Over the course of 10 years of this outreach at a shelter for abused and abandoned children I saw hundreds and hundreds of children. Each had their own story, their fears, their hurts, their hopes, or in several cases, their loss of hope.  My part in this was to extend the love of Christ dispite the hurt that had been inflicted upon them.  To let them know that there is a God who has seen everything and will call it all into account one day.  That He loves them and knows them by name.  To teach them about Jesus Christ and the relationship He wants with them.  God healed the hearts of so many and gave them hope to continue on beyond the current circumstances they were living.  He gave them hope of an eternity where there is no more pain, tears, or sorrow.
Here are a few of their stories.
We had gathered for the weekly evening Bible study.  After opening in prayer it quickly became obvious the teen girls wanted to know what the Scriptures had to say about their individual circumstances.   No one was coerced to speak or chastised for any comment and those who wanted to remain silent just listened.  As the girls shared their stories, the darkness and brokenness of each were laid before the group. 
One, raped by a relative, now believed she is bi-sexual and was born that way.  She wanted nothing to do with a God that would not allow this and homosexual behavior.  She also proudly proclaimed that she did not believe in God.
Another was date raped and contracted a sexually transmitted disease.  Thankfully however this one was curable.  The young man had “dumped” her immediately after their date, and she became highly emotionally unstable.  Her mother was a gang member living somewhere on the streets and her father had abandoned her.  She was desperate to follow the Lord and even more desperate to receive His love.
Another who had lived with her boyfriend, became pregnant and then sadly, miscarried.  He was seeing other women during this relationship and left after the miscarriage.  She now suffers unexplained abdominal pains. The doctors will conduct an ultrasound for endometriosis.  She is 17 and fears she may never be able to bear another child.
Another teen was a Satan worshiper and knew it was not right.  One night she found herself praying to God begging for help as she felt darkness all around her.  She said she suddenly felt a breeze and knew that the Lord had reached down and touched her.  She felt changed and is forever grateful.  Jesus is her Lord and Savior now and her face glows with His love.
Still another was stunned to learn that sexual activity with one’s boyfriend is not acceptable behavior to the Lord.  We discussed self-control, forgiveness, repentance, and respect for one another.
And another was very grateful of learning the saving grace the Lord offers after abortion.
The conversation turned to the subject of suicide and what the Bible had to say about it.  One girl hurriedly scribbled a note and passed it to me as she got up to quickly leave the room.  The note told me that her mother had committed suicide and she could not bear to discuss the subject.  She had gone to bed by the time the study was over and I was not able to console nor pray with her.  So I prayed for her.
Given the depth of these girls’ struggles, and their raw and tender emotional wounds, it is often difficult to move from one very serious subject to another.  Each circumstance requires straight answers from the Scriptures and assurances of God’s love and forgiveness to all who ask Him.   Those who come to the study and receive His word, they are not disappointed.  Those who refuse His word, I pray a seed was planted that the Lord will use to draw them to Himself as only He is able to do.
I thank Jesus Christ for the direction He gives in His word and for the healing power of His Holy Spirit that we often experience before the evening is over.
This is a ministry which continues to refresh and drain me on a weekly basis.  I love it!  The children are so excited when I arrive, and we have such a great time in story telling and talking about Jesus Christ, I often feel emotionally spent and exhilarated at the same time.  I cannot help but feel I am a surrogate mother at times to these who have no parents.  I care deeply for their welfare and their emotional scars.  I am so grateful to our Father, the Father of the fatherless, Who is with them every moment.
They knew each other long before coming to Casa de Amparo.  When one of their families had a home, the other would visit.  At times, they shared makeshift homes on the streets made of cardboard or scrap wood or found refuge under bridges or in storm drains- two beautiful 12-year-old girls, pretty enough to give top models serious competition.  Yet all they knew was living hand-to-mouth.  Few dreams and no future for these girls - until they learned of the hope they could have in Jesus.

A teen had scarcely seen her father as he was "on the lam" for having murdered an entire family during a robbery for drug money ten years ago. Her mother is a prostitute and alcoholic.  Discovering a relationship with Jesus Christ, the One who made her and loves her has given her new hope.  She would come with an open heart and hungry to hear about her Maker who will never leave her nor forsake her (Hebrews 13:5).  Thank You Jesus, for that promise.
A precious 5-year-old who would speak like a 2-year-old could hardly wait to pray to "Dodd" who is "doe drate" to tell Him all that was on his tiny heart.  For some youngsters, their prayer is to return home, to render forgiveness and to "just be home with [their] families."  For others, their family is the last place they want to go.  They threaten to run away if ever they were to return.  Anger and pain is written across their faces.  They are frightened and battered souls, looking for safety, stability, and most of all, sincere love.  These children are especially vulnerable.   Will our society protect them?  Will anyone give them love, a sense of worth, life skills and hope in Christ so that their risk is reduced?
This shelter was one of thousands of shelters across the country.  Unlike some, this particular sheltered allow a weekly opportunity to learn of Christ, His power, His marvelous love, and His faithful promise to never leave those who call on His Name.  These children need to know there is safety in Him.  It is an honor to serve Christ in this outreach.
I didn't know if I should burst out crying or succumb to the nausea that was welling up inside me.  I was absolutely aghast by what I was hearing.  A beautiful 16-year-old teen had returned after our weekly Bible study to speak with me privately. 
Several years prior she had fallen in love with a man well beyond her years. Sadly, he had the audacity to use the Word of God to seduce her for his own perverted ends,  Lonely and needy, she fell for his deceit, and believed he loved her above all else.  She assured me it was a "forever spiritual love" commitment she had made.   Then she became pregnant by him.  The two of them prayed God would "take it away".  She miscarried shortly thereafter.      
Once he achieved his goal, and knew there was no long-term responsibility, he discarded her, no longer  wanting to pray or discuss the Scriptures with her at all.  He was satisfied, had his drug habit, and that was where he wanted to focus his time and energies. She was now in the way.  She, however, felt she still needed to follow though with her commitment because to her it was as good as a marriage vow. 
We had a long talk about where she had come from in this relationship and to where the Lord was taking her.  This man was not part of the equation.  She needed to get her feet on the right track without the burden of being connected to or in relationship with a drug addict.  She was a minor and not responsible for him. 
Helping her see the truth about his abuse and betrayal was difficult and delicate. That he lured her using Scripture was abhorrent!  But when she came to recognize the truth, she courageously let go of the false love and security she had clung to and embraced the comfort and healing of Christ instead.  She decided she wanted nothing more to do with him, believing he was to blame for her being at Casa.  This was another grey area as she was scarcely able to recall any part of her childhood.  
My heart was so grieved!  Her early years must have been unspeakably catastrophic for so much memory to have vanished.  What on earth had happened in her life that her mind could not grasp it?  Perhaps the memory would be too tormenting to recall so the Lord removed it for now.  To have no recollection of your childhood . . . what a tragedy!  I was not certain if she left her family to be with him or how that relationship came about, but I was confident the Lord had new horizons for her and was now empowering her to put the things of the past behind her.
Each week she would look to me expectantly for the answers that would give her assurance that she was significant and valued.  It was written all over her face.  "TELL ME I MATTER, PLEASE!" And I did.  God's word not only assures us that we are new creations in Christ and that His mercies are new every morning, but that we are His children "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on His name" John 1:12   She also found new hope in Jeremiah 29:11-14.  She wept, and we wept, and then we prayed.
Surely the most treasured prayers to God come from the purest hearts. From sweet to heart-wrenching, here are a few from the children
"Jesus, thank You for cucumbers and macaroni and cheese." 
"Thank You for the brownies and cookies the Jesus lady brings." 
"Thank You for our beds and a roof over our heads, and for Sponge Bob pajamas." 
"Hi God, it's me again. Thank You for bringing me here and please help my family so that no one will be touched inappropriately anymore or have to worry about their safety." 
"Help me to make right choices so I don't get into trouble anymore." 
"Help my mom so she doesn't have to live in truck anymore and help her get better from hepatitis." 
"Help my father get out of jail." 
"Thank you that I don't have to be scared here." 
"Help so I can be with my brother and sisters again."
"Keep my baby brother safe." 
"Help my mother stop using drugs." 
"God, in 15 days I will have been here a whole year. I know You are helping me and thank You for Casa, but I would really like to be with my family again. Can You please hurry,  but I know You will do it in Your time, just help me please because I really want to be with them." 
"Thank You for saving my mom."
"Thank you for Jesus." 

In Matthew 18:10 Jesus says speaking of little ones,
"I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven."
What a comfort it is to know the great I AM is forever aware of their plight, hears all their prayers, and holds all their tears. Thank You, Jesus.

Only Jesus Christ can reach into a shattered world to gently embrace an injured and distressed child and begin the real healing process. The gift of God's Word goes deep into the heart of these children, renewing and forever changing the landscape from the devastation Satan had wrought.
"I keep looking at the Bible and just can't believe that it's mine", a beaming little 9-year old girl with a tenth grade reading ability told me one night as she held her Bible. Her love of Jesus was written all over her face.
On a night of baptism most of the children are very excited, some are fearful, and others skeptical. I walk them through the meaning of baptism, that it does not save them, but is a public statement that they have chosen Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and will do their best to walk with Him all the days of their lives. And that their salvation came at the time when they accepted Jesus Christ. They are told of the mandate in Matthew 28:19-20. Where Jesus tells us, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen" Baptism of course is done only for those who have accepted Christ.
The little 9-year old who embraced her Bible was humble as she was baptized. When asked "Are you are determined to follow Jesus Christ all the days of your life?" in her little voice, full of confidence and emphasizing each word she said "No matter what!". Then trickling a bit of spring water on the top of her head and making the sign of the cross, I baptized her in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and gave her a big hug. Evenings at the shelter could range from a time of pure filling of the Holy Sprit like this to battles against spiritual darkness with the teens.
Such was the case recently when four teen girls attended the Bible study. One had been coming for several weeks. The counselors said the only time she behaved was when she was studying the Bible in my group. She was quite difficult to work with outside of class.   Another who came that night was a confessed wiccan (witch). A third had been struggling with her identity and would revert to the behavior a 4-year old competing inappropriately for attention. The fourth girl was respectful, acted her age, and listened.  We spent the hour in an intense Q & A session. The Holy Spirit was evident in the room. The wiccan, occasionally disrespectful, but ultimately submissive, was perplexed and unable to make any arguments against the Word of God.
Toward the end of the hour, we discussed what would happen when the rapture occurs. Would they be here wondering what happened to so many people? What would they have to endure and do to ensure they would still go to heaven? I also told them what awaits the child of God, of His marvelous love, and how He wants to be a part of their lives now.
The session ended with a presentation of the facts of the Gospel and laying out the opportunity for them to choose "today" what they believed and whom they would serve.  The difficult teen and wiccan would not commit. The other two were already believers. By the time of the next study the following week, the former two had been released from the shelter.
It is in times like these that Father encourages me to press on. I pray they are convicted by the Holy Spirit before the trials with the Anti-Christ on earth begin.

Trudy (not her real name) loved Bible study because she felt closer to God. Her immediate family was splintered between incarcerations and drug rehab facilities. Going back "home" was not going to become reality for her. She felt there was no one who wanted her and she had no place to go. "Washed up" at the age of 12 she felt her life was over.
One night as I sat with a few of the girls, we began the study with prayer and scripture. We had nearly finished the reading when Trudy walked in. Quietly sitting down and stifling her tears, her sobs became louder. We stopped and I asked her if she wanted to talk. She shook her head as if to say "No". One girl asked Trudy if she could tell one of the other girls what was going on. Trudy nodded her head giving her permission. As soon as the other girl learned of the "secret" she jumped up and reached for Trudy's arm and said "Let me see, let me see". Trudy drew back her pajama sleeve and the hand-towel she had wrapped around her wrist to reveal the cuts she had made. I quickly told the girls to get staff personnel and out of the room they ran. Trudy gripped the towel around her wrist and I put my arms around her to comfort her and said her name softly several times. Staff arrived within seconds and took her to the nurses station where she was bandaged.
The cuts were not life threatening nor was the bleeding excessive. It was however a desperate cry for help. I waited with the other girls while Trudy was bandaged and we talked about their circumstances. The general consensus was that they believed they were never going to leave the shelter. "No one wants teenagers" one said. Sadly, statistically it is the younger children who are preferred by foster parents.. I assured them that they were not going to live out their entire lives there and that God had much more for them.
When Trudy returned we talked about the blessed gift of life and that though God had made all creatures, it was only from His own mouth that He gave man the breath of life. (Genesis 1:7)
They learned that man was favored over all living creatures and that Christ died only for us. Life is a precious gift. I encouraged them to seek God and to wait and trust that Father would change their lives. Within the month, Trudy's prayer was answered. She move to another state to live with a cousin. God will never leave us nor forsake us.

"I want to go home with you. Please want me." It was written all over his face. He was about 7-years old and very bright. He had worked hard at reading all the stories in his children's Bible and in learning memory verses. He had given me pointers in the fine art of baking cookies - to sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top of the oatmeal and oatmeal raisin cookies I bake and bring each week.
On this particular evening he stood before me at "attention" in a new suit, tie, and shoes, with hair combed. I was informed by the staff that he had dressed-up . . . for me. I told him how handsome he looked, but the expression on his face told me it was not what he wanted to hear. He did not want to be there anymore. He wanted to be loved and wanted by someone. On the way home I wept as I recalled his expression. I am so weak in this regard.
That same evening while with the teens one asked if she was still considered a virgin even though she had been raped seven times (by her father). I told her that sadly the physical aspect of her virginity was gone, however she had never freely given her heart and that spiritually, I believed, she was still a virgin.  And I wonder why I am so moved?
Jesus has a plan for each one and He has not taken His eyes off any of them. I try to instill this in them each week. Father has me there to teach them about Him, not to mend all the wounds in their lives myself. This only He can do.

Every week the children steal my heart. At the end of an evening a beautiful little 6-year old girl came up to me to tell me a foster family had chosen her and that she would be leaving the next day. Her prayer had been answered. She hardly stood four feet tall and must have weighed all of 45-pounds. She had a very sweet disposition and always had a smile when she came to study.   She loved to pray for the other children. With big brown eyes and long dark brown hair that fell halfway down her back, she stood in the door and said in her tiny voice "Will you remember to pray for me?"  I longed to give her a hug, but hugs are not allowed unless initiated by the child due to the abuse they have endured by adults. I assured her "Oh, yes. I will remember. And you remember Jesus is with you, always." My arms ached to embrace her, but I could not. She hesitated for a few moments as though waiting for a hug but did not move her arms. "I will" she replied. Then she turned and was gone.
A few months later another little girl, very much the same stature as the one previously mentioned came to me bursting at the seams with some exciting news. One day while alone and praying she believed she had seen Jesus. She tried to describe Him, but said it was hard with "all the light around Him." Then she added, "I did, I did, I really did see Him." I asked her how seeing Him made her feel. She smiled shyly, bowed her head and quietly said "Happy". I had a great sense that she truly felt loved and I believe the Lord did grant her some image of Himself. I told her to remember His promise that He would never ever leave her nor abandon her and that what she had seen and experienced will remind her of His promise for the rest of her life.
On another night, another little girl confessed she had been disciplined for not following the shelter's bedtime rules. A few nights before one of the staff had caught her up past bedtime under the bed covers with her flashlight reading the Bible. She had a huge grin on her face as she told me. I had to laugh. It blessed me to know that she wanted to know God's word so much that she was willing to take a risk.
Working with the Activities Director we were able to ensure the children and teens were able to attend a Billy Graham Mission Outreach. They had a marvelous time. A few of the teens who had not wanted to attend Bible study before the Mission were quite surprised to learn it's OK to be a Christian AND have fun! So now they come to the study too. Thank You Jesus!

One night, a few months back, at the end of our study a 13-year old stayed behind to speak privately with me. She had a question. While we talked she revealed that she had been molested by a middle-aged man. He had made her feel the encounter was her fault, a typical ploy to keep children quiet about the crime. She told me that as she waited during the man's arraignment she sat next to a 2 and 1/2-year old child. This child had been raped by the same man! Her question for me was would Jesus forgive her for trying to commit suicide? She was very sorry for trying to take her life. I was sure Jesus would, and I also assured her that what this man did to her was not her fault. Jesus would hold him accountable for what he did to her and the 2 and 1/2-year old. Still she was unsure He would forgive her. You see, she had attempted suicide three times. She believed Jesus had forgiven her the first time, but would He truly know her remorse for this last attempt? How would He know that she was truly sorry if she turned around and tried again and then again? I was sure He would. We prayed and cried. Some nights are very hard.
"Yes" and "No" and "It's here in His word let me show you." are typical answers to questions from week to week. The perplexing questions seem to come from behind. One evening, while discussing the Ten Commandments two little sisters began to question "Honor your father and your mother." and "You shall not steal."
"Is it stealing when you get sent to bed without supper and your parents catch you in the middle of the night taking food from the refrigerator?" one of the girls asked. I inquired more to the scenario and discovered these children were punished regularly by the withholding of food. Meals were missed often. They had no desire to steal or dishonor their parents, but they were hungry. Looking at their lean little bodies my heart sank. I assured them that parenting included the responsibilities of providing food and shelter as well as love, care and nurturing. And that scripture instructs parents to not frustrate their children. As the actions of the parents were forcing the girls to in essence "sin" I assured them that the Lord would be taking this up with their mother and father. And that God would be quite willing to forgive the girls if indeed this could ever be considered a sin.
We prayed and gave it to Jesus and asked that He would work in the hearts of their parents that they might come to know Him.
It seems every week brings me great joy and sadness. The bible study with the younger children is usually relaxed and very fun. However, moving into the time with the teens stretches my heart as I seek to find what is really troubling them under the surface and if I am heading in the right direction. A few months back, one 16 year old who did not want to come to the study came afterward and confessed to prostitution. She wanted to know if Jesus would forgive her. I assured her He would and we prayed together.  During the next few days the Lord impress a message upon me to give to her. When I arrived I learned she was on a time of "reflection" which is a form of time out for bad behavior so she was not allowed to attend the study. However, I did see her briefly after and had but a moment to give the message. Jesus wanted her to truly know that though she had at one time sold herself, He bought her back and she was forgiven. She was deeply moved.   By the time of the next study, she had been released from the shelter.