Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Little Grace--Finally Home

This story is from a prayer letter of missionaries Steve and Sandy Deal to the Philippines. The letter is from January 2001. I read the letter when I was there in June 2001. This story has had a lasting impact on my life. Here is the story: (All of the text in black is quoted text.)

"Many have asked me about the little girl who lived in the cemetery that God used to burden my heart to build a home for street children. I named that home after Grace. This is her story. On a sunny December day in 1998, I was eating breakfast at a local restaurant in Lipa City while reading the Manila Bulletin newspaper. An article on the front page with a picture of three children caught my eye. In short, the article described how children were living in a cemetery in Metro Manila. Over 50 orphaned or abandoned children, from 5 to 18 years of age lived in this one cemetery among the tombs. They were literally starving to death. In the photo three children were pictured each sniffing glue from a plastic bag.

The article told of the visit made by a social worker, some medical personnel and the journalist who wrote the story. It was learned that most if not all of the children were very sick with TB or STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease). The following is a quote from that article. Keep in mind that graveyards here are much like those in south Louisiana. The dead are buried above ground in concrete houses, which in some cases resemble a tiny city.

"They chase each other down narrow passage ways and jump from gave to grave like alley cats. They wriggle up to the roofs of mausoleums to fly makeshift kites, then take shelter inside from the tropical downpours. They sleep sprawled out on tombstones and deficate in quiet corners, giggling at unexpected passers-by.
They beg in a nearby market for food and wander the streets looking for sex. They let adults have sex with them for as little as P30 (pesos, about 75 US cents) to support their glue habit.
Sitting on a tombstone a few steps away, nine-year-old Grace tells an aid worker why she keeps on squatting and grabbing her stomach: she is being raped regularly by one of the 18-year olds.
Grace, wearing a grubby green and white striped T-shirt and a glazed grin, cheered up after social worker Francia Cabrea promised her shoes for Christmas, then took her to a shelter.
When these children get their 30 pesos they have a choice, Cabrea said. They can either buy rice, which will feed them for one day. Or they can get a bottle of glue, which will stave off the pain of hunger and abandonment every day for one month."

My heart was aching and deeply touched. I began to pray that God would send someone to help these children, especially little Grace.
For the next few months I continued noticing articles in the newspaper about abandoned street children. One article I read said there were more than 1.5 million street children in the Philippines. I began to pray more for these children, then God began to speak directly to my heart. At first I reminded Him (I'm aware that you don't have to remind God of anything, but hey, I thought I'd give it a try) of how busy I already was. I had no time to stop and build a children's home, then run it after it was built. So I asked God if He really had the right person, and He assured me He had. Finally, I submitted to follow His leadership in this endeavor. Sandy and I immediately began to pray about what we should do. The rest is history.
In the next few months, GOD not only miraculously provided for us to build The Home of Grace that can house up to 30 children, but also provided the funds for us to purchase four acres for future home of The Redemption Ranch. Hopefully, when completed the ranch will house up to 200 abandoned and orphaned street children. Through our mission church here we were able to establish Calvary Christian School. A few months ago we finished our educational building which houses our Children's Sunday School classes and our school during the week. Most if not all of our children have never had the opportunity to attend school and are very excited about their future. Praise God, you have helped us give them hope.
The funds for the home were raised during a brief two-month trip to the States-September to October 1999. Upon returning to the field we immediately began building. The Home of Grace opened on April 1, 2000.
As for the little girl, Grace, I began searching for her immediately. Of course, with nearly 19 million in Metro Manila it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The only clues I had was her first name and the name of the social worker who took her to a shelter. I offered a reward of $100 to anyone who could lead me to her location. Another missionary here matched my offer and we had hoped to locate her quickly. Only until recently have we really found out what happened to her. This is the rest of her heart-wrenching story. . .
In October 1999 little Grace was taken to a government shelter by a social worker. At the shelter she began to run a high fever. She was diagnosed as having STD. I personally have been in many of the hospitals here and have seen many patients suffer due to lack of medicine or the funds to buy the medicine they need. Grace had no one to pay her bill and there was no extra medicine to give a little suffering girl. Grace suffered as much at the end of her little life as she did during her few short years. Finally, her suffering was over. The hospital had her tiny body cremated to avoid extra expenses of a burial plot. Her leaving this world was as unnoticeable as her arrival, much like incinerating unwanted trash. But this little girl wasn't trash, she was precious in the eyes of a loving God.
In her brief little life only a few people ever knew her. She was abandoned by her prostitute mother and left on the streets of Metro Manila as a mere babe. Taking refuge in a cemetery she was raped every day and never once ate what you and I would call a decent meal. She learned from older children in this situation that cheap shoe glue would take away the pains and loneliness and put her in a dream world. Quickly she learned this was only temporal and she was once again back in the horrific life in the cemetery.
Although I never had the privilege of meeting her I have been touched by her life, and I will never be the same again. I cry to GOD, "It isn't fair that such a sweet innocent child should suffer so much." But then I realize this isn't a fair world we live in. It is such because of our sin. Not just yours and mine but he original sin of the first man and woman God created. Since then this world has been in a downward spiral and will continue unto our Lord God returns. He will take us, who have put our trust and faith in Him, to a perfect world in heaven where no sin could ever be and little boys and girls will never have to worry about being raped, sodomized or tortured as innocent babes.
Although her horrific story had an even more terrifying ending, I believe that little Grace has now found refuge int he arms of a loving caring God at her eternal Home of Grace. You can rest assured, no one will ever harm this child again. Because of her story many children like her will be protected, well fed and educated in the comfort of a Christian home. Never having to sell their little bodies for food or sniff glue to stave off hunger. By the grace of God they will hear of Jesus' love everyday. Please pray for us to help more children so they won't have to live and suffer like little Grace."

I realise this is a lengthy post and not pleasant, but it is true; and I hope it will impact your life as it has mine. Here is a link to an orphanage in the Philippines called Bayanihan Children’s Home started by Pastor Jing Batac in Laguna (not The Home of Grace spoken about in the article).