in a relatively safe environment, and maybe even go to college one day. If she did well, she might in the future have the opportunity to support her family. No pressure or anything.
I won’t go into details, but know this little girl has quite the challenging life. But that being said…she is just that…a girl. She can kick a football right alongside the boys…she’s not afraid to get in on the action. And when she is hanging out with her friends, the quiet demeanor melts away and she teases and laughs alongside the others with ease.
She’s a kid.
And she is seen by God.
As she finished up her toast, brushing the crumbs from her lap and reaching for her juice, we started talking about the fun things we would do before I left.
“Yes, so much to do before I leave in two weeks!”
Sometimes I talk before I think.
Her eyes opened wide and her head jerked up as she looked straight at me.
“You’re leaving in two weeks?”
She had always known I was not there to stay, but the time crept up on her just as it has on me. Over the past few years she has seen quite a few missionaries come into her life and then leave again. It’s one of the challenges of doing short-term missions well.
“Yes.” was my gentle but honest reply.
I paused a moment before saying anything else…carefully considering my words.
“It must be really hard for you, making new friends and saying good-bye.”
I will never forget the feeling in my tummy and heart as her eyes connected to mine, and she slowly nodded her head.
“It’s sad”, she whispered. “It’s very sad”.
I just nodded my head in agreement, not sure what to say in response. She was right, it was sad. And as much as a painful good-bye means that you have loved well, it doesn’t dull the hurt.
I had trouble sleeping that night, tossing and turning and thinking about my friend.
I cried out to God from the comfort of my bed….”I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do with all this”.
And then I went to sleep.
And although I know God doesn’t need us to do anything…He does invite us to.
God birthed a desire in my heart that night….one of those desires that is just so passionate, strong and certain that is undeniably from the Lord.
I believe that God wants me to tell this little girl that she is SEEN. In fact I want each of the girls that I have worked with the past few months to know deep down in their bones that there is a God that loves them with an everlasting love.
And so I started to pray with a renewed vigour. God….what do you want me to do? How can I leave these girls with a deeper knowledge of you??
And then…God led me to my answer.
Beauty for Ashes. The retreats that my team will put on during Kingdom Journeys (the second missions trip I am going on in the New Year) provide a space for women to heal, and allow them to learn more about their true identities as daughters of the King.
Why not take the soccer girls away for a night, invite them to eat yummy food, have fun with their friends, and most importantly, feel the love of Jesus? A Junior Beauty for Ashes retreat??
Here’s the really exciting part…
I also asked Him to lead me to a Kenyan woman who is interested in getting to know these girls, and continue with discipleship after I leave.
I have re-discovered that God always answers our prayers, and sometimes…God says yes!!!
On Monday November 17, three days before I leave, I will be taking 11 pre-teen girls on a lovely night away to a pretty retreat centre on the outskirts of Nairobi. I will be doing several teaching and worship sessions with them. It is also my hope to bless these girls with yummy food, fun activities, journals and abundant love.
I am so thankful that you are reading this…and as you read, right now, I invite you to be a part of it. I ask you to pray…. If you have a moment (maybe even right now), just lift these girls up to God and ask that He show them that they are seen. Ask Him to reveal Himself to each one of them, that they would know His love.
The retreat was such a success!! Thank- you for your prayers . If you still wish to get involved with the Beauty for Ashes movement, through prayer or otherwise, please check out the website at http://www.adventures.org/beautyforashes