Tonight I watched my niece walk down the street.
I watched her walk quietly and sweetly along the boulevard in search of innocent enjoyment.
I watched her sit down at a sidewalk cafe in plain view of the world around her – but what was she really seeing?
She settled into a chair as the carefree and wide-eyed teenager that she is – and to me that is still a good thing. Her sweetness and child-like qualities still intact.
You see, she was walking along the Sisowath Quay Boulevard that runs along the water in the Cambodian capital city of Phnom Penh. Oblivious to much of the world around her I had a great vantage point of her as she wandered into my view. Mentally and physically drained I was happy to see her …… safe and outside of the world from which I had just crawled.
To understand this story better you must first understand (or at least know) that I possess an unfortunate view into the world of human nature and its heinous possibilities. I now understand that the dots of some of my life experiences have connected and the culmination of that has led me down this road to Southeast Asia.
Estimates show more than 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually. Unfortunately, I can show you some of those. Here in Cambodia; as is the case in many countries, there is a desire for something foreign or exotic as far as objects for forced sexvual or sadistic pleasure.
Last night I had the privilege of meeting “Kim.” She is a sweet Vietnamese girl approximately 16 to 18 years old and with more life experiences probably than you and I have combined. The difference is; you and I are striving to compile more life experiences. She is not!
There is one major attribute that Kim and my niece do not share – Freedom! In a matter of minutes my state of mind went from a place of despair & soul-churning sadness to a sense of gratitude seeing my niece walking freely down the boulevard – knowing at least she was safe with me watching her from afar. Tonight I feel as though I gained another daughter. But tonight I found another daughter of the world who was been “let down” and betrayed in the deepest sense by those who are supposed to provide safety and shelter. Her trust; born innate as a child has been shattered. What is left to trust? Is a dream a nightmare to her? Or a nightmare a dream?
HOUSE OF BROKEN DREAMS
Sometimes I wander the boulevard in Phnom Penh as the “stalker” in search of the facilitators of victimization. These are most often the tuk-tuk (taxi) drivers or moto-bike taxi drivers. They are the ones who unfortunately operate within a cultural system that has perpetrated an acceptance of using children and teenagers for cruel purposes. It is not hard to gather this information. It is nowhere near as difficult to find this information as I wish it would be. In fact, it is easier to find opportunities to “rape” children and dim the already dimming light of a young soul than it is to find one’s way to many orphanages. For the right price of a few dollars one may steal the soul of one of God’s children.
It was easy to locate a typical “low-life” moto-bike driver ready to help me find young girls. These possessors of information are so readily available I didn’t even have to start the conversation tonight. They find you! If you tell many tuk-tuk or moto-bike drivers to take you to the “Chicken Farm” you will find yourself in the unfortunate world of bondage, abuse and child neglect. This location is home to young girls who have fallen prey to the harsh and unrelenting world of what is most likely Vietnamese organized crime. They are the prized possessions of a child slave culture committed to their own greed while starving what little hopes and dreams remain for these sons and daughters of the world.
I know my past experiences on the other side of sexual abuse have really enlightened me as to what to look for; how to look for it; and what I am truly seeing when I do find it (along this boulevard in Cambodia or elsewhere). It is this understanding of “man” and its propensity for greed and lusts with which I have become far too familiar. And it is this intimate understanding and perspective that drives me to champion the cause of these Silent Voices wherever their whispers may be.
God has given me an innate ability to comprehend the pain & suffering of life and what comes with it – all through the eyes of a young person. So when I met “Kim” last night I knew she was who I wanted to spend whatever fleeting moments I would be afforded tonight. Was she pretty? Of course! Was she interested in spending time with me? Doubtful! Did she have a pretty smile? No! In fact, it wasn’t even this beautiful little girl with dark skin and ivory white teeth and long light brown hair that I had originally selected. It was the girl seated next to her in the living room of this “house of rape” with whom I had chosen to quietly and discreetly sit and spend time with and God willing (somehow) pass along a glimmer of hope. Perhaps a glimmer of energy to “hold on” and dream that a day will come when she might not be subjected to this repeated deadening of her soul. But it was the sadness and distance in the girl’s eyes sitting next to her that registered deep within the now aching chambers of my heart. This visible discomfort in her eyes led me to alter my selection of girls. This is how I met my new friend “Kim.” And one thing I knew for sure! At least she would be safe with me – if just for few the moments in our “private” room. I knew she and her body would be safe and her heart and soul would not be pierced. This would be true at least for the 30 minutes or so I would use to pretend to the world outside the room that the typical sexual victimization was taking place.
This proved challenging once I realized we were being watched through holes in the wall and possibly overhead. The home was a typical two story Cambodian structure with a drive-in garage doubling for a living room. It led to the sitting room where 1 of a handful of young, imported Vietnamese girls were held in anticipation of potential “clients” to come and choose 1 or more to use. Several young men hovered under the watchful eye of an older, well-dressed “gentleman” (scumbag). Tonight I had worn unassuming brown shorts and a black nondescript polo in attempts to not be memorable. And their gazes seemed to travel over me seemingly in attempts to study me or who I may be or what I may have. All the while praying God would not let them feel, see or touch the flip video hanging on the inside of my shorts. Fortunately they did not notice it but probably not without some divine intervention. And yes, I knew what I was “walking into.” I had been here before to locate some of the world’s lost, forgotten and vulnerable girls.
Knowing it was most likely I would be watched somehow I determined I would just ask for a massage. This would be easier to simulate a “regular” paying customer and give me the opportunity to get to know Kim on a basic level. With the risks being what they were I wanted to get to know Kim to the extent I could while remaining “believable” to the observers I knew were watching from somewhere. At one point I could see Kim looking back over her shoulder with a seeming look of oppression and bondage. What she was looking at was obviously a “minder” but somehow through a closed door and wall. Our daughters were not born for this. Her look was one of fear and one of almost acknowledgement that she was expected to “earn” her money. Her expression hinted scared compliance. She was most definitely in bondage. Her little spirit is clinging to a life her young mind probably doesn’t quite understand. She probably feels the forced pillaging of her body is wrong. But this is what adults have her do. Yet her innate instincts as a sweet, innocent young child entering the world told her they were supposed to be safe for her. This couldn’t be the dream of your youth. Actually, this still is her youth! And no, this is not the dream of any child’s youth! It is the dream of men and the dream of greed!! And one day, the dream of death for those who starve the souls and quench the energetic fire of the most precious treasures God has given us. Very often these sweet treasures are even the product of the seed of evil men. And for one brief moment of one night in Kim’s life she would not have to feel the cruelty of this world quenching her existence.
Through God’s grace I am not in bondage to what happened to me in my life at the hands of strangers. But I can ALWAYS recognize the look in a child’s eyes when they share a similar story as mine. And Kim’s eyes radiated abuse and suffering and unlit dreams. This is one of the true tragedies of us as human beings. Through our own greed, neglect, power grabs and selfishness we extinguish the breath and dreams of those in this world that are most vulnerable. I say to those children – hold on! The Reaper is coming to make things right!
As I lay there (all the while knowing I was being watched by the “minders,” I felt a force of evil knocking at the door and wanting to come in. Whether the evil was in the form of the criminals behind the door; or evil in the form of something far bigger – I hoped there might be a battle going on in the realm of good vs. evil that would keep me protected. And Kim protected as well!
And as I sit here expelling these words from the currently exhausted world of my mind (after a traumatic attempt at sleep – or at least rest) I find myself asking you all for something. If you happen to be one who prays or is just willing to send positive thoughts our way – we can certainly use it. Our drive and desire are strong. Our energy levels and emotional states are somewhat shaken. If you find yourself driving down a long road or have a lull in your work day; we could certainly use these thoughts and prayers. But more than that, we would love to one day see these little souls invaded with peace, security, hope and the truth they are indeed valuable and loved. They are worth far more than others have led them to believe or feel through gutless acts of rape, abuse and victimization. I have a dream that in my short lifetime this perpetual child and soul victimization will cease.
May God grant them the rest, reprieve and lives they would dream for if they were living in an environment that permitted it. May God have mercy on these young lives and Justice on those who know better. Hope For the Silent Voices hears your little cries and thoughts and is right around the corner.
So, as I watch my niece walk alone along this busy street in the capital city of Cambodia I couldn’t help but wonder what life might be like if she were living “Kim’s” life? If circumstances had been different or grace not extended at the location of my niece’s birth she could be the one sitting in the “prison” at the Chicken Farm. So it is no wonder I take painful pride and joy in her safekeeping. There is something so special about the sweet innocence of a child born into this world. Knowing how high the stakes are and the cost of this sense of security being robbed I have the have the responsibility for what I know. And what I know is ugly and pierces the soul of a child forever. And as I sit along the boulevard trying to make sense of the tortured reality for Kim the tears can’t help but flow as my niece wanders into my view. There are those who would do her harm as they would your daughter or niece or neighbor. “Greater love has none other than this, than he who would lay his life down for his friend.” This is taken from John 15:13 of the bible and I guess that is part of who I am.
PAGES OF YOUR LIFE
So with regards to life; if you are choosing to be a bystander – then that is okay (for you)! But, I will ask you to please step aside. There are those of us who have work to do. We all have a journey and yours has already begun. You may not yet realize it but the pages of your life are turning. God has already written your story. And yes, it IS a story of hope with a happy ending.
But remember: Just because we ultimately go back to our homes and to our realities – the realities for these precious children does not change. And while I write this the abuse and rape of these children has been repeated countless times – and just in this city alone!
So it’s okay if you still haven’t found what you are looking for. But if you aren’t looking you aren’t a threat to injustice, neglect and reconciling whatever wrongs your life needs to make right. So please do step to the side quickly as my moments are fleeting. Hope For the Silent Voices has work to do. We are accumulating more nieces and nephews that one day children will walk safely in their minds and on their streets. That may be a nightmare to some but it is a dream to me. Notice served!!
Please remember to pray for young “Kim” as she awakens to a new day in her perpetual circle of victimization. Your silent voice is not forgotten.