The school house stood three stories tall, an edifice that appeared out of place in a residential community. It was at the end of the street, tucked away but too conspicuous to miss. Beth Potter said it was a big, red house, and it certainly was.
Tiana and I pulled up beside it this morning. She gasped when she saw the place. “It’s so nice!” She said excitedly.
We walked through the gate and into the grand doors of the entrance. To the left and the right of us were classrooms with children of all ages, grouped together and busily at work. What a delightful sight to see these orphaned children engaged in their studies, speaking very good English and writing so proficiently! I was impressed!
I must confess that it wasn’t what I expected to see. These were well-educated children, under the tutelage of committed volunteer teachers, missionary ladies who were a wonderful mix of loving and purposefully stern.
Beth Potter briefly described their educational philosophy and the strides that many of the students had made over the years. They came in below their academic level and caught up quickly. In other instances they surpassed expectations.
I wasn’t there to observe the classrooms but it was a nice bonus. I came to give a talk on Life’s Healing Choices. Beth informed me that a number of the children suffered from previous sexual abuse and she asked if I could encourage them. Thankfully, they spoke such good English, so I didn’t have to struggle through my imperfect Tagalog.
We gathered together in one of the rooms a few moments later, with many of the kids sitting on the floor right in front of me. It felt like a safe and intimate space to be vulnerable.
I proceeded to introduce myself and go into the details of my story. As I did so I studied the faces of the children and noticed that a few of them were wrestling with their own hurt. The gist of what I shared revolved around three choices I made that helped me to heal as a rape victim:
1. To believe that God loves me, that He is good and sovereign, and has a plan for my life. Romans 8:28
2. To forgive the men who violated me because I too am a recipient of God’s grace and forgiveness. Matthew 6:14 / Ephesians 2:8
3. To declare God’s goodness in my life and not hide behind the shame. Psalms 40:5
In the end I invited them to come to Christ, emphasizing that there is no guarantee that our lives will be free from pain and affliction. However Jesus promises us His peace. “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33) I also assured them that God has a purpose for each of their life stories, and they can bring His hope to others.
This was the easy part of my morning. What followed next crushed me emotionally and spiritually. Beth asked if anyone wanted to meet with me afterwards. It was like blitzkrieg crisis counseling because I couldn’t spend prolonged time with each boy and girl. I listened to heart-breaking stories of teens who were raped by fathers or relatives. They recounted the atrocities committed against them, each story no less a nightmare than the other.
As I sat on my mononobloc chair, just inches away from these kids, I wondered if there was any solace I could offer. After all, their tragedies were far greater than what I experienced at their age. Who gets raped by their father?! These things should never happen! I felt the rage kicking into a boil as I thought about the betrayals and confusion these children suffered through.
It’s worst than death it seems, to have to fight off your own father and beg for his mercy, and yet he feels no pity, devilishly responding to your pleas with a blow to your gutt to silence you so he can proceed to assault and defile you in his lust. How do you comfort a child who has endured this and lived to tell it, crying in their shame like it’s their fault to bear the guilt of such perversion?
I am not naive. I know this sort of disturbing and sickening thing happens today, but I tend to be far removed from actual incest cases of young children. Most of the people I counsel are abused, taken advantage of, or raped by peers or strangers. When it’s palpable and up close like this…when each child’s face has a name and I am looking into their eyes as the tears pool and streak down their cheeks, it’s tempting to wonder, Where is God? Is there a God who cares?
Yet, I heard something I shouldn’t have during those sessions, at least not from children who recounted such horrors. Two of the kids told me, “I have forgiven my father.” When I asked the first one why, she said with conviction, “I read it in my Bible.”
She told me that she found Christ in the home she was sent to, a place for abused girls. She came to understand the love of God there.
Another child, a young boy who lost both his parents when they died in their sickness, smiled as he shared, “At night, I look up at the stars and I think about God and how He is with me, and I don’t feel scared or alone.”
As I marveled at their insights, I was reminded that in this broken world there is hope. There is peace. In Christ people are healed. They become victorious and don’t remain victims.
“For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:4-5 NLT
Although the stories of tragedy won’t cease till Jesus comes again to restore all things, the healing can begin if we care enough to tell people about Him.
I hugged Beth before I left. She became a hero to me. I told her, “What you are doing here is the hard part. I came in to tell my story, but you will stay on to minister to kids who have been cast aside and forgotten.”
Tiana and I headed back to Ortigas area and I pulled her close to whisper, “I am so happy to be your mom. I am so thankful you are my daughter.”
I went on to explain, “The kids in that school have fathers who hurt them because their fathers don’t know Jesus.”
She looked up innocently and remarked, “But not daddy, right? Daddy doesn’t hurt me because he knows Jesus.”
As she fell asleep on my lap, I wept. On the one hand I was so grateful to the Lord that Edric and I get to love our kids, and that our kids have been spared from sexual violence. On the other hand, I felt renewed conviction to talk about Christ. Jesus Christ is still relevant and always will be, especially to those who ache for hope, peace, and joy. When the broken come to Him, the veil is taken away, and they find purpose, meaning and the grace to forgive their offenders.
“…But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” 2 Corinthians 3:16
We may not be able to alter a person’s past experiences, but we can change the course of their histories by telling them that there is a God who loves them and inviting them into a relationship with Him. He gave His life for them so they can have new life! To someone who has lost everything a new life means everything!
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17