When coming to Cambodia, there are always people and places that I just cannot wait to see again. There is, however, one sight that will always make me cringe. The sight of a scared, young Khmer girl with an older white man. The other night as I sat in the lobby of my hotel, I watched a beautiful young girl in a skimpy pink dress get on the elevator with a very loud older white man. The sight was frightening. When I first started coming to Cambodia, situations like these were fairly common to see. You could see these beautiful young girls walking with men along the river or a busy city street. Yes, some may actually be friends or co-workers but you could often tell the ones that are on an awkward “date” of some sort. Now that trafficking has become a hot topic and more and more people are aware, trafficking has been pushed farther underground. So, these “sightings” are less frequent now but not less painful to see. I told my good friend, Theara, about the the situation at my hotel and her response was “Oh sister, it’s everywhere.” Then she proceeded to explain that instead of men going to brothels, girls are now often brought to the men so that the location of the girls can remain secret. Thinking about all of this sends me into and angry and sad whirlwind. I would like to stay in my bubble of hope at the safe house where God is overcoming this evil with each girl that walks through the gate.
That being said, seeing the evil of trafficking can make seeing the beauty of the safe house even more powerful. I think over the past two weeks, my eyes have really been opened to the sense of community this safe house provides for all of the girls. Maybe it’s because it has become my community for this short time, or maybe its something greater than that. I dont know. But let me share with you some of the beautiful communal things that have caught my attention. The big girls dress up and prepare the little girls for a dance performance just like a mom would. The girls yell “MA” (mom) to gain a housemother’s or counselor’s attention as they run to her. A seeing teenage girl helps a blind teenage girl move around the house so that she can participate in the activities too. Biological sisters hold hands walking around the common area and the older one just might give the little one a love tap when she has misbehaved. Friendships have formed between the girls of similar ages and they sit on the stair steps playing games and giggling. Seeing the girls interact in these ways is one of the more precious “sightings” of coming here. It is evidence that God is healing and healthy relationships are forming. And the evidence… Oh, it’s everywhere!