Jay recounts an experience he had in Ghana, in which he saw a girl being carried to a forced marriage.
In Ghana, I witnessed a young girl being taken against her will to be married. This experience has unsettled me for the past few weeks, and when I heard about the 200 Nigerian girls who were sold as brides, I felt the need to share this story.
We were driving on a dirt road in a tribal area in north Ghana when we passed a guy on a motorbike who had stopped on the side of the road. He was struggling with a girl who was riding with him. Our driver, a Ghanaian worker with OM, immediately stopped our 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 struggled to get away from the man. She couldn’t have been older than 13.
After five minutes, our driver told me to come take video and pictures of the situation. From maybe three feet away, I was up close and personal to a man who was taking this girl against her will to be married in another tribe.
The girl was hysterical. She kept her arm covering her eyes and cried out the same two 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 of getting more answers. The man admitted that the girl was being taken for marriage to a boy around her age, although it’s not uncommon for young girls to be married to much older men. The detailed beadwork in her hair and the jewelry she wore signified that she was prepared beforehand by someone, possibly her parents.
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 with the girl 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 scruples about taking the girl. In his eyes, it was normal. Yes, all cultures have broken traits.
Is this part of the man’s culture just another example of a “wrong” trait?
Is child marriage wrong?
What makes it 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 any other day of taking girls to their new husbands?”
That’s where the Gospel comes in. That day was different because the man’s encounter was with a follower of Jesus - someone 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.
And what about the concept of “raising awareness”? What is the point of putting this girl’s photo on social media to raise awareness if the only outcome is that we 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 someone 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.