Last week we posted a story about our friend, Paula, whose life was forever changed through meeting a young Nicaraguan girl. Paula’s heart broke when she learned that her mother had forced this beautiful girl into prostitution. Her blood boiled when she later discovered the adolescent tested positive for HIV/AIDS and died. “It is just wrong that a child’s life is worth no more than a load of garbage,” Paula said.
That transformational encounter between Paula, our team, and the welcoming child took place ten years ago –almost to the day that I posted the story.
Emily, our daughter-in-law, read the article with interest. She had traveled to Nicaragua multiple times over the past decade and was intrigued by the story. Then she clicked the link taking her to a picture of the young girl peering into our van. Her heart nearly stopped. Immediately she knew the smiling face was that of Ileana.
As it turns out, Emily’s college friend, Brad Corrigan, also visited Nicaragua ten years ago. He too went to the garbage dump and, remarkably, met the same young girl. “Her smile was bigger than my fear, so when she grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the taxi, I jumped into her life, and her story became mine.”
Brad developed a relationship with Ileana, encouraging her like a father, right up to the time she passed away from the cruelty of this world. So deeply moved by Ileana’s life, struggle and “lightning” smile, he has since devoted his life, talent, and resources to fighting human trafficking. “Ileana’s story must be shared so that other vulnerable children can be protected and live.”
Brad is producing a documentary film entitled “Ileana’s Smile.” It will tell her story and call others to action. Brad, a professional musician, is leading a movement of people devoted to fighting and eliminating human trafficking. To learn more, please visit his website at www.lovelightandmelody.org. Trust me; your heart will break, your blood will boil, and you will feel compelled to do something about this injustice.
We are overwhelmed with the profound impact the life of little Ileana is having years after her death. Her picture appears on posters, t-shirts, and websites. A painting of her hangs on a wall in our church missions office, reminding short-term teams of the profound value of every life.
The face of Ileana is forever emblazoned on our hearts and souls. Her smile reminds us that we, at any age or stage of life, must stand up for the defenseless and those at risk.
Written by Leona Bergstrom, Director, Re-Ignite
Article and photos Copyright Re-Ignite 2016
Photo taken by Richard Bergstrom 2006
Painting from Northshore Community Church Missions Conference