Sunday, March 23, 2008

Survivors In Their Own Words

When I was in Africa, the AIDS orphans that we met donated money to buy Bibles for the girls at Rapha House. They also sent the girls handwritten letters. Some of the girls from Rapha House responded by sending their own letters to the children of Africa. This is one of those letters.

Dear all friends who live in Kenya…and in my heart:

Hello, friends! I really want to meet you. I thank you for giving me the love and support that my heart needs.

I was really happy to learn that I wasn't alone. And I hope that all of you think about me all the time. I want to tell you that I was very happy when I read your letters. It made me know how much God loves us. Now, I have warm feelings because before I didn't have a lot of friends because I was scared.

When I was young, my father beat me and my family. He always beat my mother in front of me everyday. It made me scared. I didn't want to live with them. And I always ran away to other people. But other children didn't want to play with somebody like me. I didn't have a friend.

Now I have a good life, and I have new friends. I hope one day to meet you. I want to sympathize with you that you can find a good life in the future.

God bless you. And thank you. I love you.


… God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing (Psalm 68:6)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Mona Lisa Smile

I wasn't expecting it, but there it was. The grainy photo taken undercover filled the screen during the slave hunter's presentation. To my knowledge, it's the only photo that we possess of one of the Rapha House girls before she was rescued and while she was still working in a brothel.

It's not prurient. It's simply a portrait of a young, sixteen-year-old girl sitting in a bar booth with flowered wallpaper behind her. Her black hair is slightly pulled back off her ears. And she wears a white button-down blouse modestly open at the collar. Her eyes glance towards the side. And her mouth wears a Mona-Lisa-like smile.

What strikes me most about this photo is the girl's faint smile. Like the Mona Lisa, it's subject to interpretation. But I know what I see.

In preparing these updates and other materials for Rapha House, I constantly pore over my photo collection of Rapha House girls. Frequently, I run across photos of this very same girl. In these photos, she has a wide and easy smile that lights up her whole face. It's beautiful.

I contrast those smiles to the one that I see in the photo from the brothel. There's no comparison. Once she was a guarded and tentative girl from a brothel, but now she has rediscovered how to smile the carefree smile of freedom. That's what we do at Rapha House. We put real smiles back on the faces of children. And that's God's work.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free (Psalm 146:7)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Trafficked Girls and Two Boys

While I was in Missouri recently for the Rapha House annual board meeting, Stephanie Freed told me about an experience that she had after making a presentation at a church.

She told the audience about human trafficking and our ministry to girls who have been rescued. She related a few stories of our girls and talked about what their lives have been like. After the presentation, a father approached Stephanie with his two sons.

The boys were probably ages nine and eleven. The boys had been raising some cattle that they recently sold to the stockyard. And the money that they made was earmarked for their college education. But after hearing about our girls, these boys came up with an idea.

When their father approached Stephanie, he was choking back his tears. It's hard for a man to let emotions like this bubble to the surface when talking face-to-face with a woman. But this was not a normal situation. This man's sons on their own decided that a better use of the money that they were paid would be to give it to Rapha House. So the dad signed over to Stephanie the check from the stockyards. It was for over three thousand dollars!

I don't know if these boys will ever meet the trafficked girls that they've helped. But I like to think that one day in heaven Jesus will introduce them. But until that time, I hope that their generosity will inspire others to follow their example. I think that we all have a lot to learn from them.

…the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' (Acts 20:35)