“What’s wrong with me?” These words proceeded from the mouth of this precious pre-teen girl. It was a serious question pointing out her insecurities regarding her place in her community. The context of her question, however, was uniquely disheartening.
It is normal, after all, for most pre-teens to have similar thoughts. Those middle school years can be brutal. The body is growing, developing, and changing. Unwanted enemies spring up on all sides, from acne to jerks. Broken hearts, betrayed friendships, awkward voices, embarrassing moments, and the list goes on. There are many seasons of life I would love to relive with my kids, even for just a day. Those middle school days, however, are not at the top of my list. They were tough.
But none of these normal pre-teen issues were the genesis of this girl’s question: “What’s wrong with me?”
This particular girl had been growing up in a remote village. The setting of her village would be classified by most in the developed world as “third world.” Walmart, Food Lion, CVS, or a Dollar Tree were not present. Food had to either be flown in or fished for or hunted. Clothing that did not arrive by plane had to be made. The weather could be intense and the change in seasons brought about massive fluctuations in daylight.
This village was part of a larger territory which was part of a whole nation. However, for all intents and purposes, it governed itself in isolation. It was overseen by a chief, who, if it was like many similar villages, was most likely addicted to alcohol and/or other substances. He called the shots for the village and approved what was acceptable and unacceptable conduct in these villages.
So, what about this girl’s specific insecurities. Sadly, with the culture in her village, the rape of young girls was commonplace. Though parents, when sober, had to know it was not right, it was part of their upbringing. This girl was not insecure because she had been raped; horrifyingly, she was insecure because she had not been raped yet. She wondered why she had been considered unworthy of being forcefully taken sexually yet? What kind of evil context must exist where one who has been spared that horrendous action feels left out? Hearing this story crumbled me inside.
Where in the world could a village like this exist in our modern times?! It must be some remote unreached part of the far world. Not so. As it turns out, this village is one of well over 200 in one of our very own states here in the USA. That state would be Alaska.
Our church has partnered with ministries in Alaska, like Alaska Christian College, because we know there is a lot of darkness there appearing in all formats: physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, and mental. It ranks number one in the US for depression, suicide, alcoholism, and domestic abuse. If you ride through the bigger cities or coastal tourist attractions, you won’t notice much difference in the needs you find there and the needs you find in other cities in the US. However, it is out in those villages where it can get really bad. Isolation may be beneficial from time to time, but not for a lifetime.
I was told another story about a missionary couple that rescued 3 siblings from a village where they were “next in line” to be abused. In that situation, the brother, who was the oldest, had let drunk men from the village make bets about how long the boy could keep a burning cigarette on his arm. Why would the boy do that? He suffered the burns to distract the men from his sisters. If he could keep them occupied until they passed out drunk, then his sisters would not be abused…that night. This couple adopted those 3 children, called them their own, and saved their lives.
Arctic Barnabas is one ministry we support that places an emphasis on missionary support. Their ministry is simple but vital. They exist to equip over 170 missionary families who leave the comforts and conveniences of home to move into these remote villages for the sake of the gospel. They have to battle the harsh conditions, the isolation, and the skepticism of villagers. It takes a long time to gain trust and get a hearing for the gospel, but this is what it means to take light into the darkness and bring life into the dead places of our world. Arctic Barnabas flies supplies and encouragement out to these missionaries in Alaska to keep them well fueled physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. These missionary families are then better equipped to invest back into those remote communities with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.
When you invest in pastors, they invest in their churches, which then invest in their communities. That is one reason why pastor training and equipping has been such a passion of mine throughout my mission endeavors around the world.
Of course, you don’t have to go outside of our country or even our community to encounter the work of the enemy. We must all realize that there is mission work to be done in every place that our feet step. In addition, though, it is vitally important, that we who are part of the Kingdom of God join forces with our fellow brothers and sisters and help to make the eternal investment of our lives and resources for the building up of that Kingdom worldwide.
You never know when there is a child or teenager or adult just around the corner who needs to hear what this young pre-teen girl so desperately needed to hear: “You are valued for who you are, not what you provide for others. You are loved because the greatest Father of all chose to love you. And true significance in this life is found when you embrace Jesus as your eternal Lord and Savior.”