Difficult story here, and I apologize for its graphic nature, but there is no other way to tell it.
This orphan stuff is hard, and easy answers almost always elude.
But, but, this isn’t our work; it’s God’s, and He is in the business of hard answers.
Susan and I first visited Brazil in the fall of 2007. Our first night there, we joined Philip and a group of girls and their houseparents for a pizza party at a local rodizio. The girls were used to American visitors, and all went out of their way to make us feel welcome, some even practicing their very limited English on us.
Except one girl.
It was obvious she didn’t quite fit in. She wanted to communicate, wanted to be like the rest of the girls, but she did not know how. We tried to give her a bit of special attention, eventually learning her name was Graziella, and she was 12 years old.
The next day, trying to get our arms—and minds—around this ministry called Hope Unlimited for Children, Susan and I spent some time with Adriana, a beautiful, vivacious social worker who has an evident and God-blessed passion for seeing transformation in the lives of street children. Adriana’s English was only marginally better than our Portuguese, so Philip mediated our conversation.
Curious about the previous night, we asked her to tell us Graziella’s story.
And she did. The juvenile authorities had brought Graziella to campus only a day or two before. She had never known her father; he was one of the exchangeable boyfriends who lived with her mother—a prostitute in one of the poorer favelas in Campinas. When Graziella was eleven, her dying mother was put in a government-run AIDS hospice, and Graziella’s 16-year-old sister was given her guardianship.
The first night, the first night, Graziella was raped by her sister’s lesbian gang.
Adriana continued speaking, but Philip stopped translating. He was not quite arguing with her, but it was clear he was somewhat incredulous, and wanted to get the story right. Her own sister… ? After a minute or so, he closed his eyes to compose himself, and then began to tell the story again.
After that first rape, her sister began selling Graziella on a nightly basis to men or women for group sex.
Horrified, Susan and I looked at Adriana. Tears stained her cheeks. I took a deep breath, “Adriana, what kind of chance does Graziella have? I know in the U.S. a child traumatized that severely would be institutionalized, probably damaged beyond recovery.”
Now it was Adriana’s turn to be horrified. We would give up on Graziella?
Adamantly, “Mas Deus.” But God . . .
Yes, Adriana, “But God . . .”
Part 2 next week.
In the meantime, this Valentine week is the perfect time to SPEAK LOVE to girls like Graziella. SEE how.