Today, I walked into the salon on the property of the maternity home, funded through Mercy House Global, where the young moms get an in-depth course in hairdressing and beauty as part of the introductory vocational program. They wore matching pink shirts and professional blue aprons that said as much.
And they brightened at the “customers” (read: my family) who would help them learn on real people.
When they asked what service I wanted, I said a manicure. I left my nails unpolished since this has become a tradition when I visit. Plus, I knew they had just learned to do shellac nails and I was excited to see them in action.
But then the power went out. Because this is Africa.
They started touching my hair and I knew I was in trouble.
When the power didn’t come back on and my stylists pulled out dark brown hair extensions, I was afraid. But I sat down quickly because the chair over, they were experimenting on chemical hair relaxers. I love Jesus and all, but I’m not crazy.
When the girls started braiding the long extension into my bangs, I took a deep breath and gave myself a pep talk for the next two hours.
They say it hurts to be beautiful.
And they are right.
Because, wow. Ouch.
This week, my family is getting an up close look at the most beautiful people in the world. But beautiful people don’t just happen. As the Bob Dylan song goes, “Behind every beautiful thing, there is pain. . . ”
The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ―Elisabeth Kugler-Ross
I cannot even begin to describe the collective horrors these young girls have experienced in their lives. It’s enough to make me weep just knowing. It’s a sorrow I carry and some days I just try to manage their trauma secondhand and I’ve only just heard their stories.
They have lived them and continue to deal with physical and emotional consequences and the effects of their pain. I think that’s why when you ask any one of the girls what their favorite class is, they almost all say salon, second to tailoring and dressmaking.
Yes, these classes introduce them to practical skills that could turn into jobs some day. But I think they love them so much because it’s a chance to feel pretty. And what girl doesn’t love that?
Their young teacher, an orphan herself, just graduated with her certificate in dressmaking and this is her first job teaching. She has less than an 8th grade education, but we saw the beauty in her pain and knew she would be a compassionate teacher. It’s beauty from ashes everywhere I look.
Pain is a part of life. And when we can open our broken hearts to God, He will heal us. Nothing about what we do at home or at Mercy House is perfect. The consequence of pain is still evident in every girl in some way–through actions and attitudes. God uses our pain and suffering–if we let Him– to remind us we are tethered to Heaven and not to earth. And when we press into it, as we have seen these girls do, instead of seeing only pain, we see beauty.
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. –C.S. Lewis
So, yeah, we’ve all known our fair share of pain in the world (and I’m not just talking about a head full of braids–see below).
But if we look a little closer. We can see it.
Pain in beauty. Beauty in pain.
I mean seriously, have you ever seen a more beautiful sight?
Learn more about our work in Kenya and how we are selling loads of fair trade product every month to help sustain two maternity homes and a new transition home. If you’d like to donate towards our vocational program, there is a need for 6 more sewing machines, some cosmetology equipment and our staff dreams of beginning the process of turning the existing program into one that offers certification.