It was four in the afternoon. Our team was pretty exhausted and sweaty from visiting two other centers. But we rallied up some energy as we entered the center for teen moms and HIV + children. At the previous centers it was easy to defy the language barrier since the children were unable to speak and we spent time walking, playing and feeding them. As I walked up to the third center, I saw the children we would be serving and immediately noticed older faces holding the hands of toddlers. It was these faces that I felt drawn to.
Our whole team jumped into action. The boys kicked around a “futbol” while others chased some of the kids around and others did face paint. The older girls planted themselves on the ground and looked at me and some other girls. We grabbed a translator and sat down. The conversation was very general at first, learning each others’ names and ages. We learned that two of them were 17 years old and the other two were 18. They all had children due to sexual abuse. They had been taken from their families because of abuse and their families had disowned them.
Sadly, we learned that they will be out on their own with their children when they turn 18, and they have no idea where they will be. As I sat there, a burning sensation started throughout my entire body and I felt like I needed to tell them my story. But, another emotion came over me; fear, so I sat quiet. Then as the missionaries gave us the cue that we needed to be leaving, I looked at the girls and realized I needed to speak. So, I told the translator I needed to share. The missionaries gave us the okay to spend a few extra minutes. I told them how I came to know Jesus. I told them the stories of how different people hurt me in ways I never imagined would be possible. How I struggled with forgiveness with these people and myself. But, then I met someone who gave me hope and gave me the chance to know love. His name is Jesus. It was through meeting him and seeking him that I saw the beauty in the broken parts of my life. That even though horrible things happen, he understands and he will never love me less. He gave me peace and forgiveness. I saw one of the teen moms begin to cry. She said she didn’t think she could ever forget what happened to her, and wanted to know how I could forgive and move on. I encouraged her that the memory may never go away but the pain will lessen as you turn to Jesus. We ended our time with an unforgettable prayer. Our eyes were filled with tear as we held one another and cried out to God. In moments like these I’m reminded that God can use anything, good or bad, for His glory. I will never forget those girls and the opportunity I had to encourage them today.
*Note - we were unable to take photos of the children
at the HIV Center. This photo was taken of Ashley
at the special needs childrens' center in the morning.