Today when I walked into Courage House the scene was surreal. Instead of seeing a house full of teenagers as I have been accustomed to for the past seven years, there were young women working on homework – their college homework! Some are studying to become nurses while others are pursuing a psychology degree! In my mind’s eye and in my heart, I remember them as scared 13 and 15 year olds who we welcomed home to Courage House over 5 years ago. They came here to begin their journey of healing and now they are back “home” tackling college! While they are trying to concentrate on their studies, there is an adorable 10 month old toddler, daughter of one of our “courage girls”, playing in the middle of the room. She lives here too. The baby has just learned to walk … at Courage House. (Years ago I felt God whisper “there will be babies” – well, there certainly are!) A former Courage House staff member is also in the mix today with her 18 month old daughter running around. She too has known these young women since they were young teens. As a staff member she walked with them daily in their journey towards healing – that was her job. However, today she is just a mom, volunteering her time (she drove over an hour each way) to have a playdate with one of our young mothers, providing companionship as she navigates motherhood and college classes. As I reflect on the scene in front of me, I realize we are doing what we have done from the beginning – just with a different age group here in the United States. We are still building homes, calling them family as we equip, encourage and empower them to be and do all God created them to. We have former residents who live at Courage House and we serve those who have their own housing but need tangible monthly resources like counseling, therapy, food, clothes, groceries, diapers, baby food and school tuition. However, all of our former residents need daily intangibles like prayer, encouragement and a safe place or strong shoulder to cry on and to share their very real struggles and hard earned victories. This is what you are giving to … their daily journey and their very bright futures. Thanks to you and your generous support.
The dream God gave us over seven years ago is still alive and well.
Later in the day, after this incredible experience, I Facetimed Stephanie Midthun, who along with her husband and Courage Worldwide Board Member Joel, relocated to Tanzania, Africa this past summer to lead Courage Worldwide’s programs there. As Stephanie excitedly began to update me on the girls at Courage House Tanz, as well as the community partnerships they have developed and I updated her on our girls here, she repeated those exact words, “The dream God put on your heart is alive and well here in Tanzania”. I so admire Joel and Stephanie’s courage in following God’s prompting to sell everything they own, leave their church of 18 years and beautiful families to go and fight for children who are being sexually exploited and trafficked. Their collective hearts have broken for these vulnerable children in this gorgeous country filled with people who want to partner in building them homes and calling them family. Joel and Stephanie planted a Lutheran Church here in the U.S. 18 years ago and now they are partnering with the Lutheran Church in Tanzania to bring awareness to the crime of sex trafficking and training church leadership on how to fight this evil and provide restoration to its victims. We rejoice with them as the church there has offered a formal partnership to build Courage Houses all over the continent of Africa.
Stephanie and Joel’s obedience and sacrifice has not been without difficulties and scary situations. This week, while Joel and Stephanie were sleeping, 7 armed men broke into their home and robbed them. Stephanie and Joel believe angels protected them while they slept, as they heard nothing and the men were suddenly frightened and left their home. The police called it a miracle. We do too. Please keep the Midthuns in your prayers; they remain committed to victims of sex trafficking and this country.
At Courage House Tanzania, there are also babies, along with 10 minor females who have a history of sexual exploitation and trafficking. However, after calling Courage House home they are now convinced that they were created on purpose for a purpose. Daily they pursue their dreams and that purpose; thanks once again to you and your faithful giving. Without you, we would not be interviewing 3 more potential residents after a local law enforcement sting operation. Without you and your prayers we would not be planning for the expansion of Courage House Tanzania – to take up to 40 young girls as well as 4 babies – and opening the new C2BU School. I am so proud of the intentional partnerships Courage Worldwide has pursued and facilitated within the community in Tanzania that includes child welfare, local law enforcement, government agencies, other non-profits, as well as the faith based community in fighting this evil against its most vulnerable citizens. The Midthuns are finding it difficult to keep up with all the invitations to speak and train within the community. However, this too is a personal passion of theirs and they are thrilled from the local response and welcome they have received. Just as we do here in the U.S. – in Tanzania, we are building homes, calling these children family and walking with them on their difficult journey of healing while partnering in the local community to prevent this crime, identify victims and decrease its demand. For a detailed update on the Midthuns and Courage Worldwide’s work in Tanzania, click here.
Your prayers and giving have accomplished so much in the lives of these children and young women – you are truly helping us change the world – one individual at a time. We are serving more children and young adults than we have in the history of our organization. Thank you for giving them hope and a future. We humbly ask for your continued financial support and prayers as we expand our services to even more of these courageous survivors. Blessings.
P.S. If you are in the Sacramento, CA region and would like to contribute tangible items such as clothes, diapers, furniture, laptops, etc. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a list.
Jenny Williamson, Courage Worldwide Founder/CEO