Esther* – There is Always Hope
This is the story of “Esther” – a little girl with Down Syndrome who had been neglected, abused, repeatedly sold for sex, and cast aside. She was a child that no one wanted, a child with no voice, but not a child forgotten. The Lord saw her, and He helped us see her, too.
We first met Esther while on outreach in a local HIV village in Cambodia when God highlighted this precious little girl.
It was evident that she had been severely abused, with visible burn marks and scars all over her face and body. Soiled clothes and other signs made it apparent that she was also neglected and extremely malnourished.
The day we first met Esther was so sad, and we’ll never forget the first time we looked into her eyes – they were so dark, so scared, so alone. She was burdened with so much shame and unhappiness. The oppression and the trauma, the weight of what she had been through, was evident in her mannerisms and somber expression. She couldn’t speak, but we could hear the Lord singing over her and calling us to speak on her behalf.
We began to ask where she lived and found her mother in a nearby shack. We told her mom how beautiful her daughter was and how the Lord rejoiced over her. She was drunk and laughed at the comment. We asked what the little girl’s name was, the mother said she didn’t have a name; they just called her “fat.” Upset by this response, we asked if we could rename the girl “Esther,” and explained the call and destiny on her life. The mother agreed to the new name, so we began to speak it over little Esther. As we did, God worked a miracle. Esther, who had been mute, began decreeing her new name over herself, saying in Khmer, “My name is Esther.”
Soon after that, the battle for our little Esther began. We found out that she had been used for sex and treated worse than most animals (most likely because of her disability) – forced to sleep outside, naked, tortured, and abused. One day when we came for a visit, we discovered Esther naked with two men and her drunk mother. The men explained that they were only there to “play with Esther.” Esther’s mother was also known to frequently take her across the Thai border that was just behind their house, where it seems she was also used there.
For Esther, a tiny eight-year old girl who appeared half her age due to the malnourishment, neglect, and abuse that she had suffered – life was a horror. Perversion and wickedness had stolen her innocence and her voice, but our God is a redeemer, and His love never fails.
By diligently working with government officials and social workers, we were able to finally rescue little Esther. She is now safe in our XP home in Phnom Penh where she is looked after by a loving and caring team working to bring her into the fullness of God’s salvation, believing she will be healed and restored physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
Esther is currently receiving specialized care for her needs and will continue to receive counseling, medical care, speech therapy, and education. During a recent medical evaluation, doctors found a heart defect that if left unattended may have significantly shortened her lifespan. We were able to get her the surgery that she needed, and Esther has now full recovered and has a strong heart and lungs. Medical professionals and child development specialists are continually amazed at her levels of healing -specifically her levels of intellect and speaking ability.
God did not forget Esther, and God did not allow her voice to be silenced. We were privileged to be able to assist in her rescue and rehabilitation, and to be a voice for her when she had none.
Hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5). Our Esther has touched our hearts and inspired us more than she will probably ever know. Hers is a voice that will forever speak – a voice of courage, a voice of hope, a voice of testimony that tells of God’s incredible love and saving grace for “the one.