Today, the world holds 7.8 billion image-bearers; all with God-given dignity, all deserving of our respect. One of those image-bearers is a young woman we’ll call Mina.*
Mina was a very happy girl. She was in grade 7 and enjoyed going to school and participating in her adolescent group activities. She participated in World Renew programming as an active adolescent leader–providing lessons, staging gender equality dramas for her community, and organizing various social activities.
Then, in what seemed like a sudden shift, Mina started to avoid her group of peers. She stopped going to school and remained absent from World Renew adolescent meetings for a long time. Her peers inquired about her and found her sad and upset. So the women leaders who work with World Renew approached her lovingly, and Mina poured out her heart and told them her story. It was a story she had shared with no one.
Mina lives with her parents and her elder brother in a one-room house in a slum in a large city. Recently her elder brother had begun to sexually abuse her. It felt so embarrassing to her that she could not share it with anyone, not even with her parents. So, she kept silent. The secret was killing her inside.
Mina’s leaders were trained to recognize gender-based violence and took immediate steps to help her. They talked to her parents several times, who finally accepted the reality and arranged a private room for Mina by transforming their kitchen into a bedroom. The leaders closely monitored the situation, making sure Mina was safe at home. They also convinced Mina’s mother to join World Renew’s local adult group, which teaches biblical ways to celebrate gender and nurture children. Now Mina can feel her mother’s love and support in tangible ways. The best news is that Mina’s older brother has gotten a job and moved to another area.
Still, the impact of his abuse lingers in Mina’s life. She lost two years in school, and the mental agony she suffered was nearly unbearable. For Mina, hope came through the support structures she already had in place thanks to her World Renew group and the help of her leaders, her peers, and her parents. Through all of this support, Mina is slowly recovering from the losses she experienced at the hand of her brother. She is back to school and to her group. Her smile has returned–evidence that she is now safe at her home.
Mina’s story is not unique. And sadly, there are thousands more young girls without the support Mina was able to access to help them find safety and healing. What’s worse: COVID-19 has caused a pronounced increase in gender-based violence around the globe. For example, Kenya reported 4,000 school-aged girls becoming pregnant between March and June of 2020.
Respect calls out abuse; respect also lovingly brings healing to God’s image-bearers. While we cannot directly meet and shelter Mina from gender-based violence, gifts like yours created provision and safety for her. As a result, Mina is one of millions of stories in which the love of Christ, shining through his people, changed a life.
What if this Christmas, we all chose to change another life like Mina’s? Together, how many lives might come to know Jesus’ hope?
*Name changed to protect Mina’s privacy.