The little girl splashed through muddy puddles on her way to school. Colorful buildings, thrown together with random bits of wood and corrugated iron, lined the streets. Angelyn lowered her eyes as she weaved between the neighborhood children who didn’t go to school. Their parents saw no need for schooling. Some of the parents sold their children into prostitution to grab a bit of extra cash. Their pain numbed by drugs, these children had no hope for a better future. In the back streets of Cebu City, the Philippines, school is considered a privilege for the children who have hope.
Angelyn’s parents could afford to send her to school, but she didn’t know why. Their occupation was a shadowy secret, hidden from their children, their neighbors and the authorities. When people asked Angelyn what work her parents did, it was easier to invent a make-believe story than explain why she didn’t know the answer.
Even so, they were still living in poverty, and Angelyn had been registered with Compassion at the Loving My Neighbor Child Development Center. Her caseworker at the center, Joel, found that this shy little girl was doing exceptionally well at school and wondered if she could become a leader who would have a positive influence on her community.
Before leaving for school one morning, Angelyn searched the house for her parents to ask for pocket money. Opening a door, she found her father with packets of shabu, a low-quality methamphetamine, spread out in front of him. In their community, Angelyn often saw people selling and using drugs. She knew what her father was doing, and she knew how dangerous it was. The realization that he was a drug dealer devastated her. She was angry that he put their family in danger, and confused about what she should do about it. But she didn’t dare ask for help. The penalty for drug dealing was life in prison, and Angelyn couldn’t imagine what would happen to her family if she told someone and the police found out about her father.
Even though Angelyn kept quiet about what she saw, it wasn’t long before the police came to their home. Angelyn was baby-sitting a neighbor’s baby when she heard a commotion downstairs: voices yelling, furniture rolling across the floor, feet crashing up the stairs. Amid the noise, Angelyn could make out the word, “Police!” Her heart pounded. She wondered what she should do but she knew she needed to stay with the baby.
Her mother and father ran into her room. Her mother shoved something into her hand as her husband jumped out the bedroom window. “Hide this,” her mother commanded before following him through the window. Angelyn looked down at her hands and realized she was holding a bag of drugs. She quickly hid the bag under her bed sheet just before the police entered the room, looking for her parents.
Angelyn’s dreams were shattered. She didn’t talk to the Compassion center staff about it because she mistakenly thought that if they knew the truth, they would reject her. As her hope faded, her attendance at the center dropped off. She spent more time with her friends from the community while her father went in and out of prison. By age 12 she was drinking alcohol and frequenting nightclubs.
Seeing that Angelyn wasn’t coming to the child development center, Joel was worried about her. He knew the dangers she faced on the streets of Cebu. When he tried to call her, she rejected his calls. One day he found her and made a last attempt to encourage her to return to the care of Compassion. Reluctantly, she agreed to go to a youth camp.
During one of the camp meetings, Angelyn confessed her sins to God. Like never before, she knew God was with her.