Fatima is 7 years old. Born into a Muslim family, she does not yet understand the bondage that enslaves her family. Being so young, she cannot begin to fathom the depths of oppression that she will face as a young Muslim woman. She does not yet know that she will be traded, like her clan’s camels, when she is barely in her teens. She does not grasp the idea of love between a man and a woman, nor does she know that this love will have no part in her future. Instead, her father, uncles, and brothers will choose her husband. She does not yet comprehend the desperation that comes with the reality of having no real value except her ability to provide sons for a husband who has now married two other women. At seven, what she does already understand is that she is treated differently because she is a girl. She understands that her brothers are special; that they command attention and enjoy the favor of their parents. Already, she understands that she is “less than”.
I met sweet Fatima a few months ago. In need of a few random items, I headed out into my neighborhood on a quest to find them. At one point, I walked into a small stall, no bigger than my walk-in-closet back in the States. The walls of this “store” were lined with shelves, containing a meager offering of odds and ends. A few lightbulbs, several canned goods, books of matches, powdered milk and hot cola. With matches being on my list, I wanted to buy some. The problem was that the store was empty. Or so it seemed to be. Knowing a customer was present, little Fatima stepped up on something and a little brown faced appeared just above the counter. She looked absolutely precious. Her eyes flew open when she observed me – a white “forenjee” – in her store! I began speaking her language, much to her astonishment. After greetings, I asked where her mother or father was, as I had hoped to buy something. She looked behind her and pointed. Stepping close enough to the counter to lean over a bit, I was shocked to see little Fatima’s mother, laid out on the floor, high after ingesting a drug that has enslaved so many people in my East African community. Sickness washed over me, while my heart broke.
Sadly, Fatima’s story is not unique. Every single day, I pass so many children sitting on mats along the sidewalk. They play with rocks and sticks as their mothers or fathers or grandparents spend up to three hours in a drug induced stupor. I know that Jesus is the answer, but sometimes I feel so overwhelmed that there is nothing I can do to quickly and easily fix the challenges the children in my city face each day. I don’t always know what to do, but I find it an honor and a privilege to walk by these children, flash them my brightest smile and exchange greetings with them. I hope and believe that the fragrance of Christ emanates from me and that, for a small moment in time, they feel the love, peace, and joy of the Savior who loves them so much that He brought me to their city to share His plan of salvation.