Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ng's Path to Freedom (Part 3)

[See previous postings of Ng's story.]

The path Ng took to freedom was neither straight nor easy.

Someone at the old man's house where she was a slave told her that her mother had moved. Desperate, she escaped into the jungle with only the clothes on her back.

Ng met up with an older woman who took her in and fed her. The woman knew her mother; and Ng's hopes soared with thoughts of a reunion, but that dream was quickly dashed when the woman said that her mother had met another man and had moved away. The woman did not know where. Ng was just thirteen-years-old and all alone in the world.

After staying at the woman's house a few days, Ng left. She didn't want to be a burden to her, so she slept in the jungle, ate food from people's trash and begged for money. People spurned her.

Once two young men grabbed her from behind and pushed her behind a house and raped her. With a heavy sigh, she says, "After they were done, I ran to a policeman. He thought I was just a beggar and scolded me. But then he noticed that my pants were ripped and bloody." She was taken to an emergency shelter and transferred to Phnom Penh and was eventually brought to Rapha House.

When asked about what life at Rapha House has been like, Ng replies, "La ah." Good.

She arrived malnourished, and her skin was darkened from constant exposure to the sun. The staff says that she was extremely difficult and would fall into long periods of deep depression.

But then something changed in Ng. She started making friends with the other girls there. She started going to school for the first time in her life and began learning to read and write both Khmer and English. Ng has started to trust again. She even has hopes for the future.

Ng has a long road ahead of her. But now, she is safe. And since Ng has no family other than us, we're going to walk with her on the road to lasting freedom.

In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free. (Psalm 118:5)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Story of Ng (Part 2)

Ng’s ready and somewhat mischievous smile masks the darker truths about her life. As she tells that part of her story, her head sinks; and she nervously scrapes away the chipped polish off her fingernails.

After being sold at age six to an elderly man by her mother, Ng found no sanctuary in the old man’s house. The other servants scolded her. And the people living there slapped her around and told her that she was worthless.

Upon her arrival, Ng was immediately put to work. Her small hands took a towel and dipped it over and over again into a bucket of soapy water as she cleaned the floor on her hands and knees. The other servants, unhappy with her progress, came by and hit her over the head whenever they passed her. That first day in the old man’s house, she washed the dishes, dried and put them away, swept and mopped the floor again, helped to do the laundry, and was told to massage the old man’s feet.

Later that night, she was awakened and told to go to the old man’s room. She remembers hearing the crickets outside and yawning as she padded across the floor to his bedside. Then she tells how he grabbed her and roughly tore her clothes off.

She doesn’t look up as she continues her story. She works away at the nail polish on her hands and says, “Koat tva bhap.” He was bad to me.

This was Ng’s nightmare. And it continued for weeks that turned to months and months that turned to years. Then after six years, she made good her escape.

Next week: Ng’s path to freedom.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Story of Ng (Part 1)

What six-year-old Ng (not her real name) wanted was what most girls her age want—a safe and loving home to grow up in. What she got was something entirely different.

One day, Ng’s life turned upside-down when her stepfather ripped a gold necklace from her mother’s neck and grabbed a knife to slit her throat. Ng screamed and instinctively threw herself towards her mother to protect her. Then her stepfather ripped Ng from her mother’s body and beat her until her small body crumpled unconscious. He then took all the family’s money and jewelry and left.

You might think that having her stepfather out of her life for good was the best thing that could have happened for Ng. But life was about to get extraordinarily more complicated for this little girl.

Forced to find money in order to eat and feed her four children, Ng’s mother took all her kids and moved into the city to find a job. There she made little more than a dollar a day. So Ng’s mother decided to do what seems inconceivable for any parent who is unfamiliar with the desperation borne from abject poverty. Ng’s mother sold her to an elderly man in order for her to work as his servant. Ng was just seven-years-old.

This began a hellish nightmare that lasted six years for Ng. I’ll write more about that in my next update.

At Rapha House, tragedy plays a part in each girl’s story. But that’s not where the story of these girls ends. At Rapha House, we’re committed to bringing hope in the place of heartbreak, healing in place of pain, and freedom in place of captivity. It’s a big job that requires you and us and God. And that combination is what makes the difference for girls like Ng.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Tribute to a Slave Hunter

Aaron Cohen is a slave hunter. For years, he has traveled the world retrieving persons sold into slavery, including girls sold into the sex trade.

If you ask Aaron Cohen how many people he has rescued, he probably would say, “Not enough.” This humble slave hunter knows that there still is a lot of work to do.

The other night, some family members, a few friends and I attended an event hosted by an organization honoring Aaron Cohen as its humanitarian of the year—a well-deserved honor. For me, one of the most poignant moments of the evening came during Aaron’s acceptance speech and his accompanying slide show. He showed one slide of a Rapha girl before she was rescued. Then the very next slide showed her receiving her diploma at our graduation event in November, which Aaron also attended. These two slides told a powerful story—one that I’ve had the privilege of witnessing in part firsthand.

Think for a moment. What if we could mobilize a whole army of slave hunters like Aaron Cohen? Tens of thousands of children would be freed. But where would they go for their wounded hearts to heal? Where would they learn how to preserve their freedom and live independently?

The photos that Aaron Cohen showed tell more than a story of one girl’s personal triumph. They are a metaphor of what it takes to win this fight against this heinous evil. In this war, we need heroes like Aaron Cohen to free people from slavery. But we need places like Rapha House where wounded hearts can heal and rescued souls learn how to live independently.

Thank you Aaron Cohen for making a difference. And thanks to each supporter of Rapha House. Because of people like Aaron and people like you, lives are being saved.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6)