Half of Malawi’s population is younger than 15 years old. Fifty percent of girls are married by age 18; nine percent are younger than 15 when they are wed. The young men are prone to leaving (even their wives and children) to find better work opportunities in South Africa; the decades-older husbands may have had a string of wives and are in the habit of abuse, neglect, and abandon. These practices leave behind nothing but heartache for thousands of women and children. Many young girls marry because they have been orphaned and have no one to care for them. Others live in families so impacted by poverty that this seems a reasonable (and common) way to find better provision. An increasingly common response to such desperate situations is to enter the commercial sex trade. Young women and even little girls find themselves bought and sold as cheap commodities for another’s depraved self-indulgence, because it puts food in their (and their children’s) bellies, and provides a roof over their head. They may enter the industry following a broken marriage, or directly, as a result of coercion, frank trafficking, or because they’ve heard it’s a simple way to make the money they need.
It is difficult to be a girl growing up in Malawi.
Our brothers and sisters working with Sports Friends in Malawi are keenly aware of the situation of the youth they serve. A voice of encouragement and wisdom in young lives is absolutely critical. There must be a vision of hope for a girl’s future. There must be an advocate and inspiration to guide them. While governments and global organizations press on in their work to fight the growing problem of forced child marriage, human trafficking, and children resigned to belonging to the sex trade, the church also takes immediate and daily action. “Social injustice” is a simple blanket phrase that generally covers the plights of these precious young Malawians, and current systems must be torn down while new ones are built up. But each of the statistics that are counted represent an individual life. There are distinct faces to each of these daughters that God has knit together and breathed into being. Their faces are meant to be alight with the knowledge of His love, His honor, His good purposes, and His promise of complete redemption from all of this world’s brokenness. Jesus is the hope of the world, and our young Malawian girls need to know it.
Mary, Margaret, Kaunda, Fales, and Linda are coaches of girls’ netball teams in Eastern and Southern Malawi. They have been amazed to watch the Holy Spirit transform the girls and young women on their teams as the light of Christ rises in their lives. They are seeing that their commitment to show up and keep showing up to serve and love these girls in Jesus’ Name, in the safe and fun context of a church netball league, is making an eternal impact. Girls are placing their hope and trust in Jesus, the Messiah. They are being forgiven and made clean by the outpouring of His own blood for them. They are given an anchor of hope and the promise of a future; they have been empowered to leave a life of mere survival that capitalizes on their shame. They are free.
Heavenly Father, we pray in Jesus’ Name that You would continue to move in the hearts of the young women in Malawi. We pray for Your intervention in the systems of darkness that have abandoned them to an existence marked by continual exploitation. We pray for the fall of the commercial sex industry, but we know, God, that only when we see the heart of man change that we will see his systems dismantled. We pray for changed hearts, for repentance and new life. We pray in the meantime for deliverance of individual girls who have been held captive by the physical, mental, and spiritual chains of poverty. We pray for parents to love and protect their future, and hold strongly to hope. We pray for husbands to remain faithful to their wives and children, trusting You to care for them all. We pray for the girls who are directly hearing of your great rescue through their coaches and sports ministers. We pray for softening of hearts and a readiness to trust Your unfailing love. We pray for endurance, vision, encouragement, and passion for the coaches as they faithfully serve Your beloved ones. We pray in Jesus’ Name.
Those who look to Him are radiant;
their faces are never covered in shame.