In January 2005, I traveled to Sri Lanka and Thailand one month after the devastating earthquake that hit Southeast Asia as part of a group relief effort. The devastation was heart breaking, but what was most horrifying to me was that in the midst of the tsunami wreckage, girls, some as young as 11 years old, were being sold for sex – every day, multiple times per day.
I was haunted by the hollow eyes of the young girls I witnessed, being forced to go with men 4 times their age. The reality of this never left my mind as I traveled back to my comfortable life in Newport Beach, California
I’m embarrassed to admit that I felt overwhelmed and paralyzed by the enormity of the issue, so much so that I attempted to ignore those haunting memories. For two years I continued traveling to Sri Lanka and Thailand doing other types of mission work, and trying to forget what I had witnessed. I was unsuccessful.
In 2007, I chose to stop looking the other way and to somehow take a stand for these enslaved girls. I began to research the issue of trafficking and started traveling to Thailand meeting those who were in the trenches working as safe house caregivers and going into the streets to talk with the young girls. After two years of educating myself on the problem, I formed a non-profit organization, now called Finding Freedom International.
Through God’s leading I discovered that Finding Freedom’s goal was not to establish new safe houses or “rescue” girls from the streets. Rather our ministry was to partner with established safe houses to help in the restoration and healing process of girls rescued from a life of sex trafficking.
As I was working with safe houses around the world, I observed a disturbing trend that had gone unnoticed. The caregivers and volunteers running most safe houses, while possessing amazing hearts and a commitment to help, were not adequately supported, cared for and trained in how to heal and restore women victimized by a lifetime of sexual exploitation.
My heart went out to these selfless caregivers and I soon realized what our focus would be.Finding Freedom would provide restoration and healing by equipping the warriors on the front lines of this battle – the caregivers and safe house workers – with the tools and training necessary to minister to rescued woman and children.
Over the past four years Finding Freedom International has partnered with safe houses in countries around the world to provide long-term term healing and help fully restore girls – mind, body and spirit. In this time, we have developed a specialized series of training classes, dream workshops for girls, and a process of utilizing modeling, mentoring and coaching to equip caregivers and staff with the training, tools and support necessary to fully restore the girls to wholeness.
Today Finding Freedom’s mission of restoring lives from sexual exploitation and modern day slavery is manifested through a complete program of training and counseling, as well as “filling in the gaps” by assisting financially with physical needs such as housing, medical, dental, eye care, schooling and vocational training for the girls.
Having gone through my own healing process from sexual abuse as a child, I understand the devastation that occurs to the soul, and at the same time I fully understand the healing power of God and His ability to take the most painful situation and bring about hope, freedom and restoration in a life. My pain has now become a platform for healing others. For this I am grateful and choose to embrace this part of “my story.” It does not define me….it is just a part of my story that I no longer choose to run from, but instead lean into knowing Jesus has raised me above the pain to victory. As my sweet friend Ana in Nicaragua sings “We are victorious!”
Since the beginning of this ministry, there have been many personal stories from the girls, care-givers, myself and others who are traveling on this journey with God. I am privileged to be a part of the army that God is gathering to stop the sex trafficking of women and children worldwide. Because no body should be sold.
Thanks for letting me share my journey,
Founder, Finding Freedom International