Sunday, December 30, 2007

Yan's Story

When we were in Cambodia recently, some of the women from our team led a seminar for the older girls entitled “How To Have Healthy Relationships With Men.” Our women talked openly about their experiences with men and were transparent about mistakes made and lessons learned. They then invited any of the girls to tell their stories.

Yan volunteered to share her experience. She sat on the floor behind the translator, leaned her head against the translator’s back and through her tears told her story in a faint voice about horrible abuse and neglect. Yan’s story is the story of many of the girls who have come to Rapha House.

What made her story so unforgettable was what happened next. After recounting her abuse, Yan raised her head, straightened her back, and said with a note of confidence, “And now I want to tell you about my new life.” And for the next few minutes, she spoke of hope. She spoke of healing. And she told about the grace and love that she has found in Jesus Christ. It was an unforgettable study in contrasts.

At Rapha House, we give shelter and compassionate care to girls who have been trafficked and abused. We provide them with a place to heal. And through our programs and vocational training, we offer them hope for a better life. Some of the girls who come to us choose freely to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yan has. And she will confidently tell anyone about the difference that He has made in her life. He’s one Man who has brought her nothing but good.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Kvoe's Christmas

I’m not trying to make a difference to the world. I just want to make a world of difference to a child.

We spent Christmas with our family in Texas, exchanging gifts, playing games, and enjoying meals together. It was nice to see everyone again, especially our new grandson. Even family from Florida flew in for the holiday. Christmas is a special time.

On the other side of the world, this Christmas hasn’t been so pleasant for a twelve-year-old Cambodian girl named Kvoe. Kvoe is new to our safehouse. She was labor trafficked to Thailand and worked there for nine months before being taken to a Thai prison for three months. I’ve visited a Thai prison before. It’s no place for a child, especially one who has done nothing wrong except having the misfortune of being trafficked.

From prison, Kvoe was brought to Rapha House where she now lives. Some of our girls come to us after being trafficked as slave labor.

Recently, our staff took Kvoe home to visit her family. It was a long trip over bumpy roads to reach her village. When she arrived, she was greeted with heartbreaking news. Her house was gone. Her mother had died. And now this young girl and her little sister were left all alone in the world. Kvoe sobbed and couldn’t say a word.

There’s an interesting passage in the book of Proverbs. I like how The Message puts it: “Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person” (Proverbs 3:27).

People who like to philosophize talk about the suffering children in the world and the fact that people can only do so much. And that’s about as far as it goes. Girls like Kvoe and her little sister don’t care about debates like that. They just want someone to be God’s hands to them. And by supporting Rapha House, your hands have become God’s hands to them. And now Kvoe and her little sister have a place to call home.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ratha's Gift

It’s Christmastime, the season of giving.

This year, I was in Cambodia during Thanksgiving. I received from Ratha—a young lady at Rapha House—one of my best gifts early.

Ratha is the oldest girl in our program. She has been at Rapha House from its beginning. As a matter of fact, she is the reason that Rapha House exists.

Joe Garman, the founder of Rapha House, literally rescued her from the hands of the sex traffickers when they were preparing to take her away. Stephanie Freed went to work to provide for Ratha and a handful of girls like her a safe place to live. And now, Ratha has graduated from our program. But that’s not the gift I’m talking about.

After the graduation ceremony, this quiet and unassuming young woman took me aside to tell me something. She found a translator and said to me, “I want to tell you how deeply grateful I am.” Then she added, “You have loved me better than my own parents have loved me. And you have taught me to see the value that God places on me. Thank you.” And that was the gift that Ratha gave me.

After that, I was speechless and failed to correct her. Maybe I should have. But I failed to remind her of the important role that the Rapha staff plays. I failed to remind her of all the hours that Stephanie Freed and ARM personnel invest in this ministry. And I failed to say a word about the hundreds of donors who have sacrificially given to keep our ministry afloat. I didn’t say anything about all that. Probably I should have. But I didn’t. Instead, I gave her a hug, kissed her on the cheek, and told her that I love her.

As I sit writing this, I wonder where Ratha would be today without Joe Garman, Stephanie Freed, the Rapha staff and you, our supporters. And I shudder. Then I think about the hundreds of thousands of little girls that aren’t as fortunate as her. Nobody has reached them yet. And my heart breaks. So much is left to do. So many children are desperately waiting.

It’s the season for giving. Please consider Rapha House in your year-end giving. As you do, know that I’m passing on Ratha’s gift to you. You deserve it, too. Thank you for caring.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Update on Our First Graduation

Words cannot fully capture the experience of our first graduation ceremony.

At the ceremony, Sokhom, one of our graduates, spoke. She spoke with poise and grace and expressed her heartfelt gratitude. Nobody told her what to write. She put her thoughts in her own words. What touched me most was the praise that she gave to our Lord Jesus Christ for the work that He has done in her life.

After Sokhom spoke, we presented each graduate with her Certificate of Achievement—an official document which would be an equivalent to a cosmetology license. Then starting with Ratha—one of our very first girls—we gave each girl a pearl pendant necklace, a gift from the members of Pathway Christian Church. As I placed the necklace around each girl’s neck, I told her how beautiful she is and how God has done a wonderful work in her life. Most cried in my arms. Some sobbed.

Nine young women took back their lives that night. They no longer are victims or survivors. That night they claimed victory—a victory made possible through Jesus and the supporters of this important ministry.

Thank you for sharing in this work of redemption. Thank you for bringing hope to these precious young women.

He will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair. (Isaiah 61:3 NLT)