My old friend Dawn emailed me with unbelievable news last week: She accidentally found Amanda. The last time either of us saw her was 17 years ago.
The summer of 1999, our church hosted Backyard Bible Clubs in neighborhoods throughout Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Dawn and I were assigned to a trailer park where we met several kids with little to do during summer break, and that’s where we met nine-year-old Amanda, her siblings, and her friends.
The kids showed up every morning, ready for another day at the castle. They sang along with the songs, listened intently to the lessons, and addressed the members of the “royal court” as if we were kings and queens.
Little did we suspect that Amanda and her siblings were living through hell.
An Unexpected Reunion
Seventeen years after the summer of Son Castle, I saw Dawn on Facebook occasionally, but I had almost forgotten about our Backyard Bible Club days. Then I got her email last week.
Dawn, now a registered nurse, told me that earlier that day, she hosted a party at her home and one of the nurses from her workplace came. During a conversation, the nurse asked Dawn if she had ever helped with a Bible Club at a trailer park in the Glendale community.
“I sure did,” said Dawn.
“Oh wow,” said the nurse, “I was at that Bible Club. I knew it was you.”
It was Amanda.
Amanda told Dawn that she attended Bible Club with her brothers and sisters, and for some reason, her most vivid memory was of Dawn in a purple outfit. She had never forgotten her face.
“I had a terrible childhood,” Amanda told Dawn, “and Backyard Bible Club is one of my few happy memories of it. It was my first encounter with God.”
To Amanda’s surprise, Dawn found several photos of the Backyard Bible Club and brought them out. Amanda’s eyes filled with tears as she looked through the photos. As she and Dawn were talking, Dawn sensed God prompting her to share about her own horrific upbringing. So at the risk of creating a potentially awkward conversation, she went out on a limb and revealed that as a child, she had been sexually abused for 11 years.
Amanda says, “When the words ‘sexually abused’ left Dawn’s lips, I felt a sense of purpose wash over me. Meeting her was what God wanted; it was what I needed. I needed Dawn.” And that’s when Amanda revealed her own painful story: Around the time when we met her, her step-father was forcing her to share a bed with him. She went through years of sexual abuse as well, and yet there was a light in her dark memories: a 19-year-old in a homemade princess outfit.
The Next Amanda
Dawn and Amanda, who are both faithful Christians today, sense that they were brought together to give other survivors hope. They’re thinking through what that will look like, but whatever it is wouldn’t have been possible without a few simple things like a Backyard Bible Club, makeshift costumes, and young adults who were willing to play dress-up for a week to bless some kids in a trailer park.
If you’re a believer, there’s a good chance that you too are doing some small things to love the people around you. You’re teaching Sunday School, visiting a relative in the nursing facility, intently listening to your kids, donating money to charity, encouraging a coworker — whatever it is, God knows and He can use it.
Be encouraged. When we push over the dominoes of God’s love — even one — the result is unpredictable. Through His unfailing love, all kinds of people will reap the benefits of your selfless gifts, no matter how big or small. And while these gifts may not seem like much, God is big enough to take them and turn them into miracles.