This month, Love True launched its blog and invited me to join its crew of writers! For their first post, head blogger, Jackie, interviewed the founders (read Rebekah’s, Emily’s and my abbreviated responses at www.love-true.org.) Founding this nonprofit was a fat milestone on my faith journey. God taught me to pray and to wait then to follow him over my ideas and rely on his provision over my power. I never expected to post an interview of myself in the Story Time series, but since I promised to share the exciting story of how Love True began with you, I am seizing this opportunity. Below is Jackie’s full interview of me. I hope our story encourages you too.
Jackie: What connects you personally to the issue of sex trafficking?
Heather: For too long, I did not know that protecting one’s innocence is not always a choice. As a mentor I had led girls to guard their hearts and choose purity, but in 2009 a dear friend of mine was raped and another shared with me that she had been sexually abused as a child. I saw my friends’ need for hope and restoration and determined to learn more so that I could better help them and others. When I heard about sex trafficking, the shock that turned to grief turned to compassion and I was spurred to action. I started applying for jobs working with at-risk youth, but no offers came. When I prayed, God confirmed that he had made no mistake. He wanted me to research and pray for a time before using my hands for this work.
I waited 18 months for God to say “Go” and amazingly, He had told Rebekah (who had been praying for three years) to go at the same time. The way God aligned our prayers and meeting and partnership was perfect.
One morning in January 2012, I felt the Lord drawing me into prayer. I again prayed about trafficking and what role I might play in fighting it. Where for 18 months I had heard, “Wait,” I heard, “Begin.” I remember crying and nodding animatedly over my journal, “What do I do, Lord?” “Talk to your pastor.” “Okay.”
I set up a lunch meeting with Pastor Tim and told him I wanted to start an anti-trafficking ministry at our church. He had questions, “What will the group do?” I rambled off the usual ideas I’d read on anti-slavery websites but admitted, “I don’t know. I think there is something else coming. But I don’t know what it is yet.” He said yes.
Less than a week later, Tim called, “A woman is starting a restoration home for local trafficking victims and is speaking to my community group this week. Would you like to come?” ‘Yes!” I could already see God moving. I thought, “Maybe this is that ‘something else’ our church will do- we will support this woman’s ministry.”
Well, I met Rebekah and we basically had a two-hour conversation in thirty minutes because of our mutual adrenaline rush. As we talked, we discovered that our visions aligned perfectly like the Lord had prepared us to meet. I left eager for my church to partner with Rebekah’s budding organization. I did not yet realized that God wanted me to be more than an intermediary!
A few days later, Rebekah invited me to coffee and a few hours after that, she asked me join her as co-founder of Love True. I sensed a clear “Go” from the Lord and again wiped jubilant tears off my journal pages.
From there, God knitted together every need right when we needed it, no sooner. Volunteers approached us before we even asked offering pro bono graphic design, legal counsel, accounting, printing, venues, advice, etc. and my church did partner with Love True. It was amazing.
It boggles me still that if I had not visited my pastor the day I did, he would not have thought to invite me to the meeting where I met Rebekah. I believe too that if I had not obediently prayed and studied while I waited those 18 months, I would not have been ready to join God in this work. God tells us to pray and then he answers our prayers. He showed me his faithfulness like I had never seen it before. The experience convinced me that He is the One building Love True and it strengthened my certitude in his power thus emboldening me to follow him more and more. For more encouragement to nonprofit founders read my letter, Of Faith and Finances.
Jackie: Why is it important to open up a restoration home and what does restoration truly mean to Love True?
Heather: Restoration was the first topic in that first conversation, where Rebekah and I laid out our matching dreams to one another. We both cared deeply about justice and accountability, but felt driven to facilitate the restoration of hearts. We wanted girls to know how beautiful and valuable and worthy of love they truly are. We wanted them to experience renewal and freedom.
Jackie: Why does Love True put such a high value on prevention programs?
Heather: We started out with our sights set solely on building the restoration home but quickly added prevention to our mission. Restoring broken hearts is ever so important. But how much better is keeping hearts from being broken to begin with?
There are many aspects of prevention:
- Teaching at-risk youth how to avoid being trafficked and proving to them that they are worthy of a delightful nurturing love is prevention, so Love True holds multi-session workshops for them.
- Rescuing trafficking victims prevents ongoing victimization, so Love True trains professionals and community members to spot and report them.
- Persuading buyers to value people more than fleeting pleasure prevents objectification of people, so Real Men Love True challenges men to reject lust, pornography and prostitution.
- Influencing legislators to bolster anti-trafficking efforts and encouraging police and lawyers to uphold standing policies deters traffickers and supports survivors, so Love True has built statewide legal relationships.
- Encouraging families and churches and students to love vulnerable children through adoption and foster care and mentorship and friendship before they become at-risk is prevention and Love True’s contagious true love inspires onlookers to love truly.
- Raising awareness through social media campaigns, local events and impromptu conversations also spreads and strengthens prevention efforts.
Jackie: How has anti-trafficking as a whole changed over the last four years?
Heather: Awareness has skyrocketed. In 2012, we were still informing people of sex slavery’s existence. Many of our listeners were hearing for the first time that minors were being forced into prostitution. Now I rarely meet a person who hasn’t heard. Most respond, “I know! So tell me what I can do about it?” I love answering that question.
Q: Why should people care about sex trafficking?
Heather: Our time on earth is not a group experience; it is a conglomeration of individual experiences. And every single life counts. God so loved every single lovingly created person that He sent His one and only son that not one should perish but have eternal life. God means for our eternal joy to start during our earthly lives. Therefore, we shall not stand idly by while God’s beloved’s joy is stolen away.
God means for everyone to do good work for His kingdom while we are still in the world. Therefore, we shall not permit that anyone’s endeavors not glorify our glorious God, whether trafficked, trafficking or buying services. Rather, He sends each of us to love one another as we love ourselves for forever starting now. Trafficking cannot be tolerated by Christians.
Jackie: Where does your day-to-day encouragement come from during the difficult times of Love True?
Heather: When I found out I would be leaving New Jersey, I sat down and waited for the tears to roll- how could I desert Love True? But I did not sob. I had prayed beforehand that in the likely event that we moved, God would give me peace. And he did. My peace transcended understanding and I knew it could not have come from me. It came from my trustworthy God. I envisioned a beautiful budding spring tree and believed it symbolized a coming summer in which Love True would grow and thrive as well as a summer for my own family where God would make us fruitful in other ways outside of New Jersey. I was able to leave my position as Director of Prevention and Education and my husband, Chris, was able to leave his role as Love True’s board vice president knowing Love True would do well without us and that God had other things in store.
If you would like to donate to Love True (which would be amazing), visit www.love-true.org/donate. Thank you.