Thursday, April 28, 2011

God knows their names

A few nights ago I woke up at 2:30am. Anyone who knows me knows that I love my sleep! Instead of tossing and turning and keeping David awake I decided to get up and knock some things off my "to do" list for The Journey. As I was reading through stories of our kids in Guyana and Guatemala and looking through pictures of our grant families, my heart was broken once again. I just wept for these kids and cried out to God.

Pictures of these little ones flashed in my mind. Swimming with Ravi in Guyana, seeing Suzie for the first time in Plastic City, meeting Will at my college Homecoming, watching Betzabe lead her class in a dance in Guatemala City, listening to Orwil's Mom share her concern for her child, hearing Teasha share how kids in foster care just want a family. Even as I write this I realize just how blessed I am to know these kids.

Those who know me well know that I'm not a "kid person". I prefer to be with those who are 15 years and up. But God has done something amazing in my heart in the last year. Instead of trying to meet the needs of kids all over the planet He has given us a clear focus. Adoptive family grants, advocating for orphans, including those in US Foster Care, and partnering with churches in Guatemala City and Guyana, South America. As God brought the focus, He broke my heart, once again. And He caused me to fall in love with these kids. I think about them, dream about them, wake up at night to pray for them. And I LOVE being with them!

I've asked the question in the last 24 hours,
"What if Caroline's Promise wasn't serving in Plastic City, Guyana or at Casita Adonai in Guatemala City?" I don't want to sound arrogant or give the impression that God can't take care of His children without us. But before we were there, no one was partnering with these churches to help them meet the needs of these kids. A year later, He has done so much and it's because we allowed our hearts to be moved, asked Him what we should do, partnered with passionate churches in those countries, and gave people like you an opportunity to join us. God took our obedience and used it to reclaim hope for a lot of kids!

That's what The Journey is all about. I want you to come. Not just because our volunteers have spent hours designing an amazing interactive event for you. Or because we'll have delicious desserts and coffee, beautiful art work that will inspire you, and a fair trade market that will blow your mind. But I want you to come so that you can see a glimpse of what I've seen. I want you to "meet" Betzabe, Ravi, Suzie, Will, and Orwil. And I want you to join us as we reclaim hope for these kids.

The Journey is this Saturday at C3 Church in Greensboro, NC. When you purchase your tickets online you'll sign up for a 45 minute tour. It's important that you do this before Saturday so we can get you on the tour that fits your schedule. Please bring your kids as long as you think they can stand/walk for 45 minutes. I know it will touch their hearts! And you will be blessed!

Order Tickets Here

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's Real: A Final Reflection on Sara's Life

It’s Real

Sara's Story from Angie Hemric on Vimeo.

I’ve grown in darkness and suffered in pain.

By the wounds I received from others again and again.

Forsaken and in grief silently I weep.

How sad, yet sweet, my life seems on these streets.

Sad and alone I have grown into a young woman who has come to know.

Hurts and pains seems like my names; Joy and peace my worst nightmares.

Tears become my only evidence as I struggle to hide and cover my shame!

I wonder at times is this all I’m here to gain?

My life truly describes what is poverty.

The power of it In its full capacity of mental slavery.

Broken, battered and bruised by the cruelty of mankind my life I lose.

Persecuted and prostituted oppressed and suppressed

Daily facing some form of distress

As I slumbered into living

The depth of my pain, today, I cannot explain

For once again I am silent

Physically silenced by death

Buy why!

Why did I have to be silent for someone to hear I had called?

Why did I have to die for someone to speak on my behalf?

Now, when I cannot answer or speak my pain

There are so many caring hearts out here

Now you stare at my remains

In life, not to many, were sure to care

But today so many regret, and with pity their lips utter my name

How happy I would be if only I could hear.

Whom have I failed is a tale to tell

And who fail me is how the tale may end

For today I’m louder in death than life

But if this is what it takes for you to open your eye and see

Then I don’t mind if you repent and turn to Jesus Christ

Salvation is free. Jesus already died on Calvary

So why not live your life for Christ and so let it be

By: Lavena Ambrose © March 2011

Has Sara’s death spoken to you? Has her life been one you have wished you could rewrite? You can honor her life now by partnering with us to prevent, rescue and redeem the most vulnerable. Caroline’s Promise has established The Red Light Fund to honor Sara and reclaim hope for those who can be the next Sara. Donated funds will be used to train and equip our partner countries in anti-trafficking strategies and victim recovery.

To make a financial contribution to the Red Light Fund click here. Please note Red Light Fund in the comment box.

Lavena is a member of our Guyana Leadership Team. We work together to bring light and hope to our friends in Plastic City. She wrote this poem as her way of processing the tragic loss of Sara and chose to read it at her funeral for all to hear and reflect upon.

The Video song is Father to the Fatherless. The song was written in 2006 after my second short-term mission trip to Guyana and recorded in Guyana in 2009.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sleepless Awake: Sara's Story Concludes

We could not give Sara everything she needed to break free from the talons that gripped her life. One day she was in Plastic City and the next day she was gone. The dark silences were haunting, disturbing and long. Those who took her in at eleven were no longer satisfied with a few dollars a day. In the last year of her life they sold her to men who kept her until they had enough of her. A phone call on a Sunday afternoon in March brought news that could no longer mute the truth of Sara’s earthly existence. She was found brutally murdered and left to decompose in a trench. The ones who called her whore and made money for their pockets were now left to stare at a local paper and search their own conscience. Our team gathered with the family on that distressing night. The indisputable silence was a sure indicator that death had come knocking again. Sara’s shrinking family was now down to three and we were faced with one disconcerting question: “What do we do now?”

In Sara’s death the truth of her life came unraveled and all who attended her funeral were left with two pictures. The first was the ashen powdered face of a twenty year old that now glared back at them from a $100 coffin. The other was the face of a beautiful sixteen year old framed in a photograph and accented with fresh flowers. Disparity stared us down. No amount of rum could drown away a conscience filled with cruel abuse and punishing contradictions. In a family that has lost many they have always managed to put their blame aside and pull their resources together to build a tomb for the dead. The family differences cut too deep this time. The cruelty of her life was underscored in her death as her body was lowered into a six foot, mud-encased, unmarked grave that was dug in the rain by her twenty-two year old brother. She was laid to rest in a potter’s field.

The stark contradiction that set Sara’s death apart from any other family member was the evidence of our presence. We were near the family to help calm the chaos hours after the phone call came to us. Through the wishes of the sister and our support Sara was honored with the first Christian wake in the history of the family. She was also honored in her death with a funeral that clothed her in dignity and allowed the tragedy to simmer in the hearts of all who attended.

Sara’s death has spoken much louder than her life.

And, in her death, she is still speaks to the living.

Sara’s death is not unique to Guyana, nor is her life.

Her life is real and there are other children just like our brown eyed girl who need someone to step in and stop the spiraling cycle. We can make it happen! We can prevent the recruitment, purchase and delivery of human beings that has become known as modern day slavery or human trafficking.

Plastic City is a predator’s paradise and the prevention of human trafficking is the ideal path to walk. Prevention means we can protect the innocence of children and we are doing that every day. Our mentoring program (PAL) has prevention built into it. Through education, presence, and building trusting relationship our positive influence is respected in the community.

· In a community of 200+ children we know 84 of them by name in our first year of existence

· In a community of 120 homes we have established relationships with 21 families through PAL

· In a community of chaos and incessant abuse PAL has become a safe place where children talk openly about home situations and ask for help.

· In a community of “Lost Children” PAL inspires education to those who have never gone to school a day in their life and challenges those who are faithful attenders to rise higher.

· In a community of negativity and “rum talking” PAL has become a positive family environment where generational thinking is being broken off and replaced with truth and possibility.

· Most critically, PAL provides a juncture where Community Health Evangelism can be established for holistic change through family lessons that incorporate spiritual transformation with disease prevention and community development.

Sara’s picture is in our PAL family album and the children know she is gone. One day they will hear about a young girl who never had a choice to be innocent. She will not have a name to them, but I will know her story well.

Has Sara’s death spoken to you? Has her life been one you have wished you could rewrite? You can honor her life now by partnering with us to prevent, rescue and redeem the most vulnerable. Caroline’s Promise has established The Red Light Fund to honor Sara and reclaim hope for those who can be the next Sara. Donated funds will be used to train and equip our partner countries in anti-trafficking strategies and victim recovery.

To make a financial contribution to the Red Light Fund click here.
Please note Red Light Fund in the comment box.

Tommorrow’s post will be a poem of reflection that was shared at Sara’s funeral. It was written following her death by a member of the Guyana Leadership Team.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sleepless Awake: Sara's Story Continued

God brought me into Sara’s life when I did not know one thing about her - except for what I observed and learned from her younger cousins. As we spent afternoons crouched on narrow wooden porch steps reading books, learning phonics and doing flashcard math Sara watched from a distance. Many times I caught a glimpse of her watching through a window or peeking around a corner. Day in and day out as our time closed and we walked out to the road she would come. In time Sara began to walk beside me and cut me a half-smile when I shared a kind word and said goodbye to her. I learned the first pieces of Sara’s story from her cousins who shared openly.

“She has never gone to school.”

“She doesn’t have mother.”

“She doesn’t have father.”

“She doesn’t know her colors.”

“She does not know the letters of the alphabet.”

“She does not know her numbers.”
“She doesn’t know how to write.”

“She cannot spell her name”

When I learned that Sara could not even verbalize the letters in her name I overcame my shock and asked her if she wanted to learn them. In that moment those hollow eyes found a spark of life and her smile could not be contained. A few days later Sara spelled her name without help for the first time in her eighteen years of life. In that celebration moment I spontaneously grabbed a permanent marker and wrote her name in the palm of her hand. I then looked her in the eye and said:

“Sara God has written your name in the palm of His Hand and

He loves you very much.”

PAL became the safe place in her day and her first experience with life-giving relationships.

We were not the only relationship that Sara reached out to embrace. One weekend our partner church decided to hold evangelistic meetings on the wall in Plastic City. On the final night I shared a testimony about swimming in the ocean and being caught in a riptide that could have taken my life. I shared how God reached down and rescued me as I literally screamed “Jesus” at the top of my lungs over and over again. When the message closed and an invitation was given all the children huddled up around me. I asked them: “Does anyone want to meet a new friend tonight?”. Sara looked at me with that illuminating smile and said, “Me.” We prayed that night and she found a friend in Jesus. The following Sunday she and her older sister attended church and began a new believer’s class.

The conclusion to Sara’s story, in narrative form, will be posted tomorrow.

**PAL is an abbreviation for Partnership Achieves Learning which is our mentoring and remedial education program to see a glimpse of partnership in action click here for a video

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sara's Story: Sleepless Awake

This week we will be posting amazing writing from our Guyana Country Coordinator, Angie Hemric. Over the next few days you will follow Ang on a journey through Plastic City as she tells the tragic story of Sara. Our prayer is that your heart will be touched like ours were when we learned of this tragedy several weeks ago. We encourage you to ask God what He would have you do to

Reclaim hope for orphans like Sara

This poem was written in July 2008 after my first intensive time living and breathing Plastic City life for ten full days. As I processed through all the stories I heard both there and in a similiar area an hour away God cemented a call that took one more year to crystallize.

Now, two and one-half years later the stories that left me sleepless then resurfaced in the face of a girl I knew and held close to my heart. She was lost to “the traffic” earlier this month. We did not expect this aspect of the vision to bang at our door so early in our timeline for plastic city, but we know God is not surprised.

We now walk forward to embrace her story and engage ourselves in being trained by a formidable organization that offers week long intensives in all areas of Modern Day Slavery. Over this next week I will bring our girl's story before you so that you might be awakened to the fight we are up against and be challenged to join our cause of preventing slavery in our corner of the world. And if we can’t prevent all, then perhaps God will allow us to rescue them and walk with them to discover God’s redemptive power for thier young lives.

Darkness looms

Horizon breaks

Quietness stirs

Sleepless awake

Day has dawned

Deeds are seen

Broken Pieces

Mauled up faces

Twisted Torment

Souls encased

Night will come

Lights will dim

Darkness hides the deeds of men

Shattered stories

Charred ash memories

Escape is ecstasy at the hands of another

Silent tears

Hopeless fears

Sold for a dime

Destined by time

Again and again

Pain beyond measure

Felt deep within

To live by darkness

Hardened by shame

My life, your life

Forever changed

Knowledge is power

What will you do

To rescue the innocent

Lost to forever

Covered by darkness

At the hands of another

Powerless, victimized

Over and over

Rise up

Be Strong

Weep for another

A child lost in the traffic

A life of horror

Rise up be strong

Weep for another

A child sold out by

A mother, a brother

Rise up

Be strong

Weep for another

Weep for another

Darkness looms

Horizon breaks

Quietness Stirs

Sleepless Awake

Sleepless Awake
July 26, 2008

I met Sara in the spring of 2008 when a friend and I visited a family that we thought lived in Plastic City. We found them and I met Sara as the children showed us around the area. Sara came along for the walk but always stayed a few steps back. I was drawn to her because of her absolute silence and her deep brown eyes. They scrutinized me from head to toe as she watched her chattering cousins vie for my constant attention. Sara never let me hear the sound of her voice that day – not even to tell me her name. The piercing secrecy hidden behind those hollow eyes was my unforgettable first impression. She was silent; untouchable and sixteen.

The memories of that day are snapshots of the life that I have grown to understand much more deeply today. Sara was born in Plastic City and never knew her father. She grew up with four older half siblings until her mother gave birth to her last child, a boy, when Sara was nine years old. The mother died soon after her son was born leaving Sara an orphan by her eleventh birthday.

These six siblings were the first double orphans in the extended family. The two oldest boys were left to find their own way at thirteen and seventeen years old. The two girls, eleven and fifteen years old, were taken in by their aunt who had her own full house of fatherless children. The baby boy was taken in by the grandmother. They only lived a few steps away from one another divided by shadowy and filthy water that characterizes life in this corner of the world.

The way of survival for the grandmother was passed down the family line as the way of survival for one remaining daughter. Sara was taken into a family where she was now two years younger than her aunt’s thirteen year old daughter. In what could seem premeditated, this daughter was soon pregnant with her first child by a man known to the family. The expectation of giving your body over to the service of men for sport and spare change was generational. This reality alone is enough to make you want to hit the pause button and hope for no more, but there is no pause in Sara’s obnoxious reality. The flagrant disregard for life in this shadowy darkness is not solely rooted in poverty. There is a greater enemy provoking this mental degeneracy. I remember a few months ago when another young girl from the family was being set up as the liar in order to make her grandmother look innocent in the eyes of a school official. The child was told by the aggravated grandmother that if she did not want to listen to her and do as she was told then she could go: “F” a man’s cock.” The shame filled tears that poured from this child’s face as she internalized those words revealed, like crystal, the contemptuous life that consumes this old woman.

It is horrible enough to look from the outside in and know that Sara spent the last years of her teenage life living out those very words of her grandmother. One hot afternoon Sara’s sister invited me into her house to talk with both of them. As the sun beat upon our faces I then realized why those deep brown eyes were so hollow the first time we met. Minutes turned into hours as I painfully listened to the life of two orphaned sisters. I soaked in every spoken word and realized the start of Sara’s demise began the day Sara was deemed slow and never encouraged to go to school. After the mother’s death their lives took a volatile curve. Now living in a home that encouraged sexual behavior Sara and her sister were not spared one drop of innocence. Sara’s first violent sexual manipulation began when she was raped at fifteen and the crime was settled with a payoff. This payoff was the first of many that set her up into a life of anything goes, nickel and dime, prostitution in her own community. As I gazed into Sara’s eyes on that muggy afternoon I could not suppress my tears. The plea of her sister was for me to help Sara see the trap that had been set by her very own family. She wanted me to convince Sara to live in her sister’s house and listen to her so they could make a better life for themselves.

The fight was a difficult one, but Sara stayed with her sister and had good and bad days. As my days working with this young girl turned into months I realized more and more how she was set up for her life a generation ago.

This is part one of Sara’s Story that will continue being told tomorrow.