Sometimes a Ripple Begins with a Prayer
We continue our series on the Ripple Effect. It has been so exciting to talk with people who have impacted our lives and the life of our organization, Courage Worldwide. Without people like Genny Heikka, Courage would have never been able to accomplish the dream God put on our heart over 15 years ago to rescue and restore children who have been trafficked for sex. Thank you Genny!
Years ago, when I was doing a lot of writing for parenting magazines, I got a call from an editor asking me if I wanted to write a feature story on a local woman for their Mother’s Day issue. The woman was Jenny Williamson, the founder of Courage Worldwide, an organization that rescued girls out of trafficking.
I immediately said yes. It turns out, I had heard of Jenny before. Though I didn’t know her personally, I was involved in MOPS at the time and she had spoken at one of our events; I already felt drawn to her and inspired by her energy and passion. I set up time with Jenny, interviewed her for the article and learned about the work Courage Worldwide was doing to rescue and restore girls out of trafficking. As part of my “research” (there are quotes around that because it ended up being so much more), I attended a benefit concert at a local church to get a deeper understanding of the issue and how Courage Worldwide was combatting it. That night, before the concert began, I had the opportunity to talk with an FBI agent who headed up a task force that rescued girls in the Bay Area. I also interviewed a mom whose daughter was abducted then trafficked, and her story forever changed me. I remember sitting across from her in a room at the back of the church, me asking her questions as she shared her story, and both of us crying, mom to mom. I could barely see my notepad as I tried to take notes for the article. When the concert began, I sat in the front row totally unprepared for how my heart would be pierced that night. I was there on a “work” assignment, but forget the professionalism; I cried most of the night. And I felt an undeniable pull to try to do something to help. At the end of the concert, Jenny got on stage and invited others to join her in the fight against trafficking. In that moment, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t there simply to write an article. On the way home in the car, with tears streaming down my face, I looked up into the night sky and prayed out loud, “I have no idea what I’m signing up for, but I’m in.” After the article was finished, I sent Jenny an email, explaining that I felt a tug on my heart to somehow get involved and asked her if we could we meet for coffee. I remember sitting in my car before heading into that coffee shop, feeling nervous and unsure. I wanted to help rescue and restore girls, but I also felt incredibly inadequate. In my mind, I was thinking of all the reasons I wasn’t qualified…. I wasn’t a counselor, I wasn’t a social worker, I didn’t have any previous experience working with victims. How could I make a difference? But when I walked into that coffee shop, Jenny welcomed me with a big hug and smile and we sat down and began talking. I remember saying something like, I don’t know if you have any writing needs, but I’m a writer… I’d love to do something to help… I’ll never forget her reaction. She slammed her hand down on the table and smiled, “You had me at hello!” she said, laughing. “I’ve been praying for a writer for three years and you’re the first one that’s ever approached me!” It was confirmation that sometimes we need to say yes and take a step even if we feel not-quite-ready. We can make a difference simply by taking who we are (me, a writer at the time) and using that to help others. I started out as a volunteer writer for Courage Worldwide and ended up getting hired as staff a while later, serving as the Director of Communications. And that time in my life had a significant ripple effect. Jenny’s passion to help girls realize their worth was contagious, and it fueled the fire I felt to help girls and women find their voice. In fact, years later, I stared my own coaching practice, Her Team Success, specifically to help women discover their value and thrive. The words Jenny spoke over the girls at Courage House (and over me during my time there) were life-giving and purpose-fueling. I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if I hadn’t said yes to writing that article about Jenny and Courage Worldwide those years ago. Or what my life would be like today if I had ignored the tug on my heart to get involved and let that feeling of not being qualified keep me from stepping out. One thing I know for sure is that I would’ve missed out on so many gifts… The gift of seeing girls’ lives changed. The gift of being able to help young women tell their story and put words to their fears and dreams through writing workshops. The gift of Jenny’s encouragement – you were created on purpose for a purpose – being spoken into my life, watering seeds that would grow and multiply to help others years later. My time working to help rescue and restore girls out of trafficking impacted me in more ways than I can capture in this short article, and the ripple effect continues. Thank you, Jenny for stepping out and making a difference and inspiring so many others to make a difference, too!