2016: The Year at a Glance

f424.png

The Year At A Glance!

Once again, it has been a wonderful year for Freedom 4/24 and we have a lot to celebrate! Here are some key victories in 2016, which clearly show what YOUR support has done specifically to help our partners bring freedom and justice to women and children trapped in human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

 

2016 International Victories

Thailand: Home of New Beginnings

A SECOND home has been acquired in Pattaya!

  • New 2016 residents at Beginnings: 3 (7 total)
  • Graduates from Beginnings:  3
  • Baptisms in 2016: 4
  • Number of 2016 Christmas party participants: 234 in Bangkok, 28 in Pattaya

Uganda: Christine's House

  • Number of runners in the FIRST international Run 4 Their Lives 5K: 400+
  • Number of graduates from the 8-month program at Christine’s House: 17

India: Freedom Firm

A team of 8 women from Freedom 4/24 traveled to India in April to facilitate an outdoor camp for rescued human trafficking teenagers! This camp was FULLY FUNDED by your donations.

  • Total number of girls at the Freedom 4/24 facilitated camp in 2016: 25
  • Total number of girls rescued from Nagpur and surrounding region: 14
  • Total number of legal cases filed against traffickers and brothel keepers from Nagpur and surrounding region: 36
  • Total number of girls who participated in aftercare program from Nagpur and surrounding region: 48

2016 Domestic Victories

All the domestic wins below come from Freedom 4/24 partners in these specific areas mentioned. Each location also hosted a Run 4 Their Lives race to raise awareness and support for Freedom 4/24's mission. 

  • Number of Run 4 Their Lives (R4TL) races nationwide: 6
  • Number of Ride 4 Freedom (R4F) bike events: 1
  • Runners who participated in R4TL/R4F events nationwide: 2,210
  • Number of R4TL/R4F volunteers nationwide: 509
  • Number of new Virtual Events: 4
  • Number of Individual Fundraisers and total amount they raised: 11, $14,552
  • New human trafficking safe houses built: 2 (Roanoke, VA through Straight Street and one in San Gabriel Valley near Glendora, Ca, both with plans to open in 2017)
  • Number of Human Trafficking Awareness trainings conducted by Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking (CCAHT): 61
  • Number of individuals in the Knoxville, TN area trained by CCAHT to recognize and respond to trafficking: 1,302
  • CCAHT referrals to connect victims with restorative services: 52
  • Number of vulnerable and exploited women and children who received holistic services through Buffalo's People Against Trafficking Humans (PATH) Enrichment Center in 2016: 150

These wins all have one thing in common: YOU! Without your generosity, Freedom 4/24 and its partners could not fulfill its mission. Thank you for the impact you have made this year to bring freedom and justice to girls around the world! If you would like to give a tax-deductible End of Year gift, please click here

A New Beginning in Pattaya

Pattaya was never part of the plan.

Bonita would be the first to tell you that. But the Home of New Beginnings, our partner in Thailand, now has a second location smack dab in the middle of the "Sex Capitol of the World." The journey to this simple statement has been nothing short of a miracle. Now, what lies ahead is blossoming with promise in a place that so desperately needs light.

FullSizeRender (2).jpg

As many as 50,000 sex workers can be found on the streets of Pattaya on any given night during high tourism seasons. This is hard to fathom and statistics fall flat when compared to reality. Seeing it with your own eyes is overwhelming and sucks the breath out of your body. On Friday night, we traveled down Walking Street, Pattaya’s notorious "sex for sale" drag which contains 70 bars, and then drove through the surrounding blocks within a 2-mile radius of Walking Street. Down every side street and alley are bars as far as the eye can see, busting at the seams with people—those for sale as well as the mostly gray-haired white male customers ready to make purchases.

A view down Walking Street.

A view down Walking Street.

We saw whole districts devoted to customers seeking boys and lady boys, others catering to retired military seeking to reliving their "glory day" fantasies, and of course, those selling girls and women and even children. Lots and lots of them. According to Bonita there are 1,200 bars in Pattaya, each employing anywhere from 10-100+ sex workers. Combined with the endless sidewalks full of street walkers, it is easy to see how estimates quickly arrive at the 50,000 mark.

The problem is evident; a ferocious monster vastly overgrown, having so overtaken the city that there seems no end to its tentacles and no solution in sight.

It is in this mess that Beginnings is choosing to step into the equation. Just like in Bangkok, where they are admittedly a David going up against Goliath, they are now readying their slings in Pattaya. Beginnings' model is to bring rescue and restoration to one girl at a time. They do this with intentionality, through long-term housing, community, counseling, and especially education. The fruit of the lives they have impacted over the past decade resonates loudly through the graduates who have now completed college and, with valuable degrees in hand, return to help the home that first gave them freedom. Others are in the process of earning degrees in Engineering, Business, Design, Accounting, and Criminal Justice.

The whole complex: Pattaya residential house, garden lot in the center, and the two 5-story shop houses to the far right.

The whole complex: Pattaya residential house, garden lot in the center, and the two 5-story shop houses to the far right.

With this model established, the Pattaya location is adding several new plot twists. Beginnings, through the support of generous donors, has purchased two shop houses completely in cash. These 5-story, adjoining buildings will host a first-floor restaurant, which will provide income and job training to women leaving the sex industry. The top floors will provide housing for them, as well as a 3-bedroom home on a connected lot. In the middle green space adjoining the home and the shop houses, plans are coming into place to build a large garden space.

The large garden lot between the main house and the two shop houses.

The large garden lot between the main house and the two shop houses.

This garden will supply not only fresh produce for the residents of the house, but also for the restaurant. The whole property is contained within a larger housing and commercial development of about 140 households that currently have few nearby restaurant options (in other words, built-in restaurant customers). The goal is for the restaurant to sustain the financial needs of the shop houses, thus sustainably bringing freedom to exploited and trafficked women.

Bonita shows us around the shop house. The bottom floor level will hold the restaurant.

Bonita shows us around the shop house. The bottom floor level will hold the restaurant.

Another potentially critical piece to the puzzle lies just across the busy highway at a vocational school for at-risk girls. The location of this school is something Bonita believes is more than a happy coincidence. Beginnings' goal is to work in tandem with the school's girls to help advance their skills in sewing, baking, restaurant management, and hospitality through real life experience. All factors combined, Beginnings hopes to reach not just young girls who want to escape the sex industry but also older ones who would not qualify for high school or college education due to age.

Measuring and planning for the garden, which will hopefully be planted in early 2017.

Measuring and planning for the garden, which will hopefully be planted in early 2017.

Home of New Beginnings Pattaya is now up and running and ready to receive girls seeking freedom from the sex industry. But many needs are yet to be met, including furnishing the shop houses, kitchen supplies for the restaurant, and funds to build the garden. To give to the home, please click here and write "Beginnings" in the comment section when you donate.

Joy & Laughter: Thailand Christmas Party #1

Inside a brightly decorated hotel ballroom, 102 women left behind the scene on the left for five hours today and embraced the joy and laughter awaiting them on the right at our first Christmas party for Soi Cowboy. They traded customers for children's games like limbo and musical chairs. They made crafts and ate endless bowls of spicy Thai food. They heard of God's vast love for them and the lasting freedom available at Beginnings. For five brief hours, they were free to be girls again. It was beautiful. 

This party is the start of a number of decisions for the attendees who were open to what was shared. Some may decide to break from cultural norms and family expectations to leave the sex industry behind. Others may carry around the phone number to the Home of New Beginnings for weeks or months before they gain the courage to call it. A few may have no intention of leaving until they finally have a night with a customer so horrendous that they realize any other path is worth the risk. That's the night they will show up at Beginnings' door step. 

The parties offer a critical starting point ... the beginning to Beginnings, if you will. We believe this because we watched a dozen beautiful, restored girls lovingly interact with party guests tonight, knowing full well they were once in their stilettos. Each one is a testimony to a life transformed at Beginnings, not overnight, but over time. Time they are now spending pouring into others so that they may too be free.

On Wednesday morning, East Coast time, we will hold our second Christmas party for the girls of Nana Plaza. This party tends to present more challenges, with more bars shutting us out from taking any girls. Prayers and thoughts are needed as we work to free them for the evening. We will bring you updates throughout Christmas Party #2 on our Facebook page, so follow along as the party progresses!

How you can help in light of what is happening here? Consider taking a simple first step to help bring rescue and restoration for these girls by "stuffing" a virtual Stocking 4 Freedom. Each $24 virtual stocking represents a girl who needs hope and freedom from human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Learn more and get your virtual stocking by clicking here. 

 

 

Rounded Edges & Well-Loved Walls

This morning, our Freedom 4/24 team in Uganda began the long journey home to the United States. After the experiences of the past week and the lives that have touched theirs, each of them will leave a part of their hearts in Uganda. Here, President Tim Spaulding talks about the signs of love they saw at Christine's House, reflected in unexpected places.

True Generosity is Giving Your Best Chicken

President Tim Spaulding with a most generous gift.
President Tim Spaulding with a most generous gift.

What is the single most generous gift you’ve ever received? We can probably all think of exciting Christmas or birthday gifts, or thoughtful presents wrapped up beautifully from friends and family. But for Freedom 4/24 President Tim Spaulding, the gift he will always remember came in the form of a real, live chicken. Here, he explains the purpose and impact of this simple gift.

On Saturday, before the Run 4 Their Lives Uganda 5K, our team had the opportunity to visit with a recent graduate from Christine’s House named Filda. Living deep in the bush, reaching Filda’s village was no easy task. Following a bumpy, hour-long drive on dirt roads and narrow trails, we went the final stretch on foot. After a 10-minute walk on footpaths surrounded by elephant grass towering over six feet tall, we reached a clearing. There we found a few chickens scratching the neatly swept dirt, a couple of goats, and a scrawny dog that clearly did not appreciate our arrival.

A few moments later, Filda emerged from a low-slung hut with a child on her hip. She greeted each member of our team by extending her wrist to shake (customarily done when one’s hands are dirty) while gently bowing in respect.  Then an older woman, slightly hunched over with chiseled features from decades of toiling to survive, followed out of the home. She was introduced to us as Filda’s mother and she beckoned the team to come inside.

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness inside the hut, I took in the family's few earthly possessions: some scraps of clothing, a couple of pots for cooking, and two mats, which we were invited to sit on while Filda shared her story with us. (To read more about one team member’s experience of hearing Filda’s story, click here).

While our team was praying for Filda, her mother exited the hut. When we emerged behind her some time later, Filda’s mother approached our translator, Sam Lutalo, with her hands full.

“She has a gift for you,” Sam explained.

“Sam,” I said. “They have nothing. How can we accept it?”

“You must,” he said. “It would be an insult to do otherwise.”

As I approached Filda’s mother, she placed a chicken and a bag of groundnuts (similar to peanuts) into my hands. My eyes welled with tears.

There I was, an American who by her standards is wealthy beyond her wildest imagination, receiving a gift from a woman who supports her family without a husband on less than one dollar a day. As we walked back to our bus, Sam told me he had seen her search for her best chicken and sort her groundnuts for the finest ones before presenting them as gifts to the team as a thank you for all that was done for her daughter at Christine’s House.

This reminds me of a story in the Bible when Jesus comments on a woman’s small offering in the temple saying it was greater than the vast sums the wealthy had offered because she gave out of her poverty, giving all she had.She had nothing yet she wanted to show how much it meant to her that her daughter’s brokenness had been restored at Christine’s House.

Her gifts were really meant for you—the thousands of individuals and families who give to Freedom 4/24. I was merely the recipient.

You are making a difference.

You are changing lives.

Filda’s mother gave all she had. What will you give today to continue changing lives like her daughter’s?  To donate, click here. Thank you for being a hero to these girls, and their mothers.

Heartbreak and Hope: Conversations from Inside a Hut

Our Freedom 4/24 team in Uganda right now have experienced a roller coaster of emotions in this week. But one thing has been made clear to our team there: God is on the move at Christine’s House. Keep reading as one of our interns, Jaclyn Swyers, shares her experiences over the past few days at Christine’s House, our safe house for sexually exploited and trafficked girls in Gulu, Uganda.Our last few days with the girls of Christine’s House have been bittersweet, filled with both joy and pain, as many have shared their stories with us.In the past few days, I've asked God for so much wisdom and words to respond to what they have spoken. I've heard many heartbreaking stories, especially in the past two days as our team visited the homes of four girls who used to live at Christine's House for a follow up. Every story is similar, yet so different. It starts with embarrassment, and ends in tears. I am thankful that most of the tears are tears of appreciation and love, but many are still of pain. There is more pain in this world than I know, but I saw more this week than ever before. There is injustice all around me. Innocent girls are being deceived by their uncles, boyfriends, and even strangers. There is a lack of opportunity for success in poverty-stricken areas. The list can go on and on. Our world is not perfect, and more often than not, it is painful. 

Yesterday, our team visited a girl who was raped, became pregnant, and had her baby; he is now over a year old. Getting to her house was not easy. We were on a dirt road the size of a small sidewalk in a bus for more than an hour, and then when the bus stopped, we looked outside to see that someone's garden was blocking the "road" we were taking. There was no way of getting around, so we got off the bus and began to walk. I assumed it would be a quick walk, but we walked through tall bushes and terrain, came to a hut that wasn't our destination, and kept going through more bushes and trees. Finally, we reached the home.

The young girl we met inside that home told us she didn't think we would come this far out to see her. She was very grateful. The family put down woven leaves for us to sit on, and we all gathered inside the hut. The young girl’s child and mother were there with us as she told us her story through tears. She told us her dreams that she cannot achieve. She told us about her family separating, and how her son is always sick. The list went on and on and suddenly we were asked to given an encouraging word. What do I say to someone whose life is falling apart? Who has nothing but the clothes on her body, her son, and a few peanuts and chickens outside of her home? What are the words that can come from my mouth that would actually serve a purpose? Do I simply say, "don't give up" when I may have already if I were in their situation? Do I say, "God will provide” even though they do not have much? Do I say, "don't worry" when they worry daily if they will even survive? All I could do was weep, as I looked in her eyes and saw desperation and hopelessness.

When it was my turn to say something, all I could think of was heaven. I said to her, "I know your life does not seem very good now, but regardless of your circumstances, remember you have hope in heaven. And heaven is going to be greater than we could ever imagine."

Do you ever feel like you should desire heaven more than you do now? I do. Too often I think about how I want to get married, accomplish this, do that, and so on. I have never had more of a desire for heaven more than I did yesterday.

Revelation 21:4 says, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

That's it! That's the gospel! That's the end of pain and suffering. Heaven is our hope. There is no greater encouragement than to remind someone that one day we will be in Paradise, but for now, let's fight the good fight. I don't want to be held back in fear. I don't want to lose hope. I want to do as much as possible on earth, knowing one day, it will be over.

Jaclyn Swyers (right), has dreamed of working with human trafficking survivors in Africa since she was 15.
Jaclyn Swyers (right), has dreamed of working with human trafficking survivors in Africa since she was 15.

I don't know your story. I don't know what you’re going through, but I've heard the saddest stories this past week that I have ever heard in my life. Remember to not give up because you can't see where the finish line is. Run your race as best as you can because even when there is pain, it cannot last forever. Through Jesus Christ, our hope in heaven, we will spend eternity in His presence (along with, in my opinion, endless beaches and ice cream).

Keep up to date with what Freedom 4/24 is doing in Uganda. We need your help to continue the work that God is doing there. I can tell you first hand, YOU are making an incredible difference not just in one life, but also in the entire Gulu community. Your voice is being heard through runs, marches, radio shows, and the local government. The girls at Christine’s House are already showing signs of healing after only 3 months. You are making a difference. Thank you for all you doing to help eradicate human trafficking.

If you are not already apart of all the incredible things that are happening at Christine’s House, it’s not too late. There are 17 girls at Christine’s House right now who need your support! Become a recurring giver by visiting www.Freedom424.org/give to change a life at Christine’s House!

Confronting the Darkness

Stella cries
Stella cries

The joy from this weekend's run in Uganda was palpable as it streamed live on our Facebook page. Today, however, stood in stark contrast to that elation for Freedom 4/24 President Tim Spaulding and our videographers on the ground, as they sat down for two very difficult interviews with girls at Christine's House. Here is Tim's take from Uganda on the darkness they confronted during those interviews. 

I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing anti-trafficking work for several years now so you think I’d be used to coming face-to-face with unspeakably tragic situations. But no matter how often or how many stories I hear of how a person was trafficked, raped, exploited, or abused, nothing can dull you to hearing a girl’s story as she processes through what happened to her. Nothing can prepare you for the deafening silence and tears rolling down the cheeks of a 13-year-old girl when she is asked when her baby is due.

It’s easy to forget that behind the smiling faces, exuberant chants, and playful laughs lies pain so deep that it sucks even the simplest of joys out of life. In such situations, encouraging a girl to have hope seems to almost mock the extent of her pain.

There is nothing I can do to reverse the searing pain she lives with—neither bringing the man who raped her to justice nor wrapping her in all the best comforts life has to offer could take away her nightmares or the paralyzing fear that it will happen again. The shred of hope that I cling to is knowing that in time, broken lives can be restored. Winnie, who I wrote about two days ago, is living proof.

So what can you do from so far away? Plenty.

Pray. Ask God to bring healing to their lives, to bind up their wounds, and to restore what was broken and shattered.

Share. Be an advocate for the girls at Christine’s House by telling your friends, family, and colleagues about their stories and encourage them to get involved.

Give. Each day I’ve been at Christine’s House, I am confronted by problems that could be solved with sustainable solutions if we had only had the funds.

Go. Next year from July 20-31, we will be taking another trip to Christine’s House so you can experience first-hand what your donations are doing and to provide you with the opportunity to meet girls whose lives you’ve helped change.

Don’t finish reading this blog without a resolution to do something about it.

Do something now.

To share this story, look below for the "Share This" section and click on your button of choice.

To give, click here.

To join us at Christine’s House in 2017, email info@freedom424.org

Running with the Girls of Christine’s House

Sunset after the race in Uganda.
Sunset after the race in Uganda.

Our Virtual Race this weekend was an amazing success, thanks to YOUR support, your willingness to run, and your outpouring of encouragement on Facebook as we streamed the video of the run live from Uganda. Here, President Tim Spaulding shares his experience as he ran with the girls of Christine's House, and more than 400 others.

Run for them.

Run for freedom.

Run for their lives.

This is the slogan we’ve used for our Run 4 Their Lives events for a number of years. But what about running with them? Can’t say we’ve done that before—until this weekend!

On Saturday, July 23, we hosted our first multi-continental Run 4 Their Lives event. Our team on the ground in Uganda set up a Run 4 Their Lives race with the girls from Christine’s House along with more than 400 others from the local community that took place at 4 p.m. Ugandan Time. Back in North America, more than 60 people from across the continent signed up for the “virtual” race, running their own 5K at the exact same time (9 a.m. eastern time, 8 a.m. central time, etc.). The purpose was to have us all running together even though we were separated by thousands of miles.

With the help of Facebook’s live streaming video, we were able to bring the race in Uganda back to North America. Since then, the live stream videos have been viewed by thousands of people around the world.

During my run, I talked to dozens of participants. Toward the end of the race, I saw a single, barefooted girl in a skirt running by herself up ahead of me. After a few moments, I caught up to her and asked her name. Martha and I ran together for about half a mile and during that time she shared with me that she was in the 7th grade, loved math and science, and dreams of one day of becoming a nurse. As I listened to her dreams, I said a silent prayer asking God to protect her as she works toward her goals.

Martha runs barefoot during Run 4 Their Lives Uganda.
Martha runs barefoot during Run 4 Their Lives Uganda.

Back home, I might have said something like “good luck with that” because the ability to achieve one’s goals in the U.S. is mostly contingent on how hard a person wants to work. But this isn’t the case in Uganda, and it’s certainly not the case in Nwoya District where we held the race. Last night, I learned a startling truth about sexual exploitation and the most frequent form of sex trafficking in Uganda—child marriages. According to public records recently gathered from police data, 49.9% of children in Uganda are sexually abused and 68.9% of children in Nwoya District are forced into early marriage.

The reason Freedom 4/24 exists is to provide a way for each of us to play a part in making sickening statistics like these a thing of the past. By hosting events like Run 4 Their Lives, Ride 4 Freedom, and Freedom Gala, we raise awareness of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. By donating and supporting our work, you make it possible to change the future for girls in Uganda and around the world.

After the race, I saw Martha. She was tired and thirsty from having run a long distance but she flashed me a smile as I congratulated her on completing the race. After medals were given to the top male and female runners and the ceremony concluded, I saw Martha begin to walk home. As I watched her walk away, I said another silent prayer for Martha. Whether you realize it, if you ran in our virtual race this weekend, or participated in any of our events around the country, or have donated to Freedom 4/24, you are now part of her story, one that is now transforming from despair to beautiful hopes and dreams for her future.

Whether you realize it, if you ran in our virtual race this weekend, or participated in any of our events around the country, or have donated to Freedom 4/24, you are now part of her story—one that is transforming from despair to beautiful hopes and dreams for her future.

Martha (second from the right) wears her medal following the race, along with three other girls from Christine's House.
Martha (second from the right) wears her medal following the race, along with three other girls from Christine's House.

If you want to play your part in ending sexual exploitation and trafficking of girls like Martha in Uganda, consider becoming a recurring giver by clicking here.

To watch all the live streaming videos on our Facebook page, click here.

Bursting with Pride

Many of you participated in our R4TL Uganda Virtual Race as our team and the girls from Christine's House ran in Uganda. Read on as President Tim Spaulding shares how each and every action and donation can make a lasting impact in the life of one. 

Friday was a long, hot day in Gulu, and many on the team have the sunburns to prove it! In spite of the scorching sun, it was one of the most amazing days you could imagine.

More than 200 people gathered at Christine’s House to celebrate its first reunion. Girls from the first two years at Christine’s House came back to join with the current group of girls, along with many of their parents, news reporters, government officials, and locals who support the vision to celebrate three years of rescue and restoration through Christine’s House. Throughout the afternoon there were games, dancing, speeches, and great times of fellowship over a meal.

A few moments from today stand out in the minds of my team members but there was one  that did not register on anyone else’s radar, and yet it cut me to the core and overwhelmed me with emotion.

This moment was when I realized that the young Ugandan woman walking confidently toward us was one of the shy young girls I’d met two years ago.

After she sat down, I walked over to speak with her. The girl, who two years previous would giggle when spoken to and was too embarrassed to use her very limited English, looked me in the eye and confidently said, “I remember you.”

A smile immediately spread across my face and my eyes welled up with tears as we spoke about how she has been doing since leaving Christine’s House. My heart was bursting with the pride I feel as a father—like when my 3-year-old daughter recently learned to ride a two-wheeler—as Winnie told me how she’s practicing the baking skills she learned at Christine’s House to make and sell bread in the Gulu market.

Two years ago, Winnie was a shy, self-conscious girl who was just beginning to heal from the trauma of sexual violence. Today, that girl was nowhere to be found. Instead, I found a strong young woman who has persevered in the face of adversity because of the donations from hundreds of individuals like YOU.

Will you make a difference right now for girls like Winnie who stand for freedom and justice? It costs $166 a month to provide shelter, food, counseling, and vocational training for one girl at Christine’s House. Be her hero today by giving at www.Freedom424.org/give.

A Dream Six Years in the Making

It took six years for the burning desire inside of a 15-year-old girl to become a reality. Read as one of our Freedom 4/24 interns, Jaclyn Swyers, relays a long-time dream come true for her: meeting the residents of Christine’s House, our safe house for sexually exploited girls in Gulu, Uganda. I didn't know what to expect. All I knew was I wanted to show them how much I've awaited this moment, to meet the girls of Christine's House, now the strongest girls I know.

When I was 15, I had a random obsession with Africa and its culture. I had never been, but found it so intriguing. For two years, it was all I could think and pray about. I even told my parents when I was 16 that I didn't want anything for Christmas except a trip to Africa. During that same time, I began to have a burden for victims of sexual exploitation. These two things, Africa and sexually exploited victims, were an unexplainable passion of mine for two years, and then it faded. But when the opportunity came around six years later to go on a trip in Africa to work with sexually exploited women, the decision was a no brainer for me. God had been preparing my heart that whole time. In those years of faded passion, I questioned the promises and visions he gave me; I questioned everything, really, but I now understand that everything is made perfect in His timing.

Yesterday, the day finally arrived: A day I've awaited for six years. I was finally in Africa, and my first day there was one of the most amazing days ever! On the way to Gulu, we crossed the Nile River (my knees got weak just looking at the water), and saw wild monkeys (I screamed from excitement). It was incredible, but the best was still yet to come.

We pulled up to the compound and all the girls at Christine’s House were outside clapping, giggling, and chanting. The joy that came from within them was beautiful to witness; they looked like a family. All of them have separate stories- one of them joined the house less than a week ago- but they stood as one. Our team was brought to tears as we realized why we were here ... for them

Christine's House is located in Gulu, Uganda and is Freedom 4/24's safe house where victims of sexual exploitation gain hope and restoration.

I never knew how I would react, how I would feel, but I can tell you now, all I wanted to do was hug every one of them. I wanted to let them know how much I love them, even though I may not "know" who they are. I am currently studying psychology in college and as I am learning about sexual abuse, I realize a lot of victims suffer from self-blame for what has happened. They feel immense shame, guilt, and responsibility for the exploitation, as if it was their fault. My goal in meeting these girls at Christine’s House was to break those walls of shame, and let them know that they are LOVED and there is GRACE and that they have WORTH.

Just think, that is how God is with us. All he wants to do is show how much He loves us, especially in our shame. He wants to take away our shame, and show us our worth. I think many of us have a view of God as if He is out to get us for our wrongdoings, when in reality He is out to show us his grace.

I was so content hearing the girls giggle while they performed an African cultural dance for us at dinner. They were having fun and being free, despite all that's happened. It was so encouraging and humbling. When I come home from a bad day at work back in the U.S., I let it affect my mood. These girls have gone through the unimaginable and yet they choose joy and peace that surpasses all understanding.

Even though they were shy when we first arrived, I can already see walls breaking down. For example, I was made fun of multiple times for the way I say, "Hi, my name is Jaclyn." I couldn't be happier to be made fun of because our laughter drew us closer, and of course if you want to break the language barrier, give a one-year-old your phone and show them the selfie camera.

jaclyn

In all, this was only Day One and I am so excited to form lifelong relationships with the girls here. They need encouragement, bravery, fearlessness, and unending love. My first impressions of Christine's House have shown me two things that will change my life forever: 1) It is God’s full desire to remove shame from our life that we put on ourselves, and 2) It is God’s utmost desire to see us have fun, laugh, and be filled with joy despite our sin and situation.

I hope you are touched by the stories of the girls we will continue to share this week. I encourage you to see people through the eyes of Jesus, who loves endlessly regardless of culture and age. That is our job this week and beyond. It is our purpose.

So how are you going to do just that? In the words of Jaclyn, how are you and I going to fulfill “our purpose”? Did you know that for only $24 a month, you can feed one of these girls at Christine’s House for MORE than a month? Or that $24 supplies two months worth of vocational supplies to help them learn a skill to provide for themselves? Become a recurring giver today and love these girls “regardless of culture and age” at www.freedom424.org/give.  

 

Winning the War Against Werewolves & Human Trafficking

Throughout the next week we’ll be bringing you updates from the ground in Gulu, Uganda. Stay tuned to hear how your donations are making a difference in the lives of young women and children at Christine’s House, our Freedom 4/24 safe house there for exploited and trafficked girls.Read on as President Tim Spaulding shares thoughts from Uganda about how we can all play a part in slaying the “werewolves” of human trafficking.

Our Freedom 4/24 team on the ground. President Tim Spaulding is shown fourth from the left.
Our Freedom 4/24 team on the ground. President Tim Spaulding is shown fourth from the left.

Werewolves.

These mythical creatures strike fear in the hearts of children (and some adults) around the world, the fear of which causes innumerable parents to routinely check closets and under beds, and leave more than a few lights left on overnight to aid sleep and keep “them" at bay.

We all know how the story goes, right? The towns people are terrorized and regularly lose livestock to the voracious appetite of these werewolves. Multiple people, armed with all manner of weaponry, attempt to vanquish the creature, but only end up losing their own lives.

Then one day a hero comes along with a silver bullet. Boom—Problem solved.

Before the hero appears, the beast appears unstoppable. The only thing the towns people can do is hide in fear, hoping the menace goes away on its own.

This afternoon, we toured the Kampala Ministry Center— Sports Outreach’s (our partner on the ground) partially completed master plan for transforming the lives of at-risk children from all over Kampala. While touring the Center, we saw the finished homes for orphans and street kids, as well as the partial completed chess academy, computer labs, library, and chapel. Later, we stood on the sites of a future primary school and vocational center and dreamed of how both will one day change lives.

While taking this all in, I was struck by the complexity and multi-faceted nature of ending sexual exploitation and human trafficking. I wish it were as simple as a hero with a silver bullet. I wish all it took was rescue and providing a means of self-sufficiency. But it’s not that simple.

The causes of exploitation and trafficking are vast and the cultural triggers and societal malaise allowing these horrors to continue are deeply engrained and not easily changed. Ending exploitation and trafficking requires changes in law, government, public policy, and understandings of public health. It requires a well-rounded approach much like Sports Outreach is doing through the Kampala Ministry Center. What it really requires is you and me.

Without our voices, the larger systemic change will not occur.

Without our efforts, hope will not be restored and lives will not be changed.

Without you, there will be no freedom and no justice.

We are witnessing with our own eyes these next 10 days how YOU are helping to bring freedom to women and children in Uganda. If you want to be part of restoring hope and changing lives, make a donation today. We can’t wait to share more stories this week of real girls experiencing true transformation. Stay tuned!

What happens during a Freedom Camp?

In April, supporters like you gave money to Freedom 4/24 in order for us to fully fund a Freedom Camp for girls rescued from sexual slavery in India. Put on by Freedom Firm, our partner on the ground, the camp is a life-changing experience for the girls and the staff who works with them as they face fears and break through boundaries. Freedom 4/24 sent a team of seven women to work the camp. The impact on our team was profound and lingers still. The girls captured our hearts from Day One. We miss them every day. Here is a look at what happens at the camp, written by Freedom Firm. 
 FF logo

"Do the thing you fear the most and the death of fear is certain." Mark Twain

After nine years of wilderness camps in the mountains near Ooty, Tamil Nadu India, government changes to forest access meant Freedom Firm held camps in the city of Bangalore for the first time. Bumped out of our comfort zone and forced to embrace the concrete jungle, it's no surprise that we were stretched and flexed in a myriad of new ways. What did we learn? God shows up regardless of the setting and performs miracles greater than we could ever imagine in the hearts and lives of all who attend. Join us as we walk through a week at camp!

Day One

Gathering together over thousands of miles.
Getting to know each other despite different languages.

 

Day One: 41 people gather from across the world, 8 from America, 25 rescued girls from all over India and 8 staff from Freedom Firm and various anti-trafficking organizations in India.  This year we all converged in Bangalore, for our 16th and 17th Freedom Camps hosted by Freedom Firm.

This is a day of orientation, both for staff and girls, and icebreaker games to help break down barriers.  With 3 to 4 languages represented, basic communication is a challenge! Our American friends learn to communicate through Freedom Firm staff, who provide interpretation.  Since there are thousands of messages throughout each day, it's a good thing that 93% of communication is non-verbal! The message we are trying to send?  That we love the girls, that each is precious beyond compare, and that there is a hope and a future for each one.

Day Two

Travel isn't wasted time, it's a great chance to dance!
Warming up with a minnows pedicure.
Color group team huddle - making activity choices for the day.
Taking aim, this girl tries archery for the first time.

 

Day Two: Warming Up! We go out to the town for a time of pure fun, lots of activities and low pressure as we get to know each other in a relaxed setting.

Day Three

How long do germs take to destroy? - The first lesson of the camp is hygiene.

 

Day Three: We get into the meat of the camp. The US team teaches daily workshops on subjects like hygiene, mental health, identity, worth, and friendship through a variety of hands-on activities, story books, drama, and demonstrations. We also start the low ropes course that stretch and challenge each girl to trust the ropes and the other participants. If fear has a scale of one to ten, the low ropes focus on factors 1-3. This is a day of preparation for greater challenges the next day. Each day of camp is filled with Jazzercise, fabulous crafts, games and a “campfire” time at the end of the day.

Day Four

The high ropes challenge, 35 feet in the air.
Zipping down to the finish line. Success!

 

Day Four: The high ropes course is the exhilarating, difficult challenge of the day.  35 feet high, with several ropes to traverse before zip lining down to the ground, this activity takes 4 hours in the hot sun as each of the 41 participants, girls and staff complete each part of the challenge.  For many, the fear this challenge represents is off the charts and is extremely hard to overcome.  Everyone in the group waits below, cheering each person on to success. It's a day of shaking limbs, tears and exuberant shouts and laughter as each person zip lines “home”. It's a day of overcoming fears.  In the evening, everyone debriefs after dinner in small groups. Leaders of the groups help girls to apply their learnings of the day to real examples in each person's life.  The ropes, the cheering group of supporters, the harness, all translate into analogies for real life.

Day Five

Craft times, quiet moments for creativity.
A gift of henna (mehndi) design for our American friends as the camp winds down and we say goodbye.
Crawling on our hands and knees, we help each other through the tunnel and into the light and fresh air.
Trust earned, friendship cemented.

 

Day Five: Girls and staff continue learning through the teaching times sprinkled throughout the day. The tunnel challenge hits the fear button for some, as girls are paired up and asked to crawl through a 50-meter tunnel on their hands and knees in the absolute dark.  While there are emergency exits, they are encouraged to rely on their partners to find the way out and crawl out into the light.  The imagery is stunning and profound.  For some, this activity is the greatest and most difficult of the entire camp.We are nearing the end, and everyone is exhausted from a long and exciting week. We go out for dinner at a great restaurant, give gifts, share some closing thoughts, and say our thank-yous and our goodbyes. It's sad to go, but all of our lives are somehow changed and redefined, and we see each other and ourselves in a new way.  We have grown, we have overcome fears.  We move forward with our heads held a little higher and the light of hope in our eyes.

Candlemaker Illuminates the Darkness

web_for24
web_for24

“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.

Changing the world looks different for each person. But everyone is capable of changing the world in some way. Meet Susie, a world changer who also happens to be a creative and small business owner. Susie decided to take her passion for candle making and use it to bring freedom and justice through giving to Freedom 4/24.

#20. Susie Lake

IMG_8515
IMG_8515

Occupation: Property Manager/Small business owner

Amount Fundraised: $500 

Susie, you turned a passion into a cause recently by selling your handmade candles and donating part of the proceeds to Freedom 4/24. Tell us more about what you did.

I love making candles, but I knew that I wanted to do more than just sell candles. I wanted my small business to be able to help people in some way. There are so many amazing organizations doing important work that have a lasting impact. My husband and I decided to take a portion of our profits from the candles we sell and donate it to different nonprofits to be a small part of what they are doing.  We love learning more about each nonprofit we donate towards and sharing about these organizations with our customers!

Why Freedom 4/24? How did you get connected to us?

I heard about Freedom 4/24 through social media. After reading a post about the organization, I knew I wanted to learn more about what they do. When I read the mission of Freedom 4/24, I knew I wanted to be involved in some way.  

What about Freedom 4/24’s mission speaks to you?

In our society, it is easy to not think about what countless women and children go through in relation to sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Many of us live our lives without any thought as to what others suffer through. We have so many things that can distract us from the pain and suffering that is happening around us. It is so important to be educated and made aware that human trafficking happens, because we can be a part of the change. I know this is a subject I didn’t think much about until I heard about Freedom 4/24. Now I want to be a part of ending human trafficking for good!  

How did you start making candles?

I actually started making candles to use for Christmas gifts one year with a good friend of mine. I loved it so much that I didn’t want to stop making them after Christmas. I’ve always loved having candles in my home, but I had no idea the chemicals I was putting in our air. As I continued to research candle making, I quickly decided that I wanted to make all natural, soy candles to prevent breathing in these toxic chemicals. I have participated in two craft shows and sold to friends and family. I am continuing to grow my small business through my website and the local community.  

Susie uses her passion for candle making for more than just business but to bring freedom and justice to trafficking victims worldwide.
Susie uses her passion for candle making for more than just business but to bring freedom and justice to trafficking victims worldwide.

What’s your favorite part of the process?

I love that candle making is a science. You have to be very careful to do each part of the process at the correct temperature and measure everything correctly. I have really enjoyed figuring that part of the process out. I also love working on how to package my candles. It took me awhile to find jars that I love and to perfect the tags I put on each candle, but I love letting my creative juices flow in this way.  

You are a great example of someone who took their time and talent and used it for a greater good. How would you encourage someone else considering doing a fundraiser?

There is nothing better than doing something to help others! Getting to do something I love and helping people at the same time is my dream! I’m so thankful that the Lord has provided me a way to use something I love to have a positive impact. If you’re considering doing something like this, do it! The Lord can use even a small amount to make a difference! I was worried that my small candle business would not allow for me to come close to break even let alone be able to donate to a nonprofit. It’s so exciting to see how God will work through me if I’m just willing to take a step in faith!

Now it is time to ask yourself some questions: What are you passionate about? How can you leverage your job or talent to make a difference in someone else’s life? How you can you use your one life to play a part in ending human trafficking in this generation? If you are ready to begin a fundraiser, email Emily@freedom424.org with your idea to get started.

Everyone's Got One: How Will You Use Yours?

web_for24
web_for24

“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.

Year in and year out, birthdays are inevitable. We receive gifts that we often quickly forget about or take back to the store because we didn’t really like them. What if you treated this year’s birthday differently? What if you used this simple passage of time to change someone else’s life? That’s exactly what Conaire Hallisy, a long-time friend of our President Tim Spaulding, did. Read on to discover why he decided to GIVE instead of get this year.

#19. Conaire Hallisy

IMG_4088
IMG_4088

Fundraiser Event: 35th Birthday

Amount Raised: $7,200

Recently, you “donated” your birthday to Freedom 4/24. How did you come up with the idea?

Every birthday I’ve ever had has been a bit selfish—I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’re allowed to be selfish on our birthdays, it’s literally our day, but I wanted to use my birthday to help out this year.

Here is a crazy idea!  What if everyone gave on their birthday instead of taking?! I bet, and this is wild, that your heart would be 10 times fuller from filling someone else’s cup than filling your own. It has taken me 35 years to figure out that simple truth.

How did you get connected to the mission of Freedom 4/24?

Tim Spaulding and I taught English together in Japan almost 15 years ago.  He was a great man and I knew he would do great things, so I wanted to support him and all the great work being done by Freedom 4/24.

Which aspects of fighting human trafficking resonate with you?

Wow, that is a tough question.  I originally attended law school because I wanted to prosecute those who facilitate the atrocities of human trafficking.  I ended up not following this path, but still have a deep unrest in my soul about those who perpetrate such heinous crimes.  At this moment in my life, providing financial assistance and awareness is the greatest way I can influence the situation, so I was happy to help out in the small instance of my birthday donation.

How did you go about asking for birthday donations?

Very simply, I created a short video about Freedom 4/24 and posted it on my Facebook page.  The team at Freedom 4/24 put together a site for my friends and family to donate.  It was simple, easy, and it created a truly amazing outpouring of generosity.

How much did you raise?

My friends and family contributed around $2,400, and I matched the $2,400, so around $4,800 total.  I’ll submit my donation to my company for matching funds, so altogether the small birthday fundraiser raised $7,200.

IMG_0837
IMG_0837

What would you say to someone who was thinking of donating their birthday?

I would say: Do it!! Freedom 4/24 is awesome and they are doing amazing things in the world.  I would say to get them to create a giving page for you, then create a short video about Freedom and your fundraiser.  Post it on social media and ask friends to share it.  I should have probably been a bit more aggressive, but the modest side of me got the best of me, and I only posted it a few times.  With that said, I am humbled by the grace of God and all my amazing friends and their generous hearts.

How did you celebrate your 35th birthday?

I went for a long run and had a dinner with some friends.  Pretty low key, but I wanted it that way.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35. This year, use your birthday to change the lives of girls in your town and all across the globe that have been sold into sex slavery. To start a fundraiser, email Emily@freedom424.org and find out how YOU can change a life.

Putting the "Fun" in Fundraising

web_for24
web_for24

“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.

 Do you run? Play video games? Lift weights? Take photos? Whatever it is you love, you can use it to bring freedom to girls around the world who need it. YOU can be their hero by simply raising money around the activity you love the most. Want proof? Read on to learn what our founder and her friends did, then email Emily@freedom424.org to start your own fundraiser.

#14, #15, #16, #17, #18. Laura, Eric, Michael & Christine Gelatt, Colleen Alber

The team raised $5,750 for Freedom 4/24.
The team raised $5,750 for Freedom 4/24.

Fundraiser Event: May 7, 2016 / Indianapolis Mini Marathon

Amount raised: $5,760

Christine, as the founder of Freedom 4/24, our mission is obviously dear to your heart. How did this translate to the idea of running a half marathon with friends to raise money?

Michael [my husband] and I love the Run 4 Their Lives component of Freedom 4/24. It provides a great way for people to rally together to take a stand against human trafficking and exploitation. Since we moved to Indianapolis in 2014, we had been thinking about the possibility of starting a race here. However, we never felt like we were in a place to take on the full responsibility of leading a race with excellence. Last December, we thought of using this idea of running a pre-established race (half marathon or more) and fundraising for Freedom 4/24. I contacted the folks who put on the Indy Mini, and they were happy to let us use their race as the platform for our fundraiser.

How did you get the team together?

We asked some of our close friends and family members if they would be interested in spearheading this with us. Our goal for this year was to navigate this method of fundraising to see if it can be effective. We worked with Joy [Marinelli, Freedom 4/24 National Race Director] to create an incentive structure for reaching various fundraising milestones, we set up a unique donating platform via a website for each team member to be able to track their individual fundraising goals, and we navigated various methods of reaching those goals.

In the future, we’d like to focus more on building our team. We’d love to see this grow not just in Indianapolis, but in half marathons and marathons all over the country! We see incredible potential with this method.

Tell us about fundraising. What was your approach as a team?

Our main approach was simply to put the issue in front of people. We encouraged team members to post statistics, stories, videos, etc., of the reality of human trafficking on their social media platforms. Some team members sent emails to close friends and family members asking for their support.

Michael had one of the more unique ideas of selling individual pounds of his famous Applewood smoked bacon for a suggested donation of $10/lb. He ended up raising almost $750 as a direct result of that. It didn’t hurt that many people donated $50+ for their pound of bacon!

Michael and I decided to write the names of all of the individuals who had donated toward our goals on the backs of our race shirts. We wanted to make sure they were there with us as we ran!

Michael and Christine wrote the names of every donor on their race shirts.
Michael and Christine wrote the names of every donor on their race shirts.

Was this your first half marathon? Were all the members of your team runners before?

This was my third half marathon, but it was the first that had a bigger purpose in mind. Two other members on our team, Colleen and Laura, are much more consistent and serious runners. We felt more legitimate having them on our team.

Tell us about the race itself. What was the experience like for you?

The race is an absolute blast. The Indi Mini is one of the largest half marathons in the United States, so the sheer amount of people made it a really fun environment. It is a really neat experience to run for 13.1 miles and literally have the course packed with people the entire route.  Half way through the course you actually run a lap on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Runners are encouraged to kiss the starting line bricks as they pass it!

As Freedom 4/24's founder, why do you continue to invest and believe in the mission?

Simply put, there is more work to do.  I’ve seen a lot of positive change since 2008 in the arena of awareness, but I’m still passionate about mobilizing everyday individuals to do their part in bringing freedom and justice to one more victim at a time. I’m passionate about the work that Freedom 4/24 continues to do, and Michael and I are thankful to be a part of it.

The mission of Freedom 4/24 is to bring freedom and justice to victims and survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation by 1) raising awareness, and (2) to financially partner with organizations around the world that are dedicated to bringing freedom and justice to victims. Any time we can do something that filters that mission by accomplishing both of those things is a win. Through our fundraising we informed hundreds if not thousands of new people not just about the issue of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, but also about the work Freedom 4/24 is doing to confront it.

In addition, we raised thousands of dollars to help support that work. Sometimes doing your part isn’t about reinventing the wheel, it’s about doing what you are already passionate about (or simply doing what you think is fun) and making it have an eternal purpose.

Pattaya & Praying Impossible Prayers

  web_for24

“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.

It has been an incredibly busy two months. Three-quarters of our staff spent 10 days co-hosting a camp for teenage trafficking survivors in India, then returned to hold two successful Run 4 Their Lives races in Virginia. We are grateful for the many wins YOU helped us accomplish during this time. While we catch our breath and collect our thoughts, we want to take you back to December 2015 to give you an update on what is happening with our Freedom 4/24 partner in Bangkok, Thailand, Home of New Beginnings. Here is a look at the exciting expansion on the horizon for them, and the heartbreaking reality of WHY this expansion is needed, through the eyes of Freedom 4/24's team trip leader, Megan MacDougall.

#13. Megan MacDougall, Thailand Trip Leader

Team Pattaya Safe House

“God delights in our impossible prayers.” –Bob Goff, author of the New York Times best-seller “Love Does”

Pattaya, Thailand: A scene that brought a fresh perspective to what Jesus knew to be true, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

At first glance, it masquerades as a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively, from the streets of Bangkok, where we had just spent a week in its red light districts. Instead of hot smog with putrid stench and not much in the way of a view, Pattaya greets you with palm trees swaying in a cool breeze, beaches as far as the eye can see, and sunsets that cast bold colors of orange and pink across an expansive ocean. It is initially inviting, as though this is a place you can let your guard down and relax. But our team knew not to trust its invitation. As Bonita, the founder of Home of New Beginnings (HONB), cautioned us, “Pattaya makes Bangkok look like Sunday school.” Her warning proved all too accurate.

Walking Street Wide

After a 2.5-hour van ride, we pulled up to the newest location of HONB, a safe house in Pattaya. As we walked through the house, I found myself picturing the many broken souls that will come through its doors and the healing and transformation these walls will see. As we made our way into downtown Pattaya later that evening, we witnessed streets lined with bar after bar busting at the seams with girls for sale. In Pattaya customers here can “buy” whatever they seek —any age, race, or gender. The streets we walked were filled with men, women, and children whose identities were reduced to a price tag.

As we drove through several red light districts, we learned staggering statistics about Pattaya, including that it is home to approximately 1,843 bars, some 30,000 “above ground” prostitutes (there are many more underground) during what they call “dry season,” and during peak season that number rises to approximately 50,000. After walking through what is known as “Walking Street,” the infamous “unrivaled epicenter of Pattaya’s bustling nightlife” as one article referred to it, these statistics felt undeniably possible. It also felt impossible that any of it could change. That’s when I decided to start praying impossible prayers.

Pattaya bars 1

Walking Street is so busy, so claustrophobically full of people buying other people like they are pieces of meat. Rubbing shoulders with those who shamelessly purchase other human beings out in the open feels like a form of hell on Earth. Watching adults forcing little girls to dance in the street before the ogling eyes of men is enough to turn even the toughest stomach. Many bars there have bouncers standing outside of their doors, not to protect the women and girls inside, but instead to ensure their merchandise is paid for and brought back. We learned these bars are owned by the Russian mafia and the girls within them are mostly trafficked.

On Walking Street alone, there are women and girls from all over the world. The one thing connecting us all—the girl from Asia and the girl from Africa, the girls being sold, and the women whose hearts broke at the sight of them being purchased—is a God whose undeniable love for us is real, who desperately wants us to know Him. I believe God brought us to Pattaya to see the 5-year-old girl heavily made up and barely dressed, dancing and seductively winking at her admirers. Where did she learn that? I cried inside. My attention was also drawn to a girl with bruises running down her leg, dancing in the window above a bar. How did she learn to smile through pain? I wondered.

At one point, a man grabbed one of my teammates’ arms and attempt to purchase her. Perhaps that was God revealing to us that this COULD be us. We could be the ones barely dressed, feigning happiness and enthusiasm to go with the next paying customer, not knowing what the following hours would bring but understanding fully that our worth had literally been quantified.

While in Pattaya, God allowed us to see the wounded and the maimed, the lost and the absolutely hopeless, the ones who have never known love and certainly don’t know the One who created it.  But He did not just bring us here to see them but also to immerse us into their world, to hug them without reservation, to let our hearts break over them, to hold their hands, to place a bracelet on their wrist and tell them of their worth, to smile at them and to ceaselessly intercede for them.  He brought us there to bring us back home changed.  To return with stories in our mind and faces in our hearts.  To share with those ready to hear about the travesties happening outside of our safe neighborhoods. And to comprehend fully why each one of us has the story we do—so we can better love others, speak out when they are unable, and recognize our Savior in another’s hurting eyes.

This is why He created you, me, the church—to be advocates that enter into the mess so we can be a part of the reconciliation. It is easy to believe that in Pattaya, in Bangkok, in any red light district or brothel in the world that it isn’t working. It’s easy to think, What’s the point? With thousands of bars and tens of thousands of people for sale, is it worth it? I am just one person.

Pattaya Skyline

But transformation is happening. I know this because I have seen the first-hand healing of the girls who live at New Beginnings. They have told me of their journeys and their hopes and dreams because they now have Christ. So, I continue in my impossible prayers. For the girls of Pattaya and Bangkok, and all over the world who are being sold every day. I pray that they not only be rescued but restored. The girls at New Beginnings know it is possible. Who am I to say otherwise?

As for me, I choose to use my one life and one voice to help make the impossible possible.

The question is: Will you join me?

 Freedom 4/24 exists to raise awareness and support for our partner organizations like Home of New Beginnings, who do the difficult work on the ground of rescuing and restoring girls who have been sexually exploited or trafficked. Beginnings offers safe shelter, counseling, food, medical care, and an education through college for the girls who call it home. YOU help make this possible. Please consider partnering with us today. Click here to become a recurring giver so we can continue this important mission.

 

Raise Your Arm for Anita

Raise Your Arm for Anita

On April 1, we begin our #RaiseYourArmChallenge! We want you to know WHO you are raising your arm for as you take the simple challenge with us this month.

This is Anita, a survivor of sex trafficking. After years of being sold for sex, Anita was rescued and has since found new life and hope, for both herself and her daughter, through Freedom 4/24's partner in India, Freedom Firm. Her story is powerful, showing the atrocities of human trafficking as well as the beautiful hope of freedom and restoration we fight for every day at Freedom 4/24.

Remember her story as you write Anita's name on your arm over the next 30 days and pray for her and other victims and survivors leading up to Run 4 Their Lives event on April 30th. Let it break your heart, inspire you, and move you to greater action. Start by watching, then click here to take our #RaiseYourArmChallenge. Together, we can bring freedom!