A Letter From a Mom of a Former Courage House “Daughter”
I have had the unique privilege of seeing Courage House up close – here in the United States and most recently while visiting Tanzania, Africa. As a mom of a former resident, I have a unique perspective of Courage Worldwide and the work they do to rescue and restore children who have been hurt in a way no child should.
During this journey I would have never chosen, I became a mother once immersed in the world of trauma and the fallout of sex trafficking. Time has allowed my perspective on recovery and healing to shift as my experience has moved into one more predictable and familiar. I have had the profound realization that in this journey of healing, we all have a part and a path—whether as a victim, or a loved one affected by the victim’s experience, or as a staff member in support of the healing journey.
However, visiting the Tanzania Courage House was a chosen stop on my journey.
When I arrived in Tanzania, I was awestruck by the beauty of a country so far removed from my own experience. My privilege was undeniable. This awareness hit deeply at first. I felt paralyzed wondering how I could contribute. However, while there, I realized my privilege was what allowed me to contribute and support the healing side of this journey.
Tanzania and the people there taught me a great deal during my short visit. There was a huge dichotomy in what this beautiful land offers and the people who lived there. I saw the faces of poverty so profound it was hard to absorb. Knowing the Courage House girls had come from this background filled my heart with pain as surviving seemed like a big enough struggle in this country. However, it wasn’t long before I learned that being Tanzanian means warmth and the most beautiful big smiles I’ve ever seen. I was filled with hope when seeing their joy, laughter and praise while they embraced God for their future and continued recovery.
One of the highlights of my trip was attending Easter Sunday service at a local church. It was so powerful watching people who had less in the way of material possessions than I, praise God with such an exuberant passion and thankfulness for what they did have. When the music and singing starts, their body express their faith in a way I have never witnessed. I was in tears thanking the Lord who was filling all of our hearts in the same way in that moment.
The best part of my trip was seeing the many young faces at Courage House portraying huge doses of strength, beauty and healing. You would never guess meeting them that they had experienced such trauma and horror in their young lives. Not only were they holding their heads high and flashing smiles as bright as the sun, many of them held the hands of their own young children. Children born of trauma. They are being good moms while finding the strength for their own healing. These girls amaze me – just like my own daughter does!
Gratefuls still happen at Courage House. As I sat with them, the girls went around their “family” circle expressing what they were thankful for. Those that didn’t speak English had a “sister” interpreting for them. They professed thanks for their God, for the love of Stephanie and Joel (Courage Worldwide’s East Africa Regional Directors), for the help of the staff and for visiting friends. Their hugs, joy and smiles brought great comfort to my own momma’s heart. I felt their healing. It was a familiar feeling as I had personally witnessed it my own daughter when she was once so young.
I got to tell them how proud I was as each of them, because of my own once broken heart, I knew healing wasn’t easy. They spoke of what they would be in their future. One young woman was very proud to announce she wanted to be a laboratory technician. Upon hearing I was a scientist that worked in a laboratory, she realized her desire was not just a dream but a distinct reality for her!
While at Courage House, we had an old-fashioned American Easter Egg hunt. It was a first for many. Courage Worldwide works hard to restore their childhood. It seems the drive for finding candy is a universal instinct. As I watched them find the hundreds of eggs hidden for them, I was filled with joy. It was breathtaking. Joy. Hugs. Smiles. Hope. All were in abundance that day – on their faces and in my heart.
While there, I also got to experience Courage Café and meet the staff – many who were former residents at Courage House. It is the most adorable, serene, delicious and professional café one could hope to find – anywhere! Watching the former residents gain marketable and sustainable skills to take into their future reminded how important the practical is in a healing journey. I also saw up close the guidance they receive so lovingly from Stephanie and Joel, who along with the staff, invest into the lives and the future of these girls. It is professional, wise, loving and universal. It was truly the same mission I saw as a mom, now continuing in Tanzania. The fact that the mission is overseas shouldn’t matter to us in the USA. The girls are children of God, no matter where the world raises them.
Courage Café is conducive for chatting. I sat for hours with Stephanie discussing past struggles, current successes and future hopes. It was a relief and at the same time empowering to learn and witness the forward and backward progression that true recovery takes – in the lives of the girls and the organization.
As my journey led me back home, I read the book Stephanie & Joel wrote. It opened my eyes to much I didn’t know. I once thought this journey was full of tears, pain, suffering and victimization. While that is part of it, it is not that exclusively. This journey of rescuing and restoring children also includes the many tears of overcoming, the promise of hope and experience of real joy. It is undeniable. Courage Worldwide is making a difference. I saw it and I felt it.
I witnessed healing. When I arrived in Tanzania all I could feel and see was the pain. However, as I sipped some of the most delicious coffee in the world, as I heard the sounds of animals and birds that sang so lovingly to my soul, as I watch the amazing Mount Kilimanjaro rise as the clouds parted, I began to also see and feel the beauty in the often-difficult healing journey. Though I was far from home, God’s love and protection followed me everywhere. I was acutely aware of His presence during my entire visit.
What an experience! Recovery and healing are a blessing. Thank you to my daughter, Courage Worldwide, Jenny, Stephanie, Joel and countless others for all you’ve given me. I am truly grateful and blessed.
Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your experience with us. We love you and we love your daughter.
This week is The Big Day of Giving. Would you consider giving BIG towards to healing work of Courage Worldwide? Your giving helps to bring more girls home!
Jenny Williamson, Founder/CEO
Courage Worldwide, Inc.