When people ask about what motivated us to start Nueva Esperanza-New Hope Girls Inc. There are many faces that come to mind. Broken eyes, lips, and backs. Broken hearts and lives. Their stories broke our hearts and stirred us to fight on their behalf.
“Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?”― Henri J.M. Nouwen,
This week we had a case with an eight year old, a heartbreaker. As we finished the first of countless days in an arduous process I was feeling exhausted. But as I walked out of the courthouse, I saw one of those faces from the past. Her face covered in scares from those days long ago. She was the first girl I went to court for. She was one I would have said the system failed and made me doubt the entire process. I had so many regrets… But, today seeing her there broke my heart in all the right ways.
Her face lit up as our eyes connected and we hugged a significant hug. She had come to be sure someone was advocating for this girl. Tears streamed down her face as she imagined, better than anyone could, the pain of this little one. She wanted to see justice served and her hope inspired me to press on.
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” — I Corinthians 15:57-58
Two years running the girls favorite song is “The king is here Kim Walker.” I have thought of those words countless times as we wrestle with the residue left from the miry pit we’ve all been pulled out of. We feel that the time is long overdue for us to leave our current location, as it has felt impossible to grow and thrive in such a stifling atmosphere. But until God’s ordains the move, we will wait…
Last weekend I had a chance to visit a special part of this island in the national park Los Haitises. It’s an amazing sight only accessible by boat as it sits in the middle of the ocean. It’s full of Mangroves and ancient caves with Hunch Back whales breaching nearby, but I was most moved by the trees growing out of the rocks.
The guide kept saying, “Isn’t it incredible they grow straight out of the rocks!” It made me think of the story Jesus told about the seed falling on rocky soil and not being able to develop deep roots. How were these tall trees thriving in the middle of the windy ocean growing straight out of the rock?
Jesus had another teaching about being in this world, but not of it. It’s a curious thought, but I think these trees are a live illustration of its truth.
They seem to be thriving in the middle of the perfect storm of circumstances that add up to certain death. Trees growing out of the rocks in the middle of the salty ocean…but they are connected to another world that you can’t see. Deep under the rocks flow 200 unseen rivers of life-giving fresh water. These trees are holding onto the rock for stability, but deeply rooted in order to receive the life-giving water that no one can see. They are proof of the rivers of life that flow from an unseen world.
Nueva Esperanza-New Hope Girls Inc. seems to be placed in the middle of the perfect storm that leads to certain death, but our girls are proof of a hope that comes from an unseen world that offers life, abundant life. Growing in the rocks…their smiles, their ability to play, love, pray and trust are proof that there is a living God-the corner-stone of an unseen world, that they can hold onto in the middle of circumstances that point to death. They are proof of a God that floods them with rivers of life that can heal the broken, hurting and sick opening prison doors to set the captives free!
WOW! 2014 was full of so many blessings and sweet curveballs that it will be hard to fit it all in a summarized note. God has aligned hundreds to provide prayer, along with physical, emotional, spiritual and financial support. He has seen our need and answered our cry. We are humbled by His great love for us!
We had the opportunity to share the work of Nueva Esperanza-New Hope Girls Inc. with many this year as we traveled to build awareness, receive training and participate in conferences. It was a honor and privilege to travel as a leadership team and connect with others from around the world, working in the trenches to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with their God as they battle on behalf of the vulnerable and exploited. We continue to walk in the fruit of these experiences as they have changed us as a team and elevated the level of care we are able to provide to our girls. We are in awe of God’s provision.
We have seen our girls grow and begin to walk in their true identity as chosen, loved, gifted and confident. We pray that they have a word to share, a prayer to offer, a hand to lend, a song to sing, a dream to dream! Our hearts are full!
We hosted many visitors who provided opportunities for our girls to have life experiences outside of the barrio including visiting a book fair, museum, waterfall, beach, theater, and sleep over camp. We are in awe of God’s kindness.
God is arming quite a spectacular team who pour into the lives of the girls each week– A group of overqualified volunteers who make themselves vulnerable alongside these precious ones we have all been called to. We are in awe of His goodness.
The women’s workshop has continued to grow in strength and we have struggled to keep up with demand. In 2015 we are making plans to include more women, improve production and delivery as well as increase inventory. We will launch a new design in January and are thrilled that Nueva Esperanza-New Hope Girls Inc. will be able to work in the prevention of exploitation and empowerment of women through the creation of jobs, while helping to sustain the safe house and those they protect. To those of you who supported with your purchases and sales—THANK YOU!
Visions for the Land…God has opened up the heavens and moved in the hearts of many to raise the funds for a move. We are buzzing with excitement and trusting God to provide the perfect location in His perfect time. We are seeking direction and working with community members to create the ideal design that serves and honors our girls—When we are ready, you all will be the first to know because we will need armies to help us make it a reality!
We walk alongside struggling families, wounded, hungry, abused and sick girls holding onto the truth that these are God’s chosen-and if we are with them, He is with us. And if He is with us, who then can be against us? This is not work for the faint of heart. Our hearts are broken everyday and we walk in constant battle, BUT we live in constant victory! When you are desperate for God, He is there and shows Himself amazing each and every day!
I had a chance to meet with an incredible group of women this summer, true dragon slayers in the trenches fighting on behalf of the most vulnerable and exploited in the world. We had inspiring times of prayer and were able to encourage one another as we went back to our respective underworlds.
As I ran to get one last hug from a new dear sister, she left me with a word…
“The battle you are waging is for joy. The enemy seeks to rob your joy. Don’t let that happen.”
I reflected on the previous few weeks and realized how true that was. We had seen some of the most profound breakthroughs but had allowed conflict to rob our joy. We were blessed beyond measure but allowing ourselves to be consumed by every threat of attack as if we had forgotten who we were and who lives in us.
The joy of the Lord is my strength…
“Remember who you are.” I cannot tell you how often I say those words. Encouraging my children, girls, staff and myself to never forget who we are or the authority and power given to us through the holy spirit who lives in us and works through us. Knowing that and rejoicing in that is our strength, a great source of power—but also a choice.
I choose Joy…
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! 5 Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near! 6 Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse… Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
—Phil. 4- (NET and the message)
“Life is a battle — and Joy is a kind of courage and a smile slays all kind of dragons. There are brave, defiant smiles. Grace holds and there ain’t a dragon that can fire-breath out this kind of Light.”
The day we prayed with Moi to receive Jesus as her Lord and savior, I was sitting at my table for lunch with a dear friend and I noticed on the patio an orchid that had sat dormant for more than a year, now with big buds on it. I was so excited I ran to take a look and show my guest as well.
“Can you believe it, in all my days I have never had the joy of seeing an orchid bloom for a second time—not under my care.”
These were big buds full of life and I couldn’t wait to see them open. Each time someone came to the house over the next few days I would make sure they saw the budding orchid. I was so excited!
When the buds finally opened I was beside myself, certain they were much more beautiful than ever before. As I sat in awe of this precious gift I felt God say to my spirit, “I did that for Moi. This is not for you, but for her.”
Oh, man really? You want me to take this piece of art to Moi’s shack? I wasn’t convinced it wouldn’t last or be appreciated. It would be like setting a Ruby ring on her finger to wear as she dug through the trash to rummage for food—so out of place. Beauty for ashes, I felt my spirit whisper.
To be honest it took me a few days to hike the plant up the hill to Moi, but I did finally make the trek. When I arrived it was as though she was waiting for me with a curious look on her face, but she continued to rant about this and that until I finally walked into her house, set the orchid on her rickety table and motioned for her to come in because I wanted to talk to her and give her something.
She ran in and looked at the flower and then ran back out shouting….”this is proof, this is proof that God speaks to me.” She went and grabbed a humble little houseplant she had planted into a disposable green planter she had found in the dump and now had hidden to keep it safe. She was so proud of it!
She told us the story of finding the pot and planting the plant but while caring for it, God told her to give it to her neighbor because He had something better for her. She doubted, wondered and waited. And then I came up the hill with this amazing flower…”God speaks to me, that’s the proof.”
I told her my story about the flower budding for the first time in years and how God had done that for her and then asked me to bring it to her as a symbol of the new life in her—a true beauty for all to behold. God does want us to give our treasures away so he can fill us with something better. Beauty for ashes. And like that orchid perched as a trophy on the rickety table, we too are to show beauty and light in the darkest and ugliest of places.
We prayed for Moi believing that God will use her to show His beauty to her neighbors and family. Yes we believe that when God said salvation would fall on Moi’s house it was for many more than her alone. We prayed for the God of peace to set her ranting heart at rest so that she could continue to hear His voice and follow it. She hugged herself as tears rolled down her cheeks and whispered, “I just can’t stop thinking about that flower and what it means.” May we never forget…
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,….
To give them beauty for ashes,….
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” –Is. 61
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new –II Cor. 5:17
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also –Matt. 6:19-21
I was on my way to bed finishing up the book by H.A. Baker—Visions behind the Veil, when I began to pray for peace to rest without fear, having just read stories of hell and the lake of fire. As I prayed, I felt God show me the face of one of our moms and speak to me clearly, “Tomorrow is the day of salvation in Moi’s house.” I got up and wrote it in my agenda and prayed for Moi and her family.
The following day I got busy with my to-do list and as I stared at the memo on my list –“pray with Moi,” I began to reason. I was planning on working from Santiago and not heading into La Vega this day. I will be going tomorrow, perhaps I could pray with her then– gas is over $6 a gallon. As I reasoned away God’s word to me I felt him press me, “TODAY is the day of salvation in Moi’s house.”
I called Greici and told her of the call for the day…She knows me by now, doesn’t think I’m crazy anymore. I asked her to pray in preparation and be ready because I only had 1 hours and 20 minutes. I flew to La Vega and knocked on the door to the school calling for Greici. I dared not even enter the school, knowing I would be sucked in and never get to Moi’s house.
As Greici came out I noticed Moi sitting in the pathway, she made eye contact and motioned to us to come. “Hey, she called—I need to talk to you.” “Oh, good—I need to talk to you too”, I called back. When we arrived she began to tell about her need for water and wire to fix the power she had been three weeks without. I prayed a silent prayer, “Lord, give me an opening to share with her”. Before my prayer was even finished, Moi lifted her hands to the sky, closed her eyes and began to pray out loud. “Thank you God, Thank you God, Thank you God.” Tears were now streaming down her face and she continued in an intimate prayer sitting in the middle of the path. She concluded by saying, “OK, now I see, you sent them here to pray with me.” Greici and I just looked at each other in awe.
Moi, began to tell us a story of being stabbed when she was pregnant and while laying in bed in the hospital she saw death and it was near to her. Then some ladies came and sang over her and she felt death, in that moment, lost its grip on her and she was healed. As she finished her story she looked at me in the eye and asked, “He saved me that day, right?”
I looked her straight in the eye and replied, “On that day he saved your body, but today he wants to save your soul.” I told her how I couldn’t sleep the night before and how God had told me that today was the day of salvation in her house. She looked at me curiously and then Greici took off in a gospel presentation finally asking Moi if she wanted to pray to give her life to God asking Jesus to save her soul. “Oh, yes!” She cried “Oh, Yes—Yo quierro recibir el senor.” We entered into her house and prayed with her as she wept, we blessed her house, children and then stood in sweet silence until Moi opened her eyes and quietly proclaimed. “He Loves me, Oh how He loves Me. He really loves me!”
“Yes, He loves you! I love you too”, I said with a full kiss on her cheek. She grabbed her cheek in awe.
“You kissed me? I’m filthy and sweaty!” I know Moi, and that’s just me—imagine how much more your father in heaven loves you!
Remember in the bible when Jesus healed the sick and lame and they leaped with joy telling everyone they crossed paths with what Jesus had done for them?
“Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”-Acts 3:8
In November that happened with one of our staff members, she prayed with a woman for two hours and came out leaping for joy and telling everyone she knew how she was free and healed. Those of us who spent our days with her knew it was true. She entered into that prayer room with a dark cloud of depression over her and came out beaming.
In January I had a chance to get to know the woman who prayed with her. She captivated me with her stories of God’s power and restoring grace. I was filled with a hunger for more so I begged her to mentor me and train my leadership team. In July we received a visa for Greici and the three of us (Delia, Greici and myself) flew to Florida to receive an intense private training in prayer counseling.
We worked 8-10 hour days to learn how to provide prayer counseling and internal healing for our girls and community. We received healing ourselves and are forever changed!
I promised that her time would not be spent in vain and that we would use EVERY minute she and her team invested in us, and would continue to study in order to grow stronger. We have kept our word and each and every day have had the honor of bearing witness to the healing power of the holy spirit in our girls, staff and community.
We were able to travel from our special time in Florida to a conference in Costa Rica where we learned from hundreds of other women working in the trenches. They represented 14 countries. Each and every one had Dominicans in their care and many spoke specifically of La Vega. Our eyes were opened even more to the great need to fight, pray and network on behalf of these victims. In our time with these fellow warriors we also learned that most were using prayer counseling as part of their aftercare and we were able to continue to go even deeper with our training that had begun in Florida.
We were overwhelmed with God’s care, provision and love. We were treated like princesses and showered with blessings. To those of you who shared in prayer preparations, meals, transportation, hosting and housing, shopping, loving us hands on or from the background—
Those of you who only know me as a presenter in the states might think I cry through my days…but I don’t. God has carried me through many very difficult things, sad and heavy circumstances, horrific cases of abuse and despair I never imagined I would encounter without so much as sheading a tear. That’s why when the lady fixing my hair yesterday asked what was wrong and I had to close my eyes to hold the tears back, I knew I was stressed.
She didn’t ask me again what was troubling me after she saw the tears, instead she took off into a speech of encouragement…
“Worry, (pre-occupation literally translated from Spanish) is just that. Worrying before the problem. Occupying yourself with something that might happen but hasn’t yet. You, my friend are a child of God. You don’t have the right to worry. You don’t get to carry your burden. That’s pride and ego.
You Must trust, rest, obey, abide…that’s what you are called to do.
Worry is not part of your job description and you don’t have time for it. It’s sin so repent and step back into the arms of your God. Rest Mija (daughter), God’s got this!”
But things got worse as the day progressed and by nighttime I could barely hang on. This was more than emotion, I was in terrible pain. I took some meds and tried to sleep but I got no relief from the intense neck pain. I cried as pain gripped me with the intensity of childbirth. When I got into a position I could finally lay still, I was determined to trust, rest, obey, abide. In an act of worship I played over and over the song Oceans (Where feet may fail) by Hillsong United and quoted the Psalms.
The hardest battles are fought here, in the night. In the deep quiet places when our souls cry for attention.
“When you speak to the soul, it naturally turns to prayer
because in the soul God is always present.”
I know in my soul this is war and I cry for “The spirit to lead me where my trust is without borders… to let me walk upon the waters wherever he may call me. To take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will made stronger in the presence of my savior”
For those of you who enter into intercession on behalf of New Hope Girls and it’s staff
THANK YOU for struggling with us.
Paul pleaded for “prayer helpers” everywhere. He begged the Romans, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me; that I may be delivered” (Romans 15:30-31). And he asked the Thessalonians, “Brothers and sisters, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
–“struggle with me as a partner in prayer; wrestle for me in prayer.” Paul was not asking for a quick mention to the throne. He was pleading, “Fight for me in prayer. Do spiritual battle, both for my sake and the sake of the gospel.”
THANK YOU FOR STRUGGLING WITH US!
Feeling emotional today. Super tired, sure that has something to do with it. Feeling so grateful. So in awe of my God. I was with Eneroliza all night helping her give birth. What an honor to be part of a miracle in the rawest moments of a woman’s life…
There were moments when she would cry out and think she was going to die…they all do that. That’s when I know they are close. When they are sure they cannot go on, they can face no more. When their body begins to shake without control…that’s a sign that we are in transition and the baby will be here soon.
I whisper to her—“Every pain brings your baby. Stay centered. Trust that you will not die. But instead you will bring forth a new life. You are strong enough. Your strength comes from the Lord. Don’t focus on the pain…focus on your breath. Breath. Breath in and out.”
When you’re at the end of yourself…and breathing takes all that is within you. That is the darkest moment before the birth–just breath.
She finds rest and closes her eyes and breaths. We rock and hummm and breath in and out, the waves of fear roll out to sea and the her strength comes in the moment she needs it most as her entire being focuses on only one thing…pushing that baby out.
There is deep mystery in childbirth. No amount of study or science can take away from the awe of a new life entering in—breaking through. First breath. Full of hope.
What an analogy for our faith walk….
We have experienced transitions like this
Anxiety, Panic, Despair
We have felt labor pains like this…
Pain that takes you to the end of yourself
Leaving you shaking like a limb in a hurricane
unable to breath
WE ALSO KNOW
Rest and strength in the middle of a bloody mess
New life entering in
Full of Hope
The tough things in life teach us, train us and tenderize us. They make us wiser and more equipped to love others like they really need to be loved—with empathy and honesty.
When we’re most acquainted with our needs, we are most drawn to God’s provision. When we feel our tears, we can better feel the pain of others.
–excerpts from A Holy Experience
When you are in the darkest of valleys the smallest flickers of light refresh the soul!
Most days we walk into the girl’s house faced with a wall of drama. Some days we can hardly bear it and dread opening the door. We spend hours counseling girls about behavior and heart and much of that time is often spent trying to discern the truth.
It seems for many of our girls a lie seems safer than the truth. They are afraid of telling their truth and therefore often the consequence I use is requiring them to say out loud the truth and confess it to another as they “practice telling the truth.” I have a couple girls who have lived with us since the beginning and we are STILL working on telling the truth.
Well, Monday we had a breakthrough. We sat with the girls to speak with them about their mischievous behavior over the weekend in the house and Lupe told the truth….all the things she had done and participated in. All of them. Out loud. While I was sorry she had done all those things I was so proud of her for telling the truth.
Light broke through. A victory!
The following day, met with new drama, we were talking with a different group of girls and all clues pointed to Lupe as the offender. She denied, but I didn’t believe her. Then Marie saved Lupe but telling the truth. She confessed. Out loud. To another. While we were sorry for what she had done, we cheered “you told the truth!” “For the first time,” she said.
Light broke through. A victory!
Lord we trust your word that the truth will set us free. We KNOW this is an important victory toward the freedom of these girls. Give us the strength to pray, love and support them on their journey.
Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death…I will fear no evil for thou art with us.
Thank you for bringing us out of darkness and into your marvelous light!
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32