This has been a whirl-wind year that has brought many exciting changes for Restoration One Ninety-Nine (R1:99)—a new name, mission, and vision (www.R199.org ). In fact, the past twelve years have been an amazing, humbling journey as R1:99 engaged with sex trafficking survivors in detention centers, psychiatric hospitals, residential facilities, on the streets, and in community settings. Regardless of the place, each encounter has been an opportunity to walk out the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15: 4-7, where the good shepherd searches ceaselessly for the one lost lamb. During the past 12 years, we have met many lost lambs along the way, with close to 2,000 youth and adults participating in our prevention and intervention programs. Through their participation, we discovered that in order to best serve survivors of sexual exploitation, we needed a better understanding of childhood sexual trauma and appropriate treatment strategies. We are happy to say that this is now R1:99’s focus, and we are looking forward to new doors opening for us and the survivors we serve in 2016.
I am grateful that many of the survivors still keep in touch with us. Recently, I was contacted by Grace*. We met Grace at the youth detention center when she was just 13 years old. She had been picked up for skipping school but, unbeknownst to authorities, she was being trafficked. During her first stay in detention, Grace refused to engage with anyone when R1:99 came to visit. She kept her eyes down and rarely spoke. After two weeks, she was released to her parents, but in short time she was back in detention, and this time her stay was longer.
Over the next several months she slowly started to trust us, and share bits and pieces of her story. The next time she was released, she went to a group home in the community, where we mentored her over a period of several years. We accompanied her to court, spent time getting to know her family, and held her hand through many difficult times. At age 16 she returned home, only to suffer sexual abuse from her father. She ran away from home, and went missing for over a year. We prayed ceaselessly for her safety and safe return, and one day I received a phone call from her. She was in a horrible situation—although she was not being trafficked, she was living with a large extended family that was clearly taking advantage of her. Grace’s situation went from bad to worse, and she once again dropped-off of our radar for several more years; again, we prayed that the Lord would protect her. She would contact us infrequently, but when we tried to pick-up where we had left off and intervene on her behalf, it was clear that she was not ready for change. Regardless of where Grace was, we ended every conversation telling her we loved her and asking how we could pray for her.
At some point, those prayers took root, and Grace chose to stop running from healthy relationships. She is now 22, ready to work on her GED, and recently married to a good man. While sitting across from her earlier this week, I saw a beautiful young woman who was serious about her future for the first time in her life. She was filled with gratitude for our friendship and how R1:99 had always been there for her. She expressed a strong interest in joining our team to help victims of sexual exploitation. I can tell you that there is no greater joy than seeing someone see their own self-worth and, in so doing, become able to help with the healing process for other survivors of sexual exploitation.