Some days we get word that we will be receiving a new girl. Some days we get word that we will be receiving two.
Like the day that they arrived.
The first one was escorted in around lunch time. After being welcomed and having her papers signed, she ate an entire plate of rice and beans with a fork and her hand.
She was dressed so much older, and I marveled at how she transformed back into a little girl when I gave her clothes that simply covered her body instead of displaying it.
The scars all over her skin prompted so many questions in my mind. I wanted to wipe them off. To hug them away. To make them disappear along with the memories that put them there. The things she had been forced to do made my breath catch.
As I was handing her necessities, the second one arrived.
She was so young. She escaped her situation on her own, for she decided she had had enough. She walked herself right up to the door of the people she thought could do something, and she begged for help.
We spent the first night sitting on the floor in the intake room together. The intake room is meant to be a place of sanctuary, where girls girls can process and recover from events and harsh realities. Often times they arrive raw and raging, sick both physically and emotionally and desire to share details about whatever situation brought them here. Therefore, immediately moving them in with the others can stir up more than wanted.
“I have no one,” the younger girl sobbed. Words that sting coming out of the mouths of adults. The fact that she had already come to this realization in life brought tears to my eyes. She longed to be in our home, for she desired a sense of normalcy and belonging and felt she could find that here.
The older girl wanted nothing to do with the home our little family shares.
Words that don’t have the same connotations for her as they do for me. She couldn’t understand my intentions when I smiled and used those words in my description of what we offer.
So often I find myself reminding the girls that home and family are what we have here. But lately I’ve seriously questioned my tendency to do that due to their tendency to associate the words with meanings I don’t intend.
I say home and they remember instability, a structure with bare floors, empty plates and a location for memories they’d rather forget.
I say family and they remember abandonment, conditional love, zero tolerance, broken relationships and abuse.
And the reality is, I can’t expect them to magically rewire the connection between experiences they’ve had and feelings that have resulted from them. I can’t magically change their perspective on life simply because I give them a hug and tell them they are safe now.
It’s a process.
Just like everything.
Some days I feel like we are taking ten steps forward.
Some days I feel like we may never find the road again.
And these two little ones who arrived on the same day…
Their process has been so amazing to watch.
I’ve seen them go from crying through their first few nights to comforting others crying through first nights of their own. I’ve seen them mesh into the routine and the normal, adding more sparks and joy than there were before. I’ve seen them love Jesus, worshipping Him with their little hands raised high and retelling stories of miracles He has performed.
They themselves are living miracles.
I heard them testify just yesterday.
A dear friend brought visitors to the Luz y Esperanza safe house, and our girls soon learned that these visitors had stories worth sharing.
We sat around the fire pit intently hanging on every word our new friends said, for they related to the lives the girls have lived. They understood the loss of parents. They understood the curve balls life can throw. They understood uprooting from “normal” and being placed in a group home. Circumstances in their own lives placed them in one many years ago, and they’re both still living there at 20 and 21 years old.
The girls listened wide-eyed as these two beautiful, young women who appeared as though they had it all together shared the ways that their lives have been torn apart. Through their openness, these strangers transformed into inspirations. Through their willingness to relive their hurt and experiences, it was another step towards healing for some.
They became an inspiration to the little girl whose parents also died of HIV.
They became an inspiration to the little girl who also witnessed significant acts of violence done to her own family members.
They became an inspiration to the little girl who hasn’t been convinced that this family of ours could ever become hers.
Our two new friends encouraged them and told them the secret to surviving the things that have happened to them.
The Lord will use for good what man meant for evil.
It’s okay to not be okay.
Don’t try to deal with your grief alone.
Run to Jesus.
Then came their question for the girls:
Does anyone want to share something with us?
And those two little sparks of life who arrived on the same day in January eagerly raised their hands to give their testimony.
I listened as the older one went first and shared the anger she carried when she first entered our house. She shook her head as she remembered the person she was before. She smiled at me and recalled how many times I held her when she sobbed, and she declared that her life is full of joy now.
The second girl, the younger one, raised her hand too.
I listened as she described the anxiety that plagued her mind and the tears that filled her days of her first week here at Luz y Esperanza. She told parts of her story to our new friends and the other girls, and she did so with her unique and vibrant way of speaking.
“When I first got here, I cried all the time over not having friends, and now I have friends in the girls here,” she said. “Jesus answered my prayer of friendship, and I have a friend in Him too.”
Both girls shared from places of deep hurt that were now filled with living hope.
And I watched one who had just arrived a couple of weeks ago hang onto every word they were saying. The cycle of sharing and encouraging continued.
These girls are ever-changing, and getting to witness it each day is absolutely amazing.
To see them begin to understand the meanings of family and home.
To see them recall the days of the past and hardly recognize themselves.
To see them envision the possibilities of the future.
To see them share their struggles with others in hopes of the chance to reassure.
Our biggest opportunities to witness can come from our deepest places of pain, of shame, of darkness. When we share the valleys with others, when we tell them how we pulled ourselves up out of places that we once lived, a glimmer of hope can spark.
And to those who are willing to share, to converse with those who may learn from you…
Your willingness to be vulnerable is a already a victory.
Through sharing, you have said that your vulnerability does not matter more than your testimony or the potential impact on others. You are allowing someone to watch as you sit down with humility and tell of what you have had to overcome. Places of brokenness seem to yield the most beautiful moments of connection.
That is what will change the world. Even if it’s just the world of one.