Girls' Education and Rescue Centers - May 2019 Update
A wise person has great power and a person of knowledge increases strength. Proverbs 25:5
This verse describes Rev. Charles Maina, pictured right, a servant of God who puts his life on the front line defending and rescuing girls by providing a place to increase knowledge and understanding and educating society to recognize the plight of the girl child. Rev. Maina is a pastor and missionary to PCEA Loodokilani, Kajiado Presbytery where Mother Esther’s School and Rescue Center is located.
A group from Outreach recently traveled to Kajiado, Kenya and visited Mother Esther’s. Our group included Ebralie Mwizerwa, Outreach Projects Coordinator, Dr. Jennifer L. Ellis, First Presbyterian Church Clarksville, TN, and Frank Dimmock, Outreach Africa Specialist. We were accompanied by Stu Ross, East Africa Mission Consultant for Outreach, and Rev. Lauren Scharstein, Antioch Partner (TAP) missionary who works with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA). Upon arrival, we were interested to hear the history of Mother Esther’s. Rev. Lauren Scharstein told us the following:
Lauren shared the story of the twenty-six women who fled their village to pursue a better life and a brighter future for themselves and their daughters. In December 2015, the mothers and their twelve to fourteen-year-old daughters left their rural homes for fear that the girls would be forced into child marriage like so many of their peers. They ran to Loodokilani Presbyterian Church to seek sanctuary and searched specifically for Rev. Charles Maina, a vocal advocate for the rights of girls and women in the area. The Loodokilani congregation responded by turning their church sanctuary into a dormitory and classroom for the girls – a place where they could learn and grow in safety – Mother Esther’s School and Rescue Center.
Mother Esther’s has grown in the years since then and has welcomed and supported many girls. The original sanctuary is now a library and the compound has grown to include six classrooms, a dormitory, dining hall, and houses for the teachers. It is a thriving center of hope and possibility for the girls and the surrounding community.
Everything Mother Esther’s School is today and everything it will become is based on the courage and resilience of those young women who stood up (or rather ran away) to declare that they are made in God’s image and deserve the freedom and possibility that God intends for every human being. The story of those young women remains the center of the mission of Mother Esther’s School: to give girls safety and the power to choose a future for themselves.
Why the Name Mother Esther?
Lauren writes, “Mama Esther was the wife of Mzee Daniel Lenkutyksidai. They married in 1925 and were blessed with eleven children. Mama Esther was a woman who loved the Lord and her family with her whole heart and was a devoted member of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. Through the example of her love and compassion, Mama Esther’s husband, Daniel, came to know the Lord as well and was baptized in 1931. Daniel generously donated ten acres of land to the Presbyterian Church, and that land is where the Loodokilani PCEA Church sanctuary was built. Mother Esther’s School and Rescue Center is named after Daniel’s wife, Mama Esther, whose love and faithfulness laid the foundation for this ministry.”
There are now 122 girls at Mother Esther’s School. Although Rev. Maina has received death threats, he has never given up the mission. He feels he is called to rescue as well as equip the community with knowledge of the gospel so that they may be transformed and understand that both men and women are created in the image of God. Here is a story of one of the girls:
Seven-year-old Divine (not her real name) is in the first grade. She comes from a remote part of Kajiado County where child marriage remains common, especially for vulnerable children. Divine lost both of her parents when she was young and was sent to live with relatives. In December 2018 a dowry was paid for her marriage, though she was kept at her uncle’s home to “grow up a bit.” A local evangelist heard about her situation and went to investigate. Once he confirmed the story, he brought Divine to Mother Esther’s where she could grow and learn in safety. Divine loves Kiswahili (Swahili language) class and playing ball with new friends.
The Reconciliation Story
Lauren says that reconciliation between the rescued girls and their families is always the goal. She gave the following example (names are changed for privacy):
“Mary was fourteen-years-old when she ran away from home on the night before she was to be married to a man her father’s age. Mary boarded a train alone and then walked eleven miles to Mother Esther’s. She had heard about Mother Esther’s through local evangelists. Mary recently finished her second year of high school and has been the number one student in her class every term. One afternoon in 2018, Rev. Maina, my friend and mentor in this ministry, informed me that we would be visiting Mary’s home to begin the reconciliation process with her family. Mary had not seen her family in over a year. I was so shocked by the prospect of taking her home that I responded in my most American voice, ‘Absolutely not. We cannot take her back to the man who traded her for cows. Reconciliation isn’t fair, and it isn’t even right to put her in that situation.’ Maina looked at me, and the laughter that is always in his eyes disappeared. He spoke in a gentle voice, ‘Lauren, reconciliation is always our goal. It is the heart of the gospel. A school can never take the place of a family or community. Mary wants to go home, and it is her choice. Even if it takes years, we will continue to try.’ Rev. Maina recognized something about the gospel that I am still learning. The church will always seek reconciliation for the girls who come into the care of Mother Esther’s.
I knew that Maina was right, but I still hated taking her back. I hated it as Mary climbed into the car in her blue school uniform and we drove toward her former home. I hated the mixture of hope and fear on her face. But something changed when we arrived at Mary’s home – her anxiety evaporated as her mother ran toward the car with tears in her eyes. The two of them embraced for a long time. Her father sat under a tree shaking his head in grateful disbelief. Baba Mary (Mary’s father) explained that when his daughter ran away, he cursed her. He had spent the past eighteen months believing she was dead, grieving her loss, and regretting his rash action. Now she was home, healthy and happy and better educated than anyone in their family. He, too, shed tears of joy at her unexpected return.
After the reunion, Rev. Maina sat with Baba Mary and the local elders and explained how our process works. Mother Esther’s School will educate Mary, but she is part of their family and the community. She wants to come home on holidays, to visit her siblings, to cook with her mom. Baba Mary agreed that Mary should stay in school, and he promised to never give one of his daughters away in marriage until she decides for herself. Mother Esther’s will follow-up every holiday to support the family and make sure these promises are kept.
Reconciliation is God’s promise that there is no brokenness in this world that cannot be healed through Jesus Christ. There is an amazing end to the story of Mary’s reconciliation with her family. Baba Mary’s own heart was changed by his encounter with the reconciling love we know in Jesus Christ and the witness of Mother Esther’s School. In early 2019 he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord, and he was baptized. God is so good!”
With this amazing reconciliation story, we give thanks for your faithfulness. Praising God for your trust in the work of the Kingdom through our global partners, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. Their witness in word and deed transcends cultures and brings knowledge and understanding. To God be the Glory!
The Outreach Foundation
The Outreach Foundation is seeking gifts totaling $70,000 for more classrooms and dormitories and $10,000 for scholarships to pay for the girls’ boarding and education. Make a gift HERE or by sending a check to our office.