We are excited to announce that Freedom Fund 2021 is taking place from October 18 through November 17. Once again, we are partnering with True Organic Products Inc. This year, TRUE has given $25,000 in the form of a challenge grant, which means that every dollar up to $25,000 will be doubled! On Monday night, we went live on Facebook for a one hour, twenty minute broadcast. Here’s a reply of that livestream, edited down to a tight 59 minutes.
From our humble beginnings as a small, all-volunteer prayer group, we have grown to an organization with multiple staff members. Since 2015, we have been able to educate well over 27,000 people in the Central Valley and beyond. Hundreds of people have banded together to give thousands of dollars to fund this vital human trafficking prevention work.
To date, our annual Freedom Fund has generated over $251,000 in donations and every dollar makes a significant impact in preventing slavery and exploitation. Will you help us make this year the best one yet for our human trafficking prevention work?
At the Justice Coalition, we sincerely believe that legislation like CA Assembly Bill 262 represents a step in the right direction for survivors of human trafficking who have been coerced into committing crimes by those who enslaved and exploited them. We are grateful that Governor Newsom signed this bill into law and are so proud to stand beside Arien Pauls Garcia as she tirelessly advocates for change. Not only does Arien use her voice publicly but she also privately has helped dozens of pre-victim adolescent clients this year alone through our youth prevention programming.
Read more about the process of getting AB 262 passed and signed into law:
It would be an understatement to say that the last 18 months have been a challenging time for us at the Justice Coalition. As the light dawned on 2021, we were presented with an opportunity to streamline our operations through converting two vacated part-time positions into a full-time associate director role. We conducted a thorough search and found the perfect candidate, Dan Carter, for the job.
Only trouble was, as she is a foreign national from Australia, we would need to get a work visa. What we thought would take 6 weeks wound up taking 22 instead but praise God, she has now finally been able to start! I can’t thank all you enough for your support, encouragement and prayers during these trying times.
As an education organization working with vulnerable populations, primarily through in-person presentations, trainings and gatherings, it’s been difficult (the last year plus) to measure our impact using the methods we spent years developing. Yet, even when we haven’t been able to see our efforts produce the numerical impact we desire, this time has been far from wasted.
Currently, we are doing the hard work to streamline our systems and increase our capacity because we know that our mission has never been more important than it is now! With Dan, Arien and myself we now have three full-time staff for the first time in our history and we are joined by Christa, Marissa and Jessica in part-time roles. As we move into the always busy fall season, requests for speakers and classes are skyrocketing. Like a cellphone plugged in overnight (or in this case for the last 8 months) we are charged up and ready to go!
At some point in 2020 I adopted a bit of a motto for the year…
As with most things, it’s easier to write it pretty on a graphic and post it than to really live it. But I’m definitely giving it shot! So it’s time to share about the latest change in process at the moment for me and our JusticeCo team…
A few months ago I shared with our staff that it’s time for me to move into a very different role with our Coalition. If you’re just getting to know us, I began this movement with a team of incredible faith and community leaders, and we just celebrated our 10 year Anniversary as a Coalition this past year. But the journey actually began for me closer to 2006, with my first oversees trip focused on human trafficking in Europe in March of 2007. So for me, it’s been well over a fifteen year journey. And, by no means is it over…
Yet through a process of prayer and contemplation, it’s with bittersweet feelings that I sense it’s time for my role to change. By the end of March, I will no longer serve on the staff team as the Associate Director/Director of Prevention, but will move into an advisory role. This will mean joining our volunteer Advisory Council, which has been in place since 2013. I will continue to connect with and engage our faith community in some way as well. From the very beginning, this has been my passion, and church: we are needed now more than ever.
We have a new year before us. Let’s embrace our identity in Christ to be light. To be known by our love.
So, these details are still in the works as we search for the right person to hire, and as I discern what is next for me personally.
Know that this was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in awhile. I love the Justice Coalition! Our mission speaks to the core of who I am and who I try to be. I 100% believe in the work we do, and I see the we’ve made over the years. It is both humbling and honoring. I see clearly that the Coalition can do more – there is so much to be done. Also, we’ve created a healthy, trauma informed, and FUN work culture. I don’t just like working with our staff team, I like them as people! Our extended team (Board, Advisors, partners, volunteers) is made up of many of the people I respect most on the planet. So deciding to transition was not easy, it actually doesn’t even make that much sense!
Often times though, friends, this is how God works. Things that don’t make a lot of sense are placed on our hearts and we trust and take that step, often with a mix of emotions ranging from excitement to doubt to “really God are you sure?!”. I am at peace knowing that as this change takes place, even though it will be challenging, will also create an even stronger Coalition. I pray it will serve to expand the work of bringing freedom to those who are oppressed in the name of Jesus.
What’s next for me?
This is this the question! I’m reflecting on the past fifteen years and exploring what’s next. For now, I am grateful to have a short term job working with Melissa Gomez and the team at PACT (Preventing and Addressing Child Trafficking), a project of the Family and Child Institute of California. Since November, I have been working part time as the Central Valley Regional Coordinator, helping to establish a new Central Valley Cohort. We engage county child welfare agencies and their partners to work to improve service delivery to children and youth at risk of or experiencing sex and/or labor trafficking. It’s been very exciting to help launch this project, and to see how well my roles with both organizations intersect. I’ve learned quite a lot from some incredible people already! I also love sharing with counties across the state about the truly ground breaking work our Coalition is doing with our youth programs and new Youth Coalition, SEE).
What’s next for the Coalition?
We are hiring! We’ve been searching to fill an open position on our staff for a few months already. This position was carefully put together by our staff and Board. The job description outlines the areas we most need support in to move us into this new year and decade of work. It is a combination of pieces of my role and pieces that were formerly part of an Administrator position.
Hurry! The deadline to apply is January 31, 2021! Interviews are being scheduled for the first week of February.
How can YOU help? Thanks for asking! (True to Coalition style, we involve the whole community…) Please, share the job posting and put us in contact with anyone you think may be a good candidate! It’s crucial to find the right person, and we are praying for God to show us who that is very soon. We want someone with strong leadership and administrator skills who has experience working with vulnerable populations. This person will be highly detail oriented, and will take us to a higher level of efficiency as an organization so we can reach more people.
If you are reading this, and considering whether you might want to join this incredible team, send your resume to us at email@example.com. I may be biased, but I think that you’ll be hard pressed to find a better team to work with, or a more compelling mission to move forward.
On National Human Trafficking Awareness Day last year (January 11, 2020), I spent my time quite differently than usual: I was out of town, helping at a funeral. I was in charge of Skyping in my friend’s family, located in Cameroon, into a funeral in Turlock in honor of Margie Edmiston. (Not my “normal” funeral role, you see. Not that I have one…)
I had known Margie since I was four; she was mother of one of my life long friends, Stacey Hare. It was a beautiful service, and to appreciate it you need to know a bit about my friend Stacey. She and her family live in Cameroon and are church planters / Bible translators for the Bakoum people. This group of about 10,000 people are in a rural area of the country, and until Stacey and her husband Dave arrived several years back, did not have a written language. Now they have not just a Kwakum alphabet, but also the beginnings of a church, and Jesus is transforming their community. Stacey and I try to talk every few months and have been prayer partners intentionally for the past twenty years or more. Sometimes, I get off the phone with her and am so burdened by the stories she shares…the rape that is normal as soon as a young girl begins to hit puberty, the violence against women that is an accepted part of the culture in general, the children who are exposed to the darkest parts of humanity at way too young an age. There is a lot of brokenness and it’s been passed down for generations. Yet now they are seeing another way to live. They are are hearing of and learning to read about a God who loves them in radical ways. In their own language.
In this place, as I believe is true of every place on this planet, there are beautiful people filled with resilient joy. Beautiful like the women, men and children who have survived trafficking and exploitation; some who I’ve been walking along side for over a decade.
When Stacey’s mom passed away this past year after a 3 1/2 year struggle with cancer, Stacey traveled back to the Central Valley, where we both grew up, and spent two weeks here for the funeral. As she processed and grieved, she also happened to find out that her mom left her possessions entirely to her.
Two days after the funeral, Stacey called and asked me if we could use any clothes, jewelry, shoes (oh so many shoes) for the people we work with affected by human trafficking. In honor of Margie Edmiston, she drove down to our office in Fresno and donated all of them to the Justice Coalition and our partners. Because of so much untold history, and my friendship with Stacey and her family that led to this happening, it is hard to put into words the incredible honor and and humility I felt.
This is the way God orchestrates his kingdom work. Margie and Dan raise a daughter who dedicates her life to following Jesus. She and her husband Dave adopt four children, and become literacy workers and Bible translators in Cameroon. God uses them and a team of local leaders to bring education and hope to a village in Africa. And in the midst of this, they circle back and provide for women here in the Central Valley who have lived through trafficking and exploitation.
I started this blog about a year ago right after this all happened. I’ve returned to try to finish it a few times. We’ve managed to survive this crazy year, and lo and behold, tomorrow is National Human Trafficking Awareness day, again.
(Side note?! This one is also special, for different reasons. It’s been exactly 10 years since the Justice Coalition’s first major awareness event – Make Slavery History, our debut as an Coalition on January 11, 2011.)
I just spoke with Stacey last week, and we were talking about a few small yet meaningful ways our work has intersected. Aside from the fact that we have prayed for each other for years, the impact is also tangible. Many women I don’t know, and a handful that I do, have received something from Stacey’s mother that has in some way has made their life better. A warm, well kept jacket. A piece of nice jewelry. A dress for special occasions.
Everyone in Stacey’s community knows that after Margie passed away, her possessions were not sold for profit or put into storage somewhere. They were donated to provide for and bless women who have been bought and sold. Stacey has shared with people who are just learning about Jesus of our work here in little Fresno. She has shared why pornography is dark and harmful to everyone, and that it both fuels and masks human trafficking. She has taught others that followers of Christ live differently, and respect all men, women and children, in real life and on screens.
We can do so much more through partnerships that God in his wisdom has orchestrated to grow his kingdom. He’s woven together pieces of our stories, and created new ways for those who are most vulnerable to hear about hope and freedom.
So, as you look go through your things and take donations somewhere this year, do it intentionally. (Let me be clear, the point here is not necessarily to call us!) As you think about how to use the stimulus check you may have received, pray about how you can use it to help someone else. As you wonder what you can really do about the trauma happening everywhere due to Covid-19, systemic racism and injustice, and extreme global poverty…
2021 has started off in our nation in a way that again highlights the dark side of humanity within our own history. Through the events that happened at the Capitol Hill (and elsewhere) this past week, we witnessed once more the behavior of people in a society that has been built upon the exploitation of others. This is not unique to the United States, friends. But, it happens to be where I live, and it’s happening now. So in more ways than one, I am responsible. WE are responsible. My hope is that as we continue living in this reality, we muster every bit of strength and courage we have and we lean in. We lament, grieve, and work to be part of real solutions. We seek God.
We ask ourselves, what does it truly look like to follow Jesus at such as time as this?
•not getting paid for their labor
•not free to change employers
•being controlled by someone else
•being forced to do something they don't want to do
•has been cheated into payment of debt upon arrival
You, he, or she may be a victim of human trafficking and eligible for free assistance.
Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888.373.7888 for more information. Or, text INFO or HELP to BEFREE (233733)
Contact us at 559.725.1865 for support, resources, and consultation. You can also contact the Fresno Police Tip Line at 559. 621.5950.