by Deb Pangerl
Years ago, while visiting a secondary school in Tanzania, I asked some young female Maasai students if they’d like to share anything about their lives with me.
A small voice spoke up in the dimly lit room. “Madam, what should we do when our friend is stripped naked and tied to a tree and beaten until she has nothing left but to surrender to marry the older man?” she asked.
I could only look at the ceiling to hold back the tears.
Over the years, I’ve heard the cries of many Maasai girls who have been subject to female genital mutilation, sold into slavery, raped, drugged and kidnapped. They are forced to give up their rights to a life they choose and instead marry older men who do not support their education or independence.
Rich life lessons
These same girls have taught me some of the richest lessons in life. They have taught me that sometimes you cry in the morning so you can laugh in the afternoon. They know that God will provide and never leave them. They praise God for what God is doing in their lives and can be heard singing praise to God late into the African night.
They trust that God will watch over them like a lion who stops at nothing to protect her young.
It seems trivial to worry about finances, my job or other things in my life when compared to the challenges they face. I have been in situations only a few times where I am forced to my knees to trust God.
These young girls face these situations on a daily basis, yet their faith is strong. They praise God for what they have in Tanzania. I am in America where I have everything, and I am the one worrying.
Never give up
In the Maasai culture, the belief is that when you invest your heart and soul into something, you must never give up. To do so would leave a scar on your heart that never heals. Despite difficult challenges, these girls persevere and keep trusting. They never give up.
When I think of being bold and courageous, I think of the Maasai girls. They face injustices in their lives that we can never imagine. Yet, they faithfully worship the same God as you and me.
Shouldn’t their beliefs help us trust God with every fabric of our being?
Deb Pangerl, a member of First Lutheran Church, Rush City, Minn., has had a passion for supporting young Maasai girls in Tanzania since she traveled to Africa in 1989. She founded The IMAGE Project and raised enough funding to build a school in 2013. More than 24 girls will be in the first graduating class in October. 2017. Learn more about Deb’s work.