I had the privilege of meeting in Manila with the Director of Survivor Care for Love146 this week. Dr. Gundelina Velazco is an an astounding woman whose wisdom, compassion, and tenacity runs deep. She was tasked with the formation of Love146’s aftercare program, and she runs both the boys and girls homes in the Philippines. Her strategy of restoration, care and even prevention is remarkable. She believes in children being able to have a voice and believes we as adults have much to learn from the simplicity of a child. It reminds me of how Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those such as these” (Luke 18:16).
She took us to see the place where many of these children live and are sold every day. It is a grassy block-long plaza in the middle of the city where children live with their families and their belongings. Foreigners come each and every day to pay for a child, take them to the surrounding hotels, do unspeakable things for an hour, and then return them to their home. I recall that I had read a scholar at some point say that when Jesus called the children to him, it is likely that Jesus could have been specifically referring to street children, just like the ones who live at the plaza. And so I envision Jesus standing in the middle of that plaza, arms outstretched, and saying, Let THESE little children come to me. Do not hinder them.” And He reaches out with His strong arms and scoops them up and gives them rest from their weary lives.
This is what Love146 is doing for these children. They are the strong arms of Jesus who have gone to the plaza, called the children to them, and given them a safe place to rest from the horror and trauma that they have experienced. I was privileged to be able to visit this place. It is tucked back into a winding road surrounded by beautiful green tropics. The property is a child’s dream with a huge treehouse, a volleyball court, flowers, and even a farm. The home is a circle with an open garden in the center. But the best part is the beautiful faces of children dancing, singing and playing.
I was blessed to be able to spend some time with them and am astounded by their recoveries. The littlest who is 18 months old, is not there because she was a sibling. She is there because she had been sold as well. And the oldest, who had graduated, was there with her new child on a visit. She lives in a different city now, but loves to return. She is blind and was able to learn to read and write in Braille while at the home. She proudly holds her three month old child and never stops smiling. For some of them, recovery will continue for many years, but all of them have this time and place to rest and to be restored.
Rob Morris, founder and President of Love 146, will be speaking at Parkway Fellowship at all three services on December 11th. If you would like to learn more, come and hear him speak.