Monday finally arrived and we were all nervous and excited to go back to the island to pick up the children we negotiated the release of. We were terrified that they wouldn't actually be released and we were praying that Richard* would be released with them.
I felt like there was a 4th child. But had no clue who. I had a dream about 3 before we went the first time. Then another about 4 on Saturday night. I told George Jr. about it and we agreed to look for the 4th child when we returned.
We left on Monday to head to the island. It was a bit scary to approach the shore. We saw people working but no Innocence* and Patrick*. As we approached the shore... they walked out of the brush with a sack of belongings between the two of them. "Thank you God" I thought.
Gearge and Kofi took down the children's information. Their names, parents, region where they are from, phone numbers... anything they could get. They have to get in touch with the parents and let them know what happened and where the children are and they have to make sure everything is in order for the kids to be kept at The Village of Life and go to school.
Then... Innocence and Patrick are given to us. Oddly like cattle would be exchanged or silver or fish or anything but not people. Patrick was stoic and serious. He got into the boat and walked to the end furthest from all the crazy white people and sat down.
Innocence though... she was terrified. They literally lifted her over the edge of the boat crying and put her in my arms. Her body was hot from fever and shaking from fear. She could not relax. She was terrified. I wrapped her up in my arms and softly spoke love stories into her ear. I told her she was beautiful and special and that we were going to take care of her. I rocked her and loved on her as hard as I knew how to. Until... she trusted. Until she crumbled into the comfort of someone who was showing her tenderness. Until she laid her head onto my shoulder and wrapped her arms around me in return (tears pour from my eyes as I remember and put into words this experience). I just kept telling her it would be okay and we loved her and would take care of her. She didn't understand my words but it was apparent that she understood my heart. And I soaked in the experience. Watching someone go from scared to death to trusting as much as they could.
And this is one of those times in my life I have no clue how to explain the complexity of emotions I felt. It was such an amazing experience to be a part of that moment with her. She is forever my girl because of those moments. But the fear and the terror in her sweet little face were unlike anything I had seen. I imagine it is similar to things I have felt but I had never seen the same feelings on someone else's face. It was another piece of the puzzle to open my eyes to the fact that my experiences have prepared me for my path in the future. Slow tears rolled down my face as I hugged and loved on Innocence.
But just like that it was time to go find Richard and I left my sweet Innocence on the boat in the capable and loving arms of Tia. We were walking into the village to talk to his master and I saw her. I saw number 4. What I didn't know... she was Richards sister. Jessica* was cleaning and cooking. She worked HARD the entire time we were there negotiating for her and her brother. Most of the kids would leave and hang around while we were on the island. We never saw Richard on this trip and Jessica was never released to join the crazy excitement either.
Not unexpected. For whatever reason... Richard... being such a symbol of child slavery... needed to be kept where he was. It is difficult to explain. But we added Jessica to the negotiations because I felt strongly we needed to take them both.
And we negotiated.
And handed out clothes and candy to all the children on the island who hadn't gotten anything last time.
And prayed with JD for God to be present in the negotiations and for evil to flee from the place we were at.
And calling Richard and Jessica's parents.
And just road block after road block. For some reason they just want to keep him. Loud talking all around. George and Kofi try every angle they can. Loud voices and laughing like they are discussing a car transaction.
I just don't understand in that moment. How people can treat children like objects. How there is no value placed on these children outside their ability to work.
We call the kids' parents. Only dad is home. Heck if I know if it is actually their parents. It is the number we were given to call. George works on the phone to get the kids released. Dad says that mom is not home and he will not release them without her permission. And that he would only release Richard and not his sister. My face is feeling hot and red and my heart is angry. More negotiations and more promises of release on "another day".
Another day is several days, weeks, months or YEARS in the lives of children that can't be recovered. It may mean death before we can rescue them. God why is this happening? Again, I just don't understand. Maybe I am not going to understand. Because it just seems so screwed up. Where is the redemption?
My heart is broken as we walk back to the boat. I am silent from heart ache, anger and sadness. We climb into the boat and there I see it... Redemption.
Tia holding onto Innocence singing God's love to her. And Patrick on the other side of the boat looking more relaxed. I grin at him... and there it is: more redemption. A face I had not yet seen smile breaks into a very slight smile. I spend the major portion of the boat ride getting bigger and bigger smiles from this beautiful child.
Redemption hasn't happened for Richard and Jessica yet. And my heart cries over it. My heart agonizes over it. George Jr. is not going to give up on them. He knows that I feel they need to go home and be with their family at The Village of Life. And he is a motivated man. But more than that, I am choosing to trust God with Richard and Jessica. I have no clue or secret understanding to why they couldn't be released with the other 2. But God showed me 4 would be released because of our negotiations... I trust that.
And I don't understand why there are literally thousands of kids on Lake Volta. But God has them in His hand too.
But Redemption always proves to be more beautiful and unexpected than my hopes want. And generally tends to be exactly what I need (funny how that works). I saw Redemption in these 2 beautiful kids as they slowly warmed up to us and to their new Village of Life sibs... but I saw it in ME too.
Redemption from a life of abuse. A purpose and reason and passion I never expected to have. But it was blooming in my heart. Trusting people I didn't know in ways I never expected. Going out and doing something lots of people thought were crazy because that is what I felt passionate about. And truly believe it was a God placed passion. Growing and learning things through this experience that are helping me become a healthier and better person all around. My own corner of Redemption.
I will be waiting though for Redemption and Rescue for my two sweet kids still on that island and all people held in captivity and slavery across the Earth.
|Photo Credit: JD Richardson|