One entire arm is wrapped like a mummy in medical tape, which is trying to secure the IV line that is working hard to rehydrate me. IV tubing is draped across my chest and snaking up the wall where the bag is hanging from a screw protruding from the wall. Sitting on my little tummy is my trusty vomit bowl...our tiny house is silent, as my poor husband must eat his meals in the clinic these days.
We are growing a baby! Or a baby is growing us, I suppose.With every passing day we grow more excited as we talk to, pray over, love, and picture this little miniature. Daily we are realizing our need to learn more, to love more, to somehow become worthy to parent this amazing new person..... wow.
Here is a glimpse of the past 15 weeks or so, in the lives of Leah and Francis. Each day is filled with, what surely was named by a man as "Morning Sickness". Every 20-30 minutes, all day long, I, Leah, am parked in front of the toilet, getting to know it very, very well. As the days have passed I have become weaker, dehydrated, and anemic, as very little food or liquid is staying in my stomach. My husband has been loving me with a servant's heart: making me food, cooking his food outside, rubbing my back, and more recently, taking care of my IV line, which has been in for many, many weeks now. Lately I have also been on bed-rest for frequent contractions. My husband has had to go on medical outreaches alone and host mission teams without me, which makes me pretty sad.
As I lay in bed these days, I have asked God to keep my heart filled with joy.. I have been surrendering to Him my desire to be used, to love people, to go and find the broken and bring them hope. Vomit seems to be getting in my way.
Just as I was asking Him, God came and answered, as He always does. He handed us an unscripted story-line, one of new life and blossoming hope, that is unfolding more by the minute. On March 14, the pages of a new chapter in our lives began to unfold, and for my husband and I, along with our home, hearts, and lives, beautiful change has become the new theme...
My phone rang as I was sitting on the bathroom floor. It was my husband. "My Love, I have someone here that needs us, I think she might live with us. Can I bring her up to see you?"
I smiled. "That sounds perfect."
Five minutes later, *Sierra was sitting in our living room, 18 years old, scared, and looking like a wide-eyed child. She had left home to earn money, and four weeks before ended up in Sabang working for one of the many Mamasan's (Madames) as a prostitute. With her in our living room was an American man in his late forties who had come on "vacation" and purchased Sierra's services as a prostitute for the past two weeks. He explained to us that he was growing a little fond of her, and thought maybe this was not the life for her.
I bit my tongue, nearly in half I think, and restrained myself from letting my anger and disgust, white hot fury really, erupt all over him.
"God, help me to love him too." I whispered.
I reached out and touched her hand, "Sierra, you are a beautiful girl, and there is a future filled with hope for you if you want it. I can see that your heart is hurting, and if you continue working this job, and allowing men to use your body, the pain in your heart will grow deeper and deeper. We are here to help you and care about you."
She looked up from the floor tile that she had been studying. She laughed nervously, "I'm not sure. I'm a little scared."
She expressed that she would like to finish high school, and when I asked her what her dreams were, she looked surprised, thought for a moment and whispered, "I always wanted to be a nurse, but my family said I will never be anything."
We offered for her to come and stay with us, and take one step at a time, with us beside her, and so she agreed.
She left to go get her things, and ten minutes later my phone rang again. It was my husband. "I have another one. Are you ready?"
"Ha! Of course I am. Bring her up!"
A few moments later *Faith came into our home. A beautiful young woman, she had come to Sabang looking for a good job, determined to not work in prostitution. She ended up working in one of the main-street "massage parlors" where men pay for extra services and the girls are left with little choice.
"I do not want this life!" her voice was a mixture of desperation and determination.
Faith explained that she has not finished high school either, and longs to get her diploma, and with it a chance at a future outside of selling herself.
"What is your dream?" I asked her. I believe with all my heart that God is a dream-giver. He has placed desires and hopes in our hearts that the world steals away. So often these women, like many of us, forget the dreams, buried under years of pain and discouragement, and stolen joy. Hope becomes like shattered glass on the floor.
"I think that I would love to be a doctor, to help people and to love them." She answered.
She looked into my face, her eyes vulnerable and filled with pain.
"Faith, we would love to have you stay here if that is what you want... I know that God has a future for you, and hope for you. If this is your dream and you want to work to get there, we have no doubt that you can achieve it. There is healing and life for you."
"Yes!", she said excitedly, "this is what I want."
Sierra was filled with fear at the thought of going back to ask her Mamasan to let her quit this work. She had already been told that she was not allowed to leave.Faith also knew that her boss would not let her leave. I took both their hands in mine. "We are going to pray. It is God's heart for both of you that you are free, and God can control any man's heart that He chooses. He will do this for you."
The girls left, and I continued to pray... one hour later they both were back, their faces beaming, surprise and awe written all over them. Both the Mamasan and the Massage Parlor boss had released the girls, no questions asked.
"I hope you have a good future," they said, and walked away.
"God did this for us, didn't He?!" they asked, incredulous that He would answer them.
"Yes, He absolutely did."
Sierra came to me and said, "The Mamasan is the one who gave me the name Sierra. She said that is who I am now. My real name was *Mariah. Can I be Mariah again?"
I hugged her tightly. "Sierra is dead. You are Mariah again. Welcome back Mariah."
And so this was the beginning of new life being birthed in the hearts of these women.
My husband and I are on our faces before our God day and night, asking Him to show us how to lead, love, nurture, and teach these fragile hearts. God has given them to us, and as unworthy and unqualified as we are, He is equipping us and showing us in every moment how to speak life to the deepest cries of their hearts.
The girls and I began to meet every morning in the Sala (living room). At first we just shared our stories, who we are, the lives and families that have molded us into who we are. I did not push them, just invited them. Their hearts began to open like fragile, bruised flowers, the fragrance of their pain filling the room. Stories of abuse, of unthinkable brokenness, of lives devoid of any love at all began to pour from wells of deep, deep woundedness. Tears began falling, eruptions of years worth of brokenness that had never found release before now.
I held them, they held each other, and it was then that I could almost see the fingers of God reaching deep into their spirits, massaging life and healing into the deepest wounds.
I began to explain to them the love of Jesus for them--a love so passionate, so constant, that pursues and protects...a love that died to make them free, a love that takes our ashes and gives us beauty in return.
We began to write down all the lies that the world tells us...lies that go deep into the hearts of women. Lies that when we hear and believe them, mold us and twist us into the mis-shapen person we are.
I collected these tear-stained lists and poured over God's word that night, finding verse after verse, promise after promise that combated every lie, and replaced it with the truth of who God says we are.
The next morning I read these promises over the girls, and they wept. They had never heard, and could not comprehend, the love of a father who sees them as priceless, valuable, beautiful treasures. They began excitedly underlining every one of these promises in their Bible, and they read over them every day, cementing the truth into their hearts.
The girls are learning who they are to God, the astounding value they hold in His eyes, and how fiercely protective He is of their hearts. When they begin to comprehend their value, like that of the rarest and most costly diamond, they will no longer treat themselves, or let anyone else treat them like a piece of broken, dirty glass.
As each day passes, these abused and used women are learning what a real man looks like-- a man who loves with a protective and pure heart, a man whose integrity and desire to respect and empower them has given them a new sense of safety.....He is my husband, the man I love more each day as I watch him minister to their hearts and show them a glimpse of something they have never seen before.
I have learned to not be surprised by anything, for as we are embracing this life of no plans, only obedience, I have also become a home-schooling mom-of-sorts. Along with Mariah and Faith, there are two other women in our lives that have not finished their education. One is in her fifties and has never gone past elementary, the other is a year away from finishing high school. Both want their children to see them reach this incredible goal.
We are using modules by the department of education and ALS program to do home-study so that they can take the exam and get their diplomas!
After one month in our home, on April 6, Faith sat down with us and said that she wanted to give her heart and life to Jesus.
"When I first came into your home you held my hands and prayed over me. When you touched me I felt the Spirit of God in you, He made me tingle inside and the hair on my arms stand up straight. I never knew the love of God before this... I feel Him in your home and in the way you love me. I have never felt love like this before." She cried.
This girl is filled with joy, excitement and passion, and is blossoming more every day. God is healing the brokenness from her past filled with abuse, and showing her how to forgive. She wants to be a missionary, either a Doctor or a Midwife, and help other women who have been abused. She tells everyone she meets how the love of God has and is transforming her. "I feel like the old Faith is dead, I am the new Irene! I am so filled with joy!"
My tears come easily these days... tears of rejoicing and overwhelming gratitude that God has allowed these women to come into our home, and has given us the honor of nurturing their hearts, and showing them the one who can heal the deepest of wounds. I am seeing the love and redemption of our God's heart in new and astounding ways, as if for the first time.
I see Him reaching into the mud and grime and pulling out what the world sees as garbage, and washing and polishing, and healing, until it is a radiant treasure, a masterpiece so stunning that it takes our breath away. That is what He does, and He does it well.