Amanda is a student here with us in Cambodia. She is such a blessing to the team, bringing so much laughter in the midst of tears. Here is what she posted as a note on facebook yesterday.
We went to Agape Restoration Center today.
The fences are barbwired to keep unwanted visitors out.
The gates are guarded.
Names of visitors are written in a log.
No pictures were allowed to protect the girl's identities and the staff.
But inside is a safe place; a place where 54 girls are on the road to healing and recovery. A place where they can sleep in peace knowing that no one will touch them tonight.
These girls have been through more than anyone could imagine. Unspeakable evil has been done to these children. And all these girls could do was hold our hands and tell us, "I love you so much!"
These are 54 miracles. In one of the counseling rooms, pink curtains lined the windows. In amazement several of us in my group exclaimed, "Its the princess room!"
One girl looked at us with the biggest smile on her face and said, "I am a princess!" Oh the joy! How true! These girls know that Christ has made them a princess no matter what the world has done to them!
We brought hundreds of gifts for the girls and the staff at ARC. I watched amazed with a huge smile plastered on my face. How could such a small gesture bring so much happiness to people? I suddenly felt sickened by my ungratefulness for what I have back home.
"God give me Your eyes for these people."
The hope overflowed amongst the girls, women, and men of this organization. Hope. Not many people would expect hope to rise out of a situation like the one here. But it is there; hope.
Everywhere at ARC 1 Corinthians 13:7 was posted on the walls.
"Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preservers. Love NEVER fails!"
These girls truly know what those words mean. God is love, and He never fails.
We played volleyball, painted nails, talked, jump roped, and laughed uncontrollably. As one of the girls held my hand she also was melting my heart. I couldn't explain the love that was flowing through me, and I knew who that love was coming from.
Emotionally overwhelmed is the only way I can describe today.
I have heard of the devastation.
I have looked at the poverty.
I have seen the hope.
But I know that even in this hurting place, we aren't alone!
"..the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 1 John 4:4
We are NEVER alone!
Praise the One whose mercies are new every morning.
(Thanks for letting me share your perspective Amanda)
While we were there a few of the girls sang and did a dance to a song. I couldn't sto the tears. They were dancing and singing to "I'm not ashamed... I'm free..." I didn't really catch the other words but that alone kept my face soaked.
We are finding the young teens love to dance. The picture above is from Don's (the executive director of AIM) blog.
Here's what he said, "Recently I had the pleasure of attending a dance recital. No, I'm expressing what I saw far too weakly—What I witnessed was the amazing results of unconditional love shared with the victims of CSEC. Two of the girls who have graduated from our program at ARC took part in this dance recital. They are two of the five ARC graduates now studying in the States. Their journey from a torturous abuse at the hands of an American pedophile—an abuse categorized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as among the worst they have encountered—to successful students in an American high school is nothing short of miraculous.
As I envisioned the dance I was about to see I anticipated seeing the girls perform a ballet, maybe similar to the Apsasa dance of Cambodia. Instead what I saw was hip-hop. You know maybe that was more appropriate—A dance where each girl could individually express the joy she now has, the healing and freedom that is now hers."
You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance;
you have taken away my sorrow
and surrounded me with joy. Psalm 30:11
After visiting Agape Restoration Center we toured the vocational training center, bloom cafe. They teach girls who graduate out of ARC how to make cakes. Not just any cakes... the most incredible cakes I have ever seen! Watch Chang's story. A girl God resuced, restored and now is making cakes for the King!
So grateful to be here, to have parents who loved me well, have a safe place for my kids, to see and experience hope for these girls, to see smiles from devestation.