Growing up, Maria’s mom did “easy work,” as the neighbors called it. She was a prostitute.
Sometimes Maria and her younger brother were left at neighbors’ houses in Montero, Bolivia, while her mother went to work. Other times, the children came with her.
Even though Maria was just a little girl, she understood what was going on.
“I remember where she worked. It was a specific place,” said Maria. “As soon as my dad left to work, my mom left to her ‘easy work’ too.”
Looking back on that time of life, Maria, now 19, recalls feelings of resentment, abandonment, hate and sorrow. Besides her mother’s work, there was also violence at home. Her parents would fight in the streets, causing scandals, and once her father even tried to kill her mom.
When Maria was 9, she went to live with her aunt. But life didn’t get any better.
Maria’s aunt and her cousins were prostitutes too.
About 30 people lived in the house. At first her family welcomed her, but as the days passed, the welcome grew cold. Maria had to do all the cleaning, cooking and washing. If she didn’t know how to do a task, her family yelled at her.
Maria’s cousins started working as prostitutes when they were around 15 years old. As Maria became an adolescent, her aunt and mother insinuated that she could be with a young man who frequented the house and “had money.”
But there was one thing keeping Maria from this life of desperation.
When she was 7, Maria’s mother registered her in a Compassion center at a local church where she was sponsored by a family in the U.S. The center helped Maria practically, ensuring she had food, medical care, school supplies and hygiene materials. Maria still lived in the same negative home environment, but her life started to change as God began to work in Maria’s heart and mind.
“What I remember the most is that the center was a great help for my life, especially in the spiritual area,” said Maria. “It helped me very much to know about God’s Word, to get close to Him. The tutors also helped me with advice and listened to me.”
Sadly, the Compassion center wasn’t aware of Maria’s living situation. Maria kept it to herself. But Maria says she knows who protected her all those years: Jesus.