Envision a small town in the middle of East Africa. In this town lives an incredible woman, Grace, who was happily married to her husband of many years. In her mind, their life together was nothing short of a blessing from Heaven above; they were involved in their local church, had family and friends that cared about them and were committed to the covenant of marriage.
The problem with the picture perfect image that Grace had was that it was not as picture perfect in reality. Her husband was unfaithful to her, choosing to search for satisfaction and contentment through sleeping with prostitutes instead of putting effort into his marriage at home. His dark addiction ultimately grew even darker, when he unknowingly contracted HIV and brought it home to share with his wife.
For years, the wife continued to serve and love her husband, blind to the unfortunate reality of what was going on behind closed doors and the sickness that dwelt within her.
The darkness came to light during one innocent trip to the hospital for routine screenings and checkups. Instead of leaving with the assurance of good health, the couple returned home with the life-shattering knowledge that they were living with HIV. Upon recognizing the source of the virus, Grace made a choice to take a stand and leave her husband.
Having nowhere to go, she turned to the church, feeling confident she would find love, acceptance, and support.
At first, the church was the perfect place of refuge as she began to find her niche in the community as a single woman. She began singing in the choir and making new friends, although her favorite form of worship was being able to serve in the kitchen on Sunday mornings.
However, as news of Grace’s tragic past and HIV disease began to spread like wildfire throughout the congregation, there was a tangible shift in the relationships that she once held so closely.
Instead of sitting close with her brothers and sisters in Christ on Sunday morning, the “friends” beside her silently distanced themselves from her during prayer. She found herself enclosed her in a box of solitude, built by walls of judgment and ignorance.
While there was once familiarity in standing shoulder to shoulder in the choir in front of the church, she found a new normal in the surrounding members leaving a gap between them, ensuring they would not come in contact with “the infected one” and that the woman’s shame would be on display for all to see.
Instead of being involved in the woman’s favorite long standing tradition of preparing a meal for the congregation, she was turned away from the kitchen. She walked away with nothing but the unsatisfactory explanation that her service was no longer required.
As if all of this was not enough, it was only the beginning.
All of the woman’s suspicions were verified when the Pastor of her own church approached her and asked that she stopped attending the church. Crushing her spirit in one short conversation, the Pastor explained that her presence was negatively affecting the congregation as a whole, and her removal was in the church’s best interest. This woman, who loved the Lord and had a strong desire to serve and worship, simply had no place there.
The woman found herself with no family, no friends, no money, and no hope. Her last option, the very problem that put her in the position in the first place, was the only decision that could provide her with what seemed like a solution to her problems. She turned to the streets, selling herself as a prostitute out of pure desperation to stay alive.
She entered into this dark industry to find fulfillment of her needs, and instead found herself with accumulating pain and emptiness. However, through the darkness and sinful environment she found herself in, she continued to trust in the Lord and identify herself as a daughter of the highest King.
One day, as she was walking the streets hoping to find work for the day, a group of former prostitutes approached her. They spent time with her, learned her name and story, and asked her if she knew God, her Heavenly Father. They talked about their faith and the trials they have endured, and then she was invited to Rift Valley Fellowship.
Rift Valley Fellowship was a church, the former prostitutes explained, where they had found grace and love; it was different because it was a group that accepted them as they were. This church sounded drastically different than what she knew of church in the past, so she hesitantly decided to see what it was about.
Grace went to church with her new friends, and eventually started attending a small group called “Women of Courage.” This group was created for the sole purpose of helping prostitutes find fulfillment in Christ and walk in their true identities as daughters of the King.
Over time, she began a new lifestyle; she started attending “Women of Courage” weekly, while also investing in the local church she could now call home. One of her new friends, Ester, happened to be a leader in both ministries. Ester invested in this woman and truly cared about her, following Jesus’ example along the way.
However, this time, instead of being turned away, Ester embraced Grace just as she was. One Sunday, Ester invited the woman to help prepare lunch for the congregation after the service, not understanding the significance of such a simple invitation.
Grace finally broke down. She pulled Ester to the side, and through her tears, told Ester her story. She told her about the loving wife she once was, and explained all the twists and turns that led her to her life in the streets. She told her of the hatred and judgment she was shown by the church and the immense pain she felt from what should have been a place of refuge. She explained what her Heavenly Father has been teaching her throughout the journey to where she was that day, declaring His faithfulness and goodness in the midst of the pain.
The woman’s story did not scare Ester, and more importantly, it didn’t scare Jesus either.
Grace still walks the streets to this day, but now she does it to find women like herself. She spends her time searching out for women who are desperate for Jesus’ healing and redemptive power. She befriends the women, invites them to Rift Valley Fellowship and “Women of Courage,” and tells them to come as they are- fully broken and needing Jesus.
This is the story of one woman in Kenya, the true story of the power of Jesus and how he makes broken things beautiful.
While this is only one story, the problem of prostitution is much more extensive than can be expressed. The town the woman lives in, Maai Maihu, is located along “HIV Highway,” one of the largest locations for prostitution and human trafficking due to the massive trucking industry present. In this town, it can seem like a never ending cycle for the women; a cycle of daughters, wives, mothers, and sisters losing hope and accepting what they deem as the inevitable: a life in the bondage of modern day slavery.
This devastating trend is hurting entire families; fathers are leaving their loved ones because they are engaged in a lifestyle of sexual sin and unfaithfulness, wives are losing the ability to care for their families and are losing hope day by day, eventually becoming drug fueled sex workers who can’t muster up the energy or courage to get out of bed, and children are being forced to grow up without attentive parents, potentially living on the streets. The cycle does nothing but repeat itself. The cycle does nothing but repeat itself. The cycle does nothing but repeat itself.
But thank God that isn’t the end of the story.
Thank God that He loves these women, men and children. He loves them in their brokenness and in their hopelessness. He loves them and pursues them right where they are.
Thank God that He sent His son to die on a cross so that the power of sin, death and darkness would not emerge victorious.
Thank God that Jesus is in the business of breaking chains. Thank God that Jesus is powerful enough to redeem the woman, the town of Maai Maihu, Kenya, Africa, and the world.
Thank God that He allows US to be a part of it.
So, the question I pose to you is this: will you choose to be a part of the redemptive story that Jesus invites us into? Will you partner with God in helping these communities in Kenya?
Will you be an answered prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Written by Taylor Frick
Daughter | Author | Clemson Tiger