My Gift


When I woke up this morning, I put on black and grey to reflect my dark mood. Yesterday was one of the hardest days I’ve ever experienced. I’ll be honest, I was ready to be done. Not really, but mostly.

I certainly didn’t want to go back to Beginning of Life. Yes, they are doing amazing things there. I had already had the opportunity to see women like Alla and Natalia interacting with the girls there. I saw how invested men like Sergei and Benjamin were in working with prevention of trafficking in the schools here in Chisinau. I had met two of the most beautiful little baby girls you’d ever want to snuggle with and their amazing, courageous mothers.

I had seen these positive examples, but they were competing against some really horrific things. It was difficult for me to see past ages of girls that are uncomfortably close to the ages of my own daughters. It was hard to get past stats like “100,000 victims of human trafficking in Moldova” and “30,000 women and girls who have completely disappeared.” I couldn’t stop thinking about the violence that caused the pregnancies that brought about those gorgeous babies.

But I was working with another group of women to make some crochet items and I knew that I needed to be there. I need to continue to see ALL of what is here.

We began working with our group of women. I wanted to make things that these women could make and perhaps sell in the store that they run here. So today we were working on turning hair elastics into something a bit more beautiful. We started working on them, and two of the young women picked up the pattern very quickly and began experimenting with their own patterns. The room was mostly quiet as we worked together on our projects. I wasn’t thinking about trafficking or sex abuse, I was praying my crochet rosary. Prayers for the staff, for the girls, for my family back home, for the team. Chain three, slip stitch, prayer. It was quiet and it was good.

When we were packing up the supplies at the end of the class, one of the women brought her work to me. I thought that she simply wanted to show off what she had been making, but the interpreter Alla told me that Jean wanted me to have what she had made.

I will no doubt bring things back with me from this trip. Little knick-knacks for my kids, a bottle of wine for my husband. I’ll bring back stories, and heartbreak, and muddy boots.

And a red decoration for my hair.

  • bekka

    The gifts that come from people with so little seem to mean that much more.

    My mother used to be a welfare officer. One Christmas, she had met with a single mother and her daughter and despite my mother’s best efforts, they didn’t qualify for any assistance. However, my mother was apparently the first person [in her position] to put any effort into helping them. They approached my mum outside the office one evening with some handmade Christmas ornaments. Technically, welfare officers are not allowed to accept gifts, and when my mother explained that to this single mother, they begged her to take it because no one else had even tried to help them.

    Those ornaments had pride of place on our fireplace mantle for many years.

    Enjoy your red hair decoration, Alise. *hugs*

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    Not just a pretty bit of yarn, but a beautiful reminder of a human connection. Not just crochet, but a prayer, a meditative practice. I hope the women and girls who have faced horrors find such pastimes, such quiet moments, to reflect, to be still and at peace, to just be. I hope all the rest of their days are filled with such ordinary, everyday things, and the ordinary and everyday becomes normal and expected.

    Thank you for the link to BoL in your earlier post. It was a very informative read. I was struck by the quality of care they provide to women who become mothers through rape. Food, diapers, baby clothes, but also shelter and vocational education and parenting classes, and love, kindness, acceptance. Unlike many in America, they don’t just talk the talk, but understand that mom and baby have a great many non-trivial needs. I fully, completely support those who choose, of their own free will, to have a baby after rape. And yet, I am still deeply disquieted. BoL unequivocally states that abortion after rape is the “wrong” decision, that women mostly choose it for “financial” reasons. It sickens and horrifies me that some people think a 15 year old child becoming a mother with no choice in the matter is a good thing, while killing a mindless life that has not yet become a person, is seen as abhorrent. Is it not enough that sex slavery took her childhood away, now she should be a mother while still a child? Surely BoL staff know teen pregnancy, especially for the younger girls, is a risk to their health and even life. Motherhood is a tremendous burden, even when freely chosen, even when filled with love and joy. The burdens we choose are far lighter to bear than ones forced on us. That young girl can be a mother later, when she is an adult, when she’s married, but she can never again have a chance at youth if it is taken away now. Should we say to that girl, your body is not your own, your life is not your own, you will become a mother because others have chosen for you? BoL probably says it is because they think fertilized eggs have souls and are thus people, but does that mean minds don’t matter, choice doesn’t matter? The BoL staff seem very kind and gentle, so I doubt they physically restrain girls, or yell at them and call them sluts and sinners. However, I wonder if they refuse to take a girl to a clinic for an abortion, and since she has no resources of her own, this effectively denies her a choice. I wonder if they deny their services to those who want an abortion? I wonder if they make false claims about abortion causing cancer and depression? During their school programs to “prevent sexual immorality”, do they teach abstinence and sex in marriage only? Or do they teach about self respect, healthy relationships, it’s okay to wait and have boundaries, sex is an expression of love but not a requirement of it, and effective use of birth control? Given the 70%+ abortion rate there, I assume birth control is lacking or unused. BoL does so very much good, and I want to donate to them, but I am so torn! Will I be contributing to forced birth and misinformation? Can I request my funds be used for counseling, shelter, education, but not evangelism or abstinence only or lies about abortion? A great program with some flaws is much preferable to nothing at all, so should I just donate because the effect will be mostly good? I know you have your hands full, your heart and mind occupied, but if at some point, maybe much later, you have time to answer my questions, I would be grateful.

    • Monika Jankun-Kelly

      Please let me add I know some rape survivors say they found healing and comfort in motherhood, some say they were able to totally separate motherhood from the rape. I support them, I believe them, but their experiences, their choices, are not universal, not true for every woman or girl, and don’t invalidate any of the arguments for a woman’s right to self determination and bodily integrity.

    • Alise Wright

      I’m not going to the pregnancy center today (only half of our group was able to go), but I will see what I can find with regard to the education provided. We’ll be attending the youth club this evening (Thursday), so I’ll see if I can find out about the prevention side as well, though I suspect abstinence-only teaching. I also seriously doubt that anyone from the staff would take a girl to get an abortion. I’m 100% certain that they don’t turn away girls who have had abortions, but I’d be baffled if they would participate in it at all. The center started as a pro-life group that quickly recognized that abortion was a much smaller problem than the sex trafficking and support for those women. I’m grateful that it grew into something more, but given the roots, I expect it holds to fairly “traditional” pro-life teaching.

      I will say that with regard to fund raising for BoL/HopeChest, I am trying to find out if we can fund a specific project. They have a green-house project here that they use for food/money, as well as the store where they sell various crafts. These projects that can help women empower themselves by working and earning money so they have more choices are very close to my heart, so I’m hoping to be able to ask to raise support for them specifically (because I have many of the same concerns as you with regard to things like abstinence only education).

      • Monika Jankun-Kelly

        Thank you very much for your reply, Alise. It is very heartening to hear they won’t turn away girls. The project specific funding idea is also very welcome. I wonder if individuals could inquire of BoL about funding specific things, like the domestic violence awareness talks they give at churches? I support your greenhouse / store fund ideas too. Thank you again, for your blog, your kind heart, and will to help.

  • pastordt

    Omigosh, Alise. THIS is perfection. thank you. And I’d love to see a picture of all that wonderful hair pulled up in that red circle of love.

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  • Robin Dance

    Oh, Alise…I’m praying over your tender heart. You’re so fierce and yet so compassionate; I love the way you feel so deeply. Yes…yes…a circle of red love. A treasure more beautiful than rubies. xo