From Shelby Zacharias on their last day in Cambodia with Transitions Global and the girls rescued from commercial sexual exploitation. (You can read more of Shelby’s posts as well as updates from the Antioch team in Nicaragua on the Antioch Missions Blog.)
Joyful chaos. There is no other way to describe bowling in Cambodia with a dozen teenage girls, some of whom have never bowled before. It’s a race to find a shoe that’ll fit. A ball to throw. And yes, I do mean throw. The rules of bowling don’t necessarily change when you enter a new country, but in this case, there are no rules. No funny names are entered in the computer. If you bowl a strike, there’s no need to wait for your next turn to finish it off, just take another.
Everyone adds their own flair and technique. Some run right up to the line and lob the heavy pink or blue or green ball toward the pins. Others have almost perfected palming the ball with two hands. Still some lack all patience to wait for the sweeper gate to finish before they hurl the ball down the alley. The ball clears the gate by only a matter of seconds.
It doesn’t matter if you hit a strike or the gutter (and there was plenty of both), no one is keeping score. The only score to be seen is in the smiles of the girls as the pins go down. Their smiles are big. They are bright. They gleam. Their shrieks and shrills of laughter and delight drown out all other sounds. They are teenage girls after all.
Seeing the smiles. Cheering them on. Celebrating with high fives. That was the best goodbye to the girls of Transitions Global that we could imagine.
At the bowling alley they are any other girl. At the bowling alley their laughter and joy erase for the onlooker any hint of the lives they’ve lead.They are girls. Being girls. And Transitions Global is helping them to smile again. Teaching them to laugh again. To hope again.
As we head to the airport tomorrow morning, we won’t be quite as whole as we were when we arrived. For the girls of Transitions Global have stolen our hearts.