Getting Her Life Back: “Julie’s” Escape from the Sex Trade

Imagine being stolen away from your life. Imagine being forcibly immersed into a life of slavery as a worker in the commercial sex trade. For too many women, right here in the Seattle area, this is happening right now. R.E.S.T. stands for “Real Escape from the Sex Trade.” The vision of REST is to provide pathways to freedom, safety, and hope for victims of sex trafficking and people involved in the sex trade (buyers and sellers.) Since REST began in 2007, their primary aim has been to build relationships with girls and young women who are being trafficked for commercial sex. As trust develops, young women are empowered to ask for help, and receive the resources needed to move out of the sex trade. The following is written by one of REST’s volunteers, who participates in street rescue work.

Julie said she couldn’t believe she was outside, walking free. As soon as the words passed her lips, her eyes scanned the parking lot. He wasn’t there. She said she felt like any minute she’d wake up from a dream and be back in the motel room she shared with her pimp, unable to leave, like she had been for nearly a year.

Instantly, with her face toward the sky, she said, “I love the smell of fresh air.” While she soaked in all of the strange sights and sounds that had eluded her during her imprisonment, my own brain searched to comprehend what it would have been like for her to be held captive in a lightless room for months on end without any means of escape.

She had no phone. He had systematically cut her off from friends, family, and all familiarity. I had no experiential context for her words. Feeling sick from nerves, she went into the gas station bathroom. I could hear her gagging and vomiting inside.

While I waited for her, I thanked God for His work in rescuing “Julie.” For fifteen minutes, Julie hesitated, unable to control her nausea. She eventually felt confident that her stomach was empty and we made our way to the car.

As we drove the many miles toward the safe house, Julie shared more and more of her shocking story, her life before her pimp – as a mother of two children; a college graduate; a successful, intelligent, independent woman. She also shared her hopes for her new life.

As she vacillated between marvel at the beautiful setting sun on Seattle’s skyline and the paralyzing fear of what it meant to be driving away, I listened.

I prayed.

I couldn’t believe this is what I do. And most days, I can’t believe it’s necessary.

 

Behind the Scenes: We Love our BelPres Volunteers!

(Nan’s note: Did you know that we have some of the most amazing volunteers at this church? We do! One of them, Cherie Lang, writes short bios of volunteers for the Messenger. I’ve included her most recent one here, but there are more! Look HERE to catch up on some of the extraordinary people at work throughout BelPres.)

I don’t really relish Hawaiian shirts. I think it takes courage to wear one, especially at church while greeting. You risk falling victim to whisperings from us female fashionista types. But that doesn’t bother Steve White. Greeting is just one of the ways he serves at BelPres. And when he does welcome us, that Hawaiian shirt goes on! He explains that when folks come through the door they’ll think, “Who is this nut in the Hawaiian shirt anyway, and maybe it will make them a little more joyful.”

Steve was raised in a large Presbyterian church where Sundays started at 6:30am. That’s when they arrived at church – not got out of bed. He folded bulletins, attended Sunday school, the main service, and Fellowship Hall. The family would head home around 2pm.

Fast forward 25 years. Steve landed a promising career in Seattle with Boeing. He couldn’t be happier to give up that Sunday routine! He’s a free man; except for the nudging in his heart that something’s missing and those weekly calls from mom asking if he’s found a church. Through someone at work, he’s directed to University Presbyterian Church in Seattle. 

From that first Sunday that he decided to attend, amazing things started to happen. He says he’ll never forget the lady he sat next too. She warmly welcomed him and encouraged him to check out the Singles’ group; that’s where he met his lovely wife, Sheri. They had a set of twins, against medical odds, and having kids brought about their transition from UPC to BelPres to accommodate a closer commute between home and church activities. Lucky us!

Steve has been a Sunday school teacher for 25 years. That’s a long time! He’s ministered to us as a Deacon, a Jubilee REACH participant, through feeding folks at Camp Unity, by assisting with the Video Crew, setting up for congregational meetings, and with the Communion cleanup group. He says the relationships from the cleanup group have become like extended family.

Steve has worked seven years on the Men’s Retreat Committee. From this group, a smaller

group of men have become his pals. To quote Steve, “I’m not an outgoing person, and have difficulty truly connecting with people as a close friend. God, in His faithfulness, has sent me the guys in my small group so I can stay connected to Him since I don’t meditate and reflect very well.” Here’s what Steve has to share about experiencing serving. He encourages us to listen to God’s nudge about where we can serve, as it keeps us close to Jesus and others. Volunteering nourishes relationships with our children as they serve alongside us. And last, but not least, consistent attendance at church as a child can bring us back to the Savior as an adult.

Thank you for all of your wisdom, service, and faithfulness, Steve White! You’ve shed new light on the hidden virtues of Tommy Bahama apparel. All this Hawaiian talk prompted me to look up the meaning of  “Mahalo,” which means, “May you be in Divine breath.” That’s powerful stuff, and we leave you with that blessing.

Chris & Beverly Crowder, Serving with SIM in South Sudan

Last week we included a prayer in the bulletin for the Crowder family, who have been experiencing, with their mission community, the loss of a missionary child–the child of friends. Several folks asked for more information about the Crowders. Pastor Rich Leatherberry met Chris and Bev when he was in then Sudan, now South Sudan, with a team back in November 2006. BelPres Global Outreach has followed the Crowders ever since. Chris is now the National Director for SIM in South Sudan, and Bev serves as Medical Director. Read their biography, below.

Chris Crowder felt an almost physical pull on his life at age six. He was baptized at age seven and raised in a Christian home. However, the turning point in his life came when life choices forced him to choose Christ as his own savior, NOT his family’s.

After finishing a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering at Baylor University he became more involved in local church life and plunged headlong into the field of wireless telecom. Several years of career success ensued but with it came an emptiness and an intense loathing of the corporate world.

After a lot of prayer and searching, Chris started to take some steps of short-term trips and more adventurous kinds of Christian service. He was discipled by an older man, something that contributed hugely to his spiritual development.

In 1998, after a brief stint in Guatemala with Wycliffe Bible Translators, Chris was ready to pray “Lord, I’ll do this if you want me to, but please don’t send me out alone.” About that same time, God began to call Beverly.

Having committed to mission service before they met, they began a search together and found a mutual passion and calling for Sudanese people, especially the Lost Boys of Sudan living in Nashville, TN.

SIM was a logical choice because of Bev’s abilities as a Family Nurse Practitioner and Chris’ interest in evangelism, discipleship, Bible Translation and a myriad of other things.

They spent a wonderful first year seconded to Samaritan’s Purse,– Bev doing medical work and medical training; Chris doing evangelism, church training, and community development.

Little Thomas was born Nov 11, 2006 having spent his entire gestational life in various parts of Sudan. Chris began serving his first term as director for the two Sudans in July 2008. Jonathan was born in August. Then in February of 2010, Bethlehem Joy was born.

BelPres, let’s remember the Crowder family in our prayers, especially now as their mission community grieves the loss of a child.

Care Net of Puget Sound: Hearing, Sharing and Doing the Gospel

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“I’m so thankful I found this place.” “I love my parenting advisor.”

Praise the Lord that these are the type of comments frequently read on Care Net client exit surveys. Every client is different, but many are mired in sad and complicated life situations. Nearly all are anxious, facing unplanned (and often unwanted) pregnancies. They need kindness, reassurance, someone to come calmly alongside and lend them strength, and they thrive with Jesus people advising them.

Care Net of Puget Sound strives to be doers of the Word and not hearers only (Jas 1:22): Care Net clients will hear the message of salvation in our centers, and they will also witness salvation in action. Below are the stories of two clients who have heard and seen the Gospel at Care Net (names have been changed to protect their privacy.)

Cassidy was in considerable distress when she came in for a pregnancy test. This was not what she planned, and she was so stricken by fear that she could barely eat or sleep. A volunteer client advocate listened to her concerns, helped her process the ramifications of pregnancy, shared information about available resources, and prayed for her silently and aloud. After Cassidy’s positive pregnancy test, she scheduled an ultrasound, where she was able to clearly see the life growing in her womb. When she returned for a second ultrasound, Cassidy’s countenance had improved so dramatically that she did not look like the same young woman. She had come to terms with her decision to carry her pregnancy, despite the father’s objections and family pressure to abort. Even with these difficulties, Cassidy was overflowing with gratitude, “Every time I leave here, I feel so much better than when I came. You are all so wonderful and uplifting!”

Cassidy has undergone a transformation, and her baby will live – all because she witnessed the love of Jesus in action. As Care Net continues to support her through childbirth and parenting classes, our prayer is that Cassidy will enter into relationship with Jesus Christ and be a witness to others of His life-changing mercy and love.

Renee is a young expectant mother who did not grow up in the United States. She felt financially stressed and anxious about raising a child in a culture she herself did not completely understand. Renee took full advantage of parenting classes with a Care Net advisor. As she and her husband worked their way through the parenting curriculum, which includes Bible Study, they earned Care Net Cash to spend in the Baby Boutique, which is well stocked with pregnancy and baby supplies – items donated by Care Net supporters. Renee testifies, “My Care Net experience was beyond my expectations. I learned how to love and care for my baby. My relationship with my husband has improved as we took classes together and grew in confidence as parents.” May God work in Renee to help her connect the spirit of peace and generosity she experienced at Care Net with the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.