by John Jackson
In March, Deanna and I watched “12 Years a Slave,” the story of a free black man from the North that was kidnapped and taken to the South to work as a slave. We were moved to think about the cruelty of a free person being torn from their family and forced to endure horrendous cruelties. We’ve seen films on slavery before, but there was something different about our reaction to this one. We left thinking, “slavery still is happening in this world…what are we doing about it?”
Shortly after this, God began to put in front of us one thing after another: A woman spoke at our church about sex slave trade taking place in DuPage County. We attended a meeting where we heard of several organizations that are each working on ending “human trafficking.” We saw a video that showed the realities happening around the world of young boys and girls that are stolen and sold into modern day slavery.
The issue is huge…overwhelming, in fact. We were often given to despair and thought how can this issue ever be addressed?! And yet, we kept moving forward knowing that God was calling us to “do something.” But what?
As we started to research we came across an organization called “Refuge for Women” in Kentucky (www.refugeforwomen.org) that had started a home for women who have been victims of the sex slave industry. They run a 12 month, 24/7 program where sobriety, healing from trauma, rebuilding trust, and developing a relationship with Jesus are all essential elements. They have since helped to establish homes in Miami, Las Vegas, and now they are looking to open a home in the Chicagoland area.
But I'm getting ahead of myself...let's go back three years. That was the pivotal day when we were at Ben’s soccer game and I asked Deanna what she would think if we bought a rental property. She said, “yeah, let’s” and three years later we have four properties in the area that we’ve bought, rehabbed and rented. During these years we’ve learned a ton about the real estate market, available homes in the area, zoning issues, and the ins and outs of foreclosure/short sale/bank owned/etc.
I’m always on the lookout for the next property…and a few months ago came across a house that looked like it would work for us…but when I walked through I was struck with the strong notion that this was not a house intended for more renters, this was a house that was intended for women who needed a place of REFUGE. This needed to be a place where God would heal and restore women that had been broken down by others.
We were filled with excitement and scare! How would this work? Was God calling us to secure this house for the newly formed “Refuge for Women – Chicago” organization? So many questions! Lots of prayer! And then “it just so happened” that the founder and director of “Refuge for Women” (Ked Frank) was going to be in Wheaton for meetings. A breakfast meeting was quickly arranged, and then a tour of the house where Ked was affirming this would be a great house to run the program.
Do you see where this is going?
As Deanna and I were listening to what God wanted us to do, we heard Him say, “this is bigger than the two of you…include others.” Then a walk on the beach with a friend who challenged me that, “I needed to enlarge my vision…that this was not about ONE house, this was about many houses.” We realized that we needed to establish a Not For Profit organization with the express purpose of raising funds for many “Refuge Homes” in the area. The need is so great that only one home serving eight women is a drop in the bucket.
The NFP would be able to issue tax deductible receipts to donors and being tax exempt, not pay property taxes. We are in the process of completing paperwork that we hope to submit next week. The house is currently listed at $152,000. If we can raise that amount quickly we can make a cash offer!
Would you pray with us toward this end? We value you and want you to be a part of this journey with us. Stay tuned!
Some specific prayer requests:
That God would preserve this home in Wheaton. Someone else has made an offer so it is now “contingent.” However, if we make a “cash offer” at the current asking price, we believe it will be accepted.
Pray for the meeting at Willow Creek – Crystal Lake campus, where Ked Frank will be sharing his vision for Refuge for Women and where things stand with the new “Refuge for Women - Chicago”. I will share our story and what God is calling us to do. Pray that I would boldly ask this group to give of their resources toward a home.
We are looking for other people that would share our vision for seeing funds raised for the purpose of purchasing homes that would be used for other Refuge for Women sites in the Chicagoland area. If you feel God may be calling you to get involved, let’s talk!