“I felt a calling to help girls whose parents weren’t bringing them to church. I got a divorce and didn’t date for six years because I was raising my daughter on my own and was focused on her. Girls are my heart. I went to seminary and remarried and eight months after we married, my husband was deployed. When he came back, we opened a gym but we had to close it after two years. It felt like a failure at the time, but the relationships that are pivotal in our lives today and helped point us in the right direction came from that gym.
A friend came up to me and said, ‘I feel like God is about to use you, what do you hear him saying?’ I had so much going on that if God was trying to speak to me I couldn’t hear him. My friend asked, what issue breaks your heart? What keeps you awake when you lay in bed at night? The state of our girls breaks my heart. The loss of hope and innocence at a young age breaks my heart. That was my answer.
I am supposed to work with women who have been sold. I once thought I was supposed to sell everything and move to Amsterdam and work in the red light district but I realized I could do the same work in Mobile. A couple in our church started Eye Heart World that fights against sex trafficking. We opened a group home in Green Bay Wisconsin in September of last year and The Rose Center, a drop-in home in Mobile in March of this year. I had never thought about sex trafficking here but I became involved. We went to a conference and a survivor who spoke about a drop-in center. I knew in that moment we were supposed to open a drop-in center for Mobile. It all came together. I prayed, ‘Lord, this has to be you and not me.’
Communities don’t want to acknowledge sex trafficking it or deal with it and some people here shut down when I talk about it. Trafficking is any sex act in exchange of anything of value. It often happens by men but one of our kids was trafficked by her grandmother. Men also need to recognize their role in this. The majority of Johns in Mobile are white, educated, middle class men. It there wasn’t a demand for sex, there would not be a supply.
The victims and survivors come to us and many have sexual abuse and trauma from their childhood. We do intake and case management and prioritize their needs. They don’t have to give up anything to come to us first. We stand in the gap. They may be hungry and need a safe place to sleep and we provide that during the day. We have programs on coping skills, trauma-informed counseling, and help with job preparation and getting placed for an apartment. We also provide a place for them to wash their clothes and shower or to get something they need from the clothing closet
Our goal is to equip and empower girls and women to stand on their own but southern culture is difficult to break through. They want to be rescued but the fear of the unknown and judgment from the community is so much worse. They would rather stay in their worlds and away from judgmental eyes. The sad thing is that we have been seeing these girls for years, but never really seen them. How girls are seen in media is how they see themselves. We have to help them see themselves in a new way, to be who God created them to be.
God brought me to the place of just start filling the need. Open the doors and if we can only clothe girls and give them a something to eat and a safe place to sleep start there. It doesn’t have to begin with a lot of connections everything doesn’t have to be perfectly in place. I haven’t had to beat down a lot of doors because God has opened them at the right times. It all works in God’s time.”