Iowa Trafficking Hotline: 800-770-1650 or text "iowahelp" to 20121
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-373-7888 or text "Help" to BEFREE (233733)

In the Middle of the Mess


In the Middle of the Mess

Friday nights are typically movie night at the Wings of Refuge house. We take the evening to get snuggled up in blankets and watch a movie together. This time tends to be more relaxed and a lot of fun. It is an opportunity for our participants to create new, good memories and at least for a moment, not have to think about the trauma they have experienced. Some of my most favorite memories with participants are from those very nights.

One Friday evening I arrived at the house. When I opened the front door and got a glimpse of the living room, my first reaction was that a tornado had gone through. There were blankets everywhere, the table was covered in scrapbook items, magazines were cut up and strewn all over the floor, the mod podge was out and glitter was everywhere. Now, I tend to be a person who likes order and a clean house which can cause me to get uptight about those things at times. But, throughout my time of working at Wings of Refuge, I have learned that the relationship always comes first. Of course, we need to ensure our house is clean and we are teaching life skills, but that is not what is most important. The memories that are made and the relationships that are built are what is most important.

In the middle of that mess, I saw a brave woman who was allowing herself to dream. She was laughing, expressing her creativity and finding so much joy in making things for others. In that moment, I was able to step back and see the bigger picture. The living room may have been a disaster, but there was a woman who was feeling safe to be herself and let go a bit. So, I chose to embrace the mess with her. Her face lit up as she spoke about what she was making and who it was for. I relished in the moment of seeing the joy that radiated from her soul and the honor of getting to be a part of that moment.

That night gave me such a beautiful picture of restoration. We would like to think that things are always great, but that is usually not the case. Restoration is hard and messy. It requires a lot of work, but somewhere in all of that is a hope and joy that only comes from God. Thankfully, in the middle of our mess, God does not reach down and ask us to pick up the pieces or pull ourselves together. He walks beside us every step of the way. He embraces every single messy thing about us and loves us through it all. This is the heart and mission of Wings of Refuge. We have chosen to embrace the mess with each woman who enters our home. There are moments that are very difficult, moments that grip our hearts, and moments that remind us why we do this.

One of my favorite Bible verses is, 1 Peter 5:10, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” This gives me so much hope to know that our amazing Father has promised to restore what has been broken in the lives of the women we serve. In the midst of their suffering, God was preparing them for a new hope in Him. He has promised to strengthen them and establish them by giving them His permanent acceptance. He loves every messy and beautiful thing about them. They are His and NOTHING can separate them from His love!

Brandi Schleisman

Joy Says #MeToo

2017 went down as a hard year.  Weather-related catastrophes swept across our nation, racial riots took place, senseless shootings shattered communities, history-making political shifts turned the government as we knew it upside-down, and a grassroots movement went viral.

The #MeToo movement, founded by Tarana Burke, encourages survivors of sexual assault to find their voice on social media by posting #MeToo. In just days, 1.7 million women in over 85 countries retweeted #MeToo during October when it went viral.

#MeToo? What compels involvement? Does saying #MeToo change anything? I cannot speak for the masses. I can give voice to my own experience.  #MeToo is my story.  


During my formative years, I was sexually abused. The secret was kept even though the clues existed; textbook identifiers of exploitation. If you knew me as a child, I was painfully shy and terrified of men. If you knew me as a teen, I was a world of hurt, extremely rebellious, sexually promiscuous, an exhausted perfectionist who could only control what went into her mouth and down her throat and the ability to purge it back up again.  I was the rebellious teen who became a teen mom, who grew into a boundaryless young woman. If you knew me as a young adult you wouldn’t have known.  I masked it; living behind the attempt at perfection and beating my own demon. If you knew me in my thirties you would have known a broken woman who failed at perfect. It is there where I found my voice.  The secret that had been stuffed for decades surfaced and my soul screamed #MeToo. Not to the world, or over a tweet, but to God and my husband.

I spent the coming years doing the grueling work of healing.  There was success and failure.  A root of confidence began to grow through miracles and the mundane work of telling my heart the truth until it stuck in my brain where the lies of being small, trapped, and helpless existed.

I did the hard work of walking in the trenches of my own abuse to find freedom.  The lie of small, trapped, and helpless was abolished.  I wept deeply for my little girl heart that lost so much.  I wept in a way I didn’t know humans could weep.  But it didn’t end there.  It didn’t end in suffering.  The beauty is that when you find your voice and say #MeToo with the Lord there is resurrection. I began to see how he makes all things new.  Not just the good stuff, but the horrible stuff too.  The Lord used my brokenness to become a catalyst for His glory — He gave me a voice and a passion for speaking and Wings of Refuge was birthed.


To date, 16 women have made the decision to say “#MeToo” and come live at the Wings of Refuge safe home. Sixteen of the bravest women on the planet have had the opportunity to find their voice, shed tears, gain the truth about their dignity, value, and worth. Sixteen lives have been changed as hope and possibility became theirs.

The #MeToo movement numbers shouldn’t surprise us really. Sacred sex is culturally outdated. Media utilizes women’s skin and body parts to market products and entertain us. Soft pornography can be seen on any screen at any time. Statistically, a boy in America views his first pornographic image at age eight.  John Wesley quotes it this way, “What one generation accepts, the next generation embraces.” #MeToo is providing outcomes of lives affected by what we have chosen to accept and now what tragically is being embraced in the hideous acts of selfishness and abuse.

So what will we do?

The two responsive hashtags that formed after #MeToo are #HowIWillChange and #IWill.

The problem is big, dark, and overwhelming.  It is easy to choose apathy. I am asking you to not do that.  Instead, think about your gifts.  Your talents.  What makes you come alive? What gives you energy? What do you love? How can you use your craft and channel your passion into the responsive movement by doing what you love to fight what you hate?  Do you hate sex trafficking?  Do you hate that children in our country are lured into prostitution between the ages of 11-14?  Do you hate the fact that every day in America, 3.5 million people are willing to pay for sex, and that hundreds of thousands of victims are raped for someone else’s profit on our watch daily? Will you stop at knowing? Will you stay angry or apathetic OR will you act? Will you be part of the solution?

The 2018 theme for Wings of Refuge is: Do What You Love to Fight What You Hate.  

I love speaking and sharing the glory of Jesus.  I love the truth that when suffering collides with the message of the cross, restoration is the outcome. I love putting the evil in this world up against the incredible light of Christ. I hate sexual abuse, assault, exploitation, and sex trafficking.

Will you join me and Wings of Refuge in 2018 by doing what you love to fight what you hate?  How can you choose action to produce sustainability for Wings of Refuge?  How can you help Wings purchase a permanent home and open a transitional living center? How can you speak truth to yourself, your family, your church, your community and see restoration?  Do what you love to fight what you hate to bring glory to Jesus in 2018.

Throughout the year, you will see us post videos over social media of individuals who have joined us on mission by doing what they love to fight what they hate.  Watch the videos. May they inspire you! Please share, like, and comment on them and then make your own. Post it on social media. Tag Wings of Refuge in your video!  Let’s join the responsive movement that validates every woman who has had the courage to say #MeToo with answers of #HowIWillChange and then #DoWhatYouLove.


-Joy Fopma
Development Director/Founder

Do not be overcome by evil, overcome evil with good. -Romans 12:21

Joy In Obedience

Bev Shipley

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” – Luke 2:10

Last year at this time, I choose the word joy to be my mantra for 2017, and I began searching scripture for passages about increasing joy.  God showed me through each passage I read that true joy would only be experienced through obedience to Him. Enter fear. What about being obedient induces fear rather than joy? For me, it’s the question of what will God ask of me? What step of obedience is He wanting me to take?  Will those obedient steps lead to joy?

The answer is yes! It’s interesting that the dictionary defines joy as both a noun and a verb, a thing, and an action. Therefore, joy can and should be an action. When we act joyful, we are being obedient to God.

In the midst of this Advent season, I’m reminded to not fear because joy is found in obedience. In Luke 2:10, the angel told the shepherds “fear not”, but rather to obediently go in joy to see the baby who was sent to save the world. I’m also reminded of Mary, the mother of Jesus. What joy she must have experienced through her obedience to carry the baby that was going to be the Saviour of the world! And Joseph, who obediently followed through with his marriage to Mary, the woman who was carrying a child that wasn’t his. Imagine the joy he would have missed had he not been obedient to his calling.

Joy does come in obedience. In fact, joy is an act of obedience. One that requires a daily choice, regardless of our circumstances.  Today, I choose joy.

What about you? Are you obediently following God’s plan?  Are you experiencing the fullness of His joy that comes from obedience to His will? What’s holding you back from experience true joy?

As I began my path to joy through daily obedience to God’s call, the Wings of Refuge board was simultaneously obediently creating a three-year strategic plan to carry God’s mission forward with excellence.  That plan includes four major goals:

  1. Increase Financial Stability

  2. Ensure Organizational Excellence

  3. Broaden Our Influence

  4. Improve Housing

As 2017 comes to a close, and we review steps taken towards our strategic plan, we find ourselves at a crossroad, still $96,420 short of our current budget, and we need your help. The future of Wings of Refuge is ultimately in God’s hands, and we trust that He will provide.  Will that provision come through you? Could this be the step of obedience that brings you joy?

Has God provided abundantly for you? Would obediently sharing that abundance bring you joy? Joy in partnering with Wings of Refuge to increase our financial stability. Joy in knowing your contributions will ensure organizational excellence to the woman we serve. Joy in sharing the mission with your friends and family and thus broaden not only Wings of Refuge’s influence, but more importantly, God’s kingdom influence. Joy in providing a permanent home along with a transitional living home for survivors to be restored and find new life.

Each month our newsletter includes a personal story of hope and restoration, beauty from ashes, and pictures of daily celebrations in our home.  Through the year we hope you have been uplifted and inspired in knowing that even among the fear, pain, and doubt, God’s joy is abundant as we obediently follow His call to provide restoration for one more girl.
Will you join us? Will you joyfully give restoration?


May joy fill your hearts and homes this Christmas. God bless.

Bev Shipley
Executive Director

Give Thanks for Everything

“Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Ephesians 5:20

Give thanks for everything. Thanksgiving will be here this Thursday and if you’ve logged into Facebook or Instagram lately, you’ve likely seen people participating in the 30 Days of Gratitude challenge, posting about the things they are thankful for this year, ranging everywhere from thankfulness for their family, to their coffee, to their fuzzy socks.

It got me thinking, though. When’s the last time you heard someone thank God for the trials they’re facing? Wait, this was supposed to be a cozy Thanksgiving article? Stay with me, that comes later.

James 1 tells us that we should count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds. Not because the trial itself is something to be joyful about, but because the trials that we face, like the verse goes on to tell us, produce endurance in us.

We are thankful for challenges because they are building our faith, one brick at a time. Our identity is not defined by the trials or the challenges we have faced, but it is impacted and shaped by our responses to them.

The holiday season can be a time of great joy and of great challenge for our participants at Wings of Refuge. For some, it reminds them of those who are no longer in their lives, for some, it is the first time they have celebrated the holidays, and for some, it reminds them of grief and loss. Yet in the midst of all of that, holidays are also a time that symbolize new beginnings.

No two participants have walked the same journey, but as a family at Wings of Refuge, we do everything we can to help establish new, fun, and meaningful memories. We want each woman to know that they are loved by us and more importantly, by a God who desires to lavish good things upon each and every one of us.

This Thanksgiving, as you sit down to a bountiful meal with those you love, reflect on the things you’re thankful for; the mundane, the challenges, and the victories. They are the very things that have caused us to seek God and to trust Him, and that have shaped us into who we are today.

This verse (which also reminds me of a well-known hymn) came to mind today and seemed so perfectly fitting:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Lamentations 3:21-24

Today I am grateful for this reminder. I am thankful for the way that God is faithful in every circumstance that I face, and I am thankful for the hope that we can have in Him.


Rev. Marissa Price
Development Assistant

Beauty From Ashes

Kim Kuhnle

Gunshots are fired into a crowd of people killing several and injuring many, children and adults experience physical, verbal, and sexual abuse every day, marriages end, family conflicts arise, and the list accumulates. It is evident that our world needs the light, hope, and love that only Jesus Christ can offer. He is the Great Physician and the only One who can heal our brokenness, bandage our wounds, and make all things new.
Trauma in various forms resonates into all of our lives at some point. As I observe and listen to the heart-wrenching stories of the beautiful women that God sends to Wings of Refuge, my heart experiences deep heartache and overwhelming joy. No one should have to suffer the amount of pain and emotional scars that these women have endured. However, there is breathtaking joy when you observe the amazing progress, the miraculous breakthroughs, and the trust and faith that these women place in our Heavenly Father.
Many of our participants suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). There has been much discussion and media attention given to this recently. PTSD is one of the most misunderstood psychological disorders in medical history. It is often under-diagnosed or brushed off as normal phenomena that everyone experiences. PTSD is a disorder that affects millions all over the world. It can occur after any type of stressful event. Some can experience a life-threatening event without any lingering psychological effects, and others will find that they cannot cope after this type of event. The ones who find themselves unable to cope with the traumatic experiences are often, but not always, PTSD victims.

There are medications that can help with those suffering from PTSD along with various forms of therapy. It’s important to be able to share one’s feelings and emotions about his or her specific trauma, process through the wounds it caused, and recognize the triggers that feed the trauma. Most importantly, our women and others like them, need to reach out and grasp the true healing that can only come from a personal relationship with Christ. God is our Great Physician, and He alone is the One who brings restoration. We are the vessels that God uses to bring about His miraculous change and healing in the women’s lives at Wings of Refuge! He is doing amazing things, and I praise Him daily for the blessing of working with an amazing staff and board, generous and faithful donors, and our incredibly beautiful participants! Our mission is aligned with His mission: To end exploitation and foster healing and restoration for one more girl. Each day, God is creating beauty from where ashes once laid!
Kim Kuhnle
Trauma Specialist
Wings of Refuge

Healing From an Unlikely Source

Kathy Miller

Equine therapy is the discipline of using horses as a means to provide experiences in order to promote emotional growth, through self-examination and reflection. Basically, horses can be used to teach people about themselves. This therapy has proven to be very effective with participants who experience depression, dissociative disorders, anxiety, and other similar trauma-related symptoms.

Many of the women in our home have struggled with depression, low self-esteem, struggle in personal relationships, and PTSD. Some of the signs specific to sex trafficking victims include fear and overly submissive behavior. Each of these barriers to abundant life can be addressed through use of equine therapy.

We have seen our participants grow in their confidence and trust through their experiences in bonding with the horses. There are so many benefits that participants can gain including decreased isolation, self-acceptance, impulse control, social skills, boundaries, and spiritual connection.

Equine Therapy will not cure trauma-related symptoms, but it can aid in meeting the needs these women have. It takes more than just spending time with horses for these women to truly heal and experience real freedom from their bondage, but I feel truly blessed that God has provided me with a horse to help these women. Not only does He provide my horse, but He provides two more in the pasture next to mine that are needed to give each of our participants a 1:1 experience. Horses are a passion of mine. It is such an awesome sight to see these women making bonds with these horses and go from being afraid to stand next to them, to independently leading and having a personal relationship with them. I feel that this was one of the plans God had in mind when He made horses: to help end exploitation for one more girl!

Kathy Miller

Direct Care Coach

Jesus Wins

Kristie Hoelscher

I have never been more aware of the spiritual battle that wages on than now.

I see it in the way the women are fighting with their past, wanting to go back into the life. Fighting the addictions both physically and mentally. I feel it oh so strongly as I work the night shift, praying fervently for their thoughts and dreams.

And as I speak His name there is a sense of peace that comes and reminds me:

He wins.

He has won.

And we get to walk in His victory.

I have the wonderful privilege of leading our participants in worship every week. Picture this if you will. All of us sitting casually in the living room, watching Youtube videos of worship songs, singing to our King. Not much time has passed and already the atmosphere in the room has changed. I can see them breathe a little easier. There is a sense of relief, their walls and guards come down for a brief moment. I stop signing so I can hear them. I hear the sweet sound of their voice praising the name of Jesus!

No matter how dark of a storm they walked through – light is breaking.

We know how this all ends: Jesus wins. And someday we will all be face to face with Him, overwhelmed by His glory and we won’t be able to stop singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”!  But right now in the face of our past, our hurts, our pride, our own self, it takes faith to sing His praise. It takes us letting go of us and fixing our eyes on Him. Let us not forget that Jesus wins and is so worthy of our praise.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
Eph. 6:12-13

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be on my lips. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”
Psalm 34:1-8

Kristie Hoelscher
Direct Care Coach

When Restoration is Disappointing

From the outside looking in, restoration probably looks easy. As a society, we do a great job putting bandages over our vulnerabilities and masking our insecurities, and we always put our strong face on. But what happens when restoration is disappointing? When it doesn’t look how we imagined? When it seems as though there are more setbacks than breakthroughs?

What you don’t see most of the time is the moments behind the communication, the days we wonder if we’re making a difference or putting any sort of dent in the world of sex trafficking. We recognize the horrors of this world and understand in an intimate way the evil that resides within humanity.

Is restoration worth it? Absolutely.

Is restoration heartbreakingly hard work? Absolutely.

We put our hope, our trust, our dreams, our vision, at the feet of Jesus on a regular basis, because if we didn’t, we would fail…hard.

As believers, we know that the only true hope for healing and restoration is in Christ. Even with this knowledge, there are days when we wonder if it’s working. As flawed human beings, we doubt and we make mistakes, but at the end of the day Jesus, who is continually perfecting us, brings it all together.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “”My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Sometimes, I think God waits for our lack and vulnerabilities to come out. I think it makes him smile when we admit that we need him. He’s been waiting all along. He loves justice and making things right. He reaches out, extending grace and mercy when we are most in need and communicates the truth of who He is to us when we doubt.

What areas of your life are you disappointed in lately?

Perhaps, we are disappointed because we’re placing our focus on the situation rather than on Jesus. Join me in refocusing today from the things that will prove to disappoint time and time again, to the hope that is in Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:4

“…because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Marissa Price
Development Assistant & Staff Care

You Just Might Be Surprised

Emma Bykerk

The day began like any other. The women awoke, getting ready for a new day. With the blinds open, sunlight pouring in, music softly playing in the background, we gathered in the living room for morning devotions. We began by reading Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. The chapter was titled “Cultivating Community.” Some of the characteristics of community mentioned were honesty, humility and courtesy. Little did we know, that in a few minutes, those characteristics would be put to the test.

After we discussed the devotional, one of the women said she wanted to share something. It was evident that she was wrestling with whether or not to say something, but she believed God was calling her to do so. She revealed something personal about herself, something the other participant had been vocally against. I held my breath waiting for the reaction. Would there be an outburst, an insensitive comment, an argument? The reaction to the revelation surprised both me and the participant who had shared.

The other participant began sharing her own personal experiences. She explained her difficulty with loving “those people” because of what had been done to her. It was a rare glimpse of vulnerability by this woman. She allowed us to step into her pain, to help us understand her better, to help us look beyond her previous actions and words. The exchange between the two women was a beautiful image of community coming together: raw honesty, humility, and courtesy of each other’s experiences and how they have shaped their beliefs. 

Sitting there among two brave women, once at odds on a subject, now coming together, was a beautiful thing to witness. It was a reminder to me about what it means to be human; what it means to be complex, multifaceted, multidimensional. It’s so easy in the world we live in to judge based on what we see on the surface. We label people based on an action or a comment, not realizing that they are more than that. We are people made up of different stories, beliefs and experiences. The beauty of community is being able to embrace people despite how very different they may be from us.

So I ask you to reflect on the encounters you have with others. Are there people you find difficult to love? Are there people you are quick to judge and label? Do you find yourself quick to argue when you don’t agree? I challenge you to take a step back, to quiet yourself, to listen. You just might be surprised at what you learn about another person.

Emma Bykerk
Direct Care Coach & Volunteer Coordinator

A Brighter Life

Nicky Sanders

In life, we are constantly learning and growing. In just a few short months, I’ve learned so much through the staff and participants at Wings of Refuge. In particular, I think about what I’ve learned from one of the participants. What stands out the most to me is how selfless, kind, and caring she is towards others. I’m always amazed at how she thinks about and delights in serving others whether it’s using her artistic ability to create beautiful prayer boards for the staff, baking something delicious to give away, or volunteering her time with the elderly.

I remember just a few days after I joined Wings of Refuge, she went outside to scrape the snow off my windshield so I wouldn’t have to do it. She’s teaching me more about what it looks like to put others ahead of myself which is a perfect example of Jesus. She has graciously shared parts of her difficult story with us. Throughout a majority of her life, she did not have people modeling acts of kindness and love towards her. However, I believe God is the One who has given her the wonderful traits she has and He’s using them to brighten the lives of others. She has and is certainly brightening mine.

I also see how God is helping her learn and grow in her restoration. She’s gaining more independence and thinking towards the future. She was recently talking to a “safe contact” on the phone and told the woman, “It’s like a family here.” What a smile that brought to my face! She knows she is cared for and loved in this home. We also tell her that she is teaching us and helping us grow as she models care, kindness, and love towards others.

Nicky Sanders
Direct Care Coach

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PO Box 562

Iowa Falls, IA