West Kenya’s young women – ‘Girls for God’
The Salvation Army’s Junior Miss program in the West Kenya Territory has more than 250,000 members.
By Karen Gleason –
In The Salvation Army’s West Kenya Territory, the Junior Miss program has more than 250,000 members—a number that testifies to the program’s profound impact on the lives of its participants.
Similar to the traditional Home League, it features a four-fold purpose for girls and young women ages 8-30: to know God and his will for their lives, to develop and increase life skills, to build friendships and enjoy fellowship, and to experience the joy of giving and serving others in their communities and beyond.
Lt. Colonels Edward and Shelley Hill, Western Territory program secretary and women’s ministry program and resource secretary, respectively, visited Africa to attend the Junior Miss Congress in Kolanya, West Kenya, a four-day event held at Kolanya High School in the Army’s Elgon Division. The Congress theme, “Girls for God,” came from 1 Timothy 4:12: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, set an example for the believer in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
“During the planning stages, Commissioner Jolene Hodder, West Kenya territorial president of women’s ministries, told me they were planning for 2,200 girls; that was all they felt they could accommodate,” said Shelley Hill.
The anticipated number kept increasing, soon reaching 3,000. Based on this number, the Congress committee ordered provisions, including three bulls and 75 chickens that they planned to kill, pluck and cook to feed all the girls.
More than 4,000 girls showed up for the event.
“God performed a ‘loaves and fishes’ miracle,” Hill said, so that every girl had breakfast, lunch, supper and a snack before bed. Commissioner Jolene didn’t want her girls to go to bed hungry.”
Since the dormitories could only house 2,200 individuals, the girls slept three-four to a bed, and some chose to sleep under the stars.
They arrived at the Congress by public transportation or by foot, traveling with bedding, uniforms, dishes and utensils, and even their own bucket to draw water for drinking and washing.
Each morning, the group gathered under the outside tents; more than 16 were erected so the girls would not have to sit in the direct sun. The center of the field—a space the size of two football fields—remained open for gospel dances and timbrel routines.
The Congress presented serious topics such as purity, safety and health, including a look at the dangers of skin bleaching. Workshops ranged from “I fight like a girl” to “How to study the Bible.” The delegates could take lessons on tie and dye, a way for them to make and sell items to raise money for projects or to help their families.
One of the performances was by a group from the Turkana District in northwest Kenya, who traveled the farthest for the Congress. With their tribal headdress and wrapped in colorful fabric, they presented a traditional tribal dance.
“They came from severe drought conditions and have little water to drink,” Hill said. “So it was a blessing to see that 48 girls were able to come together for this event.”
Other activities included a fashion show, a poetry contest and an opportunity to sell their crafts and handiwork to raise money for their corps or division.
The photo booth was a popular spot, and the girls had fun with various items provided by the USA Western Territory, like glasses, bow ties and mustaches.
“Many of the girls don’t usually smile for pictures,” Hill said, “but Commissioner Jolene told the photographers that unless the girls smile, they weren’t to take any photos. They ended up smiling and wanting to have their picture taken more than once.”
After Hill brought the message from God’s Word, individuals began coming forward even before the invitation was given.
“It was an overwhelming experience,” Hill said. “Over 600 young ladies made a commitment to be an example of Christ in their lives. They want to live for Christ. They want to share the blessings and experience the joys. God was there!
“I pray that I too can be an example of a ‘Girl for God.’”