Welcome back the Ray of Sunshine that is Margot Starbuck on the blog today!
Raised in an impoverished community in the Philippines, the future did not look bright for a young girl like Michelle.
At home Michelle heard that she was ugly and that she’d grow up to be no more than a thief and a drug addict.
The only Christian Michelle knew was her aunt. Some members of a local church that partnered with Compassion International, told her aunt, “If you want to change your niece’s life, enroll her in the project.” They knew that’s where children’s physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs were being met by members of the church.
Michelle explains, “Going to the Compassion project was like a haven for us. It was a place where we would be fed. We would be treated well and people would really love us.”
The opportunity was possible because Michelle was sponsored by Esther and Tom, a couple from the United States. With tears in her eyes, Michelle recounts, “My sponsor told me: Michelle you are beautiful, you are precious to us and we love you.”
Whether we live in a slum in the Philippines or a posh suburb in the States, we learn who we are from the faces around us. We learn whether we’re ugly or beautiful. And we learn whether to expect a dark future or a bright one.
What Changes Lives
German psychologist Alice Miller, whose research focused on children who’d experienced abuse and neglect, recognized that these children often grew up to repeat the cycles of emotional and physical abuse they’d endured. Studying the many who grew up to repeat the cycle, and the few who had not, Miller identified the one thing that made a difference.
Miller claims that the single factor which determines whether children will grow up to repeat the abusive cycle they’ve endured is the presence of what she calls a “helping witness.” It’s an adult who reflects, for a child, that they are worth respecting. They’re worth protecting. They’re worth loving.
That’s what Esther and Tom did in Michelle’s life. It’s what her aunt did. It’s what the Compassion staff and volunteers did at a church in Michelle’s neighborhood. Each of those faces reflected that Michelle was worth loving.
A Different Future
Because of Compassion, because of faces that reflected who she really was, Michelle’s future was a bright one.
Through Compassion’s Leadership Development Program, she received her undergraduate degree in Communication Arts at the University of Santo Tomas, in the Philippines, and even continued on to get graduate summa cum laude with a Masters Degree in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship at the Moody Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
And today Michelle has become that face of truth for girls and women who may not yet know that they’re worth respecting. Worth protecting. Worth loving. Michelle serves the co-founder and Director of MADE IN HOPE , an organization empowering women and children who’ve been rescued from the global sex trade. Made in Hope provides education, sustainable livelihood opportunities and care in the healing process. They also advocate for the still-enslaved by mobilizing support and increasing global awareness.
As a girl, Michelle had seen her friends working in the bars and streets of Manila. Today she is a vital agent of change against injustice. She believes that, because of the love of Jesus, God has a plan for each of us.
Like Alice Miller, I’m convinced that Michelle’s life has taken such beautiful form because there were human faces who reflected for her the reality of God’s face toward her, “You are beautiful. You are precious to me and I love you.”
May 4, 2014 is Compassion Sunday. Take the opportunity to tell a child, “I’m here for you.” Find out more at Compassion International’s website.