Seventeen people from across The United Church of Canada participated in the Mission & Service Global Pilgrimage to Kenya, from March 25 to April 4, 2017. The pilgrimage visited Mission & Service partners throughout the region. This series of blog posts shares the story of their journey. 

At the Jerusalem Girls Secondary School we heard of a young woman who found safety and security in going to school. At the age of 12 West Pokot girls are seen to be assets to their family as they are old enough for marriage with the family receiving dowry money. A young girl whose name was Philomena was married off and quickly found herself with two children. After the second child her husband died. Tradition dictated that in his death Philomena was to be inherited by her husband's brother. Up to this point she had not suffered the procedure of female genital mutilation, but now that expectation lay ahead for her as well.

With the Jerusalem Girls Secondary School opening there was, for the first time, the possibility of something else. She could gain an education and step out of the shadow of belonging to someone else, of being nothing more than property to be inherited. She ran from her situation, left her children with her mother, and entered Form One (equivalent to Grade 9). She now looks forward to a bright educated future! Philomena hopes to go to university and become a teacher.

This school is funded by Mission & Service partners, the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC). It is a pan-African organization for Christian denominations that have been founded in Africa itself. Mission & Service partners with OAIC to achieve these kind of result. OAIC specifically works with many denominations in West Pokot. The Jerusalem School currently has 126 students. Next year it will enrol 166 girls and will present its first candidates for university.

It is an exciting time to be a student at Jerusalem Girls Secondary School and know, maybe for the first time, you belong only to yourself and your Maker. I am so proud of my United Church and Mission & Service for making this happen!

—Rev. Tim Reaburn, Hamilton Conference