Our heads were down, avoiding the rain from soaking our faces as it poured over the edges of our hoods. We were on a mission to feed our hungry toddlers…not much different from any other night. Except that any night in Guatemala could bring reminders of the evil, pain and cruelty that we so often want to close our eyes to. This night was like any other. As we neared the McDonalds, carefully avoiding slipping on the raised stone walkways and trying to keep strollers from tipping…we could make out little voices singing what sounded to be praise songs…in English. We stepped into the light beaming from inside the restaurant and there crouched in the rain, outside the door were two small girls. Singing worship songs in English. We paused to take in the scene….what seemed like ages was probably only a few seconds…we watched as tourists coming in and out of the restaurant made comments and awed at how sweet it was that they were singing worship songs as they handed them spare change or food. I had seen these girls probably a dozen times, but the streets are filled with children begging for anything that you can give them and you learn quickly that there just is no way to satisfy them all without causing a mob and they aren’t the ones receiving the gifts you give…
This night they caught our attention. Something wasn’t right. Little girls don’t just sit in the dark, in the pouring rain singing worship songs. My dear sister crouched down in front of them…wanting to look deeper into the scenario. There was a fear so deep in their eyes, that for a minute, my heart beat faster and their fear transferred to me. As they interacted with costumers and people going in and out they kept glancing fearfully across the street. We followed their gaze…to a dark alley. A chill spread over my body as my sister glanced at me and the reality of their situation began to sink into our hearts. These weren’t girls alone, signing praise songs because they want to…these were props…tools in someone else’s game. Their every move was being watched from the dark. I had seen it before but this scenario struck a different cord. We asked the girls to come in with us and told them they could join us for dinner….there was an immediate glimmer and excitement in both their faces…that left almost as quickly as it appeared….as they both glanced back fearfully at the dark alley. We motioned again for them to step inside the warm light of the McDonalds and join us and after some hesitation they did…still glancing back at the alley. We knew if we just brought them food out….they wouldn’t have full bellys at the end of the night. Someone else would. We also knew that inviting them in was a risk. It was a risk for them.
As we handed their happy meals over they proceeded to grab what they could and get up to leave…but we again explained that they could eat with us. As the meal went on the dark fear in their faces began to be replaced with giggles, smiles and mouths full of chicken nuggets. For a short period of time they were safe…..they were across the street from the darkness they live in. They were surrounded by light, warmth and love….however, our hearts were heavy through the meal as we watched this all take place…knowing that we couldn’t rescue them forever…knowing that at some point they would have to walk back across into the darkness….into the alley. My mind wandered to all the possibilities and my stomach began to turn at the thought of these two children being treated with no worth other than selfish gain and evil. I wondered if they would face punishment for joining us. If our kindness would result in more pain. The knot in my throat made it impossible to swallow as I tried to force a smile for them. I prayed Jesus would protect them and wrap his protective arms around them that night. The time came to head home and the girls quickly shoved left over scraps and happy meal toys into their boxes and ran out ahead of us. As they stepped out into the rainy night a group of boys ran by and grabbed one of the toys out of the little girl’s hands and ran off down the street….The girls immediately faced the dark alley…the fear returning to their eyes and I fought the anger that began rising up in me as we waved goodbye and turned our backs to walk home……..
Slavery is a scary reality.
These girls are just two of the 27 million.
These girls are not unlike girls facing the dark alleys in our own country.
I was angry that the safety and light across the street couldn’t be a permanent rescue for them. I was angry that I couldn’t just walk into the darkness holding their hands and fight for them.
Their faces and those eyes are forever ingrained on my heart.
I constantly feel helpless and overwhelmed by the numbers and so often I want to close my eyes and ears to the reality that this is an epidemic. This is happening right here.
As I sat in church this week and heard from our Pastor and Natalie about what people are doing to take action against this epidemic I found new encouragement and hope. We can be the light across the street. We can be a voice for these captives who have no voice.
You may have noticed that there was an overwhelming number of people with red Xs on their hands today and social media blew up with information in attempts to raise awareness for the 27 million who have no voice, no hope, and no escape. Open your eyes. Spread the word. Get involved.
There are several organizations fighting this and bringing hope to these hopeless prisoners…I encourage you to look into them, support them, and spread the word.
Here are some ways you can get involved:
Educate yourself and find out ways to get your family involved and see what you can do to help bring light and hope into this dark reality.