An 18-Year-Old Girl

By NaNa

This week I attended my first wedding in the community—the wedding of an 18-year-old Baasima,*who was marrying the father of the five-month-old baby within her. As the ate (older sister), I was asked to help the do the bridesmaids’ hair and makeup. We danced and sang, filled with happiness for the smiling bride. And for a moment I forgot. It wasn’t until I was standing outside of a little house with the crowd of young and old, watching the ceremony inside, that I remembered.

I was awakened from the dream by the bride’s mother holding my hand tightly, with tears in her eyes, saying, “Ayaw ko” over and over. I don’t like, I don’t like. The haunting reality of beautiful Baasima was one of continued poverty, unmet potential, and very little control over her own life. The stark reality hit me hard and as I looked around at the many little girls and young women who have become my kindred spirits, I was filled with fear. Would they be next?

“Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). This is the memory verse I gave my discipleship girls to encourage them to seek Jesus in hard times. That day, I found myself repeating it like a mantra. God’s perfect love is at work. God’s perfect love is transforming this place, a new generation of boys and girls, even transforming broken relationships with parents and families. God’s perfect love in is words through prayer and the community of believers, and in action, like the early education, scholarships, livelihood projects and leadership development.

But it became clear that God’s perfect love can only be fully experienced through relationship with Jesus, and therefore God’s people must be present and praying in places ruled by fear.

The evidence of this is in the story of another 18-year-old old girl, Ibdah*. Ibdah lives across the street from me in a very small slum house with her three siblings, all raised by their grandmother. She is a MBA, discipled by Ate Dotty since the age of 15. She is in her last year of college, finishing her thesis in information technology, and running a girls’ prayer group. Ibdah dreams of traveling the world, getting another degree, and maybe one day marrying a pastor. And for the first time last week, she gave the message in our Sunday gathering of believers. She shared on John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Ibdah’s life is living water to a new generation of girls in our community who are experiencing
the perfect love of God. It ismy privilege to encourage, empower, and ignite their faith.