Alice and Emilla's Story
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Emilla found herself in yet another painful situation and knew the drill. She would go down the street and have the painful procedure administered, go back to work a few days later, and hope that another mishap would not occur for a long time. Only this time, there was a man in her life; a man who badly wanted a child—badly enough to convince Emilla it was time to start a family despite her occupation. Emilla obeyed his wishes and four years ago, she gave birth to Alice.
Like many before her, and many more after, she was born into a brothel. Alice grew up on one of many doorsteps lining an alleyway. She learned to walk on the rough stones, struggling to dodge the constant flow of men, rats, and dogs. Her first words were spoken while her mother’s friends sat watching Hindi films in wait of a good offer. She took naps on the floor while her mother served men behind a curtain. She played with other kids and even got to go to an informal preschool around the corner. Her father began to consistently work himself into drunkenness each day and her mother stayed busy ignoring her pint-sized mistake. Alice knew nothing different with this.
Two years later, her baby brother was born. He grew in the same environment and with the same parents, but he got to bounce on his mother’s lap and eat sweets; he got to have his own kitten and Emilla would kiss him, hold him, and spend time with him. Meanwhile, Alice struggled to get by without a beating. She kept trying to go to the bathroom in the right spot, but couldn’t get it right. She was told to get dressed by herself, but didn’t understand how. She became covered in burn marks, neglected wounds, and a cowering demeanor. No matter what she did, there was always something wrong and always a price to pay for it. Her days became filled with shouting and fits of rage from her mother. She was often lifted by her hair and beaten until someone was brave enough to step in.
I often struggle finding the difference between things I can and cannot change. I cannot change who Alice's mother is. I cannot change Alice's past. I can’t wipe away past tears and prevent scars that will be with her for the rest of her life. But I was able to watch something unfold that I could have never predicted. We were on our way out of the red light district one day when we found this particular alley to be silent, except for Emilla's shouts accompanied by a screaming Alice. The little girl was being thrown down by her hair, and her mother showed no signs of stopping. Our translator walked boldly up to Emilla as Alice took the opportunity to run to the nearest bystander for cover.
Somehow an anger that controlled Emilla, and kept any bystanders at bay instantly, ceased and gave way to calm. The next moment, I found myself at her side, her body still hot from anger but her face in pure concentration, expressing to us that her deepest desire was to have Alice in a safe place, away from her. I found that the one thing I could do in that moment was simply witness a miracle I had only read about. Jesus calmed the storm that had bound Emilla for years just as he calmed the seas surrounding the disciples. But when this calm hit, it brought Alice a new life and nothing I could do brought that change to pass.
In December 2012, our team was able to place Alice in a new home. She now spends her days in the safety of her new home. She eats healthy food, wears clean clothes, and gets to sleep in a bed. She will start school in June and we’ve seen her smile for the first time. She is often being passed between members of her family as they all love to hold their new little sister. Emilla visits often to spend time with her daughter, and loves to bring her gifts. Alice will not want for anything now and does not have to fear the many dangers of life in a brothel or life with Emilla. We are waiting for the day when Alice’s new life encourages her mother to believe in change for herself.
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