Fifteen year old Ava* is a child of poverty. I first met Ava when she was eight years old, roaming the streets collecting garbage. A slum of over half a million people was home for her. Being fatherless, she was expected to help provide for her mother's six younger children. She used to literally force her way into my house to get my garbage, as though it were a great treasure she would fight to the death for. She certainly was a fighter, with a mouth like a sailor. Using my handy "Filipino-English Dictionary," I learned many Filipino cuss words from that little girl. However, I knew that underneath the rough, abrasive exterior was a hurting child with no one to fight for her. She eventually left Manila and we lost contact with her; but recently she came back to city. I saw her one-day, in the blazing heat, asleep outside on a bed made of garbage, dead to the world. My heart sank at the familiar signs I saw in her. She wasn’t the little girl fighting for my garbage anymore, but was now one of at least 100,000 children who are trapped in the dirty world of prostitution in the Philippines, whether physically forced or driven to it due to poverty.
May* is 17 years old and was gang raped last year. She came to Safe Refuge six months pregnant and with a palpable air of sadness about her. We provided prenatal care, vitamins, food, and shelter, but these things only just began to cover the needs of this young girl. As she continues to move forward in her life, our hope is that the love and care we surround her with will draw her towards her healer.
Behind both Ava and May’s stories lies a depth we have not even begun to uncover. In the darkness we can't see, but as loves light seeps in, it reveals what can be. Ava can be rescued. May can be whole. The poor can be fed, and baby girls can be protected. Today, Ava is still a prostituted child we have not yet been able to reach. May is getting her physical needs met by Safe Refuge but is still emotionally lost and broken, just beginning her path to healing.
Tonight so many slum children will go to bed hungry, and so many babies remain unprotected.
Yet, I serve a God who has never given up on His children and I know He will not give up on these. There is a cry in my heart that will not let them go; that will not give up on them.
Recently, we shared Safe Refuge’s vision at our local church. The girls sang a song and I want to share with you the words:
"We must go, live to feed the hungry, stand beside the broken, we must go.
Stepping forward, keep us from just singing, move us into action, we must go.
You have shown us what you require, freely we've received, now freely we will give."
(God of Justice by Tim Hughes)
*Pseudonyms used for the protection of identities.