Mary saw the signs. She knew them — she had been there herself.
And someone had intervened for her too.
A nursing student, Mary was traveling with a medical team in Central America when she noticed the young girl in the clinic was acting standoffish.
Mary “was able to get the opportunity to sit down with the girl and talk to her, and she realized that she was being abused,” said Karl Brassfield, director of Emmanuel Home of Protection in Diriamba, Nicaragua. “She was able to get the girl in touch with the right people to get her out of that situation.”
Years before, Mary herself had come to know a team of missions volunteers with Baptist Medical and Dental Mission International, the ministry that runs Emmanuel Home of Protection, as they were working in her village. She got involved in a church they were helping to plant, and she accepted Christ.
It soon came out that Mary was being abused.
“Her family situation was very difficult,” Brassfield said. “So she came and stayed with us at the home, and we were able to get her some counseling.”
It was a long process to get her life back on track, but Mary finished high school then went to college to study nursing. That’s when she crossed paths with the young girl whose story was much like her own.
It was an “incredible turn of events,” Brassfield said. “When Mary got back from the medical missions trip, she told me in tears how God was able to use her horrible experience to be able to help another little girl who was going through the same thing. She knew then that she wanted to be able to do that in some way for the rest of her life.”
It’s a beautiful story — “the kind that keeps you going,” Brassfield said.
Right now, Emmanuel House of Protection has 26 girls and adolescents in its care, as well as four babies who belong to those young women. Many of the residents are victims of sexual abuse or sex trafficking who have been rescued and placed at Emmanuel by the government. Some of the residents stay a few weeks; others stay for years.
“Our staff works hard to make sure each young lady receives the necessary tools to live successfully outside of the home,” Brassfield said.
Those tools include a formal education and training in life and job skills. The young women also learn how to care for their babies — girls as young as 10 years old have given birth while living at the home.
It’s tragic, Brassfield said, but redemption is deep and lasting. The staff walks the young girls through psychological, emotional and spiritual care. More than anything, staff members at Emmanuel want the women to know the unconditional love of Jesus and how it can meet them in their pain and give purpose to their lives.
“We have seen some pretty amazing stories, stories like Mary’s,” he said. “God has done amazing things.”