When she was 14 years old, an older man ‘wanted’ Elisa, to take her as his spouse (although not legally marry her). So, he made a deal with her family. He would trade them a few cows for their daughter, Elisa. So, they obligated her to go with him. (Practices like this are very common in the Amazon.) She was brought by him to a community and people she had never known before. She was all alone, and never permitted by him to leave the area. I remember meeting her back then, and she was the saddest little girl I ever met. I can’t imagine how lonely she felt, and how unloved. My heart absolutely broke for her.
Life for Elisa has not been good. It has been hard, shameful, empty, and without meaning. It has brought her much pain, and worse of all, she had never truly been loved by anyone in her whole life. Can you imagine that? No one who really cares, or ever says ‘I love you’. But one good thing did come out of all of this for her. You see, it was no coincidence that the community where the older man brought her to is Puyupungo, where we have a church. Elisa saw others attending, and after a while, she decided to come, too. He permitted her to and Elisa, for the first time ever in her life, found out what real love and happiness is.
This photo is Elisa today. She is now 20 years old and has 2 young children by this man, who is now in his early 70’s. Although she is still with him, living in her trapped life, she can now smile and laugh (I enjoy talking with her and seeing joy in her life!) She comes to the church every week, bringing her children with her. She has found that it is her refuge, her place of hope, the place where she knows she is loved. And I tell her to never forget that. We help her as much as we can, in any way needed, but mostly showing her the love of Jesus. Hugs, encouragement, hope, and compassion. Elisa has learned that she is loved by the ONE who matters most. You see, JESUS loves Elisa! (And so do we!)