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)