Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's Never Been So Real.

Human trafficking in the US has never been this real to me before.

I talked to the women while they're on the street. 
I looked in her eyes as she nervously watched to make sure her pimp didn't see her praying with "that little white girl."
I hugged her neck as she walked through the doors of the rescue home for the first time. 
I prayed with her as she fought her addictions, as she detoxed, as she grew and as she hurt.
I sat with her as she cried because of how much she missed her kids, even though she knew she was doing the right thing for her family. 
I held her hand in a small room in a doctor's office because she was too scared to be in a room with a man by herself.
My heart broke as she left the home because she wasn't ready to turn away from the only life she knew. 
My heart soared as I drove her to her program so she could start her success story. 
I cried as I drove away and she faded in my rearview mirror. 

This summer, I learned that every woman has a story...every porn model, every stripper, every prostitute.
I saw into the hearts of these women, and I saw the choices that were taken from them. 
So many people will look down at these women on the side of the street and judge them. But what they don't know is that that woman didn't choose to be there. She was forced for the first time when she was 11, and now she doesn't know any better. 

The Lord has changed my views on these things. 

And it's never been so real.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


These last two weeks have been full of transitions!

On July 1, we transitioned into the new safehouse. The safehouses rotate every month to keep the location a secret for the safety of the women. We tried out a new model with house PARENTS instead of a house mom only, and it has succeeded tremendously! The house is beautiful, and the women have loved it so far. We have had our share of transitional struggles, but it has been a success; praise the Lord!

Up until this weekend, we had room for 6 women at a time at Solomon House. All of our overflow women went to another house in Atlanta. It fits 12 women.
On Friday, our doors exploded with rescues. During the day, we had around 8 calls for women wanting to come out of the life of trafficking and into a life of freedom! Praise the Lord! However, we only had 2 beds open. So we made some calls, found host homes for the women with children, and filled our beds. There were still 2 girls left at the end of the day, so we scheduled rescues for them on Saturday morning and spent the evening setting up new beds in a spare room downstairs.
We are now over capacity with 8 girls in the Solomon House! Praise the Lord for this!

...but it gets better!

I spent the evening that night (Friday) with a team from Out of Darkness in one of the worst parts of the city of Atlanta. We started out with 4 dozen roses and drove around the area praying. When we saw a woman on the streets, we got out of the van, handed her a rose and a handwritten card (with our rescue hotline strategically placed inside), prayed with her, and continued on our way. We talked to a few women and prayed for several hours.
It was a special time for me to see a place in our own country where trafficking is actually happening. Instead of leaving depressed with the conditions of that area, I left with the hope that these women have seen the light of Jesus through our outreach. The Out of Darkness vans cruise that area every Friday night of the year.

I spent time with the women at Solomon House all weekend. For the first time in my two months here, I truly felt connected with all eight women here.
It was a time of chaos with the fullness of the house, but many laughs and tears were shared. We had sweet prayer time, and many of the women rededicated their lives to Christ. Two women were saved for the first time, and last night, I had the privilege of witnessing 5 of them die to their new lives and proclaim their faith in baptism.

Around 4 AM this morning, I started on a journey with a woman from Fort Mill. She is living proof that yes, trafficking does happen even in our own towns.
This beautiful woman gave her life to Jesus, and I had the privilege of seeing her baptized last night!
She has been accepted to a long-term program in Kentucky. She has three beautiful kids, and she will be at her new program for the next several months. She has asked for me to be her mentor when she returns to Fort Mill.
This woman is still on the road to recovery from addiction and trauma, but she is motivated by her new relationship with Christ to go through her recovery and return home to be a Godly woman for her kids. I am so excited to be a part of her journey!
We left for the city early this morning and prayed and worshipped together until her bus left the station around 7:30. She is now safely at her new program!
Thank you for your prayers!

I can't believe that I am now in the single digits of days I have left in Atlanta. This summer has been a journey I will never forget. It has been trying and hard, but God has been victorious.

Please pray for:
--Our Fort Mill sister as she starts her recovery!
--Continued safety for me while driving.
--The Atlanta Dream Center and Out of Darkness as we battle discouragement from many outside sources. Pray for doors to open in long term programs for our girls. We have had several difficult cases in the last week!
--My personal health as I have had a virus for the last week.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Even in Valleys

Even in the valley, You are faithful.
This has been my motto this weekend.

It has been a slow and heartbreaking week at the Atlanta Dream Center. 

After a long week full of physical struggles and sickness, tragedy struck on Friday. 
Five women from the Refuge for Women in Kentucky were involved in a tragic car accident on the way home from a recovery celebration. Most of the women in that van came straight from Out of Darkness (where I work) within the last few months, including one woman that I took to Starbucks last week. 
The Refuge for Women is a long-term recovery program that we partner with. After our women have all of their medical and psychological needs taken care of, we match them with a program that is the best fit for them, and they begin a year-long journey to recovery. This is where our women were when the accident happened.
Six died in the crash, one of them a woman that came from our care. The intern that was driving the van is in critical condition on a ventilator, and two of the women are still in critical condition.

Prayer opportunity #1: Please pray for our Out of Darkness team as we work with our Kentucky partners to take care of our women and their families during this time. Most of our team is also going to Kentucky to take part in the memorial service this week. 

Update on last week: My friend (from the last post) ended up getting cleared before her court date, so she didn't have to go! Unfortunately, she decided she wasn't ready for recovery and left the home early this week.

Prayer opportunity #2: Pray for continued safety while driving!

PRAISE: We had a celebration on Wednesday night for our 100th rescue of 2014!!! We have had 250 rescues in the three years we have been up and running and 100 in just the last six months! Praise God!

100 white roses represent 100 women rescued from trafficking so far this year!

Prayer opportunity #3: A new home is opening for the girls on Tuesday (July 1) of this week! We are trying a new model with house PARENTS instead of just house moms, so that the girls can see a good male role model! Pray for the marriage of these new house parents and that the girls' transition into their new home will be smooth! 

Prayer opportunity #4: Please pray for continued health. I have been struggling over the last several days with my normal health problems. Please pray for supernatural energy, rest, and strength.

Thank you all for your continued prayers. Even in the midst of tragedy, God still speaks, and He is showing me how loving and powerful He is every day. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

I Was Wrong

It's the end of another crazy week!

This week has definitely been my favorite by far. With the renewed outlook of being grateful for this opportunity and not worrying about what it may bring to my future, I have been excited to encounter the Lord this week. And boy, did He do some crazy things.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday of this week at the safe house. I met a new woman this week, and we instantly bonded. 

Her story is extreme, and she trusts absolutely no one, but she chose to trust me. I sat in on her psychosocial evaluation and prayed that she would trust our social worker enough to tell her the whole story. My heart broke as she revealed that everything started when she was fifteen. 
Her emotional and mental maturity is that of a fifteen year old. She is ten years older than me and looks up to me.
When I got up to leave, she panicked. I assured her I would see her again the next day. And that's when the attack began.
Everything was thrown in my path to insure that I couldn't be true to my word. The devil doesn't want my sweet friend to trust anyone. I prayed that she would have sweet sleep. She shared with me that nightmares had attacked her sleep for nights and nights.
I laid my head down to sleep, but I couldn't. Nightmares came one after the other. I prayed that I could sleep so I would be healthy enough to drive to see her. I reached out to my prayer team, and got a few hours of sleep.
I got to the house to a bright-eyed face the next morning. "You came!" she exclaimed. She laughed for the first time when she told me she slept all the way through the night. 
If God allowed me to carry those nightmares for her even for one night, the lack of sleep was worth it. 
It was a joy to go with her on her first Starbucks outing in her whole life. We talked and talked, about everything. She told me her fears, she told me that her captors pretended to be Christians just so they could trick her into trafficking again. I assured her that no one knows where she is, that she is safe, and that she can rest now. I assured her that we would make sure she is safe. That is our job.
She hugged me tightly before I left.

Yes, she may be 30. She may be called a prostitute or a stripper. 
"This is so much different than child sex trafficking," you might say.
But you're wrong.
I was wrong.
She was trafficked as a young girl. She's been brainwashed. She's been used.
She's a victim.

Before this week, I longed for the days when I was in Cambodia with little six year olds. I am ashamed to say I looked at some of the women here in Atlanta and judged. 
They're older. They should know better.
But the Spirit whispered to my heart this week.
"This is what she grows up to be if she doesn't get help."
This is what my little girls in Cambodia would look like if they aren't rescued. 
It makes me look at the "prostitutes" on the street a lot differently. Not as disgusting women who just want to make a living, but as women who need Jesus, and women who need to be rescued.

In a dark world, it may seem like no one is making a difference, but
"To succumb to the enormity of the problem is to fail the one."
At least I can say that through the strength of God, I'm not failing the one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

He Answered Me

The Lord has stretched me and broken me into a place of total dependency on Him. There have been complications with my new living quarters and with the overwhelming tasks I have come across in the last three weeks of this internship. 

Human trafficking in the US is nothing like I have ever seen before. Even just the drug issues are overwhelming, but when I take the mental health issues and the emotional trauma these women experience, I am blown away. 

As I looked at this issue, I became incredibly discouraged with the numbers of women who are trapped in this issue. I felt like I wasn't making a difference...like the work I was doing with Out of Darkness wasn't really making a difference. Even when I went into the safe home, I found myself having a hard time relating to the women. All of these women are older than me.

Then I came across an email from SHE Rescue Home...the organization that I worked with last summer. There was a picture with one simple phrase:
"To succumb to the enormity of the problem is to fail the one."

This phrase knocked me off of my feet. I can't just move on and let these women suffer. 

In the midst of severe spiritual attack, I cried out to God, and He answered me. 
He didn't answer me  through solving my problems or by booming his voice like thunder. 
He whispered to my heart with His still, small voice. 
He gave me a peace that transcends my circumstances. 
He encouraged me through Godly people in my life, like my mom, my boss, and my boyfriend's mom. 

I attended a job training at the peak of this spiritual attack. The training itself was so Christ-centered and explained the issue of trafficking. Even though the issue is dark, the training was full of the joy that only comes from Christ. 
Instead of walking away feeling depressed by the darkness of the issue, I walked away feeling very different than I ever had before. I walked away with the realizations that:
1) I have no clue what I'm doing with my life after graduation next May.
2) I don't know how God is going to use me in the fight to end trafficking.
3) That is okay.

I don't know what God is calling me to do. I don't know if His plan is for me to open my own rescue home, to run an organization like Out of Darkness, to work with the kids of these women, to be a social worker...I don't know. 
Maybe God's call on my life towards these women is to be a mentor, a volunteer who comes and spends time with them and their kids. 
Maybe His call is to use my experiences to write.
I don't know what God's plan is, and that's okay.

For the first time, I'm okay with not knowing what the future holds.  I know Who holds my future, and I can trust Him.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Journey of Passion

It's official: I'm starting my next journey as an advocate for the abolition of modern slavery!

This summer, I'm in Atlanta, Georgia with Out of Darkness, Inc., through The Atlanta Dream Center. I've been an intern here for 3 days now, and I'm learning so much about sex trafficking in the USA.

Before I get into the swing of things here, let's take a look back at how faithful God has been on my journey. This is how I got involved in the fight against sex trafficking:

I got involved in the fight against human trafficking in the fall of 2010...during my senior year of high school. 
I was diagnosed with lupus in March 2010, and it's been a struggle for a very long time. This is where my story begins.

Starting in the fall, my lupus started acting up. I was sick for four months of my senior year. 
During my down time, I read the book Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It's the story of Hosea in novel form. 
A man takes a prostitute for a wife and loves her unconditionally...just like Christ loves the church unconditionally (even in her unfaithfulness). The main character in the book (Sarah) was sold by her mother into prostitution (child sex trafficking) when she was six years old.

When I finished this book, I was dumbfounded. I asked my mom if there were really little girls that were sold like that, and she said yes. This lit a fire in me that the Lord has never extinguished (Praise God!).

During those four months of sickness, I joined the Student Abolitionist Movement (SAM) with the Not For Sale Campaign (notforsalecampaign.org). I researched sex and labor trafficking of women, men, and children. This really developed a heart in me for freeing and caring for the child victims of sex trafficking. I vowed to fight it. For three years I raised awareness at my high school, in my church, and at NGU. 

Last summer, I journeyed to Cambodia for the hardest summer of my life. While I was there, I did typical volunteer work as well as teaching English and leading devotions for 23 precious Cambodian girls. These girls were rescued from sex trafficking or rape. They were between the ages of 6 and 17. I love those girls so much, and there's never a day when I don't think about their beautiful little faces.

I was there for two months, and each month God taught me something extraordinary. 

Month #1: Trafficking is not hidden in Cambodia. If you walk on the streets at any time during the day or night, you will see it happening. It's so sad. BUT, at the same time, victims that have had victory are starting many types of businesses to employ girls so they don't have to go back to prostitution. Safe homes are spreading, awareness and legislation is being changed, and there are beauty parlors, stores, markets, restaurants, and bakeries opening all across the globe that are employing these girls to give them a better life. God rocked my heart during this month: where is this opportunity for girls in America? Who are going to be the game changers to make this kind of revolution happen in our own country? I have been on the path for foreign missions since I was fifteen, but in this month God made it clear that His will for me is to stay in the states and help the US victims!

Month #2: I was really sick with lupus and had a hard time moving and working. God taught me how to rely on Him for every ounce of my strength. When I returned home, the doctors told me I could no longer go overseas. What is SO COOL is that this news would have broken my heart until that first month in Cambodia. When God called me to stay in the states, He was preparing my heart for this hard news.

Since then, I have been researching organizations and starting the process of what working with victims of sex trafficking. I found Out of Darkness. 
Their aim is to reach victims (through jail visits, street ministry, etc.), to rescue them, and to restore them. These women are typically above the age of 18, but many of them were exploited in their young years and trafficked between the ages of 11 and 14. These women are not people that have willingly chosen prostitution; they have been sold. They are slaves. 
This summer, I'm going to be discovering what the fight against trafficking looks like in our own country and deciding what steps the Lord is calling me to take from here.

I have also been approached about writing a three article series on sex trafficking for a Christian girls' magazine: NiNe Magazine.

There are many exciting things in store for this summer, and I am so excited to see where the Lord is going to lead! 
PRAISE GOD for this opportunity!