***For the few precious people who actually read this, pretend you and I are sitting down face to face over a really good cup of coffee…because that’s how the best stories are shared.***
The quote that titles this story isn’t from some girly movie. It’s what sprung out of the heart of a girl that yearned for so long to experience real love and had finally come to know Him in truth.
Her name is Melrauna Lazarus (or “Melanie” if you’re her American friend who always butchers her name). 🙂
Melanie was born in Johannesburg, South Africa to parents who had not planned for her, who had not wanted her. This was made plain when her mother left her and her father began abusing her as far back as her first memories. At 13, Melanie ran from that abuse and straight into the clutches of a couple who promised an opportunity for a new life in beautiful Cape Town.
Cape Town was as beautiful as the pictures had promised, but the opportunity that waited for Melanie there was not what she has hoped. This couple was part of a human trafficking ring that linked up vulnerable girls with brothel owners. Over the next 5 years, Melanie was a victim of a system that stole her purity, threatened her life, and provided no hope. All the while, Melanie held a firm belief that there was a God who loved people, who helped people. Her unbelief, however, was found in assuming that she could partake in this love. She was under the thick veil of shame that the enemy works to cover hearts in.
I’ve never learned the details of how Melanie escaped this life, but praise the Lord she did! Soon after her 18th birthday, Melanie made a home for herself in Windhoek, Namibia. Two months later, the Lord had her and I working at the same orphanage in the slums surrounding the city. He let me know immediately that He was up to something in her precious life.
So, every day for two weeks, I talked to her about how much He loves her, how much value she holds in His eyes. These words brought her to tears every time I said them as she denied that this could be true…Until the 15th day. That day, she made the sweet statement on the title, “I have loved Him all my life, but I didn’t know that He wanted me until now. Until you told me, Manda.” She committed her faith and her life eternal to Him and from then on, she’s called me sister. She said, “His is the only family I’ve ever wanted. We are both His. You are my sister.”
Melanie had been waiting so long to open herself up to the love of the Lord that she dove headfirst into life with Him and His Word for her. It was truly a blessing to witness the rapid growth and strength in their relationship.
Four short weeks later, I left Namibia in 2009. Her and I kept in touch, but it wasn’t until recently that Melanie told me she contracted HPV from the years she was enslaved and that this had developed into cervical cancer. The shame associated with this disease kept her from seeking treatment. Now, in 2012, her cancer has reached a terminal stage. Doctors are now treating her as well as they can. Still her prognosis is bleak. Does she blame her perpetrators? No, Melanie prays for them often. Does she blame God? The last time we spoke she quoted 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
”Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
While her faith has become is nearly unshakable, I’ve had a difficult time dealing. As the Lord has given me a burdened and broken heart for the atrocities of human trafficking, I have seen this sin’s repercussions in her life and had been discouraged to say the very least. When Melanie first told me about her disease she did ask what I knew about the goodness and sovereignty of God.
I realized that as I answered her, I was reassuring myself. In this, one of the darkest times of her life, God had me testify to exactly who He
was is. He knows how weak I am, and that I would look to my “fixer” attitude and not see the blessings even in this pain. I told her about the Working-All-Things-For-Good God, the God who sees who we are and uses all the broken places to make us who we are becoming. I spoke these things out loud and I felt God make them true to me again in this watching of a pain I couldn’t fix. And this is what I learned: the hard does not minimize His goodness. But it allows us to experience His goodness in a whole new way.
He is Jesus.
Jesus! the Name that charms our fears
that bids our sorrows cease;
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’tis life and health and peace.
And he met us right where we were, even right here in the cold, hard place called “Cancer”. Here, where “Faith” is much more than a church-y word, and where “I’ll be praying” isn’t a trite nicety, but a necessity, where soul and spirit cry out for justice and find the God who sees, the Author of Justice. So, please, pray for my sister Melanie. Pray for her strength to fight the real enemy, not the cancer, but the one who comes to kill. She would want you to know that the good news is that she is more than a conqueror!
Melanie’s story is continued here http://wp.me/pwmux-2g
And lastly, I know you sure don’t wanna miss this! http://wp.me/pwmux-2S