A Purple Bike and a Smile

Her mother smoothed out her dress under her legs nervously. She dabbed her eyes with the tissue I offered her between her loud sobs. Her story was very unsettling and troubling on so many levels. She had been kidnapped in Baghdad and subjected to prostitution and abuse for years.

Hearing that it was actually a woman who headed the assault made me angry, but that was years ago, and my anger was useless. She was used for years for rapid money turnover…she stopped to elaborate abuse episodes between her general story…the abuse worsened. Continuing, she told of her eventual escape. The three of us listening to her quietly sighed, wanting this to be the turn of the story for the better. Sigh. It wasn’t. More sobs. Drawn into another series of unfortunate circumstances and choices, she fell into another world of extreme physical and emotional abuse. This time, a little girl was produced in the midst of all the darkness. The darkness has followed, producing a very angry, troubled child. Another life-threatening escape ensued. Her story wound down and we fell quiet, offering comfort for all the years of pain, which always feels so little for me, but I understand is at least a starting point.

The child’s mother had come to our office in Kurdistan asking for help for her and her five year old daughter, Zayah. It’s not her real name, of course, but in Arabic Zayah has a meaning of, “a woman who wins;” I think we can pray this over this little abused girl, who is, of course, a woman in the making. She will one day stand as a woman either healed and whole in Christ or broken and miserable, passing her pain and abuse on to her children. Crossroads never feel like crossroads to me, they are much quieter than I expect and tend to sneak up on me. As I handed her another tissue, I realized we were at a crossroads, but another bigger one was coming.

We said yes, Zayah was welcome to join our Child Sponsorship Program which would give her mother food and help Zayah. Another organization offered to help with funds for a place for them to live. We thought we’d help get Zayah a backpack and go that route getting her into school, but later when Mryana sat with the mother and Zayah, she realized that wouldn’t work. She’s simply too angry and too violent.

What about a bike, Mryana asked. A bike? She shared what a bike could mean to this wounded five year old in such detail…I wasn’t sure…then I remembered that Mryana had been a five year old refugee herself. A different situation but pain is pain, and she and must have known some of what Zayah felt. Did anyone buy you a bike at that age? I asked her. No. No one was there to help their family. I smiled and understood. Yup, a bike it is.

Mryana picked out the bike along with a few outfits of clothes, red slippers and a couple of toys. A few days later, Zayah and her mother walked into the office. Mryana took a video of the reveal. We love to replay that video. Did it work? Well, it hasn’t hurt! That’s her on the left smiling with her purple bike. We wish we could show you her face, but her smile is there. Her mother said she hadn’t smiled for a very long time, and this bike represents something her mother was longing to give her; some semblance of a normal childhood. It’s a start.

This is also definitely a starting point for her mother who recently deepened her faith in God. She’s concerned for what it means for her future, and yet she is so desperate to change her life. Thank you for praying for her as she grows in her new faith, and for Zayah. While we don’t normally give out bicycles, we had received a special financial gift that made it possible to do so. This little girl is one of hundreds of children we have welcomed into our family of precious ones God has entrusted to us for “such a time as this.”

To our sponsors and donors who give one time or so faithfully month after month, we know you sacrifice so much. Please know how much you are deeply appreciated by us and by these parents, some of who are on the very edge of existence hanging on by a thread. God is using your love and compassion for his purposes. If you are interested in sponsoring a child through IMI, please visit our website, and click the tab “Sponsor a Child.” We would be happy to have you join us and many others who are making a real difference in children’s lives, just like Zayah’s. – Dee A. Cook