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Human Trafficking Hope

A Human Trafficking Survivors blog that shares the struggles, the hopes, the dreams, and the successes of human trafficking survivors of the Where Hope Lives Human Trafficking Program.

Sarah's Hope

Where Hope Lives - Sunday, January 28, 2018
  So many people who walk through the doors of Where Hope Lives come in bruised and battered…at rock bottom in their lives. Not only are they at their lowest point, they’re struggling to ground the turbulence that prevents them from landing safely on a firm foundation. Recently, a young woman named Sarah arrived here. She was broken, with little to cling onto except a lifetime of disappointments. But one night while she was here something remarkable happened.

From the time she was a young girl, still helpless without a positive role model in her life, Sarah was taken into some really dark places in her life…places that left her discouraged, abandoned, broken, and abused.

Sarah grew up in a home that consisted of an absent father and an abusive and alcoholic mother. She recalls that her mother would go to the bars almost every night. When she’d come home drunk, she’d body shame Sarah and tell her she was worthless and wouldn’t amount to anything.

One night, when Sarah was only 10 years old, her mother went to the bar and left Sarah at home alone with a man that she barely knew. This virtual stranger did the unthinkable to her.

It disturbs me to even say it. But it was the tragic reality.

He held a knife to her throat and forced her to drink alcohol as he began touching her in sexually inappropriate ways.

Sarah ran out of the apartment to the manager’s office, crying for help. When her mother came home from the bar after the police had arrived, she blamed Sarah for everything that had happened in her absence. When the police took Sarah away to place her in foster care, her mother didn’t even
attempt to stop them. Once in the system, Sarah traveled from city to city and group home to group home.

It was in one group home, when she was 13, that Sarah met a man who introduced her to drugs for the first time. The drugs ending up becoming a way for Sarah to hide from the anger and pain that were already consuming her at her young age.

Her teen years remained troubled, and the years passed by without any structure or foundation. When she was a young adult, she received a prison sentence for selling drugs.

When she was released, she returned to the only lifestyle she had known…abusive relationships and being physically abused. At one point, she was hit in the head with a baseball bat, which resulted in her being hospitalized with blood on the brain.

Without a stable footing in her life, Sarah knew no other lifestyle than the one she came from, which led her to spending the next 15 years in and out of prison.

But something different happened the last time she was arrested. Her eyes were suddenly open.

This time she knew that when her release date came, she didn’t want to go back to the lifestyle she had come from.

She pleaded with the court for intervention of some type of program to help her turn her life around. But her cries were ignored.

In prison, she met a young woman who told her that if she really wanted to start changing her life, she should attend the prison church with her. Sarah remembers telling the young woman, “What is God going to do for me…He hasn’t been anywhere for me so far in my life.”

But over time, she started to attend the prison church services, and she began reading her Bible with her cell mate. Sarah says, “Something inside me just clicked…I didn’t know if it was God or the Holy Spirit, but I knew this changed the life that I was experiencing to the life that I wanted.”

Sarah’s release date was fast approaching when her cellmate told her that if she was serious about changing her life, she should fill out an application for Where Hope Lives, which she did. Over the next few weeks, it was arranged that transportation from Where Hope Lives would be waiting for Sarah at the prison gates when she was released.

She recalls that the first few months in her new life were hard. She remembers her son questioning, “How can my mom love us if she can’t even love herself?” And he was right. Still consumed with the darkness she had known her whole life but hopeful of what she read in the Bible, Sarah went to her first alter call. Dropping to her knees she pled with God, “If
you are real, take all this pain and resentment away. I can’t carry it anymore.”

Sarah recalls it was that night—the night she cried out God—that she felt herself being lifted from rock bottom.

Since that time, she has learned that her identity doesn’t come from the abuse, abandonment, and pain that defined her childhood. She learned that her identity comes from the miracle working power of Jesus Christ. She says:

“Coming to Where Hope Lives was the best choice I could have made in my life… because God has given me a second chance, I can use my testimony to help others.”

Today, when Sarah wakes up each morning, instead of reaching for a needle to put in her arm, she prays to God and thanks him for the second chance He’s given her. Sarah has a dream and a vision for a better life. What an amazing God that we serve!

Now off drugs for two years, her focus is on the future. She wants to be a drug and alcohol counselor so she can help others the way she was helped.

Because she’s actually walked through the same pain and found that her foundation is in the love of her Heavenly Father, she feels equipped to reach other girls. Many of us drive through the streets of our cities and see the lost and broken, wondering is there really any way for them to turn their lives around?

The answer is yes!

We see the healing power of God at work every day at Where Hope Lives. Many women come through our doors having experienced a life of abuse, exploitation, and fear to the point that that those things are the only emotions they identify with. But generous gifts from donors like you help us rescue people when they are released from prison with their yoke still around them, like Sarah, and introduce them their true identity in
Christ. Sarah’s story seems unbelievable, but it’s real. It’s not impossible for God to turn something that’s battered and broken around when faith is the foundation:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  —Matthew 7:24-25

God doesn’t destroy people at rock bottom, he rebuilds them. 


Natasha's Hope

Where Hope Lives - Thursday, January 18, 2018
  Nobody ever expects to be homeless. But it happens every day. Someone gets sick and is unable to work and loses their job. Income disappears. The rent falls behind. And then... homelessness.

I’ve met so many moms who have no choice but to walk out their front door carrying nothing except their children. They have no idea where they’re going to sleep that night. An alley? Under a bridge? A bus stop? Or worse? There’s hardly any chance they’ll find shelter on that first night. Or even the first week. So they sleep wherever they can lay their heads.

I’m sure you’ve seen the homeless in cities large and small across America. What most people don’t realize is that homeless women are prime targets for sex traffickers. They’re desperate. Hopeless. They don’t have a lot of options. These are the people we work to help every single day.

Many of these women come with the profound wounds of physical abuse or the soul-crushing scars of abandonment and the living nightmare of human trafficking. Sometimes it all started with terrible circumstances that snowballed out of control. No matter where they come from, Where Hope Lives is there to help them build a new future—a future built on God’s love and His purpose for their lives.

It starts with the things you and I usually take for granted. Food...showers...clean clothes...a safe place to sleep. But we know the brokenness goes much deeper than material needs. We mentor and spiritually encourage each of them on their path to healing. That path often includes working towards a G.E.D or vocational training or teaching them how to manage their money, pay down debt, and save up for a place of their own.

We know that if we don’t equip these women to be strong and independent, they run a high risk of becoming a victim again. Many of the women who come to Where Hope Lives have spent years struggling with feelings of low self-worth, fear, isolation, and abandonment. They believe the cycle will never be broken. They’ve lost all faith.

But through our support programs at Where Hope Lives, these lost and hurting young women find confidence through a relationship with God.

Natasha walked through our doors like so many other young women we help. She was dealing with the trauma of human trafficking and homelessness. When she found herself homeless, Natasha spiraled into drugs, prostitution, and isolation... the very elements that lead to being exploited.

Natasha was defenseless against the lie her trafficker told her... “No one is going to help you like I’ve helped you.” She believed him. Why wouldn’t she? Look where she was. Even though Natasha tried many times to get her life in order, she felt trapped and hopeless. She started stockpiling pills her abuser gave her so she could kill herself. She was done. She just wanted her life to be over. But right before it was too late...God brought her to us.

Through a brave Christian friend, Natasha was led to Where Hope Lives. Instead of ending her life, Natasha learned that God loved her, and His plans for her were “for good and not evil to give her a future and a hope.” Hope. It was something Natasha had given up on. But because of your generous support, we were there for her to help her hope again.

Natasha now knows that the love and acceptance she’d been searching for comes from God. Through His grace, He brought her to Where Hope Lives and through His grace, she has come to know Him in a real and personal way. I’m so glad we were able to be there for Natasha before it was too late!

But other women need your help.

There are women just like Natasha...girls—some as young as 13!—who are facing the same desperate situation.

Homeless. Trapped in trafficking. Ready to give up.

We have to act, and we have to act immediately!

Now, more than ever, it’s vital that Where Hope Lives’ efforts increase to rescue these young girls before it’s too late!


Maria's Hope

Where Hope Lives - Monday, January 01, 2018
  Marie is a 2016 graduate of the Where Hope Lives Program.

Today she has several thousand dollars saved in a bank account, has restored her health and her body, has renewed her mind in Christ and is working full time and going to college. 

But just 18 months ago, she was a very hurt young woman – physically, emotionally and mentally a wreck - and was just coming into our human trafficking program for help. 
Marie was born in Arizona to a single mom who struggled greatly with drugs and addiction. 

At 8 years old, the state had to get involved because of the neglect and abuse that Marie and her older siblings were enduring through numerous abuse and drug related incidents.  This launched her into a broken foster care system which she soon fell through the cracks of and herself ended up in very abusive relationships. 

One of those relationships was with an older man, nearly twice her age, who she found handsome, charming and who seemed to have all the answers of life.  Sadly, all was not as it seemed with this man. 

As his drug problem grew and their ability to pay the bills diminished, it was only a short time later that the conversation to begin “selling herself” for money came up.  What started out to be a temporary solution, ended in her being locked in hotel rooms and forced to do the unthinkable, over and over until her mind and her body were broken.  Through the intervention of Law Enforcement and Marie’s mustering the courage to speak out, she was rescued and brought to our program, where God did a mighty work to renew her future and reveal His plans for her.

Today, she has a dream to become a drug counselor and is excelling at her studies in College.  She is also a mentor to other young women and encourages them in their struggle. 


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Where Hope Lives is a Human Trafficking Program
of the Phoenix Dream Center
A 501(C)(3) Non-Profit Organization of Arizona
3210 NW Grand Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85017 602.346.8701