Girls of different ages between 5 and 18 rushed to greet us as we got out of the van. Their smiles flashed like sunshine to us.
Some spoke a little broken English and said, “Noah! Noah lady!” as they curtsied the traditional greeting given to an elder.
“You remembered!” I smiled as I said it. “Yes, we talked about Noah!” Noah was our story adventure with them the last time we came. This year our story would be Jonah. Mma Consuello and her husband were deeply devoted Christians and the love and affection for all 48 was evident.
My heart felt so warmed and close to them all over again. At the same time, I felt the heartsickness of knowing that each girl, (even the little 5-year old’s), had been raped and used up, having now been rescued from living on the streets or in brothels. Some of their families had dissolved. Some were beaten and had come to Mma Consuelo’s home for girls, where she had rescued them from sexual slavery and prostitution. There were 48 girls living in her small, modest home.
As Mma Consuello shared stories of the many girls, the one my heart ached for the most was 8 yr. old Lucy. She sat alone and her eyes were hollow. They saw but didn’t seem to see. Although intelligent, her little body was twisted. We were told that she had Cerebral Palsy and had been taken advantage of by many men in her village because she could not resist. Her parents abandoned her because of her disabilities. Consuello learned of this and took her into their home.
Lucy seemed unable to make eye-contact with me. She faintly smiled as I asked our translator, Judy Mbondo, to tell her that we had brought our traditional “Joy Bags” filled with small gifts and treats for all the girls. Her feelings of being less than, tainted by life, and her physical disability felt palpable to me. I touched my hand gently to her face and told her in Swahili that she was beautiful and so loved by Jesus. Almost imperceivable she nodded yes.
She comes to mind often since we left in July. I am reminded of the many of us who are bent and crippled in our emotions as we feel some of the same things Lucy felt but for different reasons. Our ability to really engage with the world because we feel broken and ruined. Unable to connect because we have been judged or criticized by those who couldn’t understand. We want to know we are loved, but trust has been disabled by the cruel symptoms of a disease called shame.
But God… He comes to us in the very center of it all and it is as if He places His gentle hand on us and tells us we are beautiful to Him. That we are loved and that He has gifts for us that we cannot even imagine. But God… He has come to restore our honor and our dignity. He knows that “shame is a death arrow to the soul” (Henri Nouwen) and that He alone has become our shame on the cross.
Lucy. I believe that in time she will be able to receive the love and dignity that was lavished upon her. I pray the same for all who are reading this and struggling with this emotional affliction today. God’s promise to Israel through Isaiah is still for us today through Christ.
“Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.” Isaiah 61:7
In His care, Darla France