His hands and feet in Lodwar

Carla Sunberg
Thursday, October 4, 2012
ImageEditor's note: At the end of August, Dr. Carla Sunberg lead a vision team from the United States to Kenya to learn more about the issue of gender-based violence (GBV) and the work of the Nazarene Compassion Organization (Kenya) and Servant Forge. Sunberg shares with Engage what she learned.
 
In Kenya, 83% of women and girls report one or more episodes of physical abuse in childhood.
 
Of these, 75% report having suffered from gender-based domestic violence in the homestead.
 
And 46% report at least one incident of sexual abuse as a child; 36% of rural women report having experienced female genital mutilation (FMG) with 25% saying they lost their virginity by force (source).
 
Many Kenyan women refuse to be called victims, but rather have purposely chosen to be called survivors. They refuse to put a negative term on what they have experienced, but instead are vowing to fight back. They are survivors, and they want to help others to be survivors as well.
 
The drought and subsequent famine in the northern area of Turkana has increased the incidents of gender-based violence in the region. Why is it that stress seems to bring out the very worst in human behavior? This stress in Africa has had a similar result as it did in Jeremiah's day (Lamentations 5:11). The women are raped, the virgins are defiled! Somehow amid the panic of hunger, we use and abuse others around us.
 
In spite of it all, the church has not been silent. As the hands and feet of Jesus, we cannot look the other way when our sisters and brothers in Christ are suffering.
 
The local Church of the Nazarene in Lodwar is an example of choosing to face these challenges directly, sacrificially. Over the last few months these people have given out of their poverty to purchase 50 acres of land so that they can begin community farming.
 
They have raised $4,000 -- an unthinkable amount of money in that context. This amount has already been matched so that they can dig a well, fence the property and, within a month or two, be ready to begin planting. The crop yields will not only be for the church members themselves, but for their neighbors and community. (Read A boy with two sacks.)
 
This church represents the very hands and feet of Jesus at work within the life of a needy and hungry community. Simply addressing hunger will help to decrease the number of gender-based violence cases. Yet, victims of violence in the Lodwar area still had no place to go for refuge.
 
Lodwar is the main city in a county called Turkana that has 850,000 people -- and the survivors of abuse are often left to suffer on their own.

We have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus by partnering with the local government, UNICEF and IRC (International Rescue Committee) to establish a gender-based violence resource center right there in Lodwar. (Photo left: The area of a hospital to be remodeled into the GBV Resource Center.) Women would 
have a place to come to receive the help that they need -- the help to be a survivor and not a victim.
 
As followers of Jesus Christ who are called to be His reflection in this world -- to be His hands and feet -- I know that I cannot be silent on this issue. I cannot allow my sisters in this world to be victims if I can help them to be survivors.

We must cry out to God about gender-based violence today, but we must also look at the root of the issue. First of all, God's people must be in a right relationship with Him. We must put aside the things of the world that distract us and focus on Him. We must be faithful to our loving God. We must also cry out to Him and intercede for those who are victims in this world. We cannot leave them alone to fend for themselves, but just like Jeremiah, we are called to be their intercessors. And ultimately, we must be willing to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our world, because the root of violence is a corrupted relationship between God and man.
 
The women of the New Testament, who Jesus touched, are not remembered as victims, but for all of history are remembered as survivors.

--Dr. Carla Sunberg, former Nazarene missionary and co-district superintendent of the East Ohio District, is a woman called to preach the Gospel of Jesus. She is passionate about the deeper walk with Jesus Christ, and the fact that we should be willing to move on to a place where the Lord can help us to be world changers.