It’s not uncommon for us to tell you about a child rescued from human trafficking or other exploitation. Your partnership just last year resulted in the rescue of 21 precious little ones. That truth alone causes us all to rejoice!
But follow-up is critical. Safety, healing and restoration are key long-term goals for every rescued child. We at Extreme Love are dedicated to this task, and we’re thrilled to see that miracle happen in the lives of so many.
That goes double for our kids at Hope House. They are family.
You may remember Katee’s rescue back in 2020. We’ve often updated you on her progress. Perhaps that’s because she’s had so many challenges since coming to live with us. Trusting others hasn’t come easy for Katee. She’d grown up on the street with a mother and grandmother, who constantly moved her and her siblings from one roof overhang to the next, and sent them out to beg each day. When the children failed to bring in enough money through begging, some were rented out for sexual favors. Thankfully, you helped us rescue Katee from a life of abuse and exploitation.
But Katee had a rough first year with us. Distrustful of the environment of love, safety and encouragement we provided, she would sometimes burst out in anger, curse at and hit friends—and teachers—and wouldn’t listen to adults. Despite her misbehaviors, we continued to love on her…and prayed.
That patience began to pay off this past year. Katee began apologizing when she did wrong—even before she’s asked. She also started helping around the house and even speaking politely. Katee still struggles now and then, but she continues to heal each day. We’re very proud of her for the drastic change that’s taken place.
So much so that we felt our little Katee, now 9 years old, was ready for something big—being a flower girl in a wedding! And not just any wedding, but the joining of our director, Andrea, with Zak Koftinoff, who heads up ELM’s Elijah Project, our frontline rescue ministry.
Katee jumped at the chance to be a flower girl along with Sanshe, another Hope House girl.
The special day began with Katee spending time with a hairdresser, right along with Andrea and her bridesmaids. Next came donning the beautiful dresses picked out for her and Sanshe. Soon after an irrepressible smile broke out onto her face, and remained there the rest of the day!
The two girls performed flawlessly—smiling ear to ear—as they followed the last of the wedding party procession down the aisle, casting forth plenty of flower petals as they went. The enchanting young girls delighted wedding guests as they slowly made their way down front.
But the best was yet to come, when this little girl, who once lived on the dangerous, dirty streets of Phnom Penh, would make what some might have thought an unlikely Cinderella-like transformation.
The wedding ceremony concluded, and everyone made their way to the reception by foot or shuttle. Toasts, speeches and tinkling glasses followed, as in Western tradition wedding guests signaled the newlyweds that it was time for another kiss. (Everyone enthusiastically joined in on that fun, especially all the Hope House kids and ELM staff, none of whom had ever attended a Western wedding before!) After all had eaten, the dancing began.
Katee did her best to join the fray of dancers, but looked a little lost at first because she was about half as tall as everyone else!
Then it happened. Katee’s Prince Charming (aka Zak, the groom), invited her to dance with him. She couldn’t have smiled more. In fact, she flashed an epic smile throughout the dance, visible even through twirling hair and flying dress.
We can only imagine that Katee must have collapsed into her bed from exhaustion that night. Never in her young life had she seemed so filled with joy. So special. So loved and noticed.
Katee wasn’t just Cinderella for one night, however. She has always been loved by God, the one who has been inviting her to dance with him since her birth. He has been softening her heart each day, yearning for her to spend eternity with him.
Like Katee, God is calling each of us to become transformed into his beautiful bride. But now this precious girl, snatched from abuse, has a little taste of her destiny in him. She will carry that memory the rest of her life as, we pray, she follows Jesus, her true Prince.