Our visits to Rapha House have been full of surprises. Rapha House exists to provide a safe environment for girls who have been rescued from the sex trade. I had done some reading before we came here to Cambodia and my heart has been perpetually breaking since. I had been bracing myself for a blanket of sorrow to overwhelm me and I had been praying for the strength to look at these little girls and love them without falling apart. That is a big prayer for me because I cry at Hallmark commercials and Little House on the Prairie. At our first visit, the girls ran up to us and greeted us. The traditional greeting here is to place your hands together and bring them up to your nose and say something to the effect of "Choom Reep Suah". Behind these traditional greetings were some of the most beautiful smiles I had ever seen. I found myself smiling so much my cheeks hurt. The girls laughed, played, and of course doted over Sarai. We played games and met some of the staff. All of it contained unexplainable joy.
The next day we came back and met more of the staff. David did a devotion in the morning. We also received a tour of all of the facilities...it was very impressive. Again, most of the girls smiled and were delighted to see us. Well, actually, they were delighted to see Sarai but we'll take the welcome as if it was directed towards all of us.
That evening I led a devotion on "lost things" with the girls. We had a lot of fun. I told the girls I had lost something and asked them if they would help me find it. I told them if they found it, they could keep it (it was a package of gum I had hid). They were excited and off they went. It didn't take long for them to run about the courtyard frantically looking for the gum and soon they found it. When they got back I talked to them about Luke 15 and the first two parables in the chapter--the lost sheep and the lost coin. I was surprised at how at ease and comfortable I was with these girls and even speaking with an interpreter. I totally delighted in their enthusiasm and warmth about them.
After that we played games and danced to music. There is one particular girl that I enjoyed watching. She is very young...the kind of young that breaks your heart a thousand times because she is there. Generally she is shy and withdrawn. She will stand and watch the other girls. More than anything I wanted to scoop her up and hold her--so much so that my heart and arms were aching. I did not, of course, because it is good for her to have her distance and feel safe. At the end of the evening I was standing at the door and the girls were leaving. She started walking out and looked up at me with a smile that was priceless. She walked past me and then quickly ran back and gave me a huge hug. I thought my heart would burst.
"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
What I thought would be broken, there is redemption at work. What I thought would be darkness, there was light piercing. What I thought would weeping, there was laughter. What I thought would be ashes, there was beauty. God is redeeming. There is hope and I am clinging to it with desperation and tears.