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

Who You Say I Am

Kristie Hoelscher

There are so many words that come to mind when I think about the women I have gotten to know this past year at Wings of Refuge. Brave. Strong. Perseverance. Resilient. Courageous. I see how these words describe them as I hear their story. As they open up and become transparent. As they choose to trust. It has been such an honor to witness the beauty that comes when they start identifying with these words. When they start to see their strength and know who they are in Christ.

I get to lead the women in worship every week and right now one of our favorite songs to sing is “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship. I wish you could hear them sing. It is so powerful and raw. I wish you could hear them proclaim these truths for themselves. To hear them sing at the top of their lungs, ‘I am a child of God, yes I am.’

It is a powerful moment when we speak truth over ourselves. When we know who we really are, who He says we are. If we don’t know what Jesus says about us then it is so easy to believe the lies that others have spoken over us. Or even false things we believe about ourselves. It’s in this place of false identity where the devil wants to keep us.

What I have come to know for myself and have had the privilege of witnessing firsthand with these women is that we don’t have to stay in that place. Freedom from lies is possible. It is possible by knowing what His word says. It is possible by spending time in prayer. It is possible by accepting His grace and the great price paid that we might be called a child of God. 

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.” Ephesians 1:17-19

 

Kristie Hoelscher

 

YOU Make A Difference

Bev Shipley

If you are reading this article, you most likely already know Wings of Refuge is a Christ-centered restoration home for survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking. You know our mission is to end exploitation for one more girl. You know our vision is for every participant to know that SHE is valued, SHE has hope and SHE is loved by Jesus. You have heard and read impact stories from our Direct Care Coaches in our monthly newsletters. You more than likely already support our ministry through your prayers, your personal talents and gifts, and your finances.  What you also need to know is YOU ARE THE REASON WE EXIST.

Because of you, Wings of Refuge has met 23% of its annual budget for 2018. Because of you, our beds are full and restoration has been happening every day for the past three months. Because of you, we are fully staffed with trained, passionate Direct Care Coaches, a Trauma Specialist, and a Program Director.

YOUR prayers surrounded our home with safety, comfort, peace, stability and hope. Safety for restful nights of sleep and calm days where participants can begin to breathe again and celebrate slow, yet steady, marks of progress and growth. Comfort in knowing it’s okay to smile and laugh or cry healing tears with the assurance that our God is bigger than any evil that may try to enter the four walls of our home. Peace to begin to heal, to trust, to really live. Stability to continue the daily difficult work of restoration, of replacing the lies with God’s truth, of realizing love, redemption and forgiveness. Hope for a better tomorrow full of possibility and freedom. We feel YOUR prayers.

YOUR personal talents and gifts have provided an abundance of opportunities in our home.  Volunteers have blessed our home with 13 visits this quarter, providing 76 hours of committed service.  Talented volunteers have shared gifts including sewing, art journaling, puzzle making, cooking, physical therapy, conversation, pottery, accounting and money management, and art education to name a few. Additionally, there have been four furry, four-legged volunteers that have generously provide hours of cuddling, playing and laughter.

YOUR generosity has gifted our home with a new desktop computer, new pots and pans, a new washing machine, new dish towels, multiple gift cards as well as many much needed daily household and office supplies.

YOUR finances have provided three months rent and utilities for our safe home, 276 safe nights of rest, 828 home cooked meals, three Valentine’s Day gifts, three Easter baskets, clothes for work and every day, 19 tanks of gas for our Wings of Refuge van to provide transportation to therapy, appointments, jobs, and speaking events. YOU have made this possible.

Additionally, in the first three months of 2018, YOU have participated in our Do What You Love To Fight What You Hate campaign. YOU have created jewelry, sewn mittens, grown beards, worn jeans to work, taught yoga, hosted stamping events and craft fairs, ran ultra-marathons, used social media, created art and utilized your home business to fight with us.

YOU are amazing, and we are honored to partner with each of you.  THANK YOU!

YOU are also our future. It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. We have discovered it takes an army to restore one. YOU are a valuable part of that army. We need YOU. Please continue to support Wings of Refuge with your prayers, personal talents, generosity, and finances. Together we are winning! Together we are ending exploitation for one more girl!

Bev Shipley

Executive Director

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

Karla Damiano

I am the newest staff member in our home so I am on a daily learning curve. I am not just learning about the participants or the daily tasks I need to do but I find that I learn something new about myself every day. Take today, for instance, one of our participants was in the kitchen making cookies and humming a tune. When I asked her what she was humming she told me the song “I Wanna Go Back” by David Dunn was stuck in her head. She proceeded to tell me it was her new favorite song as she had been listening to it on a CD in her car. She explained to me that it was about a guy who wants to go back to his childhood where life was simple. Simple, like the lyrics we used to sing as a child, “Jesus Love Me, This I Know.” She continued by explaining that as we get older we let life get complicated and we tend to overthink things way too much. The song helps her to remember not to get caught up overthinking everything but to go back to the transparent mind of a child where things are plain and simple.

I didn’t realize it in the moment but as I reflect on it, I was being taught something about myself from a girl who has had the toughest life of any human I have personally known thus far. Through her words, I was able to think about my own life. As I grow older and circumstances get more complicated, just like everyone else, I get wrapped up in the complexity but if I can continually remember that I have the power to guide my own thoughts, then I too can go back to thinking more simplistically. It can be plain and simple for all of us. Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.

Karla Damiano

Five Years Later

Often on my children’s birthdays, I remind them of the day they were born. We talk about what it was like when they were little tiny humans. Sometimes I’ll pull out favorite pictures of memories as they were growing up.  I couldn’t help but look back on old posts, writings, and pictures, remembering what it was like when God birthed this ministry as I thought about what to write for Wings of Refuge five-year celebration. So many “growing up” memories have occurred. Here is one of them.

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Journal entry November 2013- “I am exhausted. It’s been another crazy day. The event is tomorrow night. I begin to question everything. Will anyone show up? Will everyone show up? Will I convey the message well? Is this too much? Is it not enough? To what end will this all bring?  As I sit here exhausted with adrenaline still pulsating through my body from the Divine Appointment with the FBI agent, the possibility of statewide coverage, and an anxiousness of rethinking through every detail of our first Wings of Refuge events it becomes so clear… why I am here and why all of this is necessary, a must do; without option.

Dear One,

We have heard your cry. Tonight, as I sit here safe, I wish you were here instead of where you are. I wish you were nestled safely under crisply washed sheets and generously donated-with-love covers. I wish I could come and scoop you up from the madness you are living in now that may at this point seem all too familiar. I wish I could come and take your hand as you walk right out of the darkness you are living in. Because I would and so would so many others who have heard your cry.

Dear One,

We have heard and we are relentlessly pursuing you, looking for you, praying for you; hoping for you. We are giving you a voice. We are bringing you out of the shadows and the hidden corners of the virtual streets of darkness where men lust after you on their screens. We have heard your cry and we are contending with the darkness we are up against on your behalf. We have heard your cry. We want you to know we hear you. We are coming. This is all going to end. No more will abuse be your norm; you will learn to trust again; or for the first time. We will help you find your dream- the one buried under piles of greed, selfishness, and violence that have been heaped on you. Even when you cannot yet dream for yourself, we will dream for you, until it is unlocked in your soul. We have heard your cry. We will not stop, back down or give up, no matter how long it takes. You need to know you are worth it Dear One. You are precious to us already, even though we have yet to hear the tone of your voice and look you in the eyes. We have been given a task to devise a plan, and have many come along, to bring a sparkle to your eyes. You are loved even though we have yet to see you face to face. We will work tirelessly until we meet you and until the real you is able to live again free, unashamed, and only left with a scar as a reminder of the pain that consumes you now. We have heard your cry Dear One. We are telling your desperate cry we have heard to anyone who will listen, to anyone who will stop and consider. Consider you. And ask the hard questions.

What if the tables were turned? What if I were you and you were me? What if I was trapped, hidden, owned, sold, and purchased multiple times a day by sheer evil. What would I want to be done if it were me where you are?

I would want you to run with all your energy, with every ounce of ambition you have to get me out of this hell.

And so we run, ask, knock, and tell your story. We pray, go, connect, educate, and research until you are here with us. Safe. Loved. Free.

We are coming Dear One. We are passionate for you to be free. Free to cry and be heard. It will be heard by an overflow of determined people to validate and love you until you are the overcomer we see you as already. Until you are strong, capable, whole, healed and new. We will believe for you until you can take hold of it yourself. Dear One, you matter greatly. You always have.

The lie that you have been shortchanged on that you’re a whore, a throw-away, a nobody, a slut, property, a disposable commodity will be over. Dear One, hold on tonight. You are nearing the end of this real-life nightmare. It’s almost over don’t give up….not tonight.

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Five years later… Sixteen Dear Ones have cried, laughed, celebrated, grieved, and lived life at Wings. We have learned so much from the Lord, the brave women we serve, the citizens in our state, each other, and ourselves.  A foundation is built.  Daily, we walk steadily in the collision of exploitation meeting restoration. We have years under our belt, yet the mission is as fresh as the beginning. Since November 2017, we have turned away 18 Dear Ones due to our home being at capacity. Many are praying, planning, and partnering like crazy to follow the Lord’s lead in opening a transitional living center.  Because tonight, the Dear Ones are still out there not knowing a life of hope and possibility. Happy Birthday Wings of Refuge! Five years is a great run, Lord willing you will have a sister home soon!

In the Middle of the Mess

Brandi Schleisman

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 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

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

1 2 3

PO Box 562

Iowa Falls, IA

info@wingsofrefugeia.net