Rachel's Story

5/10/2017 11:11:00 AM sendtheroths 0 Comments

Rachel is in the second grade and the oldest child in her family. She’s intelligent, bright and has an ear-to-ear smile that can melt anyone’s heart.

But something tragic happen in Rachel’s family recently. Her Dad was digging latrine, which required him to dig 10 or more feet deep into the ground. We live next to a volcano, which means there are patches of deadly gas in the ground. Rachel’s dad was unfortunate and hit some toxic gas just a few feet short of completing.

He called for his co-worker to help pull him out of the 10-foot-deep hole, but when his co-worker tried to help, he too fell in the hole. The two men probably yelled and screamed, but nobody heard them. They were found dead later that evening.

Left behind was Rachel, a younger brother and sister and her pregnant mother. Rachel’s mother, like many other women in our community, has never been to school and has no skill that can generate income for the family. She knows only basic farming techniques, but the family doesn’t own any land to farm on. She was taught to cook, clean, farm, be a wife and be a mom.

But what happens when a husband dies?
The results are more tragic than you think. The custom in Congo (DRC) is for the wife to return to live with her parents when her husband dies. This is because wives usually aren't financially stable enough to support the family.

Rachel’s family fled from a warzone to have a better life near town. Her father's death will send them back to the warzone. This time more vulnerable then ever. Rachel’s position as the first child in the family leaves her to carry the weight of caring for her brothers and sisters.

“We will get Rachel’s report card and bring it to the schools in Kichanga (the village where her mom is originally from) She will return to school when we get there.” Rachel's mother said with strain in her voice. She smiled hopefully as she wiped the sweat from her face. She was so pregnant that even walking a few steps made her sweat at this point.

The principal of our school ended classes a few minutes early so that the students with their teachers could walk to Rachel’s house and give their condolences: some money they had collected, a bag of clothes and prayer.

The school principal and I looked at each other sadly. We knew the reality. Rachel is a statistic that was being made right before our eyes.

Rachel is goes to school for no cost, because our church believes that education is a human right. Children shouldn’t be denied an education based on their financial status. Education is their best shot at a better future.

The place that Rachel is going will not have a school that allows its children to study for free. She is going to an area highly affected by war and sex-trafficking. She is going to live with her widowed grandmother who does not have means to support or protect her in that area. If a miracle doesn’t happen in her life, Rachel will become the sole provider for her family. She will raise her younger brothers and sisters and (if she’s clever) maybe give them a chance to go to school. But it is unlikely that Rachel will ever step foot in a classroom again.

Rachel sat next to me. She had a blissful confidence in her eyes.

She has no idea what is ahead of her. 
I told her the story of Esther.

“Whatever you do, don’t stop studying. Even if you have to sell peanuts by the side of the road. Don’t stop studying. When you feel that there is no one who can help you, pray to God. He can do miracles for you and he can hear your prayers.” I told her. “And if you ever get lost and can’t find your way. You can always remember that there’s a church in Mugunga that will always accept you.”

We all prayed together and the children from our school sang a few songs to the family. And we left.

Rachel never picked up her report card from school.
She never came back to church.
Today, I passed by her house again and found it empty.
They were gone.

Another statistic, right before my eyes. Another girl who will be denied her right to education, because of a situation she didn’t choose to live in. Another girl who will probably get pregnant early and be in the same situation her mom is in now: entirely dependent on other people to survive.

This is a sad story, I know. But it also helps me to remember why we do what we do.

Our primary school is putting girls (and also boys) into school that would not have been able to go any other way. The Esther Project teaches women (that could find themselves in the same situation as Rachel’s mom one day) a working skill that can support a family. We teach them sewing skills that generate income so that they don’t have to be completely dependent on other people. They won't have to take their children out of school.

Our work is to stop cycles of injustice. The worst injustice is to watch statistics happen before your eyes day-by-day and say that you’ve done some thing because you told them about Jesus.

I believe that it is possible to tell someone about Jesus and yet not bring the Gospel. 
The Gospel is the Good News, it is something that lifts people up from where they are and returns their value. It puts a spoke in the cycles of injustice and sets the captives free: captives of poverty, captives of loneliness, captives of shame, captives of oppression, captives of sin. It sets the captives free.

That is why we believe that pencils and books are more powerful than guns and missiles.
That is why a sewing machine has more power than an rocket propelled grenade.
Those things have the power to destroy. Our arsenal has the power to rebuild.

Rachel might have been one statistic we saw pass us by. But how many statistics are we preventing by building this community? How many children could suffer her same fate if it weren’t for our school? How many Mama’s are becoming more financially-independent? And how many families are being transformed through the counseling and member care offered by the church?

"Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?" 
--Isaiah 58