As I look at Ella watching the movie with her 3D goggles on, my heart is so filled. Her eyes are glued to the screen with a permanent smile on her face. She is so inthralled with being there that she doesn't even respond when something shocking happens in the movie.... she is holding onto her popcorn with both hands, eating it slowly so that she can enjoy every moment of it.
We took "Ella" to the movies for her 14th birthday. Even though she lives only five miles from the mall (a 50 cents bus ride), she has never been to a mall before, much less to a "real movie theatre". At 14 years old, she fell forward going up the escalator- it was her first time. It is not that she lives in a rural area where there are no malls or escalators- she lives in a big city with huge malls- she lives right in the middle of it all. While other people from her neighborhood shop, she was always doing other things- things that no child should have ever been doing. Things that no child would ever want to do.
This was not just her first movie, her first time at the mall, one of her few times ever "eating out".... this was the first birthday that she has had in a very, very, very long time that she is able to laugh, that she doesn't have to be worried or fearful, that she can be in a car with people she trusts- knowing that they are going to take her to a place to bless her- not to rape her. It's her first birthday that she can celebrate the year to come knowing that it is going to be different, that she has hope for a new life. This is her first birthday "tradition, her first time getting cake, her first time in many years that she is being celebrated and not sold.
Just last week I watched her testimony that he had recorded months back. The girl I saw on the screen was someone I almost did not recognize. I saw a bitter, scared, tormented, broken, used, abused, shut off little girl. I listened to her story of bring blindfolded and driven to the place where she was sold. I listened through tears about her time as a child prostitute- about the darkness in her life- about the hopelessness of her future. I heard horrific stories of abuse, of innocence lost, of a childhood robbed.
That's not the same little girl that sits between Carlos and I in the movie theater.
The "Ella" that I know today on her birthday is a new girl- it's a girl with a smile, a child with a hope, a child who is healing through Christ's love, a girl who is being redeemed. A girl who is free.