It was late and I was exhausted, but I somehow I found myself sitting on a mattress picking out nail polish colors. I painted coat after coat, some the same and some other colors. If you asked me three months ago how I thought I’d be ministering in Nicaragua, I would not have said, “I will be painting nails at midnight of a girl that doesn’t live here.”
I’ve been intentionally vague with what’s been going on at Casa Bernabe for the last week or so. I feel like there are many stories and I’m still trying to figure out how to tell other people’s stories in a way that is honest, fair and brings glory to God. This takes a lot of effort and perhaps more writing skills than I possess, but I’m going to give it a shot tonight because at this point some major prayers have been answered and I feel that sharing the story will be glorifying to God.
A few weeks ago we had an older sister of one of the boys here come to visit her brother. She had been looking for him for quite a while as they are the only family they each have. From here on out I will refer to her as Renee. After visiting with her brother, Renee spoke with the director and shared a bit of her story, and asked if we could help her. Our director decided that we should, so she was moved into Casa Ester with all the girls (and us) because she fell in the age range for here.
There was immediately some tension, but we thought that it was normal, as there is usually some tension when a new kids arrives. However, as the week went on it was clear that the tension wasn’t just from her being new, but rather just from her. She was disrespectful to authority, she was manipulating and very flirtatious. We were all concerned about how her behavior would affect the girls in the house.
After several days of this, finally we got some devastating answers. Renee’s story involved more than we originally thought. In addition to issues she suffered in her home, once she left home she was involved in prostitution and pornography. As a staff, our hearts broke for Renee. We now understood why she had issues with authority, why she was always striving for control…we got to the root of the problem.
Because we wanted to honor her desire to be close to her brother, we sat with her in a meeting and we all wrote up a behavior contract for her. We gave her as much control over the situation as we could. She chose the points of the behavior contract herself. We wrote it up, signed it, and agreed on a 15 day trial period. In this 15 day trial period we allowed for failures, and grace. But in the end, it was understood that this was not working.
She had to leave. We had been praying and looking for other options for her and just in the right time, we found the one. We felt peace, she [understandably] felt scared.
This is how I came to be painting her nails last night. She wanted to talk, I wanted to sleep. But I forced myself to sit beside her and listen. And listen. And as I listened and painted her voice calmed down and she was able to relax. We talked about the future, we talked about her hopes, and we talked about what tomorrow morning would look like. She taught me how to paint flowers as a decoration on toes. We talked about how much she missed her brother. I shared with her how I miss my family, too.
I lent her my ipod so she could fall asleep listening to music. When I told her I would lend it to her for the night, she was surprised. She’s been accused (and found guilty a few times) of taking things that aren’t hers. I told her I trusted her to take care of it for the night and her jaw dropped.
Who knew that God could use ipods to minister to people?
This morning Renee was dropped off at her new center. A place for women who have very similar backgrounds to hers. We feel confident that God is going to do an amazing work in her, but there were still tears. Mostly of relief, but some out of fear of the unknown.
As I sit here tonight and reflect over how the last three weeks have been with her coming, [and all of the drama that went along with it] I finally feel some closure in my heart. I hate that we weren’t able to meet her needs here, but the reality is that by ourselves we aren’t capable of helping everyone. Thank goodness for other homes that specialize in specific areas.
It was encouraging to realize that we really aren’t alone. We’re not the only center out there that is agonizing over these hurt lives. As a body of believers we’re in this mess together. Casa Esperanza (where Renee is now) is unique in that it caters to women with a history of prostitution. Casa Bernabe is unique in that we allow large sibling sets and even extended family to stay. I’m excited to go around to other places and learn the unique and special attributes of each home and I look forward to partnering together for mutual encouragement. This job is exhausting on all fronts!
I consider myself very privileged to be here on the front lines in Nicaragua. I am very honored to have played a small roll in giving Renee a fighting chance at healing and restoration. With God, all things are possible and I believe that Renee and I are both right where God wants us tonight.