It has been a long day and it was getting late. Like typical teenage girls, the Willow girls had finished dinner and were playing games with music blasting. I was about to call it a night when the music got louder and the dancing started. The girls begged me to put on one of their favorite songs – this one had choreography and I could see the new girls were quickly catching on.
I sat down on the couch with one of the house moms – a strong young woman who cares for them day in and day out. As we cheered them on, I began listening to the words they were singing and it hit me like a ton of bricks. In front of me were victims of sex trafficking – children with a life full of trauma and abuse, forced to work in brothels at the average age of 14. Six of these precious girls had only been rescued 3 months ago, but as they sang and danced they were smiling. Their eyes were no longer glued to the floor, but shining with newfound confidence and joy. The giggled as they looked around to figure out what dance move came next.
I listening carefully to the words they were passionately singing. “All I require for life God has given me and I know who I am.” It was so clear that they had begun to believe the words they were singing. “Take a look at me I’m a wonder. I’m beautiful. I know who I am.”
These young girls didn’t get to choose what happened to them. They were told who they were and what they were worth. Today they are free – free to be who they were created to be. This is the foundation of our program and its roots go back to our name – Willow. We choose this name based on the biblical story of the Israelites. When they were taken into slavery in Babylon, they hung their harps – symbols of their identity – on the Willow tree so that when they were freed, they would be free to walk into their true identity.
Today these girls know who they are. They know they are loved by God. They know they are beautiful, loved, intelligent, and strong. As they walk in their journey of healing, it’s with the confidence that they are worthy of love, freedom, and dignity.