Loud wails rose into the office at Redlight Greenlight from the girls’ residence two stories below. I ran down the uneven stairs to find Manisha trying to force the door open.
She was crying, “I want to go home! I want to go home!” Though she was taller and much stronger than me, the look on her face reminded me of a three-year-old, lost and wailing for her mother.
Manisha’s wailing soon turned into banging her head against the wall. One of our caregivers appeared, whispered something into her ear, and gently moved her away from both the door and the wall. Her cries continued.
This became a pattern with Manisha. She had been with us for almost a year, but her agitation – related to manic depression – suddenly escalated. Her outbursts were causing Redlight Greenlight to become emotionally and physically unsafe for the other girls. She would now often hit and pinch the other girls with no apparent reason. The team tried everything – counseling, encouragement, rewards, punishment – with little effect.
Though we wanted to facilitate her transfer back home, Manisha’s court case, in which she may have to testify against her abusers, was still pending. We were also still unsure if it was safe for her to return home – would she be protected or pressed back into the trafficking industry? Like most of the girls at Redlight Greenlight’s home, Manisha had been rescued out of the sex trade. Returning home was a complicated process.
A few days later we were trying to calm Manisha down from another outburst when screams started in another room. Leaving Manisha with the caregiver, I walked into the living room to find Sapna, a girl brought to us after being raped. She was on the couch, arms bent and fists tightened, her whole body was shaking violently, and her face twisted with cries of pain.
“Oh God, please help these girls! And help us!” I prayed.
Suddenly, Sapna fainted. About the same time, Manisha also quieted down. Silence.
The next day during our evening church Bible study, our pastor spoke about how David expressed such anguish of spirit in the Psalms. He taught that we must face the deep, raw brokenness in our own hearts in order to move into worship, and this brokenness we face every day can be transformed into a deeper understanding of God.
There was another particularly unstable time at the Redlight Greenlight home when we needed extra help. One of the girls had so many outbursts that we could not leave her alone. In the evenings, when only two caregivers were on duty, this requirement meant the other girls were less attended.
We asked Kushi to help. She is one of our former girls, who now lives at the Beauty For Ashes aftercare home for young adults – run by the same organization that oversees Redlight Greenlight. Now age 21, Kushi is just completing her high school graduation through distance learning and has been receiving training and counseling at Beauty For Ashes.
Each evening at 5 pm Kushi would arrive as the teachers and social worker were leaving at the end of their workday, and stay until 9 pm. Kushi would sit with the girl who was causing trouble and they would color, listen to music, talk, or watch a movie together. Kushi’s presence freed the caregivers to focus their attention on the other girls and restored a sense of safety and balance back to the Redlight Greenlight home, as well as helped the agitated girl.
One night, when giving Kushi a ride home, I asked her what it felt like to come back to Redlight-Greenlight.
Kushi answered, “When I was staying at Redlight-Greenlight, I used to pray that I would get to become a caregiver in the future. I am so happy that God has already answered my prayer—even if just for a short time!”
Not every girl’s story moves so visibly towards God’s goodness, and as I sat in the peaceful Bible study room, away from the previous night’s incident, I thought about Manisha. I could still hear the heart-wrenching wails of our girls. They had these deep, overwhelming emotions, born out of a place of brokenness, but they were not yet moving into worship. They were drowning in their pain.
I realized that God was not asking me to simply try and make the cries stop. He wanted me to face their despair directly—even embrace it. Somehow through doing so, healing and redemption could be proclaimed in their lives. This was my worship.
Eventually, Manisha’s court process finished, and with all roadblocks removed, she could return home. Our social worker and a caregiver escorted her to be reunited with her parents and I may never see her again.
It’s hard to say how much we helped Manisha before she left. However, caring for her reminded me that we need to keep facing the pain and brokenness that the girls bring. And often we are surprised at how the girls with us are finding God in the middle of their cries.
One night we got a call that Amira couldn’t wake up from a nightmare. When I went into the dorm to check on her, I found her lying on the top bunk, fighting an unseen foe with her arms waving wildly. Her eyes were shut tight as she said, “Don’t kill me! Go away! Please don’t kill me!”
I tried to bring her back to the present, assuring her that she was safe and prayed over her. After a few minutes, she managed to open her eyes and started calming down.
As I soothed Amira, I realized that another girl, Rita, was slowly sweeping the floor. Despite Amira’s cries, Rita had continued cleaning, unbothered. As she neared Amira’s bunk bed, she looked up and said, “Oh, Amira. The same thing used to happen to me a lot. Just pray to God—He will give you peace.” She moved on with her broom, then looked back at me and flashed a smile.
Facing the cries of trauma is never easy. However, along with Rita and Kushi, we are learning that pressing into them is the best way to understand God’s heart in brokenness.