Gender Based Violence
Those of us who are from the Wesleyan/Arminian theological heritage are blessed with a religious heritage which has empowered women for more than 150 years. The gospel of Jesus Christ provides for spiritual transformation that results in the equality of men and women. It's why the Apostle Paul can say that "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (NRSV)." It is within this tradition that God has been raising up female leaders to speak into the issues of the day. Women like Catherine Booth stepped into the world and became a voice for those who had no voice. Jesus constantly spoke up for the poorest of the poor, the sick, and the needy. As God's followers we are called to speak up for the marginalized of the world. Women who have been blessed with a religious heritage which has set them free have a responsibility to be a voice for those who are marginalized. At least, that's what I believe God has been saying to me.
The theme for the next Come to the Water Conference, with which I am involved is "Rise Up." I believe that God is calling his daughters who have been blessed with more than most women in the world could ever hope for -- to "Rise Up." That can mean different things to different people, but mostly I think it means that we are to be obedient to whatever it is that He calls us to do. Several months ago a friend of mine sent me a link to the trailer for the PBS documentary on "Half the Sky." I was moved as I heard the stories and saw the faces of those who are victims of violence and abuse. However, the documentary was filled with Hollywood celebrities and while I am grateful that they want to help raise the profile of the issue, I was overcome with the question -- where are the Christians? That very day I cried out to God and asked him where the Christian women were in relation to these critical issues of the day. I also told God that I didn't know how to become involved or how to make a difference -- but that if He would provide a way -- I would go or do whatever He asked.
That afternoon I was contacted by a man working as a consultant in Africa. He had been in Haiti working on a project and met a friend of mine and began discussing a new project which was beginning in Africa and the friend in Haiti suggested that this man contact me. This new friend shared with me about what is going on in the refugee camps of northern Kenya, and specifically about the women who are suffering from Gender Based Violence (GBV). The non-profit with whom he was working had been asked by UNICEF to become involved, as a faith-based organization, in addressing the issues of GBV in this camp with over 70,000 refugees. Would I care to become involved? The answer was a resounding "yes."
It's been a few months now and it's been amazing watching how God has woven together a tapestry of response to the issue, including raising up a team to visit the site. On Thursday I'll be leaving for Kenya and by next Monday I'll be at the refugee camp. I'm not sure what to expect, except that God has been in every detail. I will be posting updates along the way (when I have internet) on facebook. If you care to follow along -- please join me there...and pray for the journey.