At the Start of Possible
It was the summer of 2013 when Grace’s life was turned upside down. Her home on the outskirts of Nairobi had burned to the ground, leaving her family homeless and forced to move into an overcrowded flat in Kibera.
When school started, she could not attend on the first day because her uniform had burned up in the house fire. That afternoon, as she laid clothes over the line, he passed by again. He winked at her and smiled. Just like he had each day she’d seen him since moving into the slum. She felt her heart drop deep into her stomach and her hands shook as she placed the last few items on the line.
Kibera sprawls across a little less than one square mile just southwest of Nairobi, Kenya. Although a little less than the size of Central Park, almost a million people live there in small tin huts and shanties. There are no roads, just streams of sewage and trash flowing down dim walking paths and through muddy lots.
But it’s young girls who are the most disadvantaged in this type of society. With too few police to protect them within the dark shadows of Kibera, young girls often fall prey to sexual exploitation. Many face horrors no child should have to face.
That day, as Grace gathered her things to go back inside, she felt a hand on the back of her neck.
“Don’t scream. Don’t say anything.”
Overcome by fear, Grace blacked out.
When she woke up, she found herself alone in the man’s home. Her dress was blood stained and her body was bruised terribly. She quickly gathered her things and ran back to her home, watching either direction for the shadow of the man that had defiled her. She washed her dress and cleaned herself up, fully intending to never again think or speak of what happened to her that day.
But nothing could wash away the fear that now dwelled within her.
The walk to school the next day was painful and terrifying for Grace. She couldn’t help but look over her shoulders as she hobbled down the filthy path, expecting to see his shadow around every turn. He was nowhere to be seen that morning, but she still felt his presence with every step down the path to school.
At school, Grace had trouble getting comfortable at her desk. She was in so much pain and every time she moved, she was reminded again of the bruises on her body and the shame of what had happened to her.
In Kibera, it is not unheard of for girls and young ladies to barter sex acts for food or prostitute themselves to care for their families. Grace knew of this. It was part of the reason she was so afraid to mention the incident. What if someone brought the accusation upon her?
But before the school day was finished, a teacher saw the pain and fear in Grace’s eyes and wisely recognized that something was terribly wrong. The teacher escorted Grace to a local hospital and there Grace told her entire story.
Thankfully, the man was arrested. Grace testified against him in court and she was finally able to return home.
But shortly after, Grace became a target once again. Before the end of the school year, Grace began to get strange looks from another neighbor. As she walked to school, she found him always watching, always waiting as she came around the bend. Day by day, Grace quickened her pace. She sought alternate routes, but there was no avoiding him. Eventually, he too drug her into his home.
This time, Grace ran home to tell her stepmother. But instead of offering the love and protection Grace desperately needed, her stepmother did the very thing Grace was so afraid of the first time — she blamed Grace.
“Why can’t you stay away from these older men? You lie to me. You just enjoy the sleeping with them, don’t you?”
Humiliated, disheartened and traumatized, Grace walked to school the next morning sullenly. This time, when the man grabbed her, Grace put up no fight. She felt she deserved this. She could not escape. She thought surely no one would believe it had happened to her twice.
Day after day, for weeks, he took her. Eventually, she didn’t feel anything anymore. She woke, washed, went, and returned. An endless cycle, but she felt no pain anymore. She was simply numb.
It wasn’t until a routine medical exam at school that anyone found out about the second offender. An official at the hospital was the first to call Maggie from Agape.
When Maggie first saw Grace, she recognized the hollow stare in her eyes. She had seen it many times before.
Agape would be Grace’s second chance at life. Maggie works diligently to help Grace recover and she’s also begun counseling Grace’s father and stepmother. With much prayer and wisdom, Maggie and Oliver are discipling these parents. Reunification may not every happen, but they are not giving up.
For now, Grace is finally safe. She has a newfound hope for her life. She is at the start of possible.
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