In 2003, Ked and Michelle Frank felt led to sell their home in Lexington, Kentucky to move to a ministry called the Refuge -- a ministry for men recovering from drug and alcohol abuse - located on a 110-acre farm in southern Ohio. It was an early church experience with men living and worshiping together as a family. They fell in love with serving through compassionate ministries and felt God directing them to a lifestyle of service ministry. The founder of the Refuge, Tom Thompson, took Ked under his wing and became a spiritual father to him. It was a life-changing experience as Ked was discipled and trained for future ministry.
A Pastor by the name of Leon Forte prophesied over Ked on several occasions. He told Ked:
"Where you are now you will not be long; but God is getting ready to take you to places you have been before. God brought you out of places you have been before for the purpose of putting you back in those same places. You have been sowing into another man's vision but God is getting ready to give you your own vision. It will be a ministry you and your wife will be side by side in. It will bring people from all over the world to see what God is doing through this ministry."
Two weeks later, a pastor at Southland Christian Church called Ked and asked him to return to Lexington and take a position on staff. Ked and Michelle moved back to Kentucky within six months with the idea that God was bringing them back to start a men's Refuge in Kentucky.
At the same time Ked and Michelle were working at the Refuge in Ohio, a group of women at Southland Christian Church discovered they shared a common desire to reach out to women who work in local strip clubs. After praying about it and feeling the Lord's leading, they worked out a plan for the mission He was calling them to do. Their strategy was to take food and gifts to these women who are frequently ignored, often belittled, and treated badly by customers and even family. They began by taking meals twice a month to one small club, and were amazed how quickly they were accepted by the employees. Several years later, a team of more than 25 women from area churches (with the help of more than 125 cooks) now delivers hot, home-cooked meals to five clubs, ministering to over 150 people every week through a ministry known as Bruised Reed.
Within a month of returning to Lexington, Ked and Michelle heard the story of the Bruised Reed Ministry. It was shocking to hear of a church reaching out to strip clubs. Team leaders said they needed a next step if they were going to help women out of the clubs. Over the next few months, it became apparent to Ked and Michelle God was calling them to start a Refuge for Women - not for men.
A month later Ked and Michelle's friends bought a farm in Central Kentucky. The farm had an old white farm house on it -- desperately in need of repairs. God began making it clear to Ked the farmhouse would be used for ministry, and he began praying about asking his friend if he had purchased the farm house for ministry purposes.
Two weeks later Ked and his friend were sitting at a restaurant, and the question was asked. His friend looked at Ked with tears in his eyes and said, "I have never had this experience before, but this morning at 4:00 a.m., God woke me up and told me the farm is for ministry purposes."
The realization of a God-sized assignment was underway. A board of directors was formed to begin The Refuge for Women. Ked resigned from his position on staff with Southland Christian Church to serve as Founder and Executive Director of the Refuge for Women.
Psalm 82:3-4 states: “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Refuge for Women became a place of escape for girls that needed to have a new beginning in life from the adult entertainment industry. Ked Frank became the Executive Director and a team of 3 other individuals were hired to run the operations of the program each day.
Since its beginning in 2009 we have been able to work with over 100 individuals in varying capacities. These residents have come from different states and ages have ranged from 18-58 years old. Since the farmhouse opened in July of 2010 over 100 women have been served through the ministry. Several of the graduates are now volunteering in the ministry by mentoring or helping with administration needs.
God continues to meet the needs of the ministry. Refuge for Women has raised over 3.5 million dollars since its beginning in 2009. Each dollar given represents donors partnering with the ministry and sacrificially giving so each resident has a new opportunity on life. Large donations, while less frequent, will also happen. At one point a local church heard about the need to expand and contributed 50,000.00 dollars towards the renovation of one of the houses. Refuge for Women frequently operates at capacity. Additional safe houses have been provided and opened in Central Kentucky, Las Vegas, Chicago and North Texas with several other locations on track to open over the next several months.
Refuge for Women is based off the program in southern Ohio called The Refuge where Ked Frank worked for 3 years. Much of Refuge for Women’s approach to helping residents in our program is from The Refuge. There aren’t many programs that we are aware of that specifically target individuals leaving the sex industry. There are places, like Teen Challenge which has been operating since 1958, that help broken women dealing with all of life’s struggles. Teen Challenge is faith based and houses individuals for up to one year. They are the best known ministry that operates on a large scale that provides long term housing. There are drug and alcohol facilities around the world but they target a wide range of people whereas we are trying to specialize within the niche of trafficked and sexually exploited women.
We are regularly learning of ministries that reach out to strip clubs in their communities. We are currently aware of approximately 50 groups around the country that are doing this type of ministry. Many of these groups do not have residential opportunities for individuals desiring to leave the industry. By partnering with these groups the opportunity to expand Refuge for Women becomes very strong. So far Refuge for Women has received residents from 15 different states.
Refuge for Women is unique in that it specializes in its focus on women who have been trafficked or sexually exploited, is free to women to come for help and provides long term care. The ministry is faith-based, and with only 6-8 residents in a house at a time, it provides an intimate environment with each resident getting lots of individual care.