Alliance News Feed – How to Raise a Pack of “Mama Bears”

Based on a report by Becky, who serves in West Africa with CAMA Services (a.k.a. Compassion and Mercy Associates)

Hands of Honor staff share a Bible story with the girls. (Photo courtesy of a CAMA worker)

West Africa’s girls endure multiple injustices. When a baby girl is born in this region, she faces the specter of child labor, early marriage, female genital mutilation, and gender inequality that leads to little opportunity of getting an education.

Our team partnered with the local Alliance church to start Hands of Honor in 2014. Our mission: aid in the plight of female child laborers in this region.

Yet during those early years of ministry, I was often frustrated with how the women in the Christian community couldn’t see that what these girls faced were true injustices.

Cringe-Worthy Encounters

Many of these girls’ impoverished families send them to our city to find work. They often arrive alone, frightened, and without friends. Each year, many get pregnant out of wedlock, usually because of sugar daddy–type relationships with older men. Once a girl becomes pregnant, she is typically abandoned.

Rather than respond in love to these girls, some of the church staff would shame them. And I would cringe at their responses.

My teammate and I tried to address the harshness in culturally appropriate ways, but we realized it was best to focus on modeling how to love and care for the girls who came through our doors.

Cultural Blinders Removed

The girls are also provided training in literacy, good health practices, and life/job skills. (Photo courtesy of a CAMA worker)

While debriefing recently with our Hands of Honor church staff about last year’s program, you can imagine my joy when I realized cultural blinders had slowly been removed. These women were now seeing our girls through the eyes of Jesus.

I asked them to talk about some of the more challenging scenarios they’d dealt with over the past year. As they took turns sharing, many shed tears as they told about particularly difficult situations in the girls’ lives.

There were stories of runaways and how the staff had helped those girls to reconnect with their worried families. There were girls who became pregnant and quit coming to class, and now the women had sought them out—not to shame them but to offer help.

Deep Compassion

At one point, our staff became quite vocal, even heated, as they discussed the need to be more proactive with parents about discouraging child marriages. I felt as if I were sitting in a room full of mama bears defending and protecting their cubs!

My heart was stirred to see the deep compassion they felt for these girls who were entrusted into their care.

For many of the girls who come to us, these staff members are some of the first to ever express concern or defend them against injustice. Often, these women are also the first Christ followers the girls have ever met. It’s been amazing to see their hearts respond to the gospel as they are introduced to Jesus through hearing Bible stories and tangibly seeing His love in action.

A New Family Member

Eve was one of two girls enrolled in Hands of Honor this past year, who made the bold decision to leave the majority religion here and become a follower of Jesus. Remarkably, she received permission from her employer to begin attending a local Alliance church.

She’s grown in her faith but still faces a difficult road ahead. Recently, her father called her, telling her to come home because he’d arranged a marriage for her.

Pray for God to intervene and give boldness to our staff as they seek to persuade her parents to allow her a different option for her future.

God has raised up these incredible women and given them eyes to see and hearts to respond to the hurts and needs of the vulnerable in their own community. May He continue to use His people to see lives transformed—from the inside out!

Source: Alliance News Feed – How to Raise a Pack of “Mama Bears”

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