Imagine This Life…

Imagine, you are 13 again: young, carefree, waiting anxiously for summer vacation to begin because you are just tired of school. You can’t wait to play, hang out with friends, go get ice cream, or shop at the mall. This seems to be a simple way of life that all children should grow up in, with no thought of today’s worries nor what tomorrow may bring. To simply enjoy life and be a kid.

Yet, this is not the way of life for many children living in Brazil.  They are caught between the daily grind of their parent’s lives shattered with drugs, alcohol, and poverty; as well as their dreams of just being a kid.

Such is the life a young lady named Shayna (named change for protection). I met her at Casulo (Cocoon) which is a safe environment for survivors of sexual violence to begin the delicate process of transformation through experiencing freedom and hope in Christ. Art therapeutic sessions are designed to allow girls to be heard, to be loved and to begin feeling the heart of Jesus who wants to heal them.

When I first met Shayna, I wondered, “How old is this girl?” Her stature was quite small. She was very skinny, adorning pants and a shirt that seemed old. Her hair was pulled back tight into a bun, warding off any noticeable trace of dandruff or that her hair was dirty. I thought, “Does she belong in this group? She seems so young.”

Shayna entered the room very quietly, very unsure of her surroundings. She knew the other girls attending the sessions, as they lived in the same neighborhood.  I observed her hanging onto everything they did or said.  She looked to them to reassure her that it was ok to participate. Her spirit was heavy. She did not smile, nor did she laugh. It seemed too painful to do any such action.

She is 13 but she does not play. She does not anxiously wait to get out of school because she is not able to attend school on a regular basis. She does not hang out with friends unless she has time to attend Casulo. Her life involves waking up every day, washing the dishes, making breakfast for 4-5 people living the in the house, cleaning the house, making the beds, buying the groceries, and preparing the meals.

Her 18-year-old sister lives next door and is about to give birth to her fourth child. Shayna is responsible for taking care of the other three daily. Three of her family members have been murdered: her father, her brother-in-law and her uncle. Life has pushed her down and continues to trap her.

And yet, after 12 weeks of spending each Monday at Casulo with Shayna and the other girls, I begin to see differences in them. We have spent many weeks introducing them to various forms of art therapy and telling them of Christ’s love. Shayna has listened to words of praise music and its rhythm as she takes a small paintbrush in her hand to depict the dreams she has for her life. It’s hard though. The thoughts don’t come fast. The concept that whatever she writes down, or the pictures she might paint, or the creation of broken tile and glue, could ever help her accomplish a freedom she is seeking, is hard to reach.

Nonetheless, at the end of the day, at the end of each session, when I wrap my arms around her and say, “Te amo e estou orando para voce!” (I love you and I’m praying for you), the smile that was once forgotten, is now present. It doesn’t change the immediate circumstances that she must now walk back into, but I am assured that she is feeling God’s love and that He will watch over her as she dreams of playing, dreams of going to school, and dreams of friends, as any 13-year-old should be doing!

By: Jennifer Neptune, Serving in Brazil