Of course it was “Mariela*” who didn’t show up to SutiSana to work, our youngest artisan barely out of her teens, already a mom of her own two children and raising her orphaned brother.
Mariela* is everyone’s little sister. Despite the horrific physical and sexual abuse she experienced being the child of generational prostitution and being trafficked herself, Mariela* is the playful ray of sunshine in our SutiSana workshop. She giggles at her own sly jokes, links arms with anyone willing to share one, and is constantly flabbergasted by the family atmosphere of the SutiSana workshop after the Brazilian sweatshop where she worked 12 hours a day.
She just had a powerful experience with God during our Word Made Flesh retreat, and had come off of that mountaintop experience proclaiming, “God spoke to me for the first time in my life! I heard Him!”
And now, less than 24 hours later, she had disappeared and turned off her cell, leaving her kids and brother with her deadbeat boyfriend.
We dropped to our knees in prayer for her that day. And the next. And the next.
Surely she would show up on Monday, after a weekend to collect her thoughts.
She did not. If she didn’t show up in two days, SutiSana would be legally required to fire her. We were running out of time.
But then she called her aunt, who also works in SutiSana, and her aunt encouraged her to just come in and talk. So she showed up, and quietly asked to talk to our business manager. And then she went upstairs and intentionally met with the coordinator of her kids’ program. And then she talked to her therapist. And also her social worker.
And then, she was back! Like any addict who falls off the wagon or any prodigal hobbling back to her father, she was battling a landslide of shame and self-recrimination. She ducked her head and shyly submitted to our bear hugs, but her eyes looked tired and a bit haunted.
Meanwhile, I was blinking away tears and thinking, “This girl is my hero.” I’m pretty sure that if I was running away from my trauma-ridden past and taking care of three children while working full-time, I would have just kept running. I cannot imagine the strength it took her to stop, take a deep breath, and turn back towards the overwhelming stress and crush of her life.
Mariela* is an orphan, barely twenty years old, who is raising three children without having had any childhood to speak of herself. As long as we in SutiSana and Word Made Flesh can be her stability, her structure, her support, and her family, we will be, welcoming her home with open arms as many times as it takes.
By: Cara Strauss Contreras, SutiSana Co-Founder
*Name changed for respect and privacy.