Her voice ricochets and reverberates off the computer speakers and into my ears as I hear her voice for the first time in over 2 months.
Glee is audible, with a touch of surprise, as if I could have sounded any different.
Having been away at school for the year’s third term and obeying strict school guidelines for no phones,I hadn’t exchanged more than a word with Maisara since leaving Rwanda in August.
When I have called…in September…in October…I have repeatedly encountered the dreaded French woman muttering emotionlessly via the fallback recording,
“Se no me compose…the person you have dialed is not currently available…”
This means either the phone is switched off, out of power, or broken. A certain anxiety strikes in these moments and I feel just how far away I am from them. I lick my lips, mutter aloud, and nervously think, “how am I going to make this happen?”
When I committed to helping the girls become educated and to finish their schooling just about a year ago, I underestimated the commitment it entails.
Safety, finances, materials, transport, family approval, study habits, examinations, fundraising, global communication, clarity in process and so forth. I have no regrets, I love doing this, but it’s a time-consuming project.
This last weekend I spoke to Eugenie and Divine too; 3 of the 5 girls I maintain relatively constant contact with and facilitate sponsorship for. Not bad, not bad at all.
Zahara is finishing up national examinations and so she hasn’t been home and Yazina has received a new number and so I continue to await her call. I know when it arrives because I imagine she’ll call one, two, three, possibly four times in a row. If a Rwandan wants to speak with you, they will make it happen.
These are “my girls” and if I can be honest, it’s hard with the distance sometimes. Not only because of spotty communication, uncertainty, or unfamiliarity of their daily situations, but largely because of my own pursuit of control.
Slowly, I am dying to it. I must. That’s what this last year of sponsorship and advocacy has taught me.
You see, my power is inevitably limited even when I didn’t realize as such. I have felt in my deepest soul called to advocate for these girls – and Praise God! I will! – however, what distance is teaching me is that I am not the Savior. I am NOT the one who makes such miracles happen – knowledge, opportunity, growth, belief. God has uniquely allowed for my facilitation, but as I’ve been spiritually broken down and rebuilt again, I have earnestly tried removing myself from the story. If anyone, let it be Jesus.
Because even in an appointed advocacy, Jesus is still greater. He is THE greatest advocate of all.
If Jesus is your Advocate, the law of God is now completely FOR you. It’s on your side of the scale. When you put your faith in Jesus, when you say from the heart, “Father, accept me because of what Jesus did,” then Jesus’ work on the cross is transferred to your account. Now the law of God demands your acquittal. That is why when John calls Jesus our Advocate, he also calls him “the Righteous One.” This phrase suggests that when God looks at you, if you are a Christian, he sees you “in Christ”. In yourself, alone on your side of the scale, you are a sinner; but in him you are perfect, just, beautiful, and righteous. You’re lost in your Advocate.
–Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions, by Timothy Keller
I can be fighting for the cause of my girls. Certainly, I can fight with vigor and passion, believing as I do that equality for girls starts in the classroom. Believing that we are all of equal capability in our souls but not always of equal opportunity. That lending a hand is a byproduct of God’s love and that sharing in the promotion of education, empowerment, and relationship can only spread His word deeper and wider.
Yes, advocacy is good. But because Jesus is who He says He is, we must let Him come alongside us. We must let Him come before us too, as He already does. We must trust that He will finish what he allowed us to start in the first place.
I miss my girls.
But before I bemoan the distance or the ease that proximity can create in terms of understanding their report cards, schools, issues, teachers, or payment options, I give all glory to God who can do anything. He can overcome abusers, the poverty, and the hunger that Maisara, Divine, Zahara, Eugenie, and Yazina have all faced.
It was just a few months ago that Eugenie (far right in the photograph below) was told by her father that he was ashamed that he had fathered not one, two, but four girls. He was literally fuming because he hadn’t birthed a son. This is what women are up against in some pockets of the world; girls and women are seen as worthless. Powerless. Incapable.
These are lies. Go here if you want to learn more about even more widespread cases of “gendercide.”
I can be the hands and feet, but it is HIM who will heal.
I am happy to not only continue this commitment to the girls, but I am currently exploring options to develop this “project” into something sustainable, lasting, and official. Whether I develop a public charity, apply for 501 (c)(3) status, or simply figure out a way to involve more girls on a larger scale, I am praying openly and fervently to God that the right direction is pursued. As I mentioned, I love doing this. I love it because it’s right. Because in my conversations with the girls this week, I know that not only are lives being changed, but there have been direct encounters with God himself.
All of the girls are experiencing improved marks, a welcome routine in their schedules, and a humble pride in the women they are becoming. They have shared their leadership development opportunities as well as how their colleagues, teachers, and mentors are shaping their spiritual attitudes. All this has taken is the collaborative efforts of friends, family members, and sometimes complete strangers to pool resources together so these girls can build their own lives. I was their teacher just a year ago, and now, as their advocate, I suppose, I know what a difference 365 days full of opportunity can make. I believe in it. And frankly, I’m excited to watch this grow and flourish in the way that makes the most sense.
I am kind of still figuring it all out – and so should you have any advice, words of wisdom, insight, connections, or just something you might want to share, please do. I could use all the help I can get.
As I pull together ideas for a board, bylaws, and operating procedures, it’s hard not to dream. I envision more girls, higher levels of education, and cross-cultural relationship-building. Dreaming is good, but so is growing, little by little, letting Jesus maintain His position as OUR advocate. He advocates so we can do so effectively for others. This is part of our duty as a Christian people. Yet, it must be done with integrity, humility, and honesty. Most strikingly, it must be done with dignity. Not only for the girls themselves, but for their mothers, grandmothers, fathers, and siblings. Again, I don’t want to act as Savior, as “holier than thou”, or any kind of glorified human being. I want the girls to understand that the benefit of education comes from a demonstration of character and inner-beauty. Yet, this open door for education must also serve a greater chance for their family too, and so it’s these things I consider as I pray about growing and increasing these kinds of efforts.
Will you help them? Will you help Him?
Will you share in His molding and formation of these young women?
To all Glory be His name, His works, and His ability to transform all of us, should we stop being the advocate and let Jesus himself advocate in the battles we are brought to.
Click on the link below if you are interested in contributing funds for the girls’ continued studies. Currently the sponsored girls are: Divine, Maisara, Zahara, Eugenie, and Yazina, all top students, leaders, and women in their classes.