It’s possible you could stumble across ‘My Daughter’s House’ in Rosarito and never realize what it was, or who these young ladies and children are who live there, where they’ve come from, what they’ve survived.
Because they’ve been redeemed! They’re filled with hope. Their new life in Christ has replaced the scars of abuse.
In spite of what man did to them, they’re now innocent and pure again.
Someone poetically referred to them as Twilight Treasures. It’s sooo apropos.
This installment is the story of my two day visit with them. How they changed my life.
The girls love volleyball. They have a dirt court in their back yard. We played for hours one day.
I don’t speak Spanish, but it wasn’t necessary in order to get caught up in the competition, the laughing, jesting and ribbing we enjoyed together.
When I thought about who these carefree laughing girls were that surrounded me, shrieking with glee, I teared up a couple of times. It was impossible not to. Not when you envisioned them scant months earlier, selling their bodies; voluntarily or as slaves in brothels.
I don’t think anyone noticed the tears.
A couple years ago I made several covenants with God. Some things to help keep me reminded about poverty, the poor, and injustice in the world.
One of these (perhaps the dumbest) covenants was to no longer swipe away my tears. Any kind of tears. Whether they be joy, sadness, whatever. I thought it’d be helpful.
I also thought (and this is perhaps really dumb) it might be nice if folks could see not everyone who called themselves a Christian was an uncaring, unloving, cold-hearted, right-wing neo-con. Forget religion. I just want to try and follow Jesus. That’s hard enough. I’ve since discovered, not swiping away tears is nearly impossible too. Swiping seems completely unconscious, reflexive.
So, yes, I believe I escaped the volleyball game without anyone noticing or wondering why their old bald-headed, bearded visitor was anguished.
But it got progressively harder throughout the two day visit.
I stayed with Steven while I was down there. He had a small room on the second floor of a vacant unused building across the street from the girl’s house. It had just enough room for a desk and a small murphy bed, one of those cool old-fashioned things that fold out from the wall. It was barely large enough for Steven, let alone his Irish setter bunkmate, Cabo.
I slept on the floor nearby. It was either there or curling up in the ensuite under the sink.
When you stay with Steven you rise at 4 a.m. That’s only shortly after Cabo wakes you at 2 a.m. for his mid rat feeding. His bowl was right next to my sleeping bag.
Guy eats like a starving dinosaur.
Then he chases his midnight snack down with a quart or two of water, drinking like a horse.
Steven was laughing the next morning; said he wondered if I was getting splashed!
During the night, Cabo, the consummate host, padded over several times to check up on me. It was a little disconcerting, waking in the dead of night with these huge brown eyes looming over your face. Probably just making sure I was okay. Or more likely, wondering if I was supposed to be there.
I was a little worried he might be leaking, but my bag was dry the next morning.
He’s like the official mascot for the safe house. The kids love on him, and vice versa. He’s a huge huggable hunk of dog.
As mentioned, Steven’s day starts early. Coffee, Bible, pipe and prayer.
The four traditionally essential ingredients for a truly spiritual morning evangelical quiet time.
As an honored guest, I was offered of one of his vintage pipes. I declined sucking on one of his vintage stems; opting instead to suck on one of his fine Cuban cigars.
He chides me, rolling his eyes, when I try and convince him Swisher Sweets (my favorite) are the greatest. They’re certainly cheaper.
He admits, living in Cuba got him addicted to the finer sticks in life. I mean, we’re talking fine sticks, here. Supremo sticks.
On subsequent visits, he always tried to corrupt me, offering me one of his private Cuban selections. One day he handed me this gnarly looking thing in a plastic food baggy. It looked like one end had come unwrapped or someone has seriously stomped on it. He assured me that’s the way it was rolled. Hand rolled. Told me it was a $500 cigar!
Lying, for sure.
He wasn’t. I checked it out on the Internet. Like everything else I was learning about Steven Cass, it checked out.
So that morning, with Cabo snoring at our feet and breaking wind, we sat outside in the pre-dawn darkness on a narrow balcony overlooking the street. Enjoying our tobacco, and coffee. Talking about and praying for the Twilight Treasures that would soon awaken in the house across the street.
Concerned, he informed me several of the girls still have some real trauma issues to work through. He dotes and worries, protectively, about his little flock over there like an old mother hen.
He’s also confused, I think. He’s not sure if he’s their big brother or their father. (Whichever it is, I’m sure it doesn’t matter to them in the least.)
Then he surprised me. The girls informed him they felt comfortable around me. Told him they wouldn’t mind if I hung out at the house. Crashed, or just relaxed; whether he was there or not. He said they usually don’t feel comfortable with men around the house. Not too surprising, that.
I felt kind of blown away.
This was a good life.
He could see I was captivated by the girls and beginning to feel comfortable with the house activities. For me, it was heart-warming to know I was accepted by the girls.
Most of them, anyway. The little four-year-old girl was proving to be a hard nut to crack.
When she was rescued, she and her twelve-year-old sister were being pimped by their grandmother. She stole my heart the first time she looked at me, before I even knew her story. It was inconceivable. And there were similar stories among some of the other girls.
I spent hours lying on the living room floor the first day, trying to woo God’s little angel. She merely watched me with suspicion—from several feet away.
But she was coming closer. Inch by inch.
Smiling shyly now.
Breaking my heart.
She was beautiful.
Her eyes were bigger than those proverbial saucers. I knew for certain her little heart was gigantic as well. Most likely Galaxy-sized. It had to be to have survived, and still be able to smile like that.
She joined the other ladies one day, all gathered around me, watching and tittering while I changed a diaper on one of the babies. It was a very professional job, I thought. But they looked doubtful.
I was slowly coming to realize the male gender in Latin America are usually invisible during domestic activity. Stupid guys. They have no idea what they’re missing.
You’ve gotta listen carefully when Steven talks. While we were sitting on the balcony that morning, he asked me if I wanted to go do the morning bible study at seven with him and the girls. I agreed eagerly.
But I was still half asleep! Shaking off sleep and looking at Steven, I realized he meant exactly what he said: did I want to go over and DO the study! Too late to back out.
No doubt he was sleepy also. Forgot I didn’t speak Spanish. No, he said. No worries. One of the gals was bi-lingual. She’d interpret for me.
Hmmm … Darn!
He said he was heading on over to the house, but to take my time.
He was giving me time to prepare. Ha. It was already six forty five.
Advice: If you ever get to visit, be prepared. Listen carefully to what Steven says. Don’t rely on ‘English only’ for excuses. Won’t work.
So, half an hour later, I fumble my way through some inane hastily prepared remarks. Trying to encourage Steven’s Twilight Treasures, and getting blank-eyed stares in return. When I came to the strong salient finish, the girls leaped to their feet, eager to escape.
Steven closed his Bible, smirked, shook his head at me slowly, and gave me a major-sized you-gotta-be-kidding-me eye roll. (The guy’s really come a long way from an unwashed, heathen, money launderer.)
So ended my short, scintillating, international speaking tour.
But I made up for it.
Big time, baby. Big time.
There’s a half-hour period each day when the girls gather in the living room for a quiet reflective time of prayer with God.
I asked if I should leave. But my new best friends informed me it’s okay if I wanted to stay. Participate.
(Ah ha! Forgiveness and second chances, came to mind.)
Steven informed me sometimes the girls just prayed in silence, but there might be a few audible prayers expressed as well. Just go with the flow. Then he left to run an errand.
Alone in the house, now, with the girls, I watched as they got pillows from the bedrooms and began kneeling down around furniture in the living room. I knelt down on one end of a couch and was soon joined by three girls on my right.
Someone turned on a quiet worshipful CD.
I’d been informed nearly all of the girls were battling colds, but I really don’t think it explained all the subtle sniffling during the next thirty minutes.
I was suddenly overwhelmed how precious this private activity was they were allowing me to share.
Kneeling there, surrounded by these treasures of God, I began to weep.
Okay, okay, sobbing. It was blatant outright sobbing.
It took all I could do not to groan out loud, but my sobbing was shaking the sofa a few times.
It was impossible not to. You would have too. If you were surrounded by these redeemed treasures of God, pouring out their hearts to an all-loving heavenly Father.
(In many cases the only ‘father’ that had never used or abused them.)
It was a beautiful time. A powerful time.
Some of the girls surely experienced it also. It may have been the first time the girls on my right ever felt the power of God shaking their couch.
And for once, I wasn’t the only one with a wet face at the end of an activity.
God is moving and alive in these girls.
Wednesday night the girls go to a church service in town. It was so special to see them come out of their room all spiffed up. They were lookin’ good, baby. They were beautiful! You could have plopped any one of them down in the front row of the Washington National Cathedral in D.C. on Easter morning and all they would have gotten would have been appreciative stares. They were absolutely gorgeous. More importantly, the beauty was on the inside too.
The worship service started at seven, but we had to be there by six. There was going to be a wedding that night.
Because of the way they were dressed I thought maybe they were involved in the service, but when we arrived, all Steven’s girls started helping set up for the reception. After the wedding.
But you know what? They surprised me.
Before everyone got busy working, they marched into the sanctuary, right down to front row center and plunked down purses and bibles to reserve their seats.
It was, I realized happily, just one more example of their freedom and new identity in Christ. There was no intimidation or trepidation about their acceptance.
Knowing they were headed in to reserve seats, I would have bet money they were going to stake out seats in the back rows. Hiding places. (Probably like many of us do.)
Not these girls. They were free. Free and beautiful!
Not sure how it worked out, but I ended up right in the middle of them. Front row center. My new best friends, and me. (Not the place I would have picked, for sure.) But what a joy, worshipping the King that night surrounded on both sides by His handmaidens!
I kinda thought I was prepared for this trip.
I wasn’t expecting too many—if any—surprises.
I just had some questions for Steven. And I wanted to see his daughters for the first time.
He and I got to spend a lot of time discussing the ministry. Trafficking in general and his organization, Breaking Chains.org, in particular. We got into some nice theological discourses (okay, okay, arguments.) And we talked about finances.
I learned a lot. But I wasn’t prepared for the fall out.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
Pictures on the Wall. Churches that Aren’t. Steven’s Story. Reality Reboot.