Today I met my Kenyan prayer sister, one who wears a red hat and sparkles with the love of Jesus. One I may never see again – but a sister none the less. Her name is Leah (Lay-ah).
My group visited the Unique Mother’s group in Lanet, near Nakuru. In Kenya, single mothers are looked on as outcasts in society and in the church. People fear them because they think the ladies will steal their husbands. They are not allowed to participate in church, even if they are believers. They are hopeless and feel worthless.
Jane and Nancy have very different stories, yet they are joined by circumstances. They now have a group of 14 ladies of all ages and stories, who meet twice a month to pray, encourage each other, make crafts to sell, and donate money to the group. The money is used for the ladies in the group – sometimes it is to purchase something, sometimes it is for a small loan. Nancy is the treasurer and they keep track of everything. They work hard to support themselves and their children – to pay for their school fees and help them go to college. When they first started meeting, everyone chipped in 20 shillings – enough to buy everyone in the group a spoon for their house. The next item was a cup. Then a flask.
But it took much longer for her church to really embrace her. As she became more confident in Who she belonged to, she started praying with other ladies like herself. She felt less anxious.The ladies love each and pray for unity among themselves. They shared that slowly, the church has accepted them as real people, as ones who have something to contribute. Jane is now a Sunday School teacher, in the choir, and a youth mentor. That could not happen before. When we asked her when this change came about, she said a pastor came to her home where she was hiding from society. He shared with her about her identity in Christ, and that she didn’t have to hide.
Women have little worth here in Kenya. For many, they are below the household cattle – only good for having children. For a women not to have a husband is a shame, lower than low. It is very hard for them to live.Gradually, after the Unique Mother’s was formed, the church began to accept them. Her neighbors have become friends, instead of shunning her.
Unique Mothers has met a huge need in this rural Kenyan community – and the group efforts are spreading to other small groups – to bring support, a means of income, and confidence in who they are in Christ – and slowly, slowly, change is coming into the mindsets of others.
It was beautiful to hear their stories. As we sat in Susan’s home drinking chai, I kept thinking that they were like delicate flowers, hounded and beaten by the elements – blossoms broken and dejected. But Christ has mended their blossoms – made them stand tall in dignity and respect. Their flowers are brilliant and open, faces towards the Son. Others take notice and even come to them for advice.
When I shared that with a few of them (in abbreviated form), Leah nodded in agreement – and said “oh, we sparkle!”
“Yes!” I cried. “You sparkle! You are the sparkle girls!” She laughed with me and hugged me tight – and whispered in my ear, “You will be my prayer partner. I will pray for you and you can pray for me.”
“Yes” I said. “I love your red hat too.” She immediately took it off and smashed it onto my head, wanting me to have it. But it was too small – I laughed and said “I have a big head! It looks much better on you.”
We prayed for the ladies and they prayed for us. We purchased some jewelry and small craft items that the women made. I ended up choosing two necklaces – both made by Margaret. Before she joined the group, she did not feel worth and was hopeless. Now she smiles with inner joy and her face lights up with Jesus. You can SEE the hope in her.
My heart was drawn to these women who have not only survived a culture that does not value women, much less single women, but who have thrived and are full of the joy of the Lord.
Pray for Jane, who teaches 50 children in a school every day with only one helper, for Nancy, a grandmother who is the treasurer of the group, for Susan, a grandmother who cares for six of her grandchildren, for Leah, who is “just a member” of Unique Mothers, and for Margaret, who is concerned for her handicapped daughter. And for the other members of the group – that they can take the principles they have learned and help begin other groups like this – and for the church to break out of the Kenyan mindset and see each individual as God sees them.