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.
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.