“Yes.” With that one word, the life of a child can be transformed. That one word can offer light in the darkness and can give the promise of healing and hope in situations of abuse and neglect.
When working with orphaned and vulnerable children, you see a great deal of darkness—abuse, abandonment, poverty, hunger, death. Humanity’s brokenness leads to humanity’s hopelessness. Children who have never experienced love and who have a history of trauma and abuse often become parents with no knowledge or understanding of how to love and care for their own children. Thus, darkness begets darkness, and the cycle continues.
The story does not end there, though, and we are not left to wallow in our hopeless state, perpetually crushed by the darkness. Jesus is “the light [that] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “In this world you will have suffering. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” What a glorious promise to cling to when suffering seems so great, and what an honor it is to share this message of hope and light to children trapped in darkness.
Sarai* and her twin sister, Andrea*, have two younger siblings. Four years ago, their mother was sent to prison for robbery, and they were forced to find a new home. As is too often the case, their father did not want to take responsibility for them. Without many other options, the four siblings were sent to live with their maternal grandmother.
This new living situation did not last very long because their grandmother found them to be a hindrance to her witchcraft. Darkness had seduced her into serving evil spirits. She had fallen so in love with the dark, that she had no time or affection for the grandchildren who needed her.
No one was willing to take in four children, so they were separated. The twins, Sarai and Andrea, were sent to a relative who lived in Palin, a town located in the Escuintla department of Guatemala. The third child was sent to an aunt from one of their mother’s previous relationships, and the youngest was sent to another distant relative.
Not long after arriving in Palin to live with their relatives, the twins were forced into child labor, selling various products on the street. If they did not reach a certain sales quota, they were abused mercilessly. In addition to the beatings, their hands and feet were tied with wire, and they were deprived of food for long lengths of time. It’s difficult to fathom the level of pain–mentally, physically, emotionally–that these girls experienced on a daily basis
One day, they failed to sell the required amount of product. Fearing the consequences, they chose to not go home. They ran to a home in a nearby community and asked for help. The residents of that home made an immediate decision that would change the girls’ lives; they called the police to report the girls’ situation.
After the authorities confirmed that the girls were being abused, they called a neighbor, Elizabeth Valdez, and requested that she take Sarai and Andrea into her home. Today we celebrate that simple, “yes”, as Elizabeth’s care has been a beautiful gift to two girls whose lives have known extensive abuse. Praise God for all the families in the world that are created by women like Elizabeth, mothers and fathers who agree to care for those who are orphaned, broken, and in need of love.
The girls are now in school for the first time. They are not in the correct grade corresponding to their age, but are continuing to make progress. They attend Sendero de la Cruz Church, which partners with World Orphans in providing care for children like Sarai and Andrea. Through this provision, the girls are also receiving psychological treatment for the various abuses and traumas they’ve experienced.
Sarai and Andrea are attending youth group at church and are serving in the dance ministry. For the first time, they are able to use this talent that God has given them. When the darkness was oppressing them, there was no freedom or desire to dance. Now that the light has broken through in their lives, there is joy in learning a new skill, a skill that brings glory to God with every leap and twirl. Their feet move in time to the music as they dance on the broken pieces of the past and celebrate this simple fact: darkness cannot overcome the light.
*Identity changed for protection