By Lizzie Thomas
We stepped out of the bus single-file into the hot and humid air. Our legs hurt from the six-hour drive. The ground was dead and dry, causing dust to stir with our footsteps.
I looked around to see where we were. I saw more uniformed and armed guards, small canopy-covered souvenir shops and food stands. A huge bridge connecting the land of Thailand to the land of Myanmar, a cement sidewalk lined with a flimsy fence, and the grasses and brown river of “No Man’s Land.”
Grace led us to the sidewalk and then along it, telling us about the border. Her head was held high and she walked with the God-given purpose of setting the captives free. Our bodies were already tired, our throats already begged for the small amount of water we had packed.
Then we saw them. They came out of the grass, out of the river and down the sidewalk. The captives were small. They wore rags and no shoes and had dirt-covered faces. Some were wet from their recent swim.
It was like we had walked into a park. Not a friendly neighborhood park, with squeaky swings and a colorful jungle gym, a desolate park. Where evil roamed and tortured its small occupants. It caused sores to fester on their bare feet and their “swimming pool” to increase its current, momentarily pulling them under. The captives were children, and the closest thing to a home these children had was the Devil’s Playground.
Captives. They were owned by adults, some had been bought. Others were under the authority of relatives, some even parents. Their sentence was to beg day in and day out, to reach a quota, and deposit every last cent they were given into the salivating hands of their owners. If the quota was not reached, the consequences would be dire.
These children only ate and drank what was given to them by passersby on the border, and it showed in their physique. They were thin to the bone.
Grace doted upon these children, giving them her water and encouraging us to do the same. The eyes of the children lit up, and smiles filled their faces.
Among these children was a small boy, about 4 years old, with shaggy light-brown hair. When Grace saw this boy, the agenda for our entire day changed. We were no longer on a look-and-see tour. We were on a rescue mission.
You see, Grace is in charge of an entire orphanage filled with rescued children. And this particular small boy had been in her sights for months. She had met with his “owners” numerous times, to no avail. It never failed, each time after she spoke with his owners, the boy would be hidden away for weeks. She knew today was the day to save him.
Watching as Grace called her translator and prepared for battle, I had to wonder what happened in the spiritual realm when Grace’s eyes fell on the small shaggy boy. Did evil hold its breath realizing its mistake? Or did it laugh at Grace’s desire to win this battle? Were there angels standing by, encouraging the little boy to inch forward and peek out from behind the older children? Did an angel grasp Grace’s chin and gently guide it to where she would see the boy?
I could ask those questions all day long, but at the end of the day, only one matters. Who won?
Hours passed as we bought snacks and water and handed it out, waited for the translator and then communicated with the children. The joy on their faces from being given food and water is unforgettable.
However, our shaggy boy did not want to go with us. His “owners” had told him foreigners would hurt him more than he was accustomed.
The clock clicked too long and one of his owners approached. A little old lady came and pulled little Shaggy right off Grace’s lap. All this did was add fuel to the fire. Grace was ready for battle as she pounced to her feet and (using her translator) started demanding an explanation for the treatment of the boy.
The feud attracted the attention of daily border loungers, as well as the armed border patrol. As time would tell, the little old lady, though feisty and strong, was outnumbered. The border loungers had seen little Shaggy daily, and knew that if he stayed where he was, death was not far away. Through God’s grace and power, all the loungers began to side with Grace, that the boy must go with her. We all knew this was God. To the loungers and border patrol, these children are just scenery, like the bridge and river. They travel between the countries and no one cares. But today, they cared. They ALL cared, and they ALL spoke up.
Eventually, the border patrol took Grace’s side and allowed us to leave with little Shaggy. The battle had been won and evil was defeated! We took him and entered the bus. He was screaming and fighting, he was terrified we would hurt him.
As our bus pulled away from the border, I turned around and looked behind us at the border once more. Yes, the battle had been won, but the shouts of little Shaggy mixed with the sight of many more starving children returning to their daily activities on the Devil’s Playground filled my mind with one thought….
The war is not over.
To read the next part of Lizzie Thomas’s journey visit www.emboldenzine.com/testify and look in issue 4 of Embolden Magazine at www.emboldenzine.com/issues.