I think of all the girls who are not in schools

I think of all the girls who are not in schools

Today we sent off three new missionaries to go serve in the far western Rukwa region of Tanzania. They won’t get to their new homes until sometime Thursday, probably late in the evening. They go to these villages to do what all of our missionaries go to do: to teach our students, to love them, to share the Gospel with them. We’re sending Emily, Lindsey and Alexandra off to Rukwa because in addition to teaching our students, in addition to loving them, in addition to sharing the Gospel with them, we have something else that we also want them to do, and that is why we have chosen to send all three of them to the same region. To the region of Rukwa.

We’ve seen much accomplished in that region. We’ve built and opened 9 schools already, and even now we’re working on two more. But Rukwa is very different from the other five regions of the country where we’ve started schools. Put the numbers together for all of our schools and you’ll see that 54% of all of our students are girls – a stunning victory really that has been made possible by those who quietly send money month after month and year after year in large amounts and in small amounts for our scholarship fund. In every school in every region more than half of our students are girls – except in our schools in the region of Rukwa. The statistics are painful to look at for our 9 Rukwa schools -- at Memya only 45% of our students are girls, at Nankanga 43%, in the village of Lyapona 34%. At Mpanzi only 33% of our students are girls. Katunda 44%, Kazovu 25%, Ninga 43%, Fingwa 40%, and then there’s Ntumbe at 21%. What those statistics tell us is that there are hundreds of girls in those villages, and in nearby villages, who are not in school. What our hearts tell us is that it is simply wrong and that it shouldn’t be this way. What we want to believe is that there is indeed something that we can do about it.

And so God has provided us with three wonderful missionary teachers, Alexandra, Lindsey and Emily, who are willing to go to some of the hardest villages we know of: Kazovu, Lyapona and Ninga. They’ll join another wonderful missionary, Sarah, who has already been serving in a very remote village there in Rukwa. Her village is called Nankanga, and what has happened in that village in the last year that she’s been there gives us great hope that God can use us to turn the tide and send things in a different direction. These new missionaries are going into this with the same attitude that Sarah had a year ago when we sent her off there – that each and every girl is important, that she matters, and that getting her into school is a huge victory that is worth great effort.

We rejoice in their willingness. As the old man around here now I wish in some sense that there were something I could do to make things easier for them. But I know I can’t. The fact that girls aren’t going to school is an indication of all kinds of other things that are wrong in those villages. It’s like the canary in the mine shaft – a sign that things are not as they should be. But for us to flee from those hard places in this country would be wrong. For us to choose to only send our missionaries to villages where much progress has already been made would also be wrong.

We have no illusions that we are going to change this situation overnight. We have been trying for 8 years, so we have no belief that in 8 weeks or even 8 months we are going to see something dramatic happen. But we are counting on the fact that Lindsey, Emily and Alexandra will love the girls at their schools, that they will help many of them to not drop out when things get tough, and that they will quietly cajole and fight and make possible for as many new girls to come as possible. We ask you to pray with us for breakthroughs – major breakthroughs. We believe that what is happening in these villages is simply wrong, we are convinced that it is not pleasing to God and that it shouldn’t be pleasing to us, and that something has to be done about it.

Just as we have tried over the years to avoid bugging everyone every other day asking people to give money, we’ve also tried not to bug people continually asking people to pray about the small, everyday things that concern us here in Tanzania. We know, after all, that you have your own concerns to pray about. So we have tried over the years to stick with the big things and hope that you will help us with those things – praying for more open doors, praying for more missionaries, and praying for wisdom and discernment for our leaders. But now I have this great desire to ask people to pray that somehow God would do a work in the hearts of people, that He would use Sarah, Emily, Lindsey and Alexandra, as well as the rest of our team of Tanzanian teachers in the Rukwa region, to draw into our school many girls in these coming months, and that He would help us to keep them in school when the pressures on them to leave become too great.

Every time I see Janerose working here in our office (she is the head treasurer and handles all of the finances for this organization) I think of how important it is that we never gave up on her staying in school back when she was our student more than a decade ago. When Yasinta came to see us the other day on her vacation – she is now in her third year at the university – Susan and I could not have been happier. When I see Godfrey and Vero’s little six-year old daughter Grace reading to her little brother I am full of hope for the future. I am reminded that every single girl we get into school is a great privilege and a great victory – and a great reason for us to keep on doing all that we do. I think of all of the girls in our schools and I do rejoice, I really do – but then I think of all of the girls who are not in our schools, and as I sit here writing, I am overcome with the emotion of wanting to somehow see that change for each one of them. It won’t change the world if all of the girls in all these villages get to go to school, but it will change the world for each of them. Please pray with us for the girls in the villages of Kazovu and Ninga and Lyapona and Nankanga. This is the time when they have a great opportunity to get in the lifeboat. We’re not talking about a handful of girls – we’re talking hundreds of them, even thousands of them. I hope it can happen. We all want so badly for it to happen. Please pray with us …