Over the last two weeks I've had the opportunity to spend time with a woman in Tijuana, who's a wife and mom of 3. Over lunch one day, she talked about a ministry she's involved in that gives food and a bath to the poorest of poor in Tijuana, in addition to trying to get them uniforms so that they can attend school. She has a heart for the girls but the ministry she works with tends to prioritize the boys. As she shared her struggle and frustration, I thought about the book my family and I have been reading this summer, Three Cups of Tea.
It's the story of Greg Mortenson, a mountain-climber who came face to face with poverty in the rugged mountains of Pakistan and began building schools for children--but especially schools for girls. When asked why he focused on educating girls, Mortenson says: "Once you educate the boys, they tend to leave the villages and go search for work in the cities," Mortenson explains, "But the girls stay home, become leaders in the community, and pass on what they've learned. If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls...If the girls can just get to a fifth grade level, everything changes."
This has caused me to think about the Nepalese refugee families here in San Diego that we work with as they struggle to figure out life here in the US. We primarily work on their English but this gives rise to many other significant challenges. Things like how to deal with children whose behavior is out of control. Or what to do with a teenage daughter who is depressed. Or how a mother can stay healthy and keep her milk supply up while her newborn son is in the hospital.
And then there's the recovery home in our neighborhood where women of different ages fight to stay sober and change destructive patterns of behavior in their lives. Or the old homeless woman who lived in the alley behind our house for a few months, tenaciously fighting for what she needed each day. And I think of my sister and brother-in-law who have lovingly raised and continue to care for their 35 year old daughter who has Down's Syndrome.
I'm sure as you read this, you can think of girls and women in your life who have needs, some of them very great needs. Why not take a moment to pray for them and even ask God how you can be a part of changing the lives of girls nearby as well as girls far, far away? Sometimes our world is changed one girl at a time.