As the end of the summer is almost here, all of us on the FREE team are excited for Fall. There always seems to be an excitement in the air as one season ends and a new one approaches. We anticipate the winter because we look forward to the quiet a good snowstorm brings, the holidays and welcoming in a New Year. But as Winter dies down we start to look forward to Spring and Summer, warmer weather, sunshine, flowers blooming, our children being home and vacations that allow us a time of much needed rest. Then as the summer ends we are ready for the Fall, to get back on a regular routine, at least many of us moms are. 🙂 We are ready to ditch our shorts and t-shirts for sweaters and jeans. We are ready for everything pumpkin! And while seasons are a physical reality, they are also a spiritual reality. God brings His children through seasons. Some seasons are great, but some seasons can be a challenge. All of the seasons we go through, whether easy or hard, are to bring us closer to the Father and His heart. All of the seasons we go through should teach us to be more like Jesus.
FREE has always been about education, raising awareness, and community involvement in the fight against human trafficking. And we will continue to do this. Education is key in ending human trafficking, and we will always hold to that truth. We will continue to educate our communities about what sex trafficking is, how to spot it, and how to take action against it. We will also continue prevention work with youth, as a main focus for us at FREE is always to protect our children from being trafficked in the first place. Education is critical in the fight against slavery. And while we fully rely on God and His wisdom and power in all things, we also understand there is power in knowledge. There’s power when a teen girl is fully aware of what “grooming” looks like, and that “knowing” can potentially save her from being lured and manipulated into sexual exploitation. That’s what we work to do at FREE! We will always educate, equip and empower our community to take action against trafficking.
But we’ve seen the Lord open so many unexpected doors for us at FREE recently and we continue to walk through. One of the doors He’s opened is having FREE take part in forming Berks Coalition Against Human Trafficking (BCAHT). This coalition is comprised of professionals in Berks County, and its goal is to come together to work on behalf of the victims. We strongly believe now is the time for organizations to come together and make a collective effort to combat human trafficking in Berks County, and also to pave the way for specific services and resources to become available to victims. So we are happy to announce this coalition is formed and has been meeting on a monthly basis.
One thing we’ve noticed over time at FREE and has been confirmed at our coalition meetings, there are not many services in Berks County for victims coming out of trafficking. In fact, there are no services in Berks County tailored specifically to meet the complex needs of trafficking victims and survivors. We’ve been praying for a long time that these services would come together in Berks County. As time has gone on though, we believe God is calling us to take a step of faith and move forward in providing some initial resources to these women.
That brings us to what we are so excited about coming into this Fall season. FREE will be starting a women’s drop-in center for victims of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, as well as women at risk of being trafficked and sexually exploited. This drop-in center will first meet the most basic needs of these women, such as toiletries, feminine products, food and water. We will also provide them with all of the resources we have for Berks County that we believe can be of help and support to them. But more importantly, we will focus on their spiritual needs. Through a friend and sister in Christ, the Lord has recently reminded me of the Scripture in Acts 3 that talks about Peter and John healing the crippled beggar. Peter and John were going to the temple and a crippled man from birth was being carried to the temple gate where he was put daily to beg from the people going into the temple courts. When this crippled man saw Peter and John he asked for money. Scripture goes on to say in verse 6, “Then Peter said, silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
They didn’t give the crippled man money. They gave him Jesus. I am not suggesting we don’t meet physical needs, as Scripture is very clear we are to feed the hungry, give them drink and that when we are caring for the least of these we are, essentially, caring for Jesus. (Matthew 25:35-40) In this passage of Scripture in Acts I do see this man’s initial basic need being met. He was crippled. He needed someone to pick him up and bring him to the temple gate. But once he was at that gate, the disciples offered something far greater than silver and gold. They offered him Jesus. And in Jesus’ name He was healed.
And that’s what we have to offer the women that come into the drop-in center…Jesus. Each woman is a unique individual that has been created in the image of God. Yes, we also provide the basics, because the basics, such as deodorant or a toothbrush, are not just items to buy and use. Rather, at the core, they directly tie into the value, dignity and worth of each person. No one should have to go without toothpaste or soap, without food and water. No woman should have to go without clean underwear, socks or feminine products. These basic needs may seem minuscule to some, but not having access to these products many of us take for granted can be a huge obstacle for victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. So we meet those basic needs. AND we give them Jesus. It will be a safe space where relationships and trust are built, which takes time. We will remain steadfast, patient and faithful. This isn’t always easy, especially when we live in a society that tells us getting immediate results is the meaning of success. (nothing could be further from the truth) So why do we remain steadfast, patient and faithful? Because we serve a God who is abundantly steadfast, patient and faithful. He’s always been faithful to us. He always will be.
This drop-in center will be held at First City Parish of Reading City Church, 611 Washington Street, Reading. It’s the same location we hold our monthly prayer gatherings and board meetings which are open to the public. We will be starting out with one day a week for two hours. Please stay tuned for more information, such as the day and time, as we will share more information as we move closer to our launch date, which will be sometime this Fall.
In the meantime, will you pray with us? Pray God’s will be done. Pray restoration for these women we will have the privilege to meet.
If you would like to make a financial donation that we can use to help support this drop-in center, you can visit us at www.freefromht.org and go to our “Donate” page.
Also, if you would like to donate any personal care products, water or snacks, reach out to us by sending us an email or give us a call. We would love to hear from you! You can find all of our contact information on our website as well.
We are so grateful for our community and all of the love, help and support we’ve received over the years.
Together we can make a difference. Light always shines in the darkness.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5