Expected to marry at 12, Lillian in Kenya ran away and found hope through World Vision.
Bestselling author Debbie Macomber met Lillian and heard her story "of amazing bravery and tenacity."
Lillian has now graduated high school! Read her inspiring story.
My fifteen-year-old granddaughter told me she wanted to be a doctor. Maddy was around eleven or twelve at the time. She made this announcement matter-of-factly, secure in the belief that she could be anything she chose to be. I explained that her grandpa and I had set up a college fund for her and that we would do all we could to help her achieve her goal. There's no doubt in my mind that Maddy will follow through and one day become a wonderful physician, astronaut, Broadway star, or anything else she might choose to be. Her future is set, her path paved.
Last summer while in Kenya I met a girl not much older than Maddy. Her name is Lillian. At age twelve she was expected to marry, to become the third wife of a much older man. In exchange, her family would receive badly needed food supplies and possibly a calf or a goat. And, typical of young Kenyan girls in forced marriages, Lillian would undergo FGM (female genital mutilation).
Instead, Lillian chose to run and hide, escaping early marriage, motherhood at age thirteen, and a life of desperate poverty. She hid in the woods until she found other girls who had also run away, defying their parents and local custom.
By the grace of God, Lillian and the other girls with her were rescued by World Vision and a woman named Margo Day who became their adopted mother and role model. Margo took a year's sabbatical from her work at Microsoft, raising money to house and educate these runaway girls. Margo gave them her heart and World Vision gave them hope.
Their story is one of amazing bravery and tenacity.
So, while we were traveling in Kenya last summer, we were all blessed to hear Lillian sing at her high school graduation ceremony. What a moment! How fortunate for all of us, including my granddaughter, Maddy, to hear Lillian’s voice, so pure and sweet and filled with joy. Dressed in traditional garb, her face bright with happiness, she stood with her friends who had become like sisters and she shared her story with us. Now, with her education she has a dream, a plan, and a future. All this thanks to Margo Day and World Vision.
That story, itself, is inspiring, but it doesn't end there. This last March, I met Lillian again while at a World Vision conference in Chicago (photo above). She flew all the way from Kenya to share her story and tell about her experiences. As a special treat she joined the Chicago Youth Choir and sang for us again. Lillian is in college now. I am confident she will excel in whatever field God leads her.
Our world is full of courageous young women just like Lillian, waiting, praying for an opportunity to be the woman God intended them to be. I felt honored to meet just one of these special women.
When I donate to a worthy cause, I expect to feel good about being generous and doing my part. Lillian showed me what St. Francis learned long before me—for it is in giving that we receive.
Help make the dreams of a child like Lillian come true! Sponsor a child in Kenya today.