Shelter

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