We were driving on a dirt road in a tribal area in the north and we passed a guy on a motorbike who had stopped on the side of the road because he was struggling with a girl who was riding with him. Our driver, who is a Ghanaian worker with OM, immediately stopped the car and got out to see what the situation was. While I was sitting in the car watching the commotion unfold, I saw the girl. She was struggling to get away from the man. She couldn’t have been older than 13. After 5 minutes, our driver told me get come take video and pictures of the situation. So I walk over and now am 3 feet away, up close and personal to a man who is taking this girl against her will to be married in another tribe. The girl was in a state of hysteria. She kept her arm covering her eyes and was crying out the same 2 words over and over. For the entire time we were there, 40 minutes, she was in a state of delirium. Then, our driver took the man’s motorbike keys in hopes to get more answers. The man admitted that the girl was being taken for marriage to a boy around her age but its not uncommon for young girls to be married to much older men. The detailed beadwork in her hair and the jewelry she was wearing signifies that she was prepared beforehand by somebody, possibly her parents. Other scenarios such as kidnapping are possible but whatever the case, she was going against her will and was fighting to get away. Child marriage is illegal in Ghana but there were no police anywhere nearby to help. Our only choice was to give the keys back to the man and watch him drive off. Our driver called another OM worker to intercept the man in a nearby town for further engagement but the man never drove by.
I’ve been struggling with this experience. What is wrong? What is normal? My western culture is screaming “WRONG, INJUSTICE, OPPRESSION,” and so on but it was clear that the man had no conviction about taking the girl because in his eyes, it was normal. Yes, all cultures have broken traits so is this man’s culture just another example of a “wrong” trait? Is child marriage wrong? Maybe what makes it wrong is that the girl is not being loved and valued as a human being in the way that Jesus taught us to love one another.
So how do you tell a people group, who have accepted forced child marriage as being normal for countless generations, that what they’re doing is wrong? The girl’s captor must have been thinking, “Why is this guy making a big deal over a girl? Why is today so different than other day of taking girls to their new husbands?”
And thats where the Gospel comes in. That day was different because the man’s encounter was with a follower of Jesus - somebody who radically loves and values all people. What will it take to mend this culture’s generationally broken condition?
The answer is Christ; the shining light of Jesus into the darkness. What’s it going to take for this cultural revolution ball to get rolling? This question leads to a dilemma I have been struggling with these past few days: the concept of “raising awareness.” What is the point of putting this girl’s photo on social media as to raise awareness if the only outcome is that I get a few “likes” and some “I’m heartbroken” comments because the truth is that to stop forced child marriage from happening requires action from people who are capable of praying, giving and going.
Pray for her. You’ve seen her now and know a little of her story. Intercede on her behalf. Pray for her husband and her community, that Jesus’ message of hope and truth would resound. Give generously to ministries that are dedicated to sharing God’s love to the lost. OM Ghana is supporting a few pastors who have church plants in remote villages. Consider financially supporting this ministry. And lastly, prayerfully consider going. The truth is that to see cultural shifts will cost somebody their life: a life devoted to lifelong discipleship.
How amazing would it be to see a culture, who for generations sold their daughters as child brides, now condemn it because one person came and told them that Jesus loves and values all people!?
Check out www.om.org to see how you can get involved.