In the first hours of this early morning, as I was making yet another trip back from the bathroom, I caught a glimpse of the morning sky through our bed-room curtains. I stopped, and just watched as painted streaks of blue and gray awakened to shades of pink, then orange.
What was first just a stealth hint of light emerging from the black, quickly became a new day before my eyes. Shafts of gold touching even the most ordinary of things made them sparkle and shine.
The world stretched its sleeping arms and unfolded to a fresh new day.The sun was coming, and the darkness just couldn't hold on.
I just love that our God writes His character all over creation, infusing pieces of His heart into the sunrise... He is showing me once again that though the night is black and heavy, dark and oppressive-- light is so much stronger, and never fails to come on swift wings, recoiling the darkness with its glory, making all things new again.
We have have been walking through some black nights these past several months in the town of Sabang. It is a town that has been long-rooted in darkness, filled with prostitution, all kinds of abuse, and witch-craft.
When God brought my husband and I to this place, He spoke to us that we were to be a city on a hill, a light that will not be hidden, shining like a beacon into the black night. We were excited and asked only that God be with us, filling us with His spirit, and then we would do whatever He asked, we would go wherever He pointed, and love whoever He brought to us.
It is now nearly seven months later, and God has done just that. In February God brought *Amanda to us for the first time (read about our first meeting in the blog "Every day a new story"), an 18 year old girl, sold into sex-slavery by her mother, abused, broken and desperately wanting to be loved.
We arranged a meeting with her mother, knowing that we needed to speak truth to her and give her the chance to do the right thing. She agreed to stop forcing Amanda into prostitution and to let us help her... we wanted to believe her. She then took Amanda on "vacation", and we did not see or hear from her for the next two months.
At night I would dream of Amanda, and wake up crying...I knew in my heart that she was back in prostitution, and asked God to show us if we were to go into the bars and brothels and find her to help her escape. God said "Wait", so we waited.
One hot afternoon in April, Amanda arrived on our doorstep, her eyes dark, her shoulders slumped, head hanging low. She sat on our couch and cried...her mother and step-father were pressuring her daily for money-- to renovate the house, to pay the bills, to gamble.
Each day, "just find one more customer" they would say.. "besides, it is such a burden to pay for your medicine, we need money from you."
Her mind is shrouded in a thick fog, completely controlled by her mother, and by forces stronger than she is.
And so Amanda went to "work", finding man after man to use her body and abuse her heart, each one taking broken pieces of her away with him, leaving shards of her behind, with a few coins in her hand.
But the brokenness and bondage in Amanda goes even deeper than this...
For most people in the Western world, talk of spiritual warfare and demonic activity is uncomfortable and untouched. We believe in God, but just don't want to think about the reality of powers of darkness. God's word makes it very clear that we are to understand "that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers of darkness and principalities." We are to focus on God, and to also be wise and arm ourselves against powers of darkness.
In this part of the world, from a very young age, most people understand spiritual power, for there are witch-doctors in nearly every tribe, and people become very ill or die when curses are put on them. Satan controls them with fear, and unless we show them the power of God that is so much stronger, they will live controlled by this fear for the rest of their lives, locked in a prison of darkness.
We had known for quite a while that Amanda was dealing with demonic issues that began when she was in fifth grade upon entering a house "filled with evil spirits". That day so many years ago, she began to have severe and violent seizures, up to seven a day, with multiple voices coming out of her as she writhes and screams on the floor.
As we talked to her, a story began to unfold, that we have come to learn is common for so many of the women in this country.
Amanda's mother brought her to many "Albalarrios" or tribal witch-doctors that are thought to be healers, starting at a young age. She was given potions, her body covered in different concoctions, given amulets to wear, chanted over, beaten, and told to have sex with as many men as she could to be rid of this "sickness".
These healers also sexually abuse the young women brought to them. They have no power to heal, only to destroy, and the more that Amanda went to them, the worse she became.
She has lived for years in bondage, doctors diagnosing her with a medical problem and prescribing medications that make her lethargic but do nothing to control her seizures. We realize that real seizure disorders do exist, but in her case, it is clear that the issues are not merely physical.
The day that she came to our home we began to pray, asking God to show us how to love her best. We felt at first that we should not invite her to come and stay with us in our home. It was not safe. It was down-right scary. We had two other girls living with us that we needed to protect.
Sometimes we know what seems to be exactly the right thing to do, the option that makes sense, that is safe. So often that choice is the opposite of God's heart.
He calls us to step out and listen to His voice...
As we prayed, God began to speak that we were to walk in obedience to His voice, and not in fear. He is with us, and has filled us and our home with His spirit. Darkness is no match for light. He told us to walk in faith.
And so Amanda came to live with us in April, moving into our living room, our lives, our family. Day and night we play worship music over this place, pray with the girls, read scripture over them, and love them. We are saturating them with truth, and are learning that where a spirit of worship exists, darkness cannot survive.
Upon moving into our home, Amanda began to seize more often. When we would begin to pray over her, the spirits would speak to her, telling her to leave. She would begin to shake and have terrible pain in her stomach, and seize while voices spoke out of her in different languages. Her eyes become dark and filled with evil. When the seizure ends, her eyes become clear again and she looks like a little girl-- broken, weary, and desperate for healing.
Every time she would open the Bible and begin to read, the seizures would begin.
She began to ask more and more questions.. "Why do these spirits hate this book so much? They keep telling me to not read it. They are very angry."
We explained to her that God is love, and loves her so much. He has the power to bring freedom and healing to her, and His words are alive and full of truth. Satan hates truth, and does not want her to be free. He exists to steal, kill and destroy. He wants to control her for the rest of her life. He is getting so scared and trying to hold on, because He knows that he must leave-- he is no match against the power of God.
When Amanda is having an attack, we gather around her and pray, taking authority that Jesus has given us to command the spirits to submit and be silent. Every time, they become silent, and she becomes still again. We can feel them shudder at the sound of Jesus' name.
In the middle of these battles we feel the darkness and evil all around us, trying to terrify and paralyze us.... but more than this, we feel the power and glorious light of God's spirit! We have never experienced the peace of Jesus like this before. We can literally feel His arms around us and are absolutely in awe of His incredible power. This home has become a place filled with peace and a spirit of worship-- joy without bounds. We have become people who trust His heart in new and startling ways.
We have asked God to show us how to walk wisely, and how to battle this darkness. In Matthew 17:14-21, Jesus heals a boy who is demon-possessed, having epileptic seizures. He said that "demons like these do not come out except by prayer and fasting."
In Mark 16: 15-18 Jesus gave the great commission to His disciples, saying that "These signs will follow every one who believes in me-- They will cast out demons in my name...." God has given us authority over powers of darkness, that we should not walk in fear of them, but walk in victory because God is with us. We are asking Him to show us exactly when to cast out these spirits, knowing that first she needs to know and understand truth.
We feel that God is speaking right now to pray like crazy, and teach her truth before taking a next step.
Bernadette is learning more of who God is every day...His spirit bringing new life and freedom that is transforming her. Where there once was a lethargic, unresponsive girl, there is now emerging a beautiful woman, her eyes coming to life, her spirit more peaceful.
She reads God's word day and night, ravenous to learn more of this God who loves her. We are teaching her daily of her true worth, how valuable and beautiful she is in the eyes of her savior.. .a treasure worth dying for.
"I want this," she says, "I want to be free."
Amanda has never before experienced real love in her life. She has been abused and broken by every person that should have cared for her.... as Francis and I love her, and gently show her the passionate love of her healer, she is coming to life, her heart blossoming like a fragile flower in the hands of the master gardener. As the seeds of truth go deep into her heart, we see the chains of bondage weaken and crack.
It has been over a week and half since Amanda's last seizure. We are rejoicing, and seeing a beautiful thing called hope come and take hold of this wounded heart, and slowly the shards of brokenness are coming together to form a new heart.
We have a long way to go, and are daily praying for wisdom, patience (lots of it!), and strength as we parent a girl who has never been taught how to behave, how to interact with people, how to have even the simplest of manners. We are beginning to teach her how to value and protect her body, to interact with men in a non-sexual manner, and to walk in purity. We are also starting to teach classes to help her and Irene finish elementary and high school.
We are also focusing on loving *Faith (our other adopted daughter) and nurturing her in all the ways she needs nurturing, being careful to not neglect her heart in any way even when so much of our attention is on Amanda.
Some days it seems that this is just an uphill journey, that this is a hopeless endeavor.... then I hear God speak that this is His girl, His plan, His purpose. My plans for Amanda do not matter, and anything done in my own strength will not last. I am just a girl He is choosing to use, ordinary and often un-equipped, for that is His way.
We will just walk in obedience today, letting God love her through us, today. When I feel tired and overwhelmed, I realize how God sees me: He never gives up on me, never gets tired of loving me, never sees the word "hopeless" in me. I am often ungrateful, unteachable, out of control. Still He pursues me with a passion that makes my cheeks flush. So scandalous and lavish is His love. Unrelenting-- it never quits.
In Isaiah 49:16 God responds to those moments when we feel that He has forgotten or forsaken us-- "I will not forget you, I have written your name on the palm of my hand."
Wow. I read this to our girls yesterday in our family devotion time, and a deep silence settled over the room for several moments.
Faith looked up with wonder and tears filling her eyes, "God has a tattoo of me on His hand?! He loves me so much."
She then wrote a song in response to God, singing it with child-like abandon and joy at the top of her lungs, her head thrown back, eyes closed, a light shining out of her that put the sun to shame.
Tears poured down my cheeks.
"Sometimes I can't do anything but just dance and sing to Jesus," Faith told me, "I am so filled with joy for what He has done for me."
I was humbled, ashamed that this is not my daily response to God's crazy love for me.
This is why we are here: To watch God's redemption take place before our eyes, and to worship Him with more delight every day.
I know that very soon we will be writing again, to tell of the complete deliverance and freedom for Amanda. Soon there will be NO more seizures, and NO more chains, because the lover of Amanda's heart is a warrior who fights for the freedom of His children. The sun is coming, the night is almost over.