by Cami Goble
When I moved to Sierra Leone in 2003, I felt like I had moved into a sauna. For those of you who may be a little rusty with your geography, Sierra Leone is on the west coast of Africa, 7 degrees north of the equator. Freetown was so hot and humid. I felt like I was melting. On my first day I remember feeling physically sick as I climbed down into the bay. It was overcrowded with shacks and pigs and trash and standing putrid water. I almost vomited. Thankfully, we soon entered a large concrete church where the stench was a bit less overwhelming. As my eyes adjusted to the darker inside, I saw hundreds of little kids sitting on long wooden benches. There must have been about 200 kids there that day, for a Sunday-school like Bible club. Soon they all stood up and started clapping, dancing and singing praises. Following this there was a skit about Jesus, and Bible verse memorization—by repeated deafening shouting, and then, as the children were dismissed, the sick ones stayed behind to receive simple medical care.
Over the next 11 eleven years, this “Good News Club” has become a very integral part of my Saturday afternoons. Now, I know many of the children by name, and a bit about their families. Some have had their own children who now attend the Good News Club.
I’d like to tell you a little bit about one girl who has a very special place in my heart: Mabinty.
Mabinty would come to the Good News Club in faded tattered clothes. Her bare feet would dangle from the pew. She was cheeky from day one, pulling her friends’ braids, or pushing the boys off the bench. A handful for sure! Her disruptive behavior continued through the years, but sometimes she would come to the good news club sullen and quiet.
Now let’s fast forward to 2012, when Mabinty would be about 14 years old. One of my fellow Word Made Flesh Sierra Leone community members, Dan, from Michigan, approached me and asked if we could include Mabinty in our discipleship program for at risk teens. At first I was very resistant, as Mabinty could be so disrespectful and belligerent at times. Then Dan, told me Mabinty’s story. Mabinty lived in a dilapidated brothel where her mom turned tricks. When clients came, at any time of the day or night, rain or shine, Mabinty would be kicked out of their tiny room. As a result, she often slept outside. Mabinty endured the ridicule of her peers, the wrath of condescending neighbors, and the abuse of men. Dan and his wife Ami, were Mabinty’s next door neighbors in the slum. They had begun to take Mabinty under their wings, standing up for her, listening to her, and encouraging her to come to church with them.
Upon hearing her story, I reluctantly agreed to welcome Mabinty into the mentoring program, on a trial basis. Soon after that, several violent incidents took place at the brothel. So Dan and Ami invited Mabinty to live with them. She took part in their daily morning devotions and evening prayer times. It really wasn’t easy at first, as Mabinty would steal, cuss and start a lot of fights. She wasn’t used to boundaries, or Dan’s high expectations for respect and kindness in his home. Slowly, however, she began to soften. As she experienced a new more gracious, loving way to be in the world, it was like a warm light turned on in her soul. Mabinty continued to go to church, and even began to invite her friends. After participating in a confirmation class at church, she was baptized a year ago on Easter.
While things are still far from perfect, it has been a joy to watch her transform into a strong vibrant woman of God. She has become one of the most honest and responsible members of the WMF program.
Mabinty is now attending school, and loves to read. She has also taken the initiative to start her own cottage industry, making and selling butterscotch sweets to her classmates.
Thank you so much for being part of Mabinty’s love story through your prayers and through your generosity.
I am very grateful to be part of the Body of Christ with you. May God continue to richly bless you all.
Cami Goble is the Field Director of Word Made Flesh Sierra Leone.