International Women's Day (And the Men In Our Lives)

BY LOIS SHAW, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Every Friday morning at 10:00AM the community at Africa International University (AIU) stops everything and meets in small groups called “Grace Groups”—affectionately known on campus as GGs. From the university president all the way to the groundsmen and night guards, we are randomly put into the Friday GGs for Bible study, fellowship, snacks (of course) and prayer.

On this particular day our GG met at our house. There were 14 of us. The purpose of the gatherings is encouragement, but also to have conversations about the lessons learned from the speakers in Chapel that week. The theme for that academic term at AIU was “Walking in the Light,” and we had some great speakers. Our most recent speaker had mentioned her powerful encounter with God and ensuing desire to study at AIU. One of her first professors was our own Dr. Mark Shaw. 

Now, just a brief digression here. Mark is often referred to as “Markshaw.” For a good Swahili speaker there just aren’t quite enough vowels in “Mark” to make the name worthwhile by itself. So, I am the wife of “Markshaw.”

The speaker mentioned she and her new husband have decided to name their first son “Markshaw” because of the impact Mark’s course had on her life. All that to say, our conversation turned to parenting and raising those future “Markshaws,” which totally embarrassed my husband. But it really made for good conversation.

Now, because many of our students are doing MA degrees and PhDs, they are not young Gen Exers or Millennials, but parents with kids and even teenagers. So the conversation evolved as we tried to think through helping our growing families think and embrace “walking in the light.”

Then George (not his real name) told his story.

George has two teenage daughters. He grew up in a very conservative family and church in West Africa. In the 60s and 70s, a conservative lifestyle was a huge part of being a “good Christian.” No jewelry. No makeup, no smoking, or chewing, or…well, you know the rest.

One afternoon as George’s wife happened to be looking out the window, their teenage daughter was coming home from school. She noticed her daughter stop, pull off some earrings and stuff them in her backpack before walking into the house. George’s wife waited until later in the evening and asked him what they should do. George said he was furious—but conflicted. He wondered whether their church background and its insistence on plain dressing was just cultural, not biblical. He let it sit for a while, wondering how to handle this as a good dad.

The next weekend George was scheduled to speak at a conference some distance away. It went well and he was feeling encouraged. He walked through the airport while waiting to catch his plane home, and as he passed a jewelry shop saw a lovely pair of earrings. He knew his daughter would think they were cool. He bought them. And he had them wrapped in a lovely gift box. 

Everyone in our GG was looking rather misty-eyed. How much more valuable is a daughter than an expensive pair of earrings. 

Some days, life here at AIU  is just the best. And what a privilege to celebrate International Women’s Day and honor the strong, confident men—fathers, grandfathers, husbands, brothers, uncles and father figures—who aren’t afraid to empower and encourage the women in their lives to be all God created them to be.

Our homes, communities and world are better for them.

 Learn more about how women and men can work together for mutual flourishing.