Today was Graduation Day. Six of the girls have completed eighth grade. In Kenya, every child is guaranteed an education through the eighth grade. Then a child takes an exam to determine whether he or she can continue into high school. There are four levels of high schools: national, provincial, district and zonal. The national high schools are considered the best schools. Students are assigned a high school based on their test scores. All but the zonal (which are the local) schools are boarding schools. Each high school has four levels or grades. A year ago, a dorm was built at LOH for the high school girls so that they would have a place to return to during school breaks. After all, LOH is their home. A staff person also visits them periodically and follows their progress during high school.
The seven girls at LOH took the high school entrance exam. All received scores that will allow then to enter high school, however one girl decided to remain at LOH for another year in order to improve her score and the possibility of going to a national school. Although the girls have been notified that they will be going to high school, they have not learned which school they will attend. Their new year begins in February.
On Sunday afternoon, there was a graduation ceremony. Like most graduations that you have attended, there were speeches and there was singing. The five graduates (a sixth is a day scholar, meaning she attends LOH but lives at home, was unable to attend) were seated front and center with the rest of us surrounding them. The rest of us included the other girls who live at LOH, the teachers, the administrators, the LOH co-founder, and us. In other words, they were surrounded by their family. They were affirmed, encouraged, challenged, celebrated, and presented with a cross necklace and a letter of graduation.
Unlike any other graduation that I have attended, there was a moment when everyone was invited to leave their seats and dance. We were instructed to dance like we have never danced before – for me, that was easy (though it would be a stretch to call my effort dancing). Somehow under the bright sun, surrounded by the African landscape, it seemed most appropriate for us to be dancing. Sometimes there are events in life when we cannot sit still – moments that call us to rejoice with our whole being. Yesterday afternoon was that moment.
I have not understood the true significance of my graduations until long after the ceremony had ended. That may also be true for these six girls. But in the past week, it has become clear to us that the girls of LOH do not take their being here for granted. One of our team members asked one of the older girls if she remembered when she first arrived at LOH. She replied with the day, the month, and the year. They have been given a chance. God has planted a dream inside each one of their battered but tender hearts. There will be significant challenges ahead, but they have a family that will be alongside them. That family is called Light of Hope. Thank you for being part of that family.
Today’s readings: Genesis 37-38; Psalm 7; Luke 15
In Genesis, the story of Joseph begins. But then there is chapter 38. What do we learn from this chapter? Could this be what happens when people stray from God’s direction? In Psalm 7, the writer states there are consequences for our actions – therefore (verse 17) “I will give thanks…I will sing the praises.” And in Luke 15, every one matters. Have you ever been lost – and found? Who is the lost today?