Hello! It's just me, Sonia. An average girl with the same dreams and passions as most of you. However, I recently had an opportunity to witness the fight against human trafficking in Asia, which fueled a passion I did not realize I had. A group of strangers from several states in the US got together to catch the vision of Destiny Rescue. We met so many amazing people along the way who have given up careers and/or retirement to join in this fight. We started out as a random group of strangers but through many times of prayer, devotions, hands-on activities, and meaningful conversations we became like family.
As I was going through the photos our group had taken over the past 2 weeks I kept returning to this particular picture.
Isn't she precious?! This picture puts a smile on my face because you can just feel the joy flowing from this little girl. Notice, she doesn't have an iPad in her hand. No name brand clothes. Not even shoes or socks on her feet. She did not beg for the latest toy. She may not even own a toy. I am sure her home only boasted of dirt floors and bamboo for walls. But that smile!
A group of strangers came in to this village with silly games and huge water balloons but it was enough to bring laughter and joyful chaos for an hour to a group of 30 children.
Before leaving, we stood on the edge of the property overlooking the mountains in the distance. We were then informed that the farthest mountains were from a neighboring country where drug and human traffickers would roam through the jungles and raid these defenseless villages.
Of course, I felt a sadness overwhelm me until we were told that this particular village is no longer vulnerable because it's been receiving support and help from DR and other ministries.
What a difference that makes for these children and their families!
Many times we enter a place with the zeal and passion that exclaims, "I'm going to save the world!" And that's great... but when you understand the hardness of the work it's enough to spend your energy, resources, and life for those few that could then impact a multitude. One child. One village. One community.
Who will you start with today?
Click here to learn more about Destiny Rescue and their work.
I'm sitting in a boat riding along a river in Thailand thinking over these past few days. If you know me well, I'm terrified of heights and deep water. A classmate of mine drowned while on a missions trip a few years back. To this day I can't get myself to stop the fear from gripping my heart when I stand near or get inside a rickety vessel that is supposed to get me to my next destination. I make myself to dwell on other things and the fact that only God knows when my end will come.
I'm so appreciative of those back home and around the world who has sent me support and prayers for this trip. It's unlike any other I've ever been on. Unique in its own way. And during a time where I am prayerfully considering what steps I am to take next. The unknown lies ahead but I will walk in faith believing that God has my best interests in mind.
Our time in Asia has been a time of soul-searching. A time of building relationships with people from different parts of the country. And for me, moments of deep sorrow.
Last night, we visited the Prevention home where high-risk girls or siblings of those that have been rescued live. Before heading out, I was suddenly gripped by a crushing sorrow. I felt as if I was about to cry but had no idea why. I know these girls don't seek pity, whether rescued or protected, but my heart was breaking for them. By the end of the night that sorrow had strengthened me to feel a hope and joy for these girls because they have been given a chance to become something without being forced into the same atmosphere as their friend, parent or sister.
There are people that are working tirelessly to provide a home and a safe life for them. Before we left for the hotel we all gathered around in a circle with each person that was present at the home to pray over. My heart was so full knowing that God has a wonderful plan for each of these precious souls. I can still see their smiling and happy faces. I can hear their silly giggles. What a marvelous work I am able to witness!
I've experienced moments of deep sorrow many times this year without understanding the true reason but then I ask if I just need to pay attention to what God is trying to speak to my heart. What if I am to feel a brokenness over something in order to bring healing to an individual? Then so be it.
We've heard amazing stories of grace. We've met passionate people who've committed their lives in rescuing and restoring trafficked girls.
I've created friendships with a few of the girls that work at Destiny Cafe who have been rescued, restored, and are now making a life for themselves.
I've played alongside some of the happiest human beings who have been witness or thrown into the darkness of sex trafficking. Yet, I cannot see their past. I only see a hopeful and wonderful future.Their love for God and life are evident.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful that this sorrow has been used to strengthen me. Let the tears flow and heal the soul.
I came to Cambodia with an open heart and mind, hoping that God would allow me to see what He wants me to see. One thing I truly appreciate is that our itinerary includes devotions every morning. Honestly, I arrived knowing very little about the country except for the research I did about the genocide that transpired here after I heard that we would be visiting the museum.
It was a long, long journey but we finally arrived in Phnom Penh on Sunday, November 11.
The next morning, after breakfast and a moving devotion from our leader, we took a tour of the killing fields of Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. 1975-1979 were horror filled years for the country of Cambodia. In both of these tours we were given headsets to listen to an audio recording of each section or memorial, along with a pamphlet and a map. It was a very somber place. Each person you passed walking along the trails or through the rooms had expressions of anguish, sorrow, and/or anger. Every city had been emptied out and taken to the killing fields (there were over 300) to be executed in an inhumane fashion or sent to a prison to be brutally tortured. The killing fields displayed areas where mass graves were found (up to 400+ victims), as well as clothes and bones that have washed up over time. One of the hardest areas for me to visit was a tree where Khmer Rouge soldiers would smash the heads of babies and small children. In the pictures you will see strings and bands hanging on the tree or wrapped around the rods of the mass graves. These are thousands of bracelets or necklaces that people have left behind.
Located in the middle of the center stands a memorial stupa where skulls were displayed. I viewed it from a distance as my heart near felt ready to burst already and my team was finishing up.
Many of us are very familiar of the Holocaust; the history, the victims' stories, the concentration camps, and so on. Yet, walking through these places in the country where it took place in my parents' lifetime, then looking into the eyes of Cambodians knowing that nearly every single one has been affected by this atrocity.
The Genocide Museum was at Tual Sleng, which was the secret center of a network of nearly 200 prisons where people were tortured. Out of 12,000-20,000 people that were held here only 12 of them have been confirmed survivors. Does that not just boggle your mind?!
This country is still recovering from the genocide. Most of the population is around 30 years old. Many struggle to even put food on the table. It will take a long time to go over more details but this is why so many girls end up in establishments where they are bought for a night, used, and strongly encouraged by the family to help put food on the table or assist in overcoming huge financial burdens. Destiny Rescue has been making great strides in working to rescue girls from these places, with the average age being 15-17. These girls are taught vocational skills that then enable them to go back into their own community and find a respectable job or even start their own business. We visited 3 different projects and became the models for the girls to practice their newly found skills, such as dyeing or styling hair, manicures, pedicures, facials, and more. We sat down with them and worked on puzzles, participated in card games that seemed to make no sense, and played badminton. Something so simple could mean so much to each of these precious girls. We saw them not as victims with a broken past but as beauties with a purposeful destiny.
This trip is different in that we've not prepared sermons or lessons to share with the girls. We didn't build a glorious building or paint classrooms. We are here with the purpose to encourage the staff that are working in each of these projects, witness the amazing work of Destiny Rescue, and take part in the empowerment of these girls in any way we can. They come to know the love of God through their redemption, and many receive salvation in the process.
As we've met the staff at each project we have come across former teachers, doctors, professors, and more who have left their life behind to fulfill a call to respond to the cries of Cambodia. As a local DR volunteer shared, "We are not here to save the world", we can all agree that we can do our part to reach one at a time. Sometimes we see great things happen quickly and other times changes take place in slow motion. In either scenario, God is indeed working. Let Him use you. Let Him love through you. Let Him shine through you
Sonia E. Vargas
Sonia's desire and hope is to write for the purpose of inspiring this generation, especially young woman.
Hannah Helm is a fun and outgoing young woman who loves to bring laughter and joy to anyone she comes in contact with. She is 23 years old and is a leader of Girl's Exalting the Master Ministry.
Paula is a passionate follower of Christ and loves to encourage others around her to do the same. She is 27 years old and is currently attending Free Gospel Bible Institute. She was a part of the Guatemala GEM team in 2014.
Kristyn is a sweet and gentle young lady from Trinity Holiness Tabernacle. She is 19 years old and is currently attending Free Gospel Bible Institute. She plays the piano and sings beautifully. She was a part of the Guatemala GEM team in 2014 and Honduras team in 2016.