Love a Second Time Around

480112I wasn’t married but I was pregnant.  It happened when my boyfriend and I got frisky and ended up in bed.  I felt guilty afterwards because I was supposed to be a Christian.  I was raised in a strict Baptist family and having sex or getting pregnant before marriage was a no no.  So, to say that I wasn’t thrilled when I found out that I was pregnant would be a gross understatement.  Desmond took it a lot more calmly than I expected.  He told me that we could get married before I started to show.  I agreed.  I didn’t want my child to be born out of wedlock.  And, besides, Desmond and I loved each other.  I know that he would have eventually asked me to marry him because we had talked about it several times.

After he bought me an engagement ring, we went to see my parents first.  I told about pregnancy and they were understandably upset.  “Getting married because you’re having a baby isn’t a good reason for getting married,” my father told us.

“Marriage is such a big step,” my mother added.  “You better make sure that this is the best thing for you two.”

Next, we went to see Desmond’s family.  I could just imagine how thrilled they would be, especially, his maternal grandmother.  Right from the beginning, I didn’t feel accepted by them.  I think they all would have preferred if he had married a white woman.  Some of them quoted the Bible where it says “Everything after its own kind.”  I didn’t bother to tell them that God was talking to the birds, fish and animals not to Adam.  He hadn’t even created Adam as yet.  And the same God who made white people made the other races and in His image too.

The only person who was friendly towards me and didn’t seem to have a problem with my color was my father-in-law.  He was such a nice man.  I really liked him and I felt comfortable talking to him.  He didn’t judge me and he didn’t lecture us.  I knew that we had his support.

Fortunately, my father-in-law was with me when a policeman showed up at the apartment to inform me that Desmond had been run over and killed in a crosswalk when he was returning from lunch early that afternoon.  This happened in front of his office.  The policeman said that it was a good thing that I wasn’t alone because of the stress that such tragic news could on my pregnancy.  I knew that there wasn’t anything I could do.  Desmond was gone and I was going to experience the rest of my pregnancy without him.  It was one of the worst moments of my life.

I got support from my father-in-law and my family but it was hard having to explain why Desmond wasn’t with me.  At each appointment, it would be a different midwife, who would remark, “Is your husband not joining us today?” and then I would have to explain he was dead.  And it was hard going to prenatal classes with my brother or my father-in-law.   My pregnancy experience which should have been a really happy one was somber.  I kept thinking Desmond should be here.  When our daughter was born seven months later at 8lbs, it was her grand-father who held her in his arms.  As I watched them together, I tried to picture Desmond holding her in his arms.

Desmond and I had come up with boys’ and girls’ names which we really liked and I named our daughter, Nella after his mother whom he adored.  When I look at Nella, I see her father.  The same hazel eyes and nose.   Her hair was dark brown like his.  She was beautiful.  Desmond would have a very proud father and spoiled her rotten.

My parents fawned over her.  Desmond’s family, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered to meet his daughter.  His father was the only one who was there throughout my pregnancy.  He came over to the apartment every other day to see Nella and me.  While I took a nap or relaxed in the sofa, he took care of her.  It was a real treat having him around.  I began to look forward to seeing him.  And I could tell he enjoyed being with us.

I don’t know when it happened.  It must have been gradual but, four years later, on a Sunday morning, I woke up and realized that I was in love with my father-in-law.  As I made breakfast, I wondered what he would do if he knew.  Would he stop coming over?  I couldn’t bear the thought of not having him around anymore.  I had to make sure that he never suspected how I felt about him.  I would act like I always did in the past.  I had to remember that he was Desmond’s father although he was a widower and currently not in any relationship.

It’s late afternoon now and Nella’s taking her nap.  My father-in-law is standing at the window, looking out.  He turned when I entered the living-room.  “Symone, I need to talk to you about something that has been on my mind for a long time now,” he said.

I could tell from his expression that it was something serious.  I sat down on the sofa and patting the cushion beside me, I said, “Tell me what’s on your mind.”

He came over and sat down beside me.  His eyes met mine.  I could tell that he was a bit nervous.  “I don’t know if I have any right to tell you this even now that Desmond’s no longer here.”

“Tell me what it is, Dad,” I urged him.  “I’m a big girl.  I can take it.”

“First, I would like you to call me Patrick instead of Dad.”

“All right, Patrick.”

“Symone, I know I’m more than twice your age but over the last few months my feelings for you have changed.”

My heart was pounding.  “What do you mean your feelings have changed?”

“I’ve fallen in love with you.”

“Oh, Patrick,” I cried and I threw my arms around him.  “You don’t know how happy I am to hear that.”

“You are?” he exclaimed when we parted.

Yes!  You see, I’ve fallen in love with you too.”

He held my hands in his, his eyes riveted on my face.  “I’m relieved to hear that,” he said.  “For the longest time, I have wanted to tell you how I feel but I was afraid of how it would affect our relationship.”

“I have wanted to talk to you about my feelings too but was afraid for the same reason.”

“My newly discovered love for you wasn’t the only thing I have been struggling with.”

I frowned.  “What else have you been struggling with?”  I asked.  “Are you worried about what the rest of the family would say?”

He shook his head at once.  “It doesn’t matter to me what they say.  What concerns me is what the Bible has to say about the relationship between a man and his daughter-in-law.”

“Yes, in the book of Leviticus it says that a man shall not uncover the nakedness of his daughter-in-law because she is his son’s wife—he, the father-in-law, shall not uncover her nakedness.  In fact, if a man had sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, both of them were put to death because they committed a perversion.  This doesn’t apply to you and me, though because nothing ever happened between us when Desmond was alive and even after he died.  Besides, I’m a widow now and according to the Bible, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, she is no longer bound to him; the laws of marriage no longer apply to her.  Then she can marry someone else if she wants to. That would be wrong while he was alive, but it is perfectly all right after he dies.”

Patrick released his breath.  “So, if I wanted to marry you, there’s no law to prevent us?”

I shook my head.  “No.  In-laws can now also marry provided they are both over 21 and any former spouses must be deceased.”

He pulled me into his arms then and hugged me tightly.  “I don’t think Rosalind and Desmond would begrudge us finding happiness with each other,” he murmured.

No, I thought, Desmond would want me to be happy.  He would want me to move on219_6910_cannes_apr16_281529 with my life.  And now, that was possible.  I had fallen in love with an incredible man.  Yes, I consider myself to be extremely blessed for having found love a second time around.  A year later, in spring, we got married in a small, intimate ceremony.  Nella was our flower girl.  She looked so adorable in her pale pink satin dress.  Now she has a new Daddy although she calls him, “Grandpa”.

My in-laws and family think it’s wrong for Patrick and me to be together and are concerned that our relationship would be very confusing for Nella.  He’s her grandfather but now he’s also her father because he is married to me.  We have told Nella about Desmond and shown her photos of him.  She knows that he was her Daddy and that he died.  We told her that one of these days she will see him.   And she’s fine with that.  She’s not confused about anything and she’s excited about the new baby brother who is arriving in three months.  That reminds me, I have to ask Mom to babysit Nella because Patrick and I have a prenatal class to attend this afternoon.

Sources:  Metro; Officer.com; Live About; Genetic Genealogy

Thomas and Tracey

 

My nephew, Sam and I were on a double date with a mother and her daughter. It has been a long while since I have even thought about dating again. Eight years ago I lost my fiancee, Brenda. She was killed by a drunk driver just weeks before our wedding. It took a long, long time to get over her death.

We were having dinner at The Ledbury in Notting Hill. That was Sam’s idea. He googled the best restaurants in London and picked this one because a co-worker had raved about it and the reviews were great. And he wanted to impress our dates.

I could tell by the way they were interacting with each other that Sam and Meghan liked each other. Meghan’s Mom, Nancy was a very attractive and easy going woman. I liked her a lot but I wasn’t attracted to her. And it didn’t help that I was trying hard not to stare at our waitress. She was very pretty–and young. On more than one occasion, our eyes met. And when I placed my order, her gaze seemed to linger on me before she turned away to get the other orders.

“I think she’s sweet on you,” Sam remarked when Nancy left the table to go to the washroom.

“He’s right,” Meghan agreed.

“She’s too young,” I replied.

“She doesn’t think that you’re too old,” was Sam’s quick rejoinder.

“Aren’t you the least bit interested?” Meghan asked.

“What about your mother?” I asked. “I’m supposed to be on a date with her, remember?”

“If you decide that you want to go out with the waitress, Mom may be disappointed but she’ll get over it in no time.”

“Let’s just enjoy our dinner and each other’s company,” I suggested, changing the subject. Just then, Nancy came back to the table.

We had a pleasant evening. Afterwards, we went to a nice, cozy bar for drinks and live music. It was after eleven when we left the bar. While Sam and Meghan went off to a nightclub, I took Nancy home. I was a Christian so going to a nightclub wasn’t an option for me and I could tell that Nancy wasn’t keen on going either. So, we went a walk along the boardwalk because it was such a beautiful night.

We talked about a lot of things. She told me about her husband, Jackson who was a cop. He died in the line of duty. Meghan was their only child. I told her about Brenda. And then we showed each other photos of our deceased ones.

As we walked back to the car, Nancy said to me, “I had a really, really great time tonight and I really, really like you, Thomas, but I don’t think I’m ready for another relationship right now. I still haven’t quite gotten over losing Jackson.”

“I understand. This is the first time I’ve been on a date since Brenda died.”

As I held the door open for her to get in, she looked up at me and said, “I think you’re ready for another relationship. I saw the way you looked at our waitress. You were attracted to her. And who can blame you? She’s a lovely girl, not just in looks but in personality. Don’t let her age stop you from asking her out.”

I smiled and reaching for her hand, I gently squeezed it. “Thank you.”

Outside of her flat, we said goodnight. She reached up and kissed me on the cheek. “Take care of yourself, Thomas.”

“Thanks, Nancy. You take care yourself too.”

“I hope things work out between Sam and Meghan. He’s a wonderful guy.”

“I hope so too because Meghan’s a terrific girl. Goodnight, Nancy.”

“Goodnight, Thomas.”

As I turned and walked towards the lift, I made up my mind that I would have dinner at the restaurant again tomorrow evening. Hopefully, I would get the same waitress and if not, I would make sure that I got a chance to talk to her. As soon as I got home, I took a quick shower and went to bed.

As Providence would have it, I got a table and the same waitress waited on me. I could tell that she remembered me. She smiled as she came over. “Good evening,” she said, “You’re dining alone this time.”

I nodded and smiled. “Yes, I am.”

“I guess you really liked the food.”

My eyes met hers directly when I said, “I came back because of the food and the service.”

She smiled shyly. “Thank you. Would you like Cranberry Juice?” It was what I had ordered the last time. I was flattered that she remembered.

“Yes, thank you. What’s your name?”

“Tracey.”

“I’m Thomas.”

“I’ll be right back with your Cranberry Juice, Thomas.”

“Thank you, Tracey.” I watched her walk away. She was breathtaking. I found it hard to concentrate as I studied the menu. I didn’t want to order the same dish as last night. I decided that when she came back I would ask her what she recommended.”

She came back a few minutes later and set the glass of Cranberry juice on the table. “Have you decided what you would like to order or would you like a few minutes more?”

“Everything looks so good. I can’t decide. What would you recommend?”

“Do you eat fish?”

“Yes, though not as often as I should.”

“Try the Cornish Cod.”

“I will, thanks, Tracey.” I closed the menu and handed it to her. “What time do you stop working?”

“Around 10.”

“When you finish work, could I take you out for a cappuccino?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“Good. I’ll wait for you at the entrance.”

“I’ll be right back with your order.”

After she left, I glanced at my watch. It was nine o’clock. I had an hour to finish my dinner. When it came it smelled and looked amazing. I couldn’t wait to tuck into it.

Tracey smiled that lovely smile of hers and said, “Enjoy your Cod.”

“I will,” I assured her and I did. It was the best fish dish I’d ever tasted. I savored every morsel. I skipped dessert and asked for the bill. I left her another big tip. When she came over to take it, I reminded her that I would be waiting at the entrance of the restaurant for her.

“I’ll be there in about five minutes,” she promised before she disappeared.

I got up from the table and left the restaurant which was almost empty. It was another pleasant night. I was a little nervous about going out with Tracey because she’s the first woman I can see myself in a relationship with since Brenda.

About five minutes later she came through the doors. She was wearing a red top and a knee length denim skirt. We walked to my car. On the drive over to the cafe, we talked about her. Her parents were Nigerian and they came to England when she was a baby. She’s an only child and is living with her parents until she graduates and gets a job. Next year is her last year at Cambridge. She’s working part-time as a waitress.

“I thought of volunteering at an orphanage this summer but I found out that most of the children in orphanages aren’t even orphans. Unsuspecting parents are sending their children to orphanages believing they will have better access to food, shelter and an education. That decision which was supposed to be temporary becomes a permanent. When they go to the orphanages they are turned away and sometimes, their children are at the windows seeing this. It makes me so mad that parents and their children are being kept apart so that those who run these orphanages can profit from their misery. Some of those children are sold into slavery, illegally adopted or remain in the orphanages where they are mistreated and abused. I have heard of cases of children being rented for a short stay and are used to tug at the heartstrings of tourists and volunteers, who feel compelled to open up their hearts and wallets to help.”

To say that I was shocked at what she was telling me is an understatement. “Isn’t there anything that can be done to help these poor children and their families?” I asked.

“I found out just recently that a task-force was launched to encourage well-meaning UK tourists and volunteers to stop visiting overseas orphanages. They know that tourists and volunteers mean well and that they want to help these children whom they believe are orphans but the task-force believe that by raising awareness they can safeguard the children’s futures. I have created a blog to speak out against Orphanage Tourism and to raise awareness. I’ve met students on campus who were in these orphanages and they have shared their stories with me which you will find on my blog.”

“What’s the name of your blog? I would like to check it out.”

A Second Childhood. They were robbed of their first when they were taken away from their families and we want to make sure that they have a second childhood outside of orphanages and in their homes again.”

I made a mental note of the blog’s name. We arrived at the cafe. After we were seated and placed our orders, I asked her, “Would you or one of the students you mentioned be willing to come to my church one Sunday and speak to the members about Orphanage Tourism?”

“Sure. Just tell me when and I will be happy to come and bring one of the students with me.”

Over cappuccinos, she asked me questions about myself. When I told her about Brenda, she reached out and touched my hand. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I can’t imagine what you must have gone through. I know that this is a cliche thing to say but she’s in a better place now.”

“Yes, she is.”

“The one thing that comforted me when I lost my grandparents is that one day, I will see them again.”

“Are you a Christian?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

I was relieved although, I have a feeling that even if she weren’t, I would still want to date her. “How do you feel about dating a man much older than you?” I asked.

“I don’t have any problem with it.”

I smiled and covered her hand with my other one. “Tomorrow evening I would like to take you out for dinner.”

She smiled. “Sounds good.”

We spent the rest of the night talking about all sorts of things and by our third date, I knew that I was going to spend the rest of my life with her.

While this story is fiction, orphanage tourism is not. It’s a real problem facing children in countries like Nepal, Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar, Uganda, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Kenya. Children are not for sale. They belong in loving homes. Tourists and volunteers mean well but they are perpetuating a nefarious industry which is profiting from the most vulnerable in our societies–children.

Join the fight against orphanage tourism by not volunteering at or visiting or giving donations to orphanages when you travel abroad. Australia linked the visiting and volunteering at orphanages overseas to modern slavery. Be aware that not all children in orphanages are really orphans.

Sources: The Telegraph; ABTA;

Adopted

How do people feel when they find out that they have been adopted?  I once watched an episode of the soap opera, One Life to Live where a character named Destiny was devastated when she learned that her parents were actually her grandparents and that the brother she was so close to, whom she adored was actually her father.

When should adoptive parents tell their children that they are adopted?  Is there ever a right time to do so?  Wikhow offers the following tips:

Tell your child as early as possible. The earlier you talk to your child about their adoption, the easier it will be for them to come to terms with the idea. If possible, start talking to your child about their adoption while they are still preschool-aged.

Be positive when discussing your child’s adoption. If you speak positively about the adoption, your child will be less likely to feel upset or uncomfortable about it. Tell your child how happy you were to bring them into your family, and how much you love them.

  • For example, you might say something like, “Your mommy and I love you so much. We were so happy and excited when you became part of our family!”
  • Avoid saying anything negative about your child’s birth parents, since they are also an important part of your child’s story.
Keep your explanation simple and age appropriate. Eventually, your child will have plenty of questions about the details of their adoption and their birth family. When you first tell them, however, try not to overwhelm them with details. Instead, give them a very basic and straightforward explanation of where they came from.

  • For example, when talking to your preschooler, you might say, “When you were born, your mama couldn’t take care of you. So, your daddy and I decided to adopt you and become your parents. Now you’re part of our family forever.”
  • Don’t give your child details that might be confusing or upsetting. For example, if their birth parents were abusive or neglectful, now is not the time to bring it up.
Answer your child’s questions clearly and honestly. It’s natural for your child to be curious and anxious about their background. They may ask questions about what their birth parents are like, where they are now, and why they chose to put your child up for adoption. They might also ask questions about how they came to be with you. Answer these questions to the best of your ability, but keep your answers simple and appropriate to your child’s age or developmental level.

  • For example, your child might ask, “What happened to my other parents?” You could say something like, “They live in another town. Sometimes I write them letters to let them know how you’re doing!”
  • Be patient with your child even if they ask the same questions over and over again.
  • Try to anticipate questions your child might have so you can address them before your child even brings them up. This will help them feel more comfortable talking to you about the subject and bringing up questions of their own.

Once they find out the truth, do adoptees feel betrayed?  How do they cope with the truth?  I have read stories of people who found out later in life that they were adopted and were shocked, upset, angry, etc.  Finding out that they were adopted helped others understand why they always felt like they didn’t quite fit in.

Children may feel grief over the loss of a relationship with their birth parents and the loss of the cultural and family connections that would have existed with those parents.

There can also be significant concerns about feeling abandoned and “abandonable,” and “not good enough,”coupled with specific hurt feelings over the birth mother’s choice to “reject” the child” to “give me away” or “not wanting me enough.” Such hurtful and vulnerable feelings may be compounded should the child learn that the birth mother later had other children that she chose to raise herself – Mental Health Help

When it comes to sharing medical family history, it is difficult for an adopted child to do so.  It is a reminder that she is different from the others.  Many struggle with identity issues because they are no longer the person they thought they were.  Their parents are not their real parents and their siblings are not their real siblings.  They have questions such as “Who am I?” “Who are my real parents?”  “Am I ever going to meet them?”  “Why didn’t they want me?”  They feel guilty because they want to find out about their birth parents and feel that in doing so they are hurting their adoptive parents who loved and raised them as their own.

I have read stories where adopted children meet their biological parents and things don’t go well.  However, for some, making contact was better than looking at every stranger and wondering if that person was their mother or father.  Sometimes the hurt and pain that comes from knowing that they were given up for adoption put a damper on their reunion with their birth mother or father and many decide to severe any further contact.

Mother Worried About Unhappy Teenage Daughter

Adoption is a tricky thing but it could be a blessing.  I just read this story of a girl who knew that she was adopted.  It was never kept from her and she knew why her mother had given her up.  “I knew that my birth mother loved me so much that she wanted to give me a better life.”  Her adoptive parents were looking to adopt and they found her less than a week after she was born.  Growing up, her adoptive parents explained her adoption this way:  “We chose you.” To this girl, it was a “a wonderful way to put it to an adopted child.”

For some birth parents, giving their child up for adoption is a very difficult and emotional decision but they do it out of love.  They know that they can’t take care of the child and that it would be best for a couple who could to raise him or her.  For the adoptive couple, this is a gift, especially if they can’t have children of their own and want to be parents.

Not all adoptive children will see adoption as a blessing and will always question why their birth parents gave them away but hopefully, in time, they will accept that they were very fortunate to be placed in the care of people who have loved and raised them from birth.

Adoption is another word for loveAdoption.com

Sources: Medium; The Genealogist; American Adoptions ; The Guardian

Sophia’s Secret

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Jamie Grill/Tetra Images/Getty Images

My name is Sophia.  I have been living with a secret since I was eight.  It’s a shameful thing and every-time I think about it, I feel sick and I wish I could curl up and just die.  No one at school knows but I keep wondering if they could tell just by looking at me.  Do I look different?  They don’t treat me like I am but I feel different.  I feel that there is something wrong with me because of what’s happening to me.  Maybe if I were ugly or fat, he wouldn’t trouble me.  Every-time we are together, he tells me how pretty I am.  I don’t want to be pretty.  I don’t want him to notice me.  I wish I were invisible.

I wish I could tell somebody but who would believe me?  He keeps telling me that this is our little secret and not to tell anyone.  He warned me that no one would believe me anyway.  So, I keep quiet.  I lie there, staring up at the ceiling and let him do things to me.  I hate it but what can I do?  He’s my uncle.  He was my favorite uncle until he started violating me.  It happens whenever we are alone in my grandparents’ house.

During the day, I try to keep busy so as not to think about it and at night, I cry myself to sleep.  Whenever I visit my friends’ homes, I envy them.  They seem so happy.  They are not orphans like my little brother, Tony and me.  Our parents died in a car crash ten years ago.  We are living with our paternal grandparents.  I love my grandfather because he reminds me of my Dad whom I loved very, very much.  My grandmother and I aren’t very close.  She complains that I’m too much like my mother whom she never accepted.  She had wanted my Dad to marry an Italian woman.  My mother was Puerto Rican.  My grandmother is more partial to Tony because he looks more Italian and a lot like my father.

I wonder what she would say if she knew what her favorite son was doing to me.  One evening, I found out.  My grandfather and Tony had gone to a Baseball game and my grandmother had gone to visit a friend.  It was after seven when she got home.  She was at the end of the corridor when she saw Uncle Matteo coming out of my bedroom.  He froze when he saw her.  Then, he recovered, smiled and said, “Hi, Mama.  Sophia was just showing me the school project she’s working on for school.  She needed my input.”

My grandmother believed him.  She smiled as he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  “Have you eaten?” she asked.  “I can fix you a nice bowl of Tuscan Soup.”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  I have to go.  I have Maybe next time?”

She looked disappointed.  “Where are you off to in such a hurry?” she demanded.

“I have a date.”

“Who is she?  Do I know her?”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  One of these days, I will bring her here and she can have you delicious Tuscan Soup.”

“All right.  Run along.  Whoever she is, she must be special for you to pass up my soup.”

He kissed her on the cheek again.  “Ciao, Mama.”  He turned and hurried down the hall.  “Ciao, Sophia.”

I didn’t answer.  I stood there, happy to see him go.  I wrapped my arms around me, feeling dirty.  I felt so ashamed.  I wanted to run away and go where he couldn’t hurt me anymore.  I thought of my mother’s sister, Aunt Teresa.  I’m sure she would let me live with her.  Taking a deep breath, I turned to face my grandmother.  “Nonna,  I want to go and live with my Aunt Teresa.”

She stared at me.  “Why?” she asked.  “Aren’t your grandfather and I taking good care of you?

“I’m not happy here.”

“What do you mean?” she demanded crossly.  “We feed you, put a roof over your head and we let you do what you like as long you follow the house rules.  Do you think your Aunt Teresa can do a better job raising you?”

“Nonna, I’m not leaving because Nonno and you.”

“Well, it’s up to you.  I wouldn’t stop you.”  She turned and walked away.  I could tell that she was upset and I was sorry but I had to leave.   And I did that weekend.  My grandfather dropped me off at Aunt Teresa’s house.  He was sorry that I left because he would miss having me around but I think he understood.  He knew that my relationship with my grandmother was strained.  He promised that he would visit me with Tony every other Sunday.

My Aunt Teresa was more than happy to have me.  Her daughter, my cousin Natalia had moved out and into her own place so I got her room which was much nicer than the one I had at my grandparents’ house.  I settled in very quickly.  I helped with chores as I did at my grandparents’ house and I did some of the cooking too.  I wasn’t as good as my grandmother but I was improving.

One night, I had a nightmare.   I dreamed that I was back in my grandparents’ house and Uncle Matteo was in my bed.  His mouth and hands were all over me.  I woke up, sweating and shaking like a leaf.  The next morning when my Aunt Teresa and I were alone, sorting the laundry, I told her about the abuse.  She was visibly upset.  She hugged me tightly and I began to cry.  It felt so good telling someone.  I felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted off me.  When she drew back to look at me, she said, “The Bible clearly says,  that no one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations.  What your uncle did to you is criminal and he should be reported.”  And she reported him.

My Aunt Teresa had a friend who was a social worker come and see me.  She told me that I wasn’t to blame for what happened to me and that I did the right thing telling someone.  That made me feel better.  I started to live again and I began to read the Bible my Aunt Teresa gave me.  I started to go to church with her and I loved it.  I met wonderful people and made new friends.

My grandmother was angry with me and doesn’t want me over at the house anymore.  It’s on account of me that her son is in jail.  My grandfather was broken up about it and he apologized to me for not being there to protect me.  He swore that if he had known, he would have reported the abuse himself.  He and my grandmother are no longer together.  Tony has moved in with Aunt Teresa and me and my grandfather is living with Uncle Alberto and his family.

It wasn’t my intention to cause any trouble for my grandparents but I had to tell someone my secret.  And now I’m a part of a Youth Program called Give Voice.  It encourages teenagers and youth to break the silence about their own abuse or to report to someone they trust when they suspect that someone they know is being abused.  It’s a support group where we feel safe talking about our experiences and there’s also a mixture of fun and other activities.

I created a pamphlet for Give Voice which we hand out at schools, colleges, universities, libraries, shopping malls, on the streets, subways, bus stations, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, hairdressing salons, barber shops and other public places.  We want to get the word out that there is help out there.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Tell someone you trust.  Put your abuser where he or she belongs:  behind bars.

When it comes to any type of abuse, silence is not golden.  Tell, cry, yell, do whatever you have to but don’t keep silent.  Abuse should never be kept a secret.

Sources:  Government of Canada; Bible Info; Bible Gateway

Carmela’s Story

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Carmela sat in the empty church which was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.  She was on her way home from the salon where she worked when she decided to stop in and pray for her brother, Guido who died five years ago from a heart attack.  She hoped and prayed that he was no longer in Purgatory because of all the prayers she and the rest of the family had made on his behalf and that he was in Heaven now.  Still, it didn’t hurt to still say prayers for him.

“Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.”

After she finished praying, she said this prayer for her deceased parents whom  she knew were in Heaven.  “O God, Who hast commanded us to honor our father and mother, look in the tenderness of Thy mercy upon the souls of my father and mother and forgive them their sins, and grant unto me the joy of seeing them again in the glorious light of everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

She hoped that one day soon, Guido would join them. She remained kneeling for a while longer and then she made the sign of the Cross.   She rose to her feet went to the front and lit three candles, said a prayer and then left.  Outside it was a bit nippy and drizzling slightly.  She stopped at the supermarket to pick up a few items and then went to the modest apartment she shared with her teenage daughter, Maria.

The place was quiet when she opened the door and went inside.  Maria was still out with her friends.  She said that they were going to hang out at the mall for a while and she should be home by seven. The clock on the wall in the living-room struck five.  She went straight into the kitchen and set the grocery bags on the counter before she removed her jacket and hung it in the hall closet.  She washed her hands and got busy making her famous Manicotti Italian Casserole.

While the Casserole was in the oven baking, she went and took a quick shower.  By the time she was done, the Casserole was ready.  She removed it from the oven and shared it out.  She waited until the oven cooled a bit before she put the plate with Maria’s food inside the oven to keep it hot.  She sat down at the kitchen table and ate hers.  She hadn’t made it since Giuseppe died.  It was his favorite dish.  He always used to boast, “I got lucky when I married you.  You make the best Manicotti Italian Casserole on the planet.  Even better than Mama’s.”

Carmela smiled.  He was such a good husband and father.  It was hard to believe that ten years had passed since he died.  She visited his grave every week and put fresh flowers on it.  And she prayed for him every night.  She couldn’t imagine marrying again.  Giuseppe was her first and only love.  She wanted to remain his wife for the rest of her life.

After she finished eating, she got up from the table, washed the plate and the dirty things in the sink.  She fixed herself a cup of a cup of coffee and took it into the living-room.  She turned on the television and watched the local news.  When it was over, she turned off the television and went to the kitchen to wash the cup and saucer.  It was Friday so she went to get the dirty laundry.  She went to Maria’s room first and as she was about to pick up the laundry bin to take it to the washer, her eyes fell on a booklet lying on top of the bed.  On the front there was a picture of a man stooping down in front of a grave with a woman dressed in white standing behind him.  Over his head were the words, Are the Dead Really Dead?

Heart pounding, she dropped the laundry basket on the floor and picked up the booklet.  She sat down on the bed and began to read it.  She was half way through when she heard the key turn in the lock.  Maria was home.  Closing the booklet, she hurried into the living-room.  Holding the booklet up for her to see, she asked, “Where did you get this?”

Maria looked at the booklet.  “I got it from Anna who got it from her cousin, Lucy.”

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“Is Lucy the one who is a Seventh-day Adventist?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I want you to take this and give it back to Anna.  I don’t want this kind of literature in my home.”

“But, Mama, I read it and it makes so much sense to me.  I never believed that you can talk to and pray to the dead.”

“All my life I have been a Catholic and I believe what the church teaches.  The dead are in Heaven or Purgatory or Hell.  They are not sleeping in their graves as this claims.” She shoved it at Maria, shaking her head.

“They use scriptures to back up what they are saying.  Why is it such a bad thing to believe that the dead are in their graves?  Would Heaven be a happy place for them when they see their loved ones suffering?  Take Amy’s mother for example.  Would she be happy in Heaven if she can see Amy’s brother, Michael getting bullied at school because he has a learning disability?  What about Grandpa and Grandma?  How would they feel if they saw Uncle Guido struggling with alcohol addiction or how painful it was for us when Daddy died?  I thought Heaven was supposed to be a happy place but how could anyone be happy there when they can see so much suffering here on earth or their loves one burning up in Hell?  No, Mama, I can’t believe that God who is love would have people burning in Hell forever or stuck in limbo in Purgatory, hoping that the prayers of their loved ones will get them into Heaven and afraid that they might end up in Hell.  I believe what this Study guide says about death.  It is more in line with God’s loving and compassionate character.  I am going to ask Anna for more these study guides so that I can learn more of what’s in the Bible.”

Carmela stared at her.  “So, you’re going to turn your back on your Catholic faith?”

“Mama, I was never a devout Catholic like you and the rest of our family, except Uncle Guido.  I never felt an emotional connection to the traditions and teachings.  I went to Anna’s church last week Saturday and I felt so connected to the people and was so moved by the sermon that I was sorry when it was over.  I felt this hunger to know more.”

“You went to a Seventh-day Adventist Church?” Carmela demanded, incensed.  “How dare you go there without my permission?”

“Would you have let me go if I asked you?”

“No! And for good reason.  Maria, they teach all sorts of negative things about our church such as the Papacy is the Anti-Christ and that the church is the whore of Babylon mentioned in the book of Revelation.  They claim to be God’s remnant church because they keep the Ten commandments which were nailed to the cross and because of some woman named Ellen G. White whom they say is a prophetess.”

“Mama, I really want to go to Anna’s church this Saturday.  The youth are doing the worship service and afterwards there’s a lunch and–”

Carmela’s mouth tightened.  “Forget it.  You’re not going.”

“But, Mama–”

“You heard me.  Now finish taking up your dirty laundry and put it in the washer.  When you’re finished have your dinner.  It’s in the oven.”  She turned and walked out of the room, livid.  “Ragazza sciocca. Tornando indietro alla sua fede. Beh, non ce l’ho. Non finché vivi qui.”

Maria didn’t go to church on the Sabbath but she watched the service on line the next day while her mother was at Sunday Mass.  She did that every Sunday and when she turned 18, she decided that she wanted to be baptized and be a member of Anna’s church.  When she broke the news to her mother, she yelled, “Se ci riesci, voglio buttarti fuori da questa casa” before she stormed out of the apartment.

After she left, Maria went to her room and knelt beside her bed and prayed.

Carmela took the bus to the cemetery and she hurried towards Guiseppe’s grave, tears of anger streaming down her face.  When she got there, she knelt down.  “Oh, Guiseppe, your daughter will be the death of me.  Do you know what she is planning to do?  She’s going to get baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church, of all the churches.  I warned her that if she goes through with it, I will throw her out on the streets.  I don’t know what else to do.  Guiseppe, what do I do?  How could I let her turn her back on our faith?  No one in our family is a Protestant.  Per favore, caro mio, dimmi cosa devo fare.”

She waited for a reply, her hands clasped tightly in front of her and her eyes squeezed shut.  There was silence and then she heard a male voice ask, “Why do you seek the dead on behalf of the living?”

Her eyes flew up and she looked wildly about her but she was alone.  No one else was there.  Trembling, she asked, “Whose voice did I just hear? Was it the Lord’s or an angel’s?”

“It is I, Jesus.  Maria has chosen a good thing which will not be taken away from her.”

“What should I do, Lord?”

“Do not cast her out.”

Carmela made the sign of the cross and stood up.  She went away, her heart racing and the words of the Lord running through her mind.  When she got home, she called Maria.  “I’m sorry about earlier,” she said.  “If you’re serious about getting baptized and joining Anna’s church, I’m not going to stop you or kick you out but I won’t be there.”  And she walked past her and went to her room, closing the door quietly behind her.

Maria raised her eyes heavenward and gave thanks.  A couple weeks later she was baptized and Anna’s parents invited her to their home to celebrate.  Maria became a member of the church and involved in the Youth Ministry.  She even taught Sabbath School sometimes.  She became a literature evangelist and handed out tracts.  She became a vegetarian much to her mother’s chagrin but there was no opposition.  Maria cooked her own meals.

Carmela saw how happy her daughter was and she stopped lamenting about her leaving the Catholic church.  She continued to attend Sunday Mass.  One Sunday after Mass, she was talking to Father Ricci and she mentioned something about Eve.  One of her regular customers at the salon had lent her the movie, Genesis: The Creation and the Flood which she watched on Saturday.

Father Esposito’s expression changed and he said, “Mrs. Romano, the story of Adam and Eve was not to be taken literally.  It was merely a story in the Bible and should not be taken as fact.”

She stared at him, stunned but didn’t get into any further discussion with him.  “Thank you, Father,” she said.  “Good-day.”  She turned and hurried away, her mind reeling from shock.  She went home and opened her Bible to Chapter Three of the Gospel of Luke where the the Genealogy of Jesus was.  There was Adam’s name and he was called the son of God.  How then, could Father Esposito claim that Adam was not a real person?  And Jesus Himself alluded to both Adam and Eve when He said, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.”

She closed the Bible and sank heavily down on the sofa.  Why would Father Esposito claim that the story of creation was just a story?  What else in the Bible should not be taken as fact?  She went into the den and logged on to the computer.  She did several searches until she came across a site called, Steps to Life and a book called, Is the Virgin Mary Dead or Alive by Danny Vierra.  At first, she didn’t want to read it but she felt strongly impressed to.

She read the first chapter and her heart lurched when she read the part about the priest who taught his religion class telling him the same thing Father Esposito told her about the story of Adam and Eve.  Heart racing, she continued reading.  She read a few chapters that evening and every evening until she was finished reading the entire book.  Afterwards, she did the online Bible Studies by Marshall Grosboll

By the time she was done with the Bible Studies, she knew that she had a choice to make.  She could remain in the church that she had been born and raised in or she could leave.  As she prayed earnestly about it,  the words, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” came to her.  She had discovered God’s truth and she had to embrace it.

She told Maria everything and her daughter was thrilled.  Together they went to Anna’s church and one Saturday, Maria watched with tears in her eyes as her mother gave her life to Christ.  The following month, on Carmela’s 45th birthday, she was baptized.

Carmela thanked Jesus for talking to her that day in the cemetery and her customer for lending her the movie about Genesis.  Those two events changed her life.  And she was proud of Maria for choosing that “good thing”.

The way to God’s truth is always there.  Some find it sooner and some later.  The important thing is to find it.  And when you do, it will set you free.

Sources:  Our Catholic Prayers; Town and Country; Catholic News Herald;

Janco’s Story (Part One)

kult_model_Geoffrey_Camus_209680I’m a Literature Evangelist and youth leader in my church.  I’m on fire for the Lord so I leave tracts on buses, trains, taxis, the waiting rooms of doctors, dentists, on sidewalks, streets–yes, I drop them as I walk.  Sometimes I would stand on the sidewalk and hand them out to people as they walk by.

Just recently, I left a couple of tracts in the changing rooms of a few department stores.  I’ve left tracts on the table before leaving a restaurant and in public washrooms, believe it or not.  Every opportunity I get, I make sure I leave or hand out a tract.  I take being a Literature Evangelist very seriously because eight years ago, someone left a tract on the a park bench which turned my life around.  You see, I was heading in the wrong direction.

Eight years ago I was 17 and living with my mother.  My father was a deadbeat who abandoned us when I was seven.  I haven’t seen or heard from him since he left.  My older brother, Jacquan was arrested and convicted of dealing drugs.  He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  My mother was an alcoholic.  She had fallen on and off the wagon since she first started drinking after my father left.  I was going to school and working at the same time. It was tough.  I had no life.  I couldn’t hang out with my friends because after school, I had to show up for my job at the grocery store close to school.   I did different things such as bagging groceries, stocking shelves and working the cash register.  I worked for six hours and by the time I got home it was almost nine-thirty.

I was tired but I had either had to do my homework, work on a paper or study for an exam.  I had to fix myself something to eat because my mother was passed out on the couch.  An empty bottle of Vodka lay on the carpet.  The room reeked of alcohol so I opened the windows to let some fresh air in.  I took up the bottle and cleaned up the room before I had something to eat.  Then, I took a quick shower, went to my room and spent two hours doing my school work.  After I was done, I went back to the living-room to check on my mother.  She was still passed out.  So, I got a blanket and spread it over her, turned out the light and went to bed.

That was my life.  I was tired of my mother being drunk and having to clean up after her.  It was like I was the parent and she was the child.  I was the one who cleaned the house on the weekend, went to pick up groceries, did the laundry and the cooking.  By the time I was done, I was too wiped out to go anywhere.  And when I did, my buddies complained because I didn’t want to do much.  If we went bowling, I would sit it out or if we went to the mall, I would find a place to chill because I was too beat to walk aimlessly about the place.  I dated a few times but whenever the girl found out that my brother was in prison they would act all weird and I wouldn’t hear from them again.  So, my social and love lives were suffering because of my dysfunctional family.  I started to get angry and resentful.  Sometimes, I found myself wishing I could just get up and leave but I couldn’t do that to my mother.  She needed me.  So, I stuck it out.

My mother was sober on the day I graduated from high-school.  She threw a party and invited family and friends over to celebrate.  Later that night, she got wasted and while she was passed out on the couch, I cleaned up the place.  After I was done, I went for a long walk, trying to figure out what to do with my life.  I wanted so badly to run away.  I was tired of dealing with my mother and her drinking problem.  I had tried many times to get her to go for help but she always promised that she would stop.

I walked and walked until I got tired of walking.  I went to the park which was nearby and found a bench under the light post and sat down.  I sat there for a while, my mind spinning.  The resentment for my mother and the bitterness toward my father filled my throat like bile.  Dark thoughts filled my mind.  I wanted to lash out at them because they had ruined my life with their selfishness and self-destructive ways.  At that moment, I wanted run away and leave my mother to drink herself to death.  Yes, I thought, why should I continue taking care of a drunk?  I was young.  I had my own life to live.  Why shouldn’t I go somewhere else and start a new life.  I decided right then and there that I would pack up and leave this wretched place.

I started to get up when my eyes fell on something beside me.  It looked like a pamphlet.  I picked it up and looked at it.  It was titled, Talking With God.  I was interested in reading it.  I knew about God but I didn’t know Him.  My parents were never religious.  I was always curious about religion but never pursued it.  I got up from the bench and went home.   I went straight to my room and lay down on my bed to read the tract.  I just ate it up and I wanted more.  I got down on my knees that night and prayed to a God I didn’t know but wanted desperately to know more about.

The next day, I showed my Christian friend, Gidea the tract and he recognized it.  “That’s one of the GLOW tracts,” he told me.  “I can get you the rest of the tracts if you want.”

My eyes brightened.  “Please get them for me.”

He smiled and promised that he would.  A few days later, before we went to our classes, he gave the tracts to me.  I put them in my knapsack, anxious to read them that night after I got home from work.  “Thanks, Man.  I really appreciate this.”

He clapped me on the back.  “No problem, Bro.”

I finished reading the tracts in a few days.  When I saw Gidea again I asked him if I could go to his church.  He was delighted and I went on Saturday.  The people from his church were so warm and welcoming.  I couldn’t wait to go back the following Saturday.  I met the pastor and his wife and I was given Bible Study guides which I devoured.  I got baptized a couple months later.   Unfortunately, my mother was too drunk to be there.

I first learned about Literature Evangelism from Amiri, another church member and I told him that I was interested in handing out literature.  And he helped to make that possible and I’m indebted to him.  When my mother was sober, I gave her the Breaking Addictions and Steps to Health tracts to read.  I invited her to come to church when the guest speaker was a former alcoholic.  She came and afterwards she spoke to the speaker who prayed for her and gave her the name of a social worker at a Drug and Alcohol Rehab center in Cape Town.  After some persuasion, I convinced my mother to check it out.  I went with her and a week later, she moved into the guest house.  I visited her every weekend and she’s doing well.  She looked so much better.  It was strange and good seeing her sober all the time.

I know she has been reading the tracts I left with her and the Bible.  I can see the changes.  I encouraged her to pray and I prayed with her.  I can see God working in her life and transforming her.  And she started going to church every week and it was the greatest moment in my life when she was baptized.

I’m still living at home.  I got rid of all the alcohol.  In my spare time, I do things around the house such as repainting the walls, polishing the furniture and making repairs.  I want my mother to come back to a nicely fixed up home.

The last time I visited her she asked me if I had visited Jacquan in prison as yet.  When I said no, she urged me to, saying, “God loves him too.”  That got me.  I needed to humble myself, swallow my pride and go see my brother.  The following Sunday morning, I went to see him.  He looked terrible and he hardly said much.  I told him about Mama.  “That’s good she got help,” he said.  A pause then, “No word from Dad yet?”

I shook my head.  “I don’t expect to hear from him again.  How are you doing?”

He shrugged.  “Surviving.  How come you’re here?”

“Mama encouraged me to visit you.  She reminded me that God loves you too.”

He looked surprised.  “God?  Don’t tell me that Mama has gone all religious.  How did that happen?”

I told him and showed him the tracts.  “I will leave these with you.  It’s up to you if you want to read them.  I hope that you do.  Do you mind if I prayed for you?”

H shrugged.  “Suit yourself.”

I prayed with him and promised that I would visit again soon.  I saw him take up the tracts before he got up and left.  I left the prison hoping and praying that he would read them.

I was standing on the sidewalk one day handing out tracts when I saw Nata, a girl who attended the same high-school I did.  She was in grade 8 when I was in grade 12.  Just recently, I found out that after she graduated, she run away from home.  Gidea told me that he saw her on the streets.  african-girl-portrait-scarf_iphone_750x1334

She saw me and smiled.  I watched as she approached me.  “Hi,” she said when she reached me.  “What’s that you’re handing out?”

“Gospel tracts.  Would you like one?”

She shrugged.  “Sure.”

I handed her the one about Connecting With God.  She took it.  I hope she reads it.  “How are you doing, Nata?” I asked.

“Surviving,” she replied.  “I hate to ask you this but could you give me some money?  Someone the money in my bag while I was sleeping.”

“When and where did this happen?”

She hesitated.  “Last night on the street.”

“Are you living on the streets?”

She nodded.  “I have been since I left home.  Things got so bad at home that I had to leave.”

“Nata, do you know how dangerous it is for a girl to be living on the streets?  So far you’ve only been robbed but something worse can happen.  You can’t stay on the streets.  Isn’t there a relative you can stay with?”

She shook her head.  “No.  My relatives have their own problems.  They wouldn’t want me around.  What about you?  Can I stay with you until I can find a job?”

“I’m sorry but that wouldn’t be possible.  I’m a Christian and it wouldn’t look good for me to have a girl I’m not married to living with me.”

“All right.  Do you have money you can lend me?  When I get a job I will pay you back.”

“I have a better idea.  There’s this house for street children.  I know the woman who runs it.  She goes to my church.  I can take you there and she will help you.  You can stay there until you decide to return home or find a place.  While there you can continue going to school.”

She considered it for a moment.  “My parents wouldn’t find out that I’m there?”

I shook my head.  “No.  Not unless you want them to.”

“All right.  I will go to this place but if I don’t like it, I’ll leave.”

“Fair enough.  I will take you there right now.”  I stuffed the tracts in my satchel bag and we headed for the bus stop.  In half-hour we were walking into the shelter.  I introduced her to Amahle, the church member I told her about and waited until everything was sorted out.  “Thanks, Amahle.  Take care, Nata.”

She stared up at me.  “You will check up on me, right?”

“I will.  And don’t worry, you will be well taken care of here.”

The anxious expression on her face faded.  “Thanks for the tract.  I promise I will read it.”

“Good.  The next time I come, I will bring more.  I’ll see you soon.”

She didn’t answer.  I could feel her eyes on me as I turned and walked away.  I knew I had done the right thing bringing her here.

Sources:  Ixande; SA News; Kindernothilfe;

Mia’s Story

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Ours isn’t your typical love story.  I was a victim of human sex trafficking and he’s an FBI agent.  My name is Mia and I’m 28 years old.  I was 18 when I ran away from home.  I was having problems with my mother who always made me feel like I was no good and that she was sorry that she had me.  And my father who was hardly around and when he was, he fought with my mother and ignored me.

Life at home was hell and sometimes I just wished it was a nightmare and that I would wake up in a different house and with different parents–people who loved and cared about me.  It got to the point that I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would kill myself.  One night after my parents had gone to bed, I grabbed my knapsack and sneaked out of the house.  I had some money which I took from my mother’s purse and my father’s wallet.  I didn’t have time to count the amount but it looked like it would last me for a while.

It lasted for a couple of weeks and then I was broke.  I had no idea of what to do.  I had no where to go.  I refused to go back home.  I called other family members but they hung up when they knew that it was me.  I was too ashamed to call my friends.  So, I decided that may be I should find a job at McDonald’s or some other fast food place.  It was better than staying on the streets or going to a homeless shelter.

I stood there trying to figure out where the nearest MacDonald’s was when a really cute guy came up to me.  He had the most incredible blue eyes and an amazing smile.  “Hi,” he said.  “Are you lost?”

“I’m trying to find a McDonald’s,” I explained.  “I’m looking for a job.”

“I see.  It just so happens that I work at a restaurant just around the corner and the manager is looking to hire a cashier.  Are you interested?”

My expression brightened.  “Of course!  I’ve worked as a cashier before.”

“Good.  I’m heading there now so I can introduce you to the manager.”

“Okay.”

“What’s your name?”

“Mia.”

“I’m Joe.”  He held out his hand.

She smiled and shook it.  “Nice to meet you, Joe.”

We headed in the direction of the Space Needle.  I promised myself that one day I would visit it.  As we walked we talked.  He was so charming and easygoing.  I found myself hoping that he didn’t have a girlfriend.  About ten minutes later, we stopped in front of a restaurant.  It was packed.  He pushed the door open for me to enter.  The smell of fried food assailed me and reminded me that I was hungry.

As if he read my mind, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

I nodded.  “I haven’t eaten all day.”

He took me by the elbow and led me down a long corridor and into a room.  “Sit here while I go and get something for you to eat.”

I sat down, grateful for his kindness and to be able to sit down after being on my feet for so long.  Fading light streamed through the windows.  The sun would be setting soon.  I hoped that Joe was right about his manager and that he would hire me.  It would be so cool working there with Joe.  I was feeling a little hot so I removed my jacket.  I pulled my hair back into a ponytail.  I was about to get up and walk over to the window and look out when Joe came in carrying a tray with a burger, fries and a soft drink.  He set them down on the table.  My mouth was watering.  “Thanks, Joe.”

He smiled.  “No problem.  When you’re finished just come to the front where the cashier is and I’ll be there.”

“Thanks.”  I waited until he left before I wolfed down the burger and fries.  They were sooo good.  I drank the Ginger-ale.  It was nice and cold.  I was half-way through it when I started to feel dizzy.  The room started to spin and I squeezed my eyes shut.  When I opened them again, I was in another room and there was a strange man standing over me.  Was this the manager?  Had I passed out or something?  Did I eat too fast?  All sorts of questions whirled around in my mind.  My head was pounding but at least the room wasn’t spinning and the dizziness was gone.  I tried to sit up but the man pushed me down.  Panicking, I cried out but he put something over my nose and mouth and everything went black.res

When I regained consciousness I was alone and I realized that I was lying on a bed.  I managed to sit up and I screamed when I saw that I was wearing red lingerie.  How did I end up here?  Who removed my clothes?  Where are my clothes?  I looked wildly about the room for my clothes.  I tried to get out of the bed but the door opened and Joe came in.  He grabbed me and tried to force me to lie back down.  I struggled wildly and he struck me.  I was so shocked that I fell back against the pillows.  Joe looked like a different person.  His eyes were cold and his expression impassive.  “You’re not going anywhere,” he muttered.  “You’re going to be here for a long time.”

“Where am I?” I asked, tears streaming down my face.  “Who are you and why are you doing this to me?”

“I don’t have time to answer your questions.”

“What is this place?  Why have you brought me here?”

“You wanted a job, remember?  Well, here you are.”

I struggled to get up.  “You told me that it was a cashier’s job at your restaurant.”

“You’re far too pretty to be a cashier.  You will make more money on your back.”

Then, it hit me.  He was forcing me into prostitution.  I felt sick.  I clawed at him until he clamped his hand over my nose and mouth.  Everything went black again.  I don’t know how long I was out but when I came to, I heard Joe say to someone, “She’s all yours.  I broke her in for you and she’s nicely cleaned up.  Remember to wear a rubber.  We practice safe sex here.  She’s no use to me if she gets pregnant and I’m not to spend my hard earned money on an abortion.”

I heard the door open and close.  Then silence.  I opened my eyes and I saw a man leaning over me.  I felt his hot breath on my face.  I struggled to get up but I couldn’t move.  Then, I realize that he was on top of me.  I pushed at him but it was no use.  I lay there helpless while he raped me.

When it was over, he got off me and I heard him moving about the room as he got dressed.  Then, I heard the door open and close.  I lay there for a long time, too terrified to move or make a sound.  Then, I pushed myself up and got up from the bed.  I put on the lingerie bottom which was lying on the floor and stumbled towards the closed door.  It was a washroom.  I felt for the switch and flicked it on.  I went over to the mirror and stared at my reflection.  I didn’t recognize myself.  My eyes were puffy, my jaw was bruised from where Joe struck me and my left shoulder had a bruise as well.  I turned on the tap and splashed water on my face.  I had to get out of there.  I went to the window and opened it.  I pushed my head out.  Outside was a fire escape.  I raised the window higher and climbed onto the ledge.  I reached out and pulled myself onto the fire escape.  I made my way down to the street below and ran as fast as I could.

When I was as far away from that place as possible, I flagged a cab down and when it stopped, I begged the driver to take me to the nearest hospital.  When I got there I went straight to Emergency and told the triage person what happened to me.  I was ushered into a room where I was told to wait.  Minutes later a nurse came in and asked me “Did anyone you worked for or lived with trick or force you into doing anything you did not want to do?” and other questions.  Then, she left and returned.  She asked me to get undressed so that I could be examined and left.  After the examination, I was given a gown.  I sat at the edge of the bed and waited.

The nurse who examined me came in and told me that I was a victim of sex trafficking.  There was evidence of forced penetration and bruising on my wrists as if I were restrained.  She asked if there was anyone I needed to call or somewhere to stay.  I shook my head.  I was in a daze.  I still couldn’t believe what had happened to me.  I had fallen for a pair of blue eyes and a charming smile.  The nurse told me that the hospital would help me with housing, transportation and any necessities I may need.  That was a real load off my shoulders.  I spent the night in the hospital.  I had trouble falling asleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw either Joe’s or that strange man’s face.  And I was afraid that I would wake up and find myself back in that room.

The next day, I was visited by two FBI agents who wanted to question me.  One was an older man with sandy colored hair, sharp eyes and a portly gait.  The other was tall, dark and very handsome.  The older one asked most of the questions and was very quick and direct.  Then, the other one said, “You were lucky to get out of there alive.  You did the right thing coming here.”

“I hope you catch Joe,” I said.  “I wish I knew the other man’s name.”

“It would be very helpful if you can give their descriptions to our artist,” he replied.

“I can,” I assured them tightly.  “I will never forget their faces.”

“Thank you, Miss Bautista,” the older one said.  “We will be in touch.  Good-day.”  He left the room.

The other one lingered for a moment.  “Good-day, Miss Bautista.”

“Good-day, Agent Fowler.”  I watched him leave.

I left the hospital that afternoon and was placed in Catalyst at Straley House where I can stay for 18 months while I work with my case manager to get connected to school and employment, and transition into permanent housing.   It turned out to be a really nice place.  I met a lot of great people.  My case manager, Rita was a tremendous help and support for me.  Before leaving home, I had graduated from high-school with honors but I hadn’t applied to any university.  After my ordeal in Seattle, I decided that I would move to another city in Washington.  I googled the best cities there and chose Spokane.  I applied to Gonzaga University and was accepted.

Before I left to go to live on campus, I received a visit from Agent Fowler who informed me that thanks to my descriptions Joe Cartwright and his cohorts were arrested.   The man who raped me was a prominent businessman who was a regular client.  Joe was a pimp and his victims included under-aged girls.  It turned out that Mr. Murphy had no clue about Joe’s nefarious business dealings.  Joe had used Mr. Murphy’s job posting to gain my trust.  I was very grateful to Agents Fowler and Benson for investigating and catching those monsters.  I hope that they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.  I told Agent Fowler that I was moving to Spokane.  He smiled and shook my hand.  “I wish you all the best, Miss Bautista.”

As I watched him leave, I found myself hoping that I would see him again.  Years later, I did.  I had graduated from Gonzaga University and was working as a Youth Program Assistant which I loved.  I was on my way to lunch when I saw someone walking in front of me.  From the back he looked very familiar and then I realized who it was.  I quickened my pace until I was right behind him and I called out, “Agent Fowler.”

He stopped and turned to face me.  I could see that he recognized me.  Smiling, he held out his hand.  “Miss Bautista.  It’s good to see you.”

“I didn’t think I would run into you.  What are you doing in Spokane?”

“I’m here for my nephew’s wedding which is tomorrow.”

“Did you fly or drive?”

“I flew.  I didn’t feel like spending over four hours behind the wheel. Are you heading somewhere?”

“I was on my way to lunch.”

“Do you mind if I tag along?”

“I could do with the company.  There’s a bistro right up the road.  They serve the best comfort food.”

“Sounds good.”

We walked to the bistro.  Over local beef and regional fresh fish, we talked.  When it was time for me to head back to the office, he came with me.  As we stood outside the building, he asked me to have dinner with him.  I gladly accepted.  After that first dinner, we made arrangements to see each other again.  He spent the week in Spokane before he flew back.  We had a long distance relationship and saw each other in the summer, at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  Then, one day when we were Riverfront Park, he told me that he was moving to the FBI office in Spokane.

I stared up at him.  “Why?” I asked.  I was thrilled, of course but taken aback.

He reached for my hands, his expression serious as his eyes met mine.  “I want to be where you are, Mia,” he said quietly.

I swallowed hard, my heart was racing now.  “Why?”

“Simple, I love you.”

“I love you too, Nathan.  And I’m happy that you’re moving to Spokane.”

He leaned over and kissed me.  I felt my head explode.  We drew apart several minutes later and holding hands, we continued our walk.  The following spring, he moved to Spokane and following a very short engagement, we got married in September.  The attendees were Rita, my case manager, my friends from Catalyst, my co-workers and his FBI friends and family.  My parents weren’t there because I didn’t invite them.  They are a painful part of my past which I want to forget.

Ten years have passed since my ordeal and what thing that I have learned from it is that “Our pain can be turned into purpose”  This March, I started a support group for former sex and human trafficking victims.

While Mia’s story is fiction, it is real for many.  Trafficking of any kind is an evil that must be wiped out and those responsible for it must be brought to justice.  Check out this video for a grim glimpse into the world of child sex trafficking and what is being done to save victims.

Here is a list of non-profit organizations fighting against Human Trafficking:

Let’s work together to stop trafficking and exploitation.  Let’s fight for freedom.

Sources:  FBI Video; Nurse.com; Nurse.org; FBI; YouthCare; Yelp