.this. is a story of how much God loves us and wants us to change for his glory. i just got back from a six day journey into the depths of God's heart. i want to sit down and tell everyone my experience..look into their eyes..help them to understand the changes that God did and is doing in me because of six tiny days. this will be a six part journey. please fasten your seat belts and don't worry you won't need any of the emergency exits.
.normally this is a dreaded day for me. it is a "marker" day..associated with abuse and pain. i have never really been a fan of this day. my birthday. i was lovingly woken up..at 5:00am..by Christy leaning over my bed to wish me a happy birthday. then several others throughout the morning showering their love on me..and me allowing them to do so. key word..allowing.
.so. here we are. thirteen american girls..ten of which have never been to Nicaragua, much less the House of Hope. some are chomping at the bit ready to go see and experience God's heart beat. some anxiously expecting..unsure of what is to come. some numb and uncertain of even how to feel. me. i was relieved that we were finally going. you see..my week prior to coming was difficult to say the least. was very close to opting out of this opportunity several times. the unseen battle had hit me hard. unsure of what to expect. what i was going to see or hear. unsure of what my response was going to be. quietly expecting God to move. asking God for change in me. for softness. for movement. for openness. oh God won't you come.
.arrival. we piled out of the van glad to be standing on the grounds of HoH. we all lined up waiting for instructions of what our first step would be from our leader, Shea. one young girl with arms opened wide ran into Shea..she was so happy to see a familiar face who loved her. one by one the little girl hugged each one of us. i was second to last in the line. as she hugged me she noticed my scars. she ran her finger up and down my arm speaking in beautiful Spanish. she then quickly hugged the last person and ran away. a few seconds later i was surrounded by that same little girl and five others. all touching and rubbing my scars. discussing amongst themselves and trying, unsuccessfully, to ask me about them. then they noticed my tattoo on my other arm. i had girls holding both arms touching my scars and tracing the outline of my tattoo. at that moment..with both arms being stretched out i head God saying, "this is it..jump..go..it's safe..i am close..follow me." i obeyed and dove head first into God's love for his children. his little girls. i quickly grabbed one of the translators, Kellie, and asked her how to say "scars" in Spanish. cicatrices..this became my new word..and eventually everyone on the team learned what this word was.
.after. a quick tour and history behind the HoH we walked through the dorm where there are currently twenty girls residing. each girl starving for and wanting love. hugging each of us on the team. so excited and open to having us there. knowing what a broken and painful past they each hold. a story of pain. i felt God's heartbeat in their dorm. looking into their faces i could see Jesus. at one point we were tip-toeing the line of trying to break the thin ice that held us back. Shea whispered to some of the girls that it was my birthday. immediately they all began signing and clapping the most beautiful happy birthday song you've ever heard. one by one they came up to me hugged and kissed me..and wished me a happy birthday. ice officially broken.
.being. that it was tuesday..it was going to be one of the busiest days we were going to have..and our first one. eek! we began to prepare for 400 women who have left or are currently still in a life of prostitution. these women come to worship God..listen to teaching from his word..and work together to make jewelry and cards to sell in order to supplement their income. giving them a way out of selling their bodies for money. sitting there in the back of the main building watching the women worship. some uninterested. some truly worshipping their savior. praying for them..feeling God's love for them pour through me. overwhelmed at feeling God so close so soon. i thought for sure it would take some time for me to really experience God. not the case. as the service went on a women in the front row began having seizures. shortly she was carried out of the building and i followed. feeling as though i should be involved. i could not give any medical advice..but i could talk to my Jesus who is mighty. i felt moved by God to show her love in a tangible way. holding her head as she convulsed and talking to her in what little Spanish i know. asking her questions and wanting to hear her story. her name is Carla.
.as. i sat with Carla and listened to her heart and her fears. holding her close. looking into her eyes. seeing darkness and no hope. at this point, Kellie, one of the translators walked away for a few minutes. i kept asking God to please move my hands, my body, my words as he would. as Carla reached for a water bottle i was handing her i noticed something on her wrists. i took her arm in mine and turned her hand over so that her palms were facing upwards. on her wrists were several scars. much like mine. no differences. no language barrier can stand in the way of Jesus. as i held her wrists she noticed i was looking at her scars. i looked deep into her eyes. i can't even begin to share what i saw in her eyes. the depth of despair and the longing she had for even just a fraction of hope. a yearning in her face. tears filled her eyes as i asked in broken Spanish what they were. although i could not understand what she was saying with her words..i knew exactly what she was saying. Shea was sitting close by and looked at me and said, "do you know what she is telling you?" i looked back and said "yes". not really her words but i understood. Carla had not noticed my arm. had not seen my scars. i slowly moved my arm from around her neck and showed her my scars. she looked at them. then at me. then at my scars again. touched them. felt them. she was feeling and understanding my pain and i was doing the same with her. we understood each other's brokenness. God did this. Kellie had returned and my heart was beating so fast with prompting from God to talk to her about her story and tell a bit about mine. she told a heartbreaking story of her pain and how she had tried to end her life several times. how she had no hope. how she had done so much wrong. she explained that she had not been coming to the HoH for several weeks due to her seizures. i was able to share with her my pain..my darkness..and my hope in Jesus. how he took my pain and is healing me. Carla continued to have seizures during our conversation. asking God to heal her. to give her clarity of mind. to stop the seizures. God brought Carla to HoH this day in his sovereignty. he is a good God. he pursues us. after some time with Carla it was time to work with the rest of the team. we placed Carla in a chair. this seemed like a dull ending to such an amazing conversation and God story..but later we heard that after we left she did not have any further seizures and was able to walk home.
.the. rest of this day was filled with the girls. bonding with the girls who live at HoH who were rescued from brothels. grace. one of the girls had fallen and gotten hurt. Shea had asked if i would like to hold her. i wrapped her up in my arms and sat with her for long time. as i was sitting there i began praying for her. for her heart to be protected. that God would begin and continue to heal her heart. to protect it to not grow bitter or angry. while praying for her tears started streaming down my face. (for those that were on the trip this will be no surprise.) it was as if God opened up my heart and my eyes to see her in the future. to see what God was going to restore for her. i saw myself in her as well. God was allowing me to see her..a young seven year old little girl..as myself. God spoke to me about how much he loved me as a little girl..broken..and hurt at such a young age. i was able to see myself as that child. which for me..does not happen often. this was a huge step in my healing process. then God spoke to me about how he would restore and bind up little Grace. i saw her moving in freedom. in knowing God. in seeking freedom and restoration for others. being a fighter for God to bind up the broken hearted. tear of healing and hope for little Grace pouring down my face. oh how he loves us and knows exactly what we need and how best to teach us about himself. how great is our God!
.drying. my tears i went to join the others to serve the leaders for the small groups at HoH. we put on a luncheon for them. my dear friend, Melissa, shared with the women from God's word. encouraging them to keep going. keep pushing through. keep seeking his face. they opened up and shared their hardships and struggles. encouraging one another and us to keep going because God is so worthy of our obedience.
.the. day ended with us all gathered around sharing about our first day's experience and what we thought. i was overwhelmed with emotion of what role God had allowed me to play. crying and sharing about how i felt that this was going to be a huge week for me. one of life change. of God being close. i had written in my journal some about the day and the depth at what was happening in my heart. i was unsure still at what was happening but knowing that God was doing something..something huge. this is what i wrote about what God was teaching me and allowing me to walk through with him.
"Jesus shift me..move me. Change me. ... today i held a girl, seven years old. who was sold into prostitution. i cried over her. realizing her age. how small she was. how disconnected and hurt she is. Jesus this hurts. i hurt for her. i realized how i was at her age with my abuse. her sister, Anna, is five. my first memory with my abuse is at that age. oh Jesus be close in this. in their pain/hurt. thank you for rescuing them. thank you that they can hear of you and see your love now. Jesus protect their hearts. soften them. soften me. Jesus use me. work through my story. it is yours to use. it is your story. i ask for healing. i ask for movement towards your truth in it. i ask for more of you God. Jesus come close. .... one of the other girls, Lupe, asked me to be her God mother. my heart leapt. this is your heart Jesus. your heart for your children. you want us near. desire us to be loved and changed. you ache with their hurt. keep me open God to hear your voice."
.this. was the beginning of change.