I struggle to know what to write for our April newsletter. I could give you a glowing report and tell you about all the triumphs of our recent April trip; because we had those. I could tell you how fun it is to travel with your daughter and best friend sharing tears and laughter with one another because that is true as well. I could also tell you how amazing the women of Nala are and how blessed we are to call them "walayshe (sister in Somali) because that is true as well. But as I have written and re-written this article, all of those positives seem dull to me and are drowned out by the thing that I am struggling with the most: the memory of a young girl we tried to rescue.
This is from my journal last week during our recent trip:
"Today was a heartbreaking day. Our youngest girl, Sara (17), decided to leave the program. I spent an entire afternoon discussing her situation with our project manager, trying to grasp the issue with Sara. We had rescued her from abject poverty and abuse- giving her a place to live, a livable wage, and heaps of love- but I was being told she wanted to leave Nala. Even though Nala was her best chance at a better life, she could not see that- only wanting to go back to village life, friends, and ultimately back to abject poverty. It was a hard day for me and I fought with our leaders, trying to find a simple solution to get Sara to stay. I tried to come up with solutions that might make sense to me; she needed counseling- anything that would get her to stay- but alas, the decision was not mine, it was Sara's. I ultimately had to trust our local leaders' guidance in the issue and let go of this young girl. it was the first girl that quit and I took it pretty hard."
Even after seven years of this work, I still don't understand why some slip away. In the beginning I would feel shame and guilt when someone serving or being served by Faith That Works would quit. I somehow blamed myself and spent many sleepless nights going over conversations in my head, trying to figure out what I could have done differently. I don't do that so much anymore. I have realized you use what God gives you, doing the best you can, and that's all you can do. Maybe Sara will come back to us someday; maybe she won't. I hold on to the hope and possibility that the six months Sara spent with us made an impact on her life- though we may never know how, or in what ways. I live by the idea that I am planting and watering and that God will bring in the harvest in HIS time and I must accept that.
Just as one girl left, it made room for another girl to join our program. This girl, Kabul, had also run away almost two years ago. She was young and believed lies about her future and followed those lies until she was literally broken and begging. She reminded me of the story of the prodigal son and when she asked if she could come back I said, "has the prodigal truly come home?". She said, "yes, I have seen many things and that life is over". That moment gave me hope for Sara too. All we can do is be a beacon for these girls. We are sending a message of unconditional love and we must wait and hope they will receive it, accepting the gift we extend.As I reflect on this I draw from the deep well of experience I have had with other young girls. A few years ago we had a young woman who needed help. She lived with my family for almost two years. Eventually we were forced to ask her to leave our home because of the upheaval she was causing in our home. It broke my heart, feeling like I was giving up on her. One month ago, she called me and gave a beautiful testimony of what her life was like now. She has two children, a home, a job she loves and a wonderful husband. She apologized for how she treated our family. She also told me that as she parents her own children she remembers the things I taught her, and finds herself telling her step-daughter some of the same things. God used that phone call to encourage my heart and help me to understand that our positive actions will reap reward in other people’s lives with time. We may not get to witness this, but someday the fruit will be seen. I will continue to pray and hold out hope for Sara and other girls like her who are a part of Nala.