Over the years as the Lord has open doors for me to speak at different churches in Toronto, one of the verses I share from is Isaiah 49:15-16. It says “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Today the truth of this verse came to mind as I heard the story of a young woman who is now staying in the infamous brothel district that we consider ground zero for child sex trafficking in Cambodia.
"Theary" (not her real name) is 18 years old but when she was 9 years old her parents died and she was placed in the care of her aunt. Since that age, she has been working in Thailand and speaks fluent Thai. We are not quite sure exactly what kind of 'work' she was involved in in Thailand but her aunt would go to Thailand and collect money from her. On one occasion she witnessed the brutal murder of a Cambodian soldier as his throat was slashed before her eyes and his stomach was cut open. When Theary returned to Cambodia, she ended up working on a construction site earning $25.00 a month. During this time, her aunt attempted many times to sell her but Theary refused and that led to several beatings. There are bruises on her head from the abuse she endured at the hands of her aunt and she was so sick that her employer on the construction site decided to 'dispose' of her since she was not well enough to work. So they gave her money for a bus ticket and Theary was standing in the bus line not sure where she was to go next. It is here that the hand of God intervened for in that very same bus line was a daughter of one of Pastor Chantha's church members. She befriended Theary and invited her to come meet her pastor as he might be able to help her.
Two days ago, Pastor Chantha and Bunthan welcomed the latest addition to their family. They welcomed her with open arms and now she is staying with the rest of his disciples at Rahab's House. Today as he was sharing from Matthew 25, Theary began to cry. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Theary has come to live in a village that is notorious for selling girls, but today, God is gathering his daughters and bringing them back to this village. He is reversing the darkness in this village by bringing His lost and forgotten sheep into his fold in this place. He is redeeming one life at a time. Theary's story reminds me that God sees what is happening to the marginalized and the forgotten people of this world. God sees their pain, He sees their suffering, He sees their brokenness, He sees the way they have been oppressed and mistreated and He will not stay silent. He does not ignore them or pass them by. He notices them. He hears their cries. He reaches out to rescue them. Their walls are ever before Him because He has engraved them on the palm of His hands. In God's economy, there is no such thing as 'coincidence.' Only He could have ordained for Theary to be in a specific bus line in which the daughter of Pastor Chantha's church member was in. Only He could orchestrate that the place of her refuge would be a village that in the world's eyes is known as a place for destroying the lives of young women. Only He could rescue her and bring her to a community of believers who truly care for the least of these and who could point her to the God of Hope!
I met Theary today. She is quiet and shy, slowly adjusting to an environment that is filled with God's love. Adjusting to a community of believers who are living out the command to 'love their neighbor' as they share what little they have with her. She came to this community with 3 pieces of clothing. She came with nothing, she came broken and bruised, but one day we believe that she will leave this community with new hopes, new dreams and a new life in Christ. Pray for God to heal Theary's body, for Him to touch the trauma within her and to bring complete healing and restoration. Praise God for Pastor Chantha's church members who chose to demonstrate His compassion in action. Praise God for Pastor Chantha and Bunthan, whose heart reflects the heart of Christ. Inviting the poor and needy into their midst and trusting the Lord to provide for all their needs.
Today as I heard Theary's story, there were tears in my eyes as I witness again the relentless love of God who will go to all lengths to save a life that was viewed as disposable by the world and bring that person to a place where His love can be poured over their wounds. In His eyes, she is not forgotten, she is not expendable, she is not rejected, no, in His eyes, she is worthy, she has value, she is precious because she has been made in His image.