Gates open, armed guards assess your threat level, you walk through and seconds later, the large gate slams shut with a bang behind you... Unnerving, I wonder if I will get back out. And I was only a guest!
The barbed-wire topped walls, large gates, armed guards, and military-style marching of the boys makes the orphanage in Guatemala an intimidating place to visit. The smells are overwhelming--too many children, less than ideal sewage capacity, less frequent than needed hygiene--all covering me like a dense fog.
Towards the end of our day, we visit the most desperate part of the complex--the teen moms' house. These girls are not only living the torture of being abandoned, many times because of poverty and abuse, but now they are charged with the task of raising a child in the midst of the orphan storm. These girls have never experienced the love of family or had a nurturing environment to shape their ideals of family. Abuse, rape, abandonment all mold their concept of a mother. Give up on the idea that they understand the treasure that is a husband or even a faithful partner who will help to support her and raise a child in a loving home.
These girls are broken and alone, surrounded by hundreds of other broken and alone children, who model the path that will be perpetuated.
Here is one story:
I don't know her name but she was one of the most beautiful girls living in the teen mom's house. She hadn't spent her childhood in the orphanage. She had beauty long hair, was healthy, and even though 7 months pregnant, radiated. Her beauty was her fatal flaw. This young woman had arrived at the orphanage only 3 days before we visited. During a prostitution raid, she was arrested with two other young women and brought to the orphanage. At 7 months pregnant, she was still being forced to work as a prostitute. There was no mercy for her.
Being arrested might have been seen as rescue for her, a way to be free from the abuse. Could the orphanage be a safe haven for her, better than the streets? Unfortunately, we will never know. Shortly after her admission to the orphanage, her "loving" mother came to produce her birth certificate. The girl was 18, too old to be placed in the orphanage. She would be released back to her mother and presumably back to the streets.
I wonder how desperate or demented a mother must be to sell her own child as a prostitute. To know the abuse that occurs. To see a beautiful young woman's spirit and soul be broken time and time again. Alas, in areas of poverty, there are times when our ideals of human value are worth less than meeting basic needs or improving one's station in life.
I pray for this beautiful young woman frequently. I wonder what has happened to her and her baby who is probably about 5 months old--rolling, close to sitting, eating solid food? Where are they now?
The sad reality is that this story is repeated again and again every day all over the world--probably closer to home than we'd like to believe.