I am so sorry I have not blogged for two weeks now. While in Abuja I didn’t have internet, yet so much happened and this week God continued to speak to me this week while studying and teaching the Bible Study I am doing with some Youth on Spiritual Gifts.
This is one of the people I got to spend time with last week in Abuja. Meet Celeste Mergens, founder of Days for Girls. Celeste had a degree in global, sustainable development. She was working with helping a 400 child orphanage in Kenya. She got a call in 2008 from the orphanage asking for more help. With the post-election violence they now had over 1400 orphans and had not had food for two days. Celeste went to bed wrestling with how she could help and advise in this situation. At 2:30 a.m. she awoke — wide awake — with the question pulsing through her mind: “Have you asked what they are doing for feminine hygiene?” She had never thought to ask. Nevertheless, this simple question plagued her. She quickly e-mailed the orphanage directors and asked them this question. The next morning the answer came back, “Nothing”. She e-mailed back asking for further information. The answer came. During menstrual cycles, the girls wait in their room and sit on a piece of cardboard on their bed for three to four days. If they can, they arrange for friends to bring them food and water. She was stunned and searched the internet to see what other countries with similar situations might be doing for this global issue and found nothing. She knew this was a cause she had to take up. Initially, she realized the implications. If a girl misses three to seven days a month while menstruating, that translates to up to two months less schooling per year. As a girl falls farther behind, she often fails or leaves school early. In Africa, one additional year of schooling after age 12 dramatically improves the national economy and opens economic doors and opportunity to women. Education and knowledge continue to be key to a better quality of life for people around the globe. Celeste also knew she could not send money for feminine hygiene products because if there was a need for food or shelter, the girl, her family or the orphanage would choose those things over feminine hygiene products every time. Any person would!
Her first attempt to solve the problem led her to a company that provided disposable feminine pads for $200 for 500 girls for one month. Done. With a trip scheduled, Mergens arrived in Kenya three weeks later to observe results. As wonderful as it was to have pads, she realized that “disposable” in Western countries is possible. In Kenya, the orphanage’s fences were soon lined and stuffed with pads and the pit latrines were quickly clogged. She saw a girl pick up a used pad from the ground and try to clean it to re-use it. Disposable was not the answer! Washable, reusable pads seemed the solution. After trial and error, and listening to the women using the kits, a workable solution was achieved. 26 pad designs later, we have the current pads that are easy to wash, dry quickly, and working all over the world. Girls and women in 86 countries and 6 continents now have a solution and information to take care of themselves and help sustain themselves. What if Celeste would have “taken the easy way out”. What if she would have solicited donations and companies to help those Kenyan orphans and stopped at that? The orphans would have been helped short-term, but God had a different solution for this problem – and Celeste listened.
During our Bible study on Wednesday, one of the girls asked what she could do if she did not have a spiritual gift that she wanted. My answer to her was this, “God gives us each the spiritual gifts that we NEED to have to further His kingdom. You can not teach yourself a particular gift, but you can help develop the gifts you already have. Our job is to listen and obey. God speaks, we listen, life gets messy, helping hurting people is messy, we forge forward listening to His call and His leading. The end result is God is glorified and the church is stronger. This is the power of one person plus God. Things never dreamed possible, are possible!
My thought for you today is this: Do you stop when life gets messy? Who are you depending on? I have to say this again (as I tell myself daily) Pray like it depends on God, and work like it depends on me.