For many, high school is the time of trying to fit in with the cool kids or planning for college, for me it meant finding my calling in life. In Johnston County, in order to graduate high school, students must complete a graduation project on a topic of their choosing. While my classmates were building a life size Barbie, or teaching kids to make healthy snacks, I wanted to end human trafficking. Crazy idea for a sixteen year old to think, right? When my parents and my teachers asked me how I thought I was going to do this, I answered, “I have no idea, but God does!” That was the beginning of Operation Restoration was born and the first steps in shaping the rest of my life.
The main goal of Operation Restoration is to bring awareness of the issue of human trafficking as a whole, while focusing on the issue in North Carolina, as well as partnering with the safe homes in North Carolina for survivors and overcomers of human trafficking. Since the creation of Operation Restoration in late 2011, we have done a number of presentations to church groups, local news and government, and various community groups throughout the state. I had no idea that this one assignment would take me where it has.
Earlier this year, in March I was approached by Ressie Toland, the wife of Whitman Toland, the pastor of C3 Greensboro, to discuss some things that God has put on her heart. I have known the Toland’s for fourteen years, due to growing up in the church when it was first founded, but since moving away from Greensboro our communications had not be consistent. Ressie called me one Saturday afternoon and shared that God was putting the issue of human trafficking on her heart and she knew that this was not a burden that she was meant to carry alone. She then presented a partnership between C3 Greensboro and Operation Restoration in order to sponsor the safe homes in North Carolina for a year. I sat in my car in tears, explaining to her that this is something we at Operation Restoration have been praying for, someone to come forth with a reach much greater than our own and back us up in sponsoring these homes in order to make a difference in the lives of survivors that they serve.
Throughout the next few months, the planning of the partnership, that was now called the Freedom Initiative, went about and June 22nd was decided as the date for the first “Freedom Sunday” When deciding which of the four houses in North Carolina would be the first home to be sponsored in the Freedom Initiative I felt that draw to Chris and Anna at Restore One and in discussing with Pastor Ressie, we agreed that the Anchor House would be the first to be sponsored.
The morning of the 22nd came and I continued to pray that the Lord would speak through me and begin to stir in the hearts of the congregation. After the service we were overwhelmed with the response of concerned church members asking how this could be happening and what they could do to stop it. My heart was humbled as I saw mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers all concerned for these sons, daughters, siblings, that were being trafficked everyday and having a desire to end this tragic injustice. As we were packing up the Operation Restoration booth that afternoon, Pastor Whit came to me and said that the offering taken up for the Anchor House was $7,000. I cannot say thank you enough to all of the church members for their open hearts and minds as we feed into this amazing ministry and join in the fight against human trafficking together.
I never imagined that four years ago any of this would have happened because of a crazy dream I had at sixteen years old. Human trafficking is still happening all around us everyday, but if we continue to work together and be a voice for those without a one, we will see it come to an end. I want to commend Chris and Anna Smith for their diligence and obedience to the things that God has placed on their hearts and am believing for breakthrough and provision in their next steps in opening the Anchor House.