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I’m thrilled to welcome back Linda Bello-Ruiz. Recently, she shared how God got her attention on a beach in San Francisco and how He sent her to Costa Rica to help the young girls in prostitution. Today, she will share what God currently has her working on.
Someone recently asked me about my “mission.” At first I thought, “I’m not involved in any mission work now,” but after thinking and musing and praying about the question for a few days, a light bulb came on. I’m a Christian. Of course I have a mission. I have a mission and you have a mission, too.
Yes, during the days of The House of Hope, as described in my memoir, From Tears to Triumph, My Journey to The House of Hope, I had a well-defined “mission.” I directed a halfway house and advocated for street girls, runaways and underage prostitutes in Costa Rica. I was a bona-fide “missionary.”
But when I returned to the United States, I became a “civilian” as it was—an ordinary go-to-church-believe-in-Christ Christian. I devoted my life to my family and also to my clients when I began work as a counselor. Was that my “mission?” I never thought about it in those terms.
I lived my Christian life and left the “mission” work for those who venture around the world saving lost souls or for those who selflessly open shelters and missions and help others in the name of the Lord.
But wait…aren’t we all missionaries, every day of every year?
YES, we are. Here’s how I now see God’s divine hand in my life. Every day I wake up and say, “What do you have for me today, Lord?” and then I set out to be a missionary…to be an angel used by God.
Last year, in Mexico where I live part of the year, I strolled without a care down the street to buy fresh tortillas when in front of me, on the corner, I saw a starving dog–a Doberman Pincher so skinny and weak she could hardly stand up.
The mandate was immediate. “Rescue that dog!” It was like lightning struck my heart with compassion and I set out to save that dog. It’s been nearly a year now and Frida the dog is healthy and happy. It took two surgeries, lots of food and nutrients, friends in the neighborhood to feed her while I was away, forming a relationship with the owners to teach them how to care for her and how to make dog food out of rice, beans, tortillas and meat scraps from the butcher. Frida was saved and I’m delighted that God (yes, I believe it was God’s doing) placed her in front of me that day and gave me a heart for her.
The list is long of the animals and people God has put in my path. Sometimes it’s holding a friend’s hand as they pour their heart out, or paying the grocery bill for the sad-looking women in front of me in the grocery checkout line who is frantically counting her pennies, or driving a neighbor to the doctor because he/she can no longer drive.
EACH OF US is a missionary and we’re on a “mission” every day– a mission possible. Buildings don’t contain us and we don’t have financial advisors and pamphlets to tell the world about us. But God needs us and uses us. We just need to be alert, and have a willing heart and kind Spirit.
Over the last six months, I have felt internal “promptings” telling me my work for the Lord has come full circle. Those many years ago, God led me to work with underage prostitutes and street girls in Costa Rica. Suddenly I began hearing and reading news stories about sex-trafficking of minors right here in my backyard, Sacramento–and the more I looked into this, the more the urgings came to “get involved!” And…as Spirit would have it, just as my memoir was being published last year, I found out about another safe-haven for sex-trafficked girls in Costa Rica (the first to open since the House of Hope closed). Coincidence?
What now Lord? Is all I can think to ask.
I’ve just completed a certification program to work with Courage House, the safe-haven and rehabilitation center for sex-trafficked minors based in the Sacramento area. And, as I write this blog post, I’m packed and ready to leave for Costa Rica, where I’ll be (among other things) volunteering at Saving Hearts, a safe-haven for minors sold in the sex trade.
My golf clubs still beckon me, and my dance shoes are waiting to be strapped on, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get to that point in my life when I feel, “I’m done.” So, stay tuned as I fly and flit around the country and the world, reaching out to help others. If YOU feel those same urgings, be part of the solution and volunteer for Courage Worldwide; and/or donate to Saving Hearts.
You are a missionary and you WILL be blessed. I promise. Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35.
Courage Worldwide: www.courageworldwide.com
Saving Hearts: www.salvandocorazonescr.com
Hugs and blessings, Linda Bello-Ruiz, author of the award-winning memoir, From Tears to Triumph, My Journey to The House of Hope (now available in Spanish – De Lagrimas a Triunfo, Mi Camino a La Casa de La Esperanza). www.lindabelloruiz.com
Join me in welcoming back Linda Bello-Ruiz. Last month she shared with us how God spoke to her when she asked Him for a sign. Please click here for that story. Today she will tell us about her adventures in Costa Rica, helping the young girls in The Red Light District.
During prayer one morning, I asked God what plans He had for me. I was not yet twenty-three-years old, but desperate to do God’s will and find meaning in my life. I remained quiet, waiting, seeking. The heavens didn’t open with a shout from the Almighty, a burning bush didn’t appear before me, nor was there a resounding trumpet announcing God’s voice. Instead, that still, quiet voice that I had come to know as the voice of God spoke to me. The voice came from within, as if I were talking to myself, and yet I wasn’t. Separate from my own inner voice, I heard the clear voice of the Lord: “Return to Costa Rica and setup a Christian halfway house for young girls.”
“Okay,” although the idea of returning to Costa Rica had never occurred to me. Not for a second did I question or doubt the message I had received.
Three months later, January 1974, I stood in the Red Light Zone of San Jose, Costa Rica, between two Catholic priests. Father Solano directed our attention to several young women leaning against a second-floor balcony wall. They looked down at us with curiosity as we walked by. The sight of two priests and a tall, redheaded American girl (me!) walking through their neighborhood at night must have been an unusual sight. Behind the girls, a red light shone against a closed, thin curtain.
Father Solano pointed toward a doorway a half block ahead of us. Two young girls, maybe thirteen years old, peered out from the doorway, wearing short skirts, halter-tops and high heels. Huge colorful earrings completed their sexy attire. They’d painted their young faces with far too much makeup and looked like little girls playing dress-up in their mommy’s lipstick and clothes.
“Oh, my gosh,” I said. “They’re so young.”
“Yes, they are,” he said. “Unfortunately, prostitution is legal in Costa Rica. But the girls must be at least eighteen. These young ones are either not registered or they’re working with falsified documents. Police enforcement of under age prostitution has been lax.”
An older man approached the two young girls in the doorway ahead of us. They exchanged a few words. I watched in dismay as he put his arms around their small bodies and walked inside. I tried not to think about what they were being asked to do by that man, and what their lives must be like everyday.
Seeds were planted that night, which would bring about The House of Hope, a Christian safe-haven for underage prostitutes–founded by Padre Solano, Joe Pent (an American missionary) and myself. My faith was bigger than my resume. I possessed NO experience for directing a half-way house. NONE! So I had to rely on faith, prayer and guidance by the Holy Spirit. And maybe that’s why God chose me. He knew I had to rely on Him.
The first five girls arrived from a detention center a week after opening our doors on April 1, 1974. By the end of that first month, four of the girls had run away, after (in my absence) holding a friend of mine at knife-point and stealing all they could carry and run.
“This is a test to see if I’ll pack up and go home,” I told myself that night. “Well, I won’t.” The experience made me stronger and even more determined to succeed—I wasn’t going to let four misguided street girls stop me.
With each day and each experience, good and bad, my faith grew. With a determined faith, I walked through the Red Light District, made friends with prostitutes, negotiated territory with pimps, and won the confidence of young girls working in the sex trade.
Although barely ten years older than most of the teens that came to The House of Hope, I felt like their “mommy.” I too, had lived a tumultuous past, and I knew God could and would change hearts and lives. Which He did. On average, sixty young girls came through the doors of La Casadela Esperanza per year, over a nine-year period—young girls who were given the opportunity to change from the inside out.
The underage sex-trade continues in Costa Rica (and around the world), but a higher awareness exists of its devastating consequences. The “sex-trade” is now morphed into “sex-trafficking” and I will be returning to Costa Rica in October of this year to visit a new safe-house, Saving Hearts – dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitation of self-trafficked minors.
Do you have questions? Do you have a heart to help? Contact me. I can direct you to some wonderful programs around the United States and the world that exist to stop the sex-trafficking plague.
Linda Bello-Ruiz is the author of the award-winning memoir, From Tears to Triumph, My Journey to The House of Hope. Visit her website at: www.lindabelloruiz.com
I recently connected with Linda Bello-Ruiz on Linkedin. She’s the author of the multi-award-winning memoir, From Tears to Triumph-My Journey to The House of Hope. This story she is sharing with us today is how God changed the direction of her life when she cried out to Him. It’s truly a beautiful story and I know you will love it as much as I do. Linda has also agreed to write a few more stories about the many other times God has changed the direction of her life. She has been on an incredible journey with God and I can’t wait for you to get to know her more.
I asked God for a sign & then I resisted it ~ By Linda Bello-Ruiz
At the age of twenty, I sat on a San Francisco beach and looked honestly at my young tumultuous life. As the waves broke on the beach, a vision rose before me. I felt as if my identity, dignity and dreams had been plunked into a blender and now lay at my feet, shredded beyond recognition. And although I couldn’t articulate the depth of my despair, I knew the consequences of my life choices were staring me straight in the face.
In a two-year period, I had left home in a rush to be free and independent, been kicked out of a boarding house for breaking rules, hooked up with a man I hardly knew, listened to no one’s advice, allowed the man to humiliate me time and time again, stood on a street corner to prostitute, been beaten up and run for my life, and, had even aborted an innocent child. Where could I put all of this hurt and shame?
I saw myself running around the rim of an empty jar, wanting so much good from life, but never jumping in, never totally committing myself to good. My hope for a life as I’d once imagined it collapsed under the weight of my bad choices.
My eyes followed a young man as he walked into the waves and my thoughts turned to death. Wouldn’t it be easier just to walk out into the ocean and keep walking until I drowned? Wouldn’t it feel better to die and silence the accusing voices in my head—those voices that called me a no-good loser, a nobody, a baby-killer?
At that moment, I cried out inside, God, if you’re real . . . show me.
Over the years, I periodically thought about God, but shut the thought down—too scared to even think that God might be real and not just a childhood fairy tale. For years, I had walked alone trying to find my own way, only to end up battered and shattered on that San Francisco beach.
I stared out into the vast ocean, feeling small and insignificant. “Please, God, show me you’re real. I want to know,” I cried. Having hit bottom, with no place to go, I dared Him to show me His existence.
Within moments, I heard guitar music and young people singing. I opened my eyes and looked around. A group of eight hippie-looking kids were walking down the beach in our direction. They drew near and in groups of two or three talked with people on the beach. A dark-haired man in shorts and tee-shirt, along with a smiling young woman wearing a granny skirt and a colorful peasant blouse, sat down on the sand next to me. She took off her sandals, scrunched her toes into the sand and smiled. “Hi,” she said. “My name is Joy.”
To put the record straight—I didn’t like Jesus people. Christians and Jesus people, to me, were people who were boring and too good to have fun. I didn’t want to be a square, no-fun person. It was bad enough being tall and overweight. But to be a Christian on top of that? I’d never have cool friends.
Now here I was in the presence of Jesus people, and was keeping an emotional distance. The couple continued to sing song after song and recite Bible verses. “Jesus came to heal the sick,” Joy said. “He came to save you.”
Their eyes and faces glowed with a bright light and deep inside it hurt to look at them. Even so, I sensed they cared, really cared about me. But Christianity wasn’t the answer I was looking for.
I bowed my head in shame. “If God really is real, then He knows all the bad things I’ve done,” I said. “I’m not worthy . . . of anything.” I felt the warm tears on my cheeks and noticed a few of them falling onto the sand, making tiny wet spots.
“Jesus came to save the sinners, not those who believe they’re perfect,” Joy said. “Jesus accepts you just the way you are.”
The sun began to set as the remaining members of this band of merry Jesus-people gathered to form a circle around me.
Finally, the intensity of their message broke through. I began to cry and then sob. The emotional dam that had held back so much sadness and despair broke wide open. I was ready for change.
Something magical happened. Those eighteen words from the sinner’s prayer brought immediate comfort to the searing pain inside me. A weight lifted from my body and soul and I could breathe. The heavy blanket that had been covering my entire being disappeared. I raised my head and smiled as eight young hippies clapped their hands.
We ALL have a story. What’s YOUR story? I’d love to hear it!
Linda can be contacted through her website at: http://www.lindabelloruiz.com