Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Sister Not Forgotten

“Do you accept siblings?” Mikaela only had one question as her hopeful eyes looked up at me at the end of our referral interview. At 15 years old, Mikaela was referred to Safe through the Philippine department of social welfare. As we talked and I began to get a grasp on her story, it became clear that Mikaela was very concerned about her 11 year old sister, Maggie.  When Mikaela was 13, teachers saw signs of abuse and an investigation showed that Mikaela had been a victim of sexual violence and neglect for 8 years. They removed her from the home and placed her in an orphanage but left eight year old Maggie in the home where the abuse had occurred. For two years they were separated; Mikaela cried every night, tormented that she had ‘abandoned’ her sister.

 

During that time, Mikaela was molested again by an orphanage staff member. A social worker with a heart for sexually abused girls knew Mikaela needed to be protected and referred her to Safe Refuge. Through all of this, Maggie remained Mikaela’s number one priority. She didn’t want her younger sister to experience the pain, fear and abuse that had stolen her own childhood. Mikaela wanted to be in a place where she could go through the healing process and feel secure but she knew that could never happen if she was unable to protect her sister when her life was at great risk.

 

When I asked, “Would you like your sister to be with you? Would you feel at peace if she stays with you?” tears filled her eyes as she slowly nodded. She let out a deep breath and it was as if she was releasing a load that had been much too heavy for her young shoulders. The sad and disturbing truth is that her worries and fears are all valid.  I can’t count the number of times we’ve heard stories from those who have been victims of molestation, sexual abuse and exploitation with siblings who also become easy prey for the abuser. This is especially true in cases like Mikaela’s where the abusers were family members. More often than not, statistics show that these siblings are likely to end up working in the bars prostituting themselves or being pimped out by their abusers. The vast majority of girls we’ve talked to who currently or used to work in bars were first abused in their homes.

 

Our social worker and the referring party worked together tirelessly to get custody of Maggie and a few days after Mikaela came to live with us she was reunited with her sister. They’re now living together at Safe as they begin the journey of healing and rebuilding. For the first time in their lives these precious little girls are being protected and watched over, for the first time in their lives they get to be children.

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A Precious Gift

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When Safe Refuge opened it’s doors in 2007, it was birthed out of relationships, friendships, kingdom of God heart connections.  Most of those people and precious lives are not going to be able to be with me (Naomi) on my wedding day. But in heart and spirit we stay connected and grateful for how our God unites our lives and makes the world smaller even through youtube and facebook and live web streaming!

It would really mean so much to me to have Red and Ara be a part of this eternally significant day. We have walked through so much together, life and death, ugly and beautiful and this is another important milestone. For Red and Ara to represent Safe Refuge Family, and a beautiful aspect of my journey, would be a precious wedding day gift.

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Naomi with Ara (Safe Refuge National Director) and Red (Co-Founder of Safe Refuge)

If you can be a part of making this possible it would mean so much!

Please donate through this link and we will make sure it goes towards tickets! We have been watching them and right now it would cost 2500 for both of them to come round trip! Tickets are down and we know God is God of the impossible, so we want to at least try to do our part and ask!!

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”                                            Helen Keller

Thank you SO much every little gift will help!!

Donate Here

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News from Naomi…

Many of my friends have been asking me for more details since I started posting pictures with a mystery man and later announced our engagement. I haven’t really ever been one to give a play by play of my life (it’s not that interesting) especially on Facebook, so I just let my words be few.

But now I feel like it’s time to share more and so I shall try!

For a really long time, my heart cry has been “God help me write my life well!”  When I was 17 I wrote in my journal under “Desires of my Heart”:

“I want to fulfill all the purposes God has for my existence. To go everywhere He asks me to go and nowhere that He doesn’t take me.”

I also wrote that I wanted to be a nurse and a missionary as well as a wife and mother, if that was what God had for me.

In some ways it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was 17 writing those words. In other ways it seems like a hundred lifetimes ago. If I knew the things then that I know now… If I had a clue how long my season of singleness would be, would I have made the same decisions with such confidence? I can’t say for sure but I am glad that God didn’t tell me all that lay ahead, but He always let me know exactly what I needed for that day’s journey!

I had no idea when I wrote out the desires of my heart that I would also be a midwife and that delivering babies would bring such incredible joy to my life! God has given me more than I knew to desire, and He’s given me the desires that have lead me to the most purpose and fulfillment. In the 12 years that I have spent in full time ministry, I have trusted God through all the seasons. I KNOW that I KNOW that He knows my heart better than I do and He faithfully always gives good gifts.

Andrew is one such good gift. We met last year at my home church in Vero Beach, FL. God has done much in writing my story in that particular church building. It’s just a building but it’s a place I have encountered my God time and again, felt His presence, heard His call and tasted His goodness. So it was there that God connected our paths and shortly thereafter He connected our hearts.

Words definitely fail me in trying to describe my heart’s journey since God brought this tall Americano into my life. My mom likes to call him that because years ago in a Starbucks in Manila (YES there are Starbucks in Manila!) she was with me when the barista called out “Tall Americano for Naomi!” and I answered under my breath “I wish!” There were definitely days when I felt weary of being single but those days I fought hard to keep the main thing the main thing, and God enabled me to really not focus much on what I didn’t have or how alone I was but to be FULLY HIS and enjoy the adventure with him as my companion.

Andrew and I established a friendship and about a month later we went on our first date. The song that was on when we walked into the restaurant was “Brave” By Sara Bareilles. The funny thing is God was speaking to me through it. He wanted to see me be brave. He knew that it took more bravery for me to open up my heart to Andrew than it did for me to do many of the things that people might say were “brave”. I literally felt God’s presence just like He was sitting in the chair beside me and walking on my right side as Andrew and I walked the beach that night. Even though falling in love was new to me, so much of what was happening felt familiar. I have often felt God taking me somewhere unknown but He has always assured me that He is leading, so I follow.

Andy really makes me laugh and brings me joy in depths and ways I have never before experienced. I have been a nomad for all of my adult life and it has been difficult at times to not have a place on earth to call home. Andrew feels like home, and I am overwhelmed by this gift. The heart connection Andy and I have is an eternal one; God has made that very clear to both of us.

Andy has a degree in criminal justice and is a man of integrity with a protector’s heart and a passion for justice; he has walked with Jesus as long as he can remember.

In this beautiful spot on March 6th when I was still jet lagged and easy to catch off guard, Andrew got down on his knee and asked me to be his wife and I said “Yes!” without hesitation! Andy proposed at the exact same spot his father proposed to his mother 32 years ago.

Many of you have asked me if I will still be a missionary now that I am getting married. The answer to that is a resounding “YES!”.

In the 8 years since Safe Refuge was founded we have journeyed to a place where we currently have 50+ lives depending on us every day. It’s taken this long to get to where our national staff is 100% dependent on God and each other and not dependent on me in their day to day, except financially.
I am currently responsible to raise everything for all of our daily functions. So I have been given the opportunity to share with people all over the country about Safe Refuge and at the same time, challenge the future generation in universities, churches, and homes to hear the call of God and obey! It’s such an amazing adventure!
When I am in the U.S. I am still daily in contact with Safe Refuge staff. I get to see their faces and hear their voices over FaceTime.
So this is where we are right now, we will come and go from the Philippines as God directs, and I will continue on as the International Director for Safe Refuge. We are excited to see where God leads us next in our journey.

So I think that’s all for now folks! Thanks for being a part of my story, I definitely have the best friends on this planet, you are beautiful genuine people who make this world a better place and challenge me to be who God called me to be!

Blessings and love,
Naomi

 

On September 5th, 2015 we will start the next part of our journey together as we say our vows in the same place we met!

 

A Whirlwind Year

In just a few weeks we will be half way through 2015 and sadly updating Safe’s blog has fallen through the cracks!! But it’s never too late to try again so here’s a quick re-connect!

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January started with a passing of the torch and Ara Reyes became our new national director. She’s been a part of our team from the beginning and God clearly equipped her for such a time as this!

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In February we finally had a Safe Refuge staff retreat! It was long overdue but a beautiful refreshing time in the presence of God!

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March: Marked the end of the school year (June-March) and we celebrated the elementary graduation of 2 treasured beauties!

March marked the end of the school year (June-March) and we celebrated the elementary graduation of 2 treasured beauties!

April: Several Safe girls had the opportunity to serve on a summer missions trip to a remote tribal area. They were so excited to be on the great commission missions team!

April is summer time and several Safe girls had the opportunity to serve on a mission trip to a remote tribal area. They were so excited to be on the great commission missions team!

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Haidi Grace THRIVED loving on the little ones

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Cherie, May, Nica, and Bridgett all loved working with the kiddos and teaching them about Jesus with words and love!

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May: We have new residents at Safe and we are getting ready for the new school year! This year we have again increased in the number of our students! We will have eight girls in college, 4 in high school and possibly 12 in elementary and the alternative learning program!

Now it’s MAY! We have new residents at Safe and we are getting ready for the new school year! This year we have again increased in the number of our students! We will have eight girls in college, 4 in high school and possibly 12 in elementary and the alternative learning program!

The elementary school is right across the street from our house outside manila so everyone comes home for lunch!

The elementary school is right across the street from our house outside manila so everyone comes home for lunch!

 

Stay tuned for more updates very soon!!!

 

A Little Girl’s Doll..

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She used to have a doll; her name was  “Yellowbell.” 

 Growing up in an orphanage with no father, no mother, no brother, no sister. She belonged to no one and no one belonged to her,              except her yellow doll. 

 Her doll witnessed all her tears and loneliness, loss and sorrows. Yellowbell heard of her desires to feel belonging and to be a part of a family where love and acceptance are free.

 Her hopes were dashed, time and again. Once she even went home with a family but the father was brutally murdered in front of her.  

Even her only companion, Yellowbell, was taken away from her.

 Because of the constant abuse and deprivation this little girl suffered she wished to stop being a little girl and to become a full grown adult quickly where she could gain control and power over pain and hurt.

Some fragment of her mind decided to start thinking like an adult, to speak like an adult, to act like an adult.

She feels protected from people when she pretends.

She denies any raw feelings to cover up her vulnerability She puts on a happy face all the time but it’s not real, it keeps failing her.

 She still is a little child after all.

Scared. Confused. Questioning. Little child.

Deprived but wanted to be understood.

Abandoned still she wanted to be loved.

Robbed of her childhood but wanting to be a child.

A broken little girl.

 Her part of journey to healing at Safe Refuge is through                      play therapy.

She loves playing with her teddy bear she calls “Pinkbell”. 

She protects her like a mother would, feeds her as a sister would and talks to her like a friend would. She gives her baths and puts her to sleep. She reads her stories and prays with her. She makes sure that her Pinkbell will not starve and won’t feel alone and will be safe in her care.

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“I’M JUST ON MY OWN – I DON’T HAVE TO BE.”

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DELA:

Written By Ara Reyes

Staring at her bible for a while, I wondered if she was only trying to avoid my eyes so she wouldn’t have to share her bible reading from the book of Psalm. Little did I know, it was the opposite of what I thought. In reality she was so ready and just waiting for her turn to speak about her personal devotion that day.  We made eye contact and her beautiful face was lit up in a big smile, excitedly she said, “Dito sa Awit 40 verse 17… (Here in Psalm 40 verse 17…)” then she went on..

“As for me, since I am poor and needy, let the Lord keep me in his thoughts.

You are my helper and my savior. O my God, do not delay!”

She explained, in her simple words but sincere thoughts, that she was a person who was in desperate need before she came to Safe. Poor on a lot of levels, and God did something in the midst of that. She expressed how she felt when she suddenly realized that God thought about her so much in those times – her and her baby in her womb – that It was His hands who brought her into Safe Refuge Family. Teary-eyed she said, “… and even until now God is helping and providing for me and my son here at Safe. I believe now that He will not forsake us.

Dela’s life story is a classic example of a child who went through serious trauma at a very early age but never had a chance to process it. Intense fear, emotional pain, and abuse of every kind, shaped her beliefs as she was growing up and turned her into an adult who would rather be isolated, alone, and reserved on anything that has to do with relationships or family.                   She grew up teaching herself to be tough and a fighter in life. She built walls and created a hard shell around her heart. Stubbornness became her key to survival. She would hardly listen when you give her advice or instruction and would insist on whatever it was she knew to be “true”. Even hitting rock bottom barely budged her in receptivity or understanding; it just made her more bitter since “Rock Bottom” was a place she knew all too well.

She believed there was a God. She would even pray when she thought she had to lift up something for a blessing or a need but she thought that this God is so distant and indifferent. He would punish her if she did something wrong and would reward her if she did things right. But this God doesn’t really care about her as a person, as a woman or — as a child. Why would this God help her? Especially because she has done stupid things, He’s mad. He’s not going to help her. She will be on her own. She is on her own.

Her years of living and working in a factory in slave labor were the better years of her life.

Before that, her mother and sister were brutally murdered and she lived a lifetime of extreme poverty and neglect. At least in the factory she had a place to sleep, food to eat, and a pseudo sense of security.

It was totally unfamiliar and a foreign experience for her to have someone reach out and ask her how she was feeling, or how her day was going, or did she need anything?  She saw that as “non essential” and she believed that she didn’t deserve such attention. So her initial response to such care and love was always rejection and a stubborn attitude towards anyone who would lend a hand or try to help her. Little by little she has adjusted to life within a family who look out for, and take care of, one another. She sees that she isn’t the only one who went through incredibly tough life experiences. Hearing the stories of other girls and women has helped a lot for her to see, even a little bit, that something or Someone must really be with us in our suffering and pain. That she is not on her own – she doesn’t have to be. She has a family – that is us, Safe Refuge Family and God is her big loving Father in Heaven who placed all of us together for each other.

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Ara has served on staff with Safe Refuge since 2007. As a daughter of manila, a wife, mother, and passionate lover of Jesus; she pours out her life everyday. When Ara was a young girl she dreamed of being a journalist. Today Ara uses her gifts as a communicator, to love those who have never been loved, to see the broken healed and whole, and see the enslaved set free.

 

 

 

THE STORY: SAFE REFUGE YESTERDAY AND TODAY

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“Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” –B. Brown

In 2003, I (Naomi) began an awesome journey. I was 21 when I committed to spend a year in the Philippines serving at a charity birth center as a new RN and a student midwife. I had dreamed of being a medical missionary since I was 7 years old and I had no doubt I was created for this adventure.  No part of me really had a clue of what life was like for the poorest of the poor, and I definitely had no idea what it really was that God was calling me to live.

There have been many twists and turns on this journey for me since 2003, and it would take a million blog articles to tell the stories! I might go back some in the process of this blog, because God’s definitely been challenging me to share my experiences despite whether or not I feel like I can write, knowing what I am doing has never been a prerequisite. Rising to the challenges of the unknowns everyday is this great adventure of life no matter where we are in this world.

SO Safe Refuge’s story actually starts in 2007. After I lived and served in Manila for 3 years.  The women, girls, and babies dying from pregnancy and birth related complications are what God used to take me to the Philippines. It was the beautiful souls I met dying inside or already dead, the faces of human trafficking, women and children, unprotected and unloved, they are what God used to birth Safe Refuge.

Our original team was Naomi, Red, Ara and Edna. The words from the Hillsong’s song “All Things Are Possible” and the foundational verses challenged us to walk out into something none of us had any experience with or any idea really what we were doing! God has faithfully guided us through so many different seasons.  Now we have the manila base as well as a base outside of the city. We have Safe Refuge residents and we have a next step program we call Grace House.

We are growing steadily in every way, the needs, the staff, the territory.. So it’s past time for a blog to keep all of Safe’s current supporters updated and to make new friends!

This story is just beginning!

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