When we opened the first two Courage Houses in 2010, I was scared to death! I had no idea how to do what I believed God had called me to. As I wrestled my own doubts, I wrote in my journal words I believe God’s spirit whispered to my heart:
“You are just a seed planter. You are not responsible for the results or lives changed. You are to plant seeds of love, destiny, grace, and purpose into the lives of these children. If you do not give up, there will be a great harvest.”
This helped relieve so much pressure to produce results defined by how we perceived success and, instead, provide love for the young ones in our care. Our prayer for former residents became for other people to water all the seeds planted in them while they called Courage House home.
In our journey to redefine success, we laid down our dreams for these young ones, allowing them to live their lives and make their own choices, continuing to believe in them when they didn’t believe in themselves or didn’t make the choices I would have wanted them to.
I recently connected with two of these former Courage House residents, sending me into a roller coaster of a day with high highs and low lows.
The first started with a Facebook friend request. I was so surprised to see her name.
She had arrived at Courage House in 2012 angry and rebellious at 16. It was obvious she didn’t want to be there: she was quiet, she liked the dogs better than the staff, she didn’t trust us for the longest time–her smiles were a rare gift given to a select few. She didn’t let you see much of her heart except in a few vulnerable moments. I didn’t think she even liked me.
I pursued her and talked with her, reminding her she was created on purpose for a purpose. When it was time for her to transition to the next chapter of her life, I hugged her goodbye, whispering in her ear I would be praying for her and her future.
I have not seen or heard from her in 11 years–until yesterday.
We caught up over small talk, sharing updates on our lives and journeys. She shared how she was thriving! She is making a difference in her community and our world, she is married to a fine young man, she has children she adores, and she is in a career she is passionate about.
I shared that Courage Worldwide has plans to open another Courage House in Northern Nevada and asked her if she thought what we do makes a difference. Her response was immediate:
“What you do matters. It is always the small things that change someone. Being treated with kindness and love even when you are acting out eventually penetrates—even to a hard heart. Never doubt what you do matters. It did for me. You planted a seed in my life that established my relationship with God.”
I was so surprised at her response. I would have told you we and the program at Courage House had little to no impact in her life. She knows she was created on purpose for a purpose. It is so sweet hearing how the small seeds we planted produced so much fruit in her life—and she still has so much life to live! That conversation encouraged me in a way I didn’t even know I needed!
The second reconnection came through a Facebook message, one that hurt my heart:
“Mom, can I come home? I have no one else. I have nothing to live for!”
I also remembered when she walked through the doors at Courage House–a tornado of action! She was 15; vivacious; and craved attention, love, and hugs in equal measure. She had been caught up in the world of trafficking trying to save a friend from a trafficker, but she was delighted to be at Courage House and wanted all we had to offer. She was going to change the world.
In her transition home to her community and family at 18, however, she struggled with addiction–a nasty souvenir from the criminal world of sex trafficking. After getting married and having a baby, her husband quickly revealed himself to be an abuser and she became a victim of domestic violence. She divorced her husband only to remarry, have another baby, and find herself in the same cycle. When the pull of addiction became too great, she lost custody of her children and was violently assaulted by her husband, resulting in a hospital stay where she was prescribed painkillers–the same ones she was addicted to.
Somewhere, somehow, those little seeds of hope we planted when she lived at Courage
House were buried deep, still alive. In her deepest pain and hopelessness she remembered the words echoed to her time and time again: “you were created on purpose for a purpose.” So, she called and found the strength to reach out. We are finding her a place to detox so she can find the courage to try again–she won’t have to do it alone.
Reading these two situations, you may determine one young woman was a “success” and the other was not. I don’t see it that way. In our journey to redefine success at Courage House–much like I had to do with my biological children–we laid down our dreams for these young ones, allowing them to live their lives and make their own choices, continuing to believe in them when they didn’t believe in themselves or didn’t make the choices I would have wanted them to.
Many would call Courage House a “successful” program with a documented 85% of residents who have not returned to a trafficking situation. We know, however, the context so many of our young ones come from: no safe home or family to return to, having been hurt or abused by the very people who were supposed to love and protect them. It’s a long journey to “success” when you don’t have a safe family to love, encourage, and support you.
This is what Courage Worldwide aims to do. Build them homes and call them family. It is a mantra we have had since the beginning.
As an organization, we know we will not eradicate sex trafficking in our lifetime. Our dream and our vision of success, however, is for every victim who is recovered to have a safe home and to receive all the resources she needs to begin her unique journey of healing–so she can be and do everything she was created to.
Now that I would call success!
As the number of girls in need of a Courage House continues to grow, so do our opportunities to expand our reach across the West and Africa. We invite YOU to be a part of this important work. Your investment in our girls will help them realize their dreams and help us in restoring the purpose for which each of them was created.
Thank you for considering a transformational gift to Courage Worldwide!