As I walked into the common living area to help set up a Christmas dinner for a group of young ladies who were not expecting anyone to visit for the holiday, my heart sank. A sense of sorrow filled the halls of the juvenile detention facility. There were no girls in sight, only probation staff. After our group, which was accompanied by Ol’ Saint Nick, set up dinner for the princesses housed behind cold, locked doors, the staff began unlocking the doors and calling the twelve girls in unit eight by their last names. They then told them where to sit at the tables. When the girls began flowing into the room, I froze with compassion and ached for their hurting hearts.
I stood serving soda as the young women asked for their food choices with more politeness than teenagers I know who have been raised to know their manners well. We ate a nice turkey dinner as the girls sat and talked with each person in our group. After dinner, one person in our group stood up and began to speak to the girls. She spoke about a warm, loving place filled with healing–a place with people eagerly waiting to call girls who have been rescued out of sex trafficking family. The girls had different looks on their faces–some had a look of yearning, some a look of interest, and some even a look of question. Then the woman from our group welcomed me to the front of the room to tell the girls what C2BU has done in my life–where my heart used to be and where it is now. I shared how every person in C2BU has a big heart and has nothing on their agenda to wager them into this line of ministry, if you will. As I shared, the looks on more than a few of the girl’s faces changed to those that only one who has experience with such looks would comprehend. They became looks of, “You see me,” and, “When can I go to this place?”
I sat down and one of my partners from our group got up to speak. As I listened to her, I watched a room otherwise filled with complaining and hopelessness transform into a room filled with hope, trust, and the feeling of you understand. At that moment, I felt the sense of sorrow flee unit eight and the Holy Spirit envelop the entire area. When the second speaker was finished, we began talking with the girls and getting to know them. A few of them opened up to us and showed us a small glimpse of their hearts.
We sat and sang Christmas songs with a guitar-playing Santa. The two girls I was sitting next to were not singing. They looked a bit distraught so I asked them why they were so quiet. The answer that came made me want to hug them and cry. They said they couldn’t sing because they didn’t know any Christmas songs. I swallowed the lump in my throat and asked, “Why?” They said that they had never celebrated Christmas before. Those precious girls are girls I will never forget. The girls who didn’t know any of the words began to emphasize on the carols by adding their own improvisation to the chorus.
After Santa sang all the songs he could think of, he began to take requests. A beautiful, sweet 15-year-old girl asked for “This little light of mine.” As we began to sing the song she stopped us to say we were doing it wrong. We asked her to show us how to sing it so she signaled to another girl and began to sing her version. It sounded like angels singing in harmony.
Before we left, the girls showed us a collection of artwork that they had created on the walls. They are so talented. The art of Disney characters, especially Mickey Mouse, was amazing. As the staff took them back to their cells and locked the cold doors, I saw that they went in with a hope and warmth that they hadn’t come out with. When I left that night, I left a large part of my heart in unit eight as I walked out. Thank you God!