Be persuaded, timid soul, that He has loved you too much to cease loving you. ~Archbishop Fenelon
She’s 12 years old, and she has just moved to a new home. For the first time in a long time, she feels freedom.
Maria has a smile that lights up the world around her. She is talkative and loves to dance. Though she’s new to her community, she is making friends quickly. She is a blur of movement and activity – until it’s time to be hugged. It’s a new thing to her, but she is already a master at it. Her hugs defy her size. They are big and powerful, and they linger a while.
Chances are, you wouldn’t consider her new home a beautiful place. In fact, Courtney and I heard a speaker once liken orphanages to Hell. But for children like Maria, an orphanage can be a little more like Heaven.
Her father was an abusive man. As part of his ritual, he forced Maria to drink alcohol daily. Thankfully, someone noticed. Someone notified authorities. Now, Maria lives at Hogar Solidario, under the care of a wonderful Christ-loving woman named Evita. She is now drinking in love and acceptance, and she is thriving.
I received the precious gift of those lingering hugs from Maria on Thursday. We laughed together, and I taught her how to use the camera on my phone to capture the moments. We danced. She played with my hair. And we hugged some more.
She asked when she would see me again; I promised to send photos and a letter to her so we could see each other every day. And I promised to pray for her every day – because I know what it feels like to be abused. And I know what it feels like to be healed. I’ll also pray she’ll be surrounded by both women and men who show her Godly love. And I’ll pray to return to Hogar Solidario, so we can dance again.
Maria was with me yesterday as we purchased a microwave and stock pots for Cerecaif. She was with me as I jotted down all notes to tell the team when they arrive from the US. This morning, she was with me as I awoke to the sunshine peering over the mountains. I close my eyes and see her smile, and if I try very hard, I can feel those sweet arms wrap around my neck.
Gosh, I am craving one of those hugs right now.