Earlier this week I had the opportunity to share my testimony with some very special young women --- they are not just trafficking survivors but they are now on a new journey of integration into their communities. For these who have lived through and endured horrendous experiences that most of us will never have to face, time spent with them is always precious. They are living reminders of the transforming power of Christ who can do far more than we can ask imagine. They have come on a long journey from victim to survivor to overcomer!
What does one possibly say to such young women who to me are my heroes. For their stories, their lives, their testimonies inspire me because they demonstrate that there is no body so broken, no spirit so crushed, no life so shattered that the Lord cannot heal, cannot restore, cannot redeem!
I began my testimony by telling them that while I have been a Christian for 22 years, I only discovered a few years ago that it is one thing to call Jesus our Savior but another thing to call Him our Lord. As our Savior, He has forgiven our sins, cleansed us, died for us and has risen again that we might have new life in Him, but when we accept Jesus as our Lord, we are surrendering our lives to Him, we are allowing Him to lead us and direct our steps because we believe that His plan, His way is always the best no matter what challenges we face. When we acknowledge that He is our Lord, we are trusting Him completely in all areas of our lives. For many of these young women, the issue of Lordship is a challenge especially in the areas of family obligation, finances and commitment/obedience to His ways. And so I shared from my own experiences how this all played out when God called me to move to Cambodia. I pray that whatever seeds were planted, that the Lord will water the seeds. After all He promises in Isaiah 55:11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Each morning when the girls come to work at this store, they have a time of worship and then there is a time for morning devotionals. Following that, there is a time to play a game before the store opens. That day when I attended and my sharing time had ended, the girls began to play a form of ''floor hockey'' using a ball and two long soft shaped stuffed noodle sticks. They were placed on separate teams and the object of the game was to score a goal using the 'noodle' as a stick to move the ball around. Can I tell you, I have never heard such loud laughter and shrieks in my life. The competitive juices came out and so did the smiles and laughter. It was quite hilarious to watch these beautiful young women smile and laugh from ear to ear when they scored a goal. The screams echoed through the building and as the director of the business said, our neighbors might be wondering what we are doing with the girls for 15 minutes everyday, because they are always screaming and laughing so loud. Watching these young women laugh and grin is truly satisfying to see. We learn to celebrate such small but important acts of joy because in this ministry, the road to healing is not easy nor straight. There are many twists and turns and just when you think a young woman is doing well, some thing happens and she is taken back into old patterns of behavior. But despite the roller coaster of emotions that we can so easily encounter in walking along side our young sisters, we are blessed by their journeys. For through their lives, we learn to depend on Christ in ways that we never have, we discover the power of His healing touch in their lives as we intercede for them, we see the truth of the Gospel come alive in ways that we never have experienced before, for Christ indeed has come to set the captives free as He restores beauty for ashes, a garment of praise for the spirit of despair and the oil of gladness for mourning. Through their lives, I see the words of Isaiah 61:3 come to pass---they are becoming oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor!
This truth became even more of reality for me later that afternoon when I was out in the brothel district for a meeting. I was pleasantly surprised to see a young face whom I first met 3 years ago. She is now fully reintegrated. Many of us have prayed for her and 5 others who are dear to us at Ratanak for their story was the catalyst for our entrance into this ugly world of sex trafficking. Seeing her and having a chance to chat with her in Khmer even though she responded in English was encouraging. She is doing so well, learning English and is enjoying her new job. She was full of smiles and remembered our previous meeting a few years ago. Spending time with her was another cause for celebration! It is a reminder again what a privilege it is to walk along side these little lambs, to share in their sufferings, to celebrate their victories, to encourage them to dream that they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them! It is a long journey, but one well worth it despite the obstacles, despite the challenges to see what is possible when faith, hope and the greatest of these, love is poured into such precious lives! He is more than able to move their mountains and give them all they need to achieve a new life of wholeness as they walk with Him and in Him!