Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Back to Africa Part 2

I'm headed Back to Africa during the first part of November. This is very exciting for me as I have been "out of Africa" for 18 months, the longest period of time away since I came on staff at Compassion in 2003. I'll be in Kenya between Nov. 7 and 15.

Africa, especially Kenya, holds a special place in my heart. Kenya was the first country I visited in Africa in the fall of 2003. I went there to film a video for Compassion and one of our partner ministries, the Continentals. It was a very special time, kind of the same feeling you get when you've just returned home after a long trip. The people are beautiful and genuinely warm and friendly. The landscape is beautiful. The African sky is every bit as magnificent as it has been described and then some. Kenya has become one of my favorite destinations in the world, and having set foot in 27 different countries that's a fairly big statement. I literally don't remember how many times I've been there since my first visit, but it was frequent enough that our country staff began to joke that I soon would need to start paying taxes. My sister thinks that if I was given the opportunity and the timing and conditions were right I would permanently move to Kenya...that might be stretching it a bit but you never know!

This upcoming trip will be even more special. We're celebrating the opening of a boarding school for girls in the Najille area in the Rift Valley. This area is home to the nomadic Massai tribe. Traditionally, the Massai have been polygamous and their traditions have viewed women as inferior to men. Women weren't viewed as having anything valuable to contribute to the communities in which they lived. As a result, there was very little emphasis on education for girls. The Massai have been known to marry off daughters as young as 12 years old. This enabled the parents to rid themselves of the "burden" of raising their daughters and have one less child to have to feed and care for.

Several years ago, one of our Project Coordinator's at Compassion's Kenya office felt compelled to speak up on behalf of the Massai girls. She began working to educate the Massai people on the value 's women bring to their culture. She went so far as to begin to rescue girls who were being sent off to be married. This courageous young woman put herself in very dangerous positions by confronting what was a deeply engrained cultural belief. By working with the Christian churches in the Rift Valley and using the power of prayer she was able to help the Massai understand that the traditions they had been observing were wrong. She came up with a plan to build a boarding school for girls to not only help educate the girls so they can become effective contributors to their villages, but also to offer protection from the temptation to marry them off at too young an age. Compassion's US development team was able to raise funds through the generous contributions of our major donors and several foundations that believe in the vision of Compassion's mission. I have had the opportunity to visit the school twice during various phases of construction. This trip will allow me to see it finished and to visit with the girls who are receiving the benefits the school is offering to them. I'll be filming interviews with the students, their parents and community leaders to put together a final status report and word of appreciation to the people who helped make everything possible. I think you can understand the significance of this trip.

That's why I'm especially excited about my trip Back to Africa. I hope this look into the unfamiliar of a group of people in a far away country will inspire you to pray for those less fortunate than us. If you're able, I would encourage you to sponsor a child living in a country that is trying to pull itself out of the grip of despair. You'll be amazed and blessed by the difference you can make...and the difference it will make in your own life, as well.

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