I don’t know if you remember one of our blogs from last year about a funeral I had to do in Gamasara. If not you can check it out here. Basically a child died in large part because of a systemic issue of the lack of rights of women and children that exist in many of the families in Gamasara. At the end of the blog I asked a question that I knew the church here would have to find a way to answer if we were going to truly be the church in Gamasara. How can we respond to this representative case in a Christian way? How can we see the justice that God calls for be present in our ministry?
How can we BE THE CHURCH in our community here in Gamsara?
As conversations were started to answer this most important question we found out that this was A) not an isolated issue and B) a deeper issue that we at first thought. We found that for many children the only examples they were encountering were examples of violence as they went back and forth from home to school. In both cases the will of the teacher or of parents are being enforced with violence and expressed love is a foreign concept. We found similar experiences for women as they are only one rung above children in this social system. Often times abusive husbands will not only be physically abusive, but they will also refuse for their wives to leave the house, and attend social events. This definitely includes church. The result is the emotional abuse of isolation is heaped on top of physical abuse. This became clear when fear was expressed at the very idea that women return home and request (or worse yet demand) their rights, namely a right to not be beat. These are only snap shots of the overreaching problem concerning women and children in this area. These are all cultural, systematic, community issues that don’t have very simple answers.
The Emmanuel Center for Women and Children has become our attempt at a entering into this conversation about women’s and children’s rights in a way we feel like has a chance to succeed. It might look like we are taking a long way around or building up more than we really need to address the issue of women and children’s rights. However, as we bring development concepts and knowledge of the local culture together we feel like we have a workable plan that will result in solid, forward steps taken to bring a better more faith-filled family environment into the village of Gamasara. We are hoping for progress and praying for transformation.
Here’s the plan:
We hope to create an example of Christian love in word, action, and service for the community of Gamasara through education, support, and advocacy.
The first thing we hope to do is start a nursery school that will be an example for the children and for the parents in the education of and care for a child. This school will stand out, not so much for its excellent education, though we expect quality education to take place, but for its standards of love and care to be provided by teachers and administration. This will be our hallmark, a bastion of love, in an environment filled with violence at most schools and in many homes.
The parallel to this will be the beginning of the women’s ministry. We want to start with education, community, and faith. We will put on seminars in important areas such as health care, child raising, and small businesses. This education will be accompanied by the community of the women at the center. Being isolated in the home makes it that much easier to receive and believe all of the negative messages given out by other people in your family. We hope that by bringing together and educating women they will be the support for each other that each woman needs. All of this will be undergirded by faith. The ultimate Father on which we can all depend is God. If these women can find their value in the love God has for them as His children instead of depending on others in their lives that may or may not support them they will have the consistent emotional support of faith that is needed to make permanent changes.
I know that none of this sounds like advocacy. And it isn’t…not yet. The fear expressed by the women when we first started talking about women’s rights and returning home to tell their husbands they no longer had the right to beat them was real. What we know is that we will need to bring education and development into the situation before we can just start in telling people how to live. This is why there is a long term plan being attached to this center to help all of us reach our goal together as a community.
We are just now passing out of the planning stages and into the preparation stages. If you are really interested in this project please check out this link to where a description of the project with more detailed stages will be permanently located on our website. We appreciate prayers and support as we start one of our first projects that has a wider justice and advocacy scope than we have previously done.
You can also stay informed of progress by continuing to visit this blog or book mark the Emmanuel Center Page where we will be making occasional updates.