Where Hope Resides
Mothers dream big dreams for their children. It's a painful place to be when those dreams seemingly crash to the ground like a bird whose wings have suddenly become useless in a hurricane. No mother wants to find out that her child is pregnant, homeless, and the victim of a sex trafficker. Yet that's exactly where Tasha found herself. A series of bad choices and wrong turns had lead her only daughter down a dark and narrow path of pain and destruction.
It started when Corrine Jane (CJ) was sixteen. Tasha was a single mom, working two jobs and struggling to find balance between her two kids and her work schedule. Thankfully, the new neighbors next door had a daughter only a few years older than CJ, and they were often home when Tasha was working. CJ's older brother was taking night classes and working too, doing his best to help his mom and carve out the life he wanted. That often meant CJ was on her own, which wasn't so bad at first.
Enamored with a boy at school who eventually broke off their relationship, CJ struggled to find happiness and worth in her lonely teenage life. The new neighbors next door offered solace and friendship, and an introduction to an "uncle" (their stepdad's friend), who was over twice her age. Uncle Bart was charming, funny, a smooth talker, and soon CJ was spending more and more time next door, not with her friend, but in the company of Uncle Bart. The slippery slope towards "grooming" had begun. Like many people, neither CJ or Tasha had any idea what grooming meant and that it was occurring right in their midst ("Grooming
is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them"). Uncle Bart began to buy expensive gifts for CJ, he often told her how pretty she was, and he secretly began to use words like "girlfriend" around CJ. As time went on and new clothes and electronics appeared, Tasha became concerned. Multiple attempts to talk with CJ were met with anger and a strong resistance to ending the "friendship." Tasha must have heard a million times, "He's only a friend Mom!"
It was only a matter of months before Tasha came home to one of her worst nightmares. CJ had left a note, sharing she was running away, that she and Bart were "in love", and that they were leaving to start a new life. The police became involved and it was a long eight months later before Tasha was found 1,000 miles away, arrested in a raid at a big city massage parlor. The "new life" was not one with a caring boyfriend, but one with a child prostitution ring run by Bart and a few of his buddies. It was a miracle that CJ had been rescued. Now 18, the police released her and encouraged her to return home to her Mom. CJ felt confused, wondering how her Mom could ever begin to help.
HOPE FOR THE HOPELESS
Where could a pregnant, unwed, teenage woman find food, shelter, and care, considering her past and the shape she was in? Would you know where to send your daughter (granddaughter, niece, cousin, friend) if she showed up on your doorstep in that condition?
Thankfully, a female police officer had given CJ the name of a local ministry that worked with survivors of sex trafficking and she encouraged CJ to call. With no place else to turn, she dialed the number and a few hours later found herself on a couch talking with a case worker about her situation. It wasn't long before they helped CJ find housing at the local homeless shelter, food at a local soup kitchen, help at a local ministry that worked with pregnant unwed women, and connected her to care via a small group of women who embraced her and offered grace. Every step along the way, CJ met incredible women who offered hope, compassion, kindness, and wisdom.
That was ten years ago. Today CJ is married with three children, and has worked hard to rebuild her life and her relationship with her mother. How did she do it? With the ongoing care and compassion offered through a plethora of women who were engaged in ministries that met her needs: a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, a ministry for survivors of sex trafficking, a crisis pregnancy center, and a bible study group at a local church. Through each "touch point," CJ found redemption and restoration in Jesus. And along the way, so did Tasha, who now volunteers at the local soup kitchen in her community.
Did you know that our Tri-Cities community is blessed to offer all of these ministries and more to women like CJ who are in need within our community? Join us on August 15th for a Bethel women's ministry event where you can learn more about three of those ministries: Soul Soup
, Mirror Ministries
and Embrace Grace
Come and hear stories about how these ministries care for others, and how you can become an active participant in the work that God is doing in each one!
Summer Together: Strong Sisterhood
-- Sometimes all we hear about are the discord, sorrow, and tragedies of the world. But, there are so many stories of hope! Join us as we rally around stories of God working in and through women in our Tri-Cities community. It’ll be an evening of encouragement and hope, including an iced coffee bar and a variety of sweet and savory light bites.
"...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31)
This is an anecdotal story in which names, characters, place, and incidents are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.