By Valerie Bellamy, Director of Cemetery Outreach

I’ve been thinking a lot about shelters. What is takes to build them and what it means to be one. I’ve got much more to learn about both of these.

We chased down a girl stolen from her home, brought here and handed out to men in a jungle brothel.

I’ve sat cross-legged across from a mother begging me to take her trafficked 13-year-old daughter to a shelter. We don’t currently have an aftercare shelter where geography and religion will permit her to stay.

I’ve wrapped my arms around a girl I watched grow up, now being traded and used.

I live in Australia’s most sought out destination for child sex tourism. It’s as dark as it is beautiful here, and it is very beautiful.

We’ve been invited to build shelters here, but what if we all became shelter everywhere we are?

Maybe she wouldn’t need an aftercare shelter now if she’d had a safe place to run to then… a neighbor, a teacher, a friend, someone paying attention, someone willing to stop and listen,  and maybe even to stand in the way.

I know it’s complicated, especially here. Poverty and desperation fuel measures unimaginable in context of our western realities. Here, the math almost adds up to sell one child to feed three others starving at home.

We are raising money, working with police, searching out buildings and saying our prayers, but sometimes it doesn’t takes much to be the answer to some else’s.

Sometimes providing shelter means simply showing up.

We launched a sponsorship program to help care for the most beautiful and talented kids on the planet, they also are among the most vulnerable. They live in a red light district where darkness preys on the innocent as a way of life. In addition to the education and practical care sponsorship provides, it seems the traffickers in the community are increasingly aware of which kids have a “sponsor parent” because that connection could complicate their ugly agenda. It seems knowing she is not alone, can be reason enough for them to leave her alone. Sponsorship is shelter.

Opening the doors of a new shelter will give hope to hundreds, but it’s the wide open arms of God that heal world.

Because I live here, I get to see her. She is the inspiration and reason why we came. We came to build a shelter so she can heal. She is waiting yet already on her way.

I saw her this weekend, with her arms raised high and tears splashing onto her sandals. And I could see in her eyes and hear in her song she is figuring out where to run.

Not into a place.

Shelter is a person.

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

Made Known

Knock, knock, knock. The innkeeper opens the door. With a downcast face and a shake of his head he answers the desperate plea of the young couple. “Sorry, there is no room.” This mythical exchange is so entwined with the telling of our Savior’s birth; we hardly realize that the innkeeper does not appear in scripture. A few years ago, he joined the Mercer’s nativity collection. The set that includes him has become my favorite. Something quickens in my heart every time I unwrap him. My attention is drawn to his earnest face as he curiously raises a lamp in the air.

Scripture records that Mary and Joseph were indeed travelers, and that they journeyed to Bethlehem. Jesus was most definitely born while they were away from home. There was no guest room available, so he was placed in a manger. His earthly parents were young, poor, without shelter, and with a most immediate need. Nothing in 2,000 years of re-telling this story is new. However, the innkeeper has recently given me new perspective. Presumption makes room for his story. The story of the innkeeper invites us to insert ourselves into God’s story. 

We are never more a part of God’s story than when we answer the knock of the desperate. When we make room for the poor, and invest in the lives of the young and vulnerable, we enter into a holy exchange. The innkeeper offered the best he had, even if the best he had was a stable and straw. In doing so, he ushered in the divine prophecy. Incarnation. God made flesh. Immanuel. God with us. 

We heard the knock of a desperate community in East Java. Not unlike the humble and lowly manger, we have seen God transform acres of tombstones into a divinely beautiful place. This Christmas, we reflect on Jesus’ birth. God’s desire to be made known to all people led up to this moment, when He entered our broken world to bring light to the darkness.

Please consider making a year-end contribution that brings life and hope to families that we have come to know and deeply love. 

For the Sake of Others,

Mike Mercer
President and Founder of Compassion First

Love is at Work

It never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.
— 1 Corinthians 13:7 (GW)

Love. It greets her at the door.

She enters Sarah’s House defeated by insecurities which are often masked by a forced smile, a strife for extreme perfection or rages of anger. 

She comes in feeling like a stranger. She thinks her past, her struggles, her hurts are things that no one can relate to, and certainly not accept.

She walks through the front gate burdened by the power of lies. 

“I’m not pretty enough.”

“I’m not good enough.” 

“I’ll never achieve anything, so why even try?”

But love is at work.

It acknowledges her insecurities and even celebrates her flaws. 

Overtime her fits of anger or conservative mannerisms are transformed into music, sounds of guitars and keyboards. She is taking risks, dominating in dance battles and proudly singing off pitch to her favorite songs. Love brings health. Love brings life. Love turns perceived inadequacies into something beautiful.

She is no longer a stranger but embraced as a sister. Her background is different and her story unique, but the bonds formed here make Sarah’s House a home and new faces, family. 

Robbed of years of schooling, she is not only catching up, but enrolling in college and anticipates a bright future. She is chasing dreams and setting expectations of herself. This is because love says, “I know you have fallen a billion times but get up and keep going because I KNOW you can do it.” Love believes in her long before she believes herself. It never stops cheering.

Love has no agenda.

It knows no bounds. 

It is less concerned about yesterday than it is excited at possibilities of today.

Love shows up when it is hard or when it’s weary, but it ALWAYS shows up. 

It’s every day and it changes everything.

Love never fails. 

Written by Compassion First Field Coordinator at Sarah's House