A virtual cottage meeting in August included members from several cottages. Big Ocean leaders added their thoughts and encouragement. Each attendee came away with a better understanding of the challenges women face and that many of these challenges are magnified by COVID-19. Not only did these women increase their knowledge, they found wisdom to help reframe these challenges and use them as positive opportunities for growth.
First, some information about problems facing these brave women. Leaders reported that many have lost their jobs or had their salaries reduced by 50% or more. Teachers have no income because schools, which generate income from fees, are closed. Many people are in similar situations. While income is down, crime and domestic violence are up. Scammers take advantage of people in desperate situations, adding to their troubles. Youth who can’t attend school have no constructive activities which has enticed some to gamble or have premarital sex. Travel restrictions due to COVID have serious ramifications on families, income, and access to financial assets.
One particularly troubling problem is young girls being taken from their homes and gang raped. In Ghana, a mother was nursing her baby when her husband got angry and attacked her with a machete. She tried to stave off the attack, but the child’s leg was severed despite her efforts.
Tai, the cottage leader from South Sudan, made the painful decision to leave her children in Nairobi with their grandmother where they are safer and can attend school. It has now been nearly six months since she saw them. When they talk on the phone, the children plead to know when she is coming back.
After these troubling reports, board member Ann Takasaki asked if anyone could reframe any of these challenges in a positive light. She then shared her family’s experience in doing so under very trying circumstances. Her parents and others of Japanese descent were forced from their homes in California and put in internment camps. Her family faced these challenges by drawing closer as they helped and supported one another. This family solidarity now blesses their posterity three and four generations later. She spoke of the need for husbands to humble themselves and admit they are struggling, for women to show extra love and support in building up their husbands, and for children to offer their hands and hearts to help. She asked how these trials can make us better.
These thoughtful women began sharing similar insights, especially how they had been watched over and blessed.
Tai said she had originally planned to use donated funds from Big Ocean to purchase locks to prevent girls from being abused. Instead, she arranged to get to the market and quickly distribute food and medicine to particularly vulnerable families. The locks are still part of the master plan, but placing food on family tables, interviewing women, and taking their photos filled more immediate needs. Additionally, because of COVID restrictions, her husband joined her, and they celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary together, which she described as the bright side of the pandemic. “God works in mysterious ways,” she concluded.
LaReita Berky represented Families Mentoring Families, an organization in Ghana that Big Ocean supports. LaReita described how the mother with the injured child was taken in by an organization that will provide a prosthetic limb. After that, FMF will welcome them to a family restoration center currently being completed. This organization reframes family difficulties as they reunite families, providing mentoring in literacy and other life skills. Read more about FMF in Ann’s article and their website.
Fatima, president of the cottage in Nigeria, said she sees the women in her cottage getting stronger and is optimistic that they can resume cottage meetings and continue their journey of knowledge and wisdom.
Vilma Sagebin, another BOW board member, described her admiration for these women and what they are doing as “beyond words.” She believes the forces for evil in the world are trying to dismantle families, but strong women can not only survive, but thrive. She encouraged them to brainstorm to discover ways to empower families and assured them God will help them do so.
The meeting concluded on a hopeful note as they helped one another gain knowledge about reframing problems as opportunities for growth and as blessings in disguise. Ann assured them, “God is on our side. This part of our life is but a fraction of our existence.” She asserted they will be remembered as “shining gems who fought the good fight,” and encouraged them to connect with God.