“What if, instead of saying, ‘I love you, God,’ we said, ‘I love you, too, God.’? Just that one difference in that one word makes all the difference because it acknowledges that He loved us first. There is nothing that I can do to try and earn that love. And so…it’s not about trying to earn His love or do what He asks of me, but to be ‘In Him’ enough that I can turn around and what He asks of me flows out of me.”
A beautiful Rose blossoms on the prairie in northern North Dakota. Her name is Georgia. On the thousand-acre farm that surrounds her, she labors each day caring for the cattle and the organic small grains in the family business that supplies wholesome meats and foods to the local community and customers across the state. Like the flower of her family namesake, Georgia Rose radiates an inner and outer beauty and the fragrance of a captivating Love, which has uprooted her heart and firmly planted it in a fertile garden of wholeness, freedom, and transformation.
On a snowy, December day in 2012, I met Georgia while standing in line at a “St. Arbuck’s” in St. Louis, Missouri. We, along with several dozen other gloved and bundled folks, were seeking a warm beverage and refuge from the biting cold outside. Thousands of young adults had converged on the city to attend the latest Urbana conference on world missions. Georgia was helping staff a vendor booth for Source, an urban, runaway youth, and human trafficking outreach ministry in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was late in returning from a break and the long line was not relenting. I took her order and promised to find her at her booth. She dashed away.
We met up later, and I had hoped to connect with Source’s founder, Peter Wohler, because I was on a journey of learning how God is moving folks around the world to care for the homeless, poor, and broken. We missed each other, but as God often does, he introduced me to family kin in Georgia who has blessed me through her friendship and sharing of “God’s Love Story” in her life so far.
At 26-years-old, Georgia lives in the same house she came home to after she was born. Her closest neighbor is three miles away. Her family homestead is in an area that rivals Kansas as the top wheat producing state and Texas and California for honey. Local “life” is all about agriculture.
She works with her mother and father and is learning the process of managing the business in hopes to take over the farm some day. They grow organic grains and beef cattle. She likes the cattle more than the crops, but they need the crops to support the cattle and keep things sustainable.
She has one sibling, a younger sister who is married with a baby and who lives about 12 miles away. She comes to the farm almost every day to help. Her family is a close-knit community who works together to derive most of their sustenance from the things they grow and raise.
She thinks farming and agriculture, if done as a way of life and not just as a business, can be very “healing” for people. That is the main reason she wants to stay with the family business. Working the soil and being around nature keeps her grounded. If she is grounded, then she can better help others become healthier. If she can help a few, then they can help others, and healing and health can continue to multiply. She hopes to develop the farm as a place to invite others, not only to learn about healthy ways of growing food, but also to experience the spiritual side of being in nature and learning about our Creator.
The family business is small but growing. Her mother does the marketing, paperwork, and customer service. Georgia does all the “outside” work. Their customers seem to appreciate their “local” aspect in contrast to the big production plants in how their farm is operated more holistically and sustainable by people who care about the earth and animals. Other customers really value their organic certification, which represents no shots or hormones in the beef. (https://www.facebook.com/prairieroseorganicfarm)
Georgia was homeschooled but did go to public school one year in her elementary years. That was her grandmother’s idea thinking she needed more socialization. Instead, she felt she learned a few “negative habits” and returned to homeschooling the following year. She later attended Crown College in Minneapolis and obtained a degree in High School Science Education. She had considered being a teacher but is now seeing a different call on her life.
Stirring in the depths of her heart, Georgia seemed to always have a concern for the victims of “human trafficking.” While a freshman at Crown College, she participated in a weekend community service outreach with an organization called “Source” in Minneapolis.
“Source” is a Christian ministry established in 1987 with a mission “through urban outreach and anti-trafficking efforts, to empower the at-risk and unreached to make a break from the past and build foundations for the future.” Source serves “the urban poor, homeless youth, victims of prostitution and drug abuse – along with anti-mainstream individuals and emerging artists – all who are trying to overcome walls built by victimization and skepticism.” Source provides food and shelter for those in need, community events, mentoring and life-skills programs, and transitional housing for those set free from trafficking. (http://www.sourcemn.org/)
At the time she went, Source was in its infancy in its human trafficking outreach. She worked with others to demolish the interiors of buildings that would be remodeled for use as transitional homes. As a college senior, Georgia returned for an intership program and lived in one of the rooms she had initially “gutted” years earlier.
Georgia’s “faith” journey grew from a “nominal Christian” foundation. Both her parents were raised in “believing” families but with “nominal” connection and commitment. As a child, her mother, sister and her attended church weekly until she was about 10 or 12-years-old, but her father was never really a “church-goer.” In 2001, the family experienced some challenges, and through those pressures, they began to think about the bigger and broader issues of “life.” It was a very hard time, but through that, her family came to faith, and her mother led the way. Georgia recalled that Scripture often speaks about “someone and all of his household came to the Lord.” She used to think, “awesome,” what ever apostle was there just snapped his fingers and they all immediately believed. Now, through her own experience, she thinks that process was a little more gradual. It was a period of over three or four years that both her parents, her sister, and she all became “believers.”
As she looks back, Georgia said she did not have any specific “conversion” experience but saw how much “faith” meant to her mother. Her sister responded next, and along with her mother, the two started going to a church in town. Georgia became curious about church, but her father was not interested. She had always stuck a little closer to her father than her mother as a child, so since he did not go, she did not either. Eventually, however, her curiosty drew her to check it out. It was not long before she found herself helping out with Sunday School and church services on the Chippowa Indian reservation nearby. As she spent more time around faithful followers who helped her understand the Scriptures better, she became more deeply rooted in her faith.
Although her personal faith was established before all of this, it was the community of believers that helped her faith really start to take root and grow apart from her being alone and trying to figure it out by herself. As a teenager, Georgia had attended church, heard the Bible stories, and had studied the Scriptures, but her faith really did not begin to become “her own” until she was a sophomore or junior in college. At that time, she had met a guy and became good friends. She thought their friendship might have developed into something more. However, through a series of unfortunate events, the relationship did not continue, and she was left extremely hurt.
As Georgia processed through that hurt, she went through probably the darkest point of her faith. She thought she had faith and a personal relationship with Jesus, and she did, but it was not as strong and as deep as she thought it was at the time. For about a year and a half, she went through a period where she was angry at God and would not talk to God. She eventually came to the realization that it was not God’s fault about what happened, but it was her choices, and in that, not entirely her fault either.
As she realized that God sometimes puts us in hard situations in order to grow us to glorify Himself, she began to experience forgiveness of this person and acceptance of God’s forgiveness of her. That was the point in time when she “personalized” her faith and realized God is not out to prove we can not make it without Him, to let us just stumble and fall, but that God really does love us and He cares for us. She concluded that at times we may have to go through hard things in order to know God’s love more, and God is willing to allow those things so we can more surely glorify Him.
Georgia agreed that God loves us, and when He squeezes us, sometimes it hurts. Georgia recalled the Scriptures that talk about “I need to become less, and He needs to become greater. So when He does squeeze us, maybe we become a little bit less…or He squeezes the old nature out of us a little bit more…if we can get rid of that old nature that is completely against the new nature He’s given us, then, if we can get rid of that, we have more room to become more like the person He has created us to be.”
Georgia believes our response to this love, this getting rid of the old nature, is not some new focused effort on a self-improvement program. Instead of embracing the new nature, folks often focus on improving the old nature in an endless struggle of trying to be a better person or a “do-gooder.” She said there were certainly different stages of life where she felt like she was “supposed to” go to church or “supposed to” donate money to a certain cause or a certain amount of money or “supposed to” do “this or that.” Sometimes it was her heart responding to what everyone was telling her she was “supposed to” be doing as a “good Christian” by their example of what they were showing her she should do. She said she was too “weak” in her faith to yet understand that what someone else is doing is their concern, but what God is doing is her concern. She said the effort of pursuing to be a “morally good” person was part of her search to find what God wanted of her and she was not strong enough in her beliefs and understanding of Scripture to understand that was not what He wanted.
Georgia commented that the reality of this understanding is hard. “There’s an old saying, if there’s no pain, there’s no gain.” She said she thinks that saying is true and explained that obviously there are bad kinds of pain we bring on ourselves, whether physical or spiritual. Since that time in college, it was certainly hard to grow out of the hole she had dug for herself, and she has had other set-backs, things that she questioned why she did them or why they happened to her, but she has found herself returning to the fact that “my life is not for my pleasure so that I can be here and have fun and then go to heaven, but my life is to glorify God. So if any of those things that are hard or are squeezing us happen, then more glory to God in my response…I ceratinly hope there is more glory to God in what my response is then just an old nature type of response that just feels good at the time. So, it is certainly very “freeing”…and at the same time, every time there is a smooth patch in my life, I have to wonder what’s coming next because there is not many times where I am not squeezed at some point, unless I am doing something wrong, unless I am on the wrong path, and then the squeezing is going to come sooner than later anyway.”
Georgia said she feels free and has a sense of purpose. Her current path is not about working to earn God’s favor, but she is free to surrender and partner with Him in what He is doing in her life. “It is a good feeling to be on the right path, for the most part. I sort of have a long-term range goal that I know God has shown me in some sense, at least. And I can be on that path and know where to go. And everything else is either to help that or it will fall away. His goal has become my goal. That almost sounds like it’s a little too high of an attitude of myself, but that’s not what I mean. The more in step that I become with God through Bible study and fellowship and community, the more I can take on and understand what His goal is for me and I can more fully live in that.”
Being homeschooled, Georgia found herself being more comfortable around people older than herself. She sees the young adults her age around her are not generally embracing God, especially in her small hometown and community. Many who stay around after high school are not very career or goal oriented. Many who do not leave for college will succumb to alcoholism or drugs, have multiple sex partners, have children, and will spend their days in the bars and not at church. Obviously, it is not just about church, she said, but they have no desire for anything of the Lord. That makes it difficult for her to look at that type of community and want to be a part of it. The friends she does have are in their 30s and 40s. They are a small, close-knit group who are her mentors and who stretch her vision and thinking years ahead of where she is now. Most of the people in her church are older than she is, and she sees that it is good to be a part of that family than a part of her own age group who is not necessarily keen on attempting to live for God.
When Georgia interned at Source, she desired to learn about how to host a transitional home for survivors of sex trafficking. She learned a lot but realized it was just the tip of the iceberg. She discovered she could not learn in just six months if that was the method she wanted to pursue in developing the transitional home she had in mind. During her senior year at college, Georgia wanted to do something to make a difference, something to draw attention and bring awareness to the growing scourge of human trafficking in the United States and around the world. She had a vision. As she completed her time at Source, she found a new friend and partner to journey with her on a cross-country bike ride to raise awareness and support for a transitional home.
In January 2014, Georgia and her friend, Jen, set out from San Diego, California, on a 3100-mile bicycle ride to St. Augustine, Florida. Beforehand, they trained locally and solicited sponsors and raised support. During their 63-day ride averaging 65-70 miles a day, they wrote blogs and posted photos of the adventures and experiences along the way. They camped in tents alongside roads, in RV lots and campgrounds, and were welcomed into the homes of kind people from state to state.
On the journey, Georgia learned a lot more about God and about herself than she expected. She and Jen shared and spoke with those they met along the way but found most were so unfamiliar with human trafficking that it was difficult to communicate the concerns and urgency for action. After returning, however, she was greatly encouraged to learn how her church had really gotten behind her with regular prayer and support while she was gone. She was asked to give a presentation that inspired several to approach her and ask about ways they can get involved. She found that the bike trip thousands of miles away actually served to plant seeds at home and awaken a desire in many to make a difference and support her as she moves forward with the vision of establishing a transitional home.
While reflecting on her cross-country journey, Georgia said, as is often true in life, the hardest things were sometimes the best things. The first few weeks traveling through the southwest were extremely difficult partly because she had done all her training on the flat prairie lands of North Dakota and the southwest was mountainous. She also struggled through health issues from the stress of planning and putting together the trip. Between being weak and sick and going through the mountains, she was able to learn a lot about her identity and self-worth and trusting in God and not in her own ability to keep up the pace or to meet pre-set goals all the time. She said those might have been the most important lessons she learned.
Things did get better along the way. On a stop in Marathon, Texas, she and Jen had made arrangements to stay at a local hostile. Riding into town, she recalled the weather was rather strange that day. Dark clouds filled the sky and there was a dead calm. A snowstorm was forecasted, but it was not that cold. It was really strange. The sun shone out from behind the clouds, and she spoke out to God asking for either energy or rest because a planned extended rest break was several more days away.
They arrived at the hostile and settled in when a young man named Martin arrived. They spoke briefly and reconnected the next morning over breakfast. Martin shared his story of his search for faith and asked why they were biking across country. She shared her blog name, which was “Faith in Action,” and he asked how they came up with that name. She shared the verses that inspired the name. “That led to a several hour conversation about what putting our faith into action looks like in real life, and how we can communicate with God and pray and hear from Him and how the conversation is not as formal as his background had taught him. That was just a really sweet time of fellowship for me… to be able to come away from that, and for the next week at least, that conversation gave me the energy to keep going on the bike ride, and to realize that there are people that we are touching along the way and God is using that in our lives and in theirs. And it’s not just saying ‘Hello’ and moving on to the next town.”
Georgia’s cause was to bring awareness to the scourge of human trafficking and inspire people to get involved. Statistics state that the United States has the most human trafficking in the world. It includes the sex trade and forced labor. 80% of all trafficking in the United States is sex trafficking, and 90-95% of those in the sex trade are American citizens, not immigrants brought in from foreign countries. They include both women and men.
Georgia said awareness includes the call to stop the demand from people buying sexual “favors.” A lot of the problem is the buyers do not even realize what they are doing. Often the “Johns” who are paying for sex separate the prostitute from the daughters who are living in their homes. She said the act of buying and selling prostitution is not really about the sex, but more about the buyer wanting some sort of power or control. It may also be associated with the emasculation of men in America and feminism leading women to seek more power and gain control. Both are in departure from the way things were meant to be with men and women in mutual submission to one another, that departure being the result of sin and the Fall in the garden, she said.
Georgia questions the well-intentioned mission of many non-profits who say they want to stop human trafficking in the next year or the next ten years. “That’s a noble cause, but I don’t think it’s realistic. The awareness I really think that is most necessary is we need to see survivors, and victims if they have not yet come out, as individual human beings with a story and that often includes poverty and neglect in the home. Often times a girl runs away from home and turns to prostitution for survival or a family member gets her involved to make an income for alcohol or drugs. A lot of it is a family system that the victims feel trapped in, and they are trapped in it. They see no way out, and they feel this is the normal way, even if it’s not the right way in their gut. So understanding how the system works before just jumping in and trying to pull girls out to rescue them is really important, and yet not getting so overwhelmed that we cannot do something risky in order to save one girl, to save that one life, if we can’t save them all.”
Source in Minneapolis had one such “risky” mission. They had an outreach called “B4-48” named from the statistic that within 48 hours of a runaway youth hitting the streets, he or she would be propositioned to enter the prostitution or drug trades. Source’s mission was to reach those kids before the pimps and drug pushers did. They combed the streets at night and offered shelter, food, counseling, and other resources to rescue those at risk from the predators.
And Georgia has a vision for another “risky” mission. She desires to provide a place of healing and a launching pad for young girls rescued from the sex trades. She has a vision to establish a transitional home on her farm so that the girls could heal while experiencing farm life and connecting with God and nature “…and to be able to do that with a sense of family and community that is healthier than the sense they had gotten from their pimp who called themselves ‘daddy.’”
Georgia is still exploring opportunities and existing efforts in the state. She has the support and interest of several women and the pastor or her church, and she is searching for others who share her vision to become partners. She has plans to visit a similar safe home in Montana in order to learn more and get acquainted with their process. She is excited to see what develops as God puts the pieces together.
In her 26 short years, Georgia has come to know and believe in God’s love for her. She said, “The Love of God…is wholeness. There is a verse that says Christ is perfect, therefore He calls us to be perfect. I don’t think the perfection he talks of is having all of our ducks in a row all the time, or being a morally good person…it’s the idea of ‘wholeness’ and ‘completeness.’ Only God is whole and complete. All others of us are broken since the Fall…and so the Love of God to me is what grounds me and makes me complete. The more I can understand that on a heart level and live it out, which is essentially growth in God and sanctification, the more I can be whole and complete. I will always have that brokenness, but I will be able, in Him, to be complete because He loves me, and I can let that love pour out through the cracks.”
Isaiah 30:15-18 has been a heart passage for Georgia: “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling, and you said, ‘No! We will flee upon horses’; therefore you shall flee away; and, ‘We will ride upon swift steeds’; therefore your pursuers shall be swift. A thousand shall flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill. The Lord Will Be Gracious. Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.”
Georgia said the passage has encouraged her to return to God and rest in Him so that she can understand His Love and let it wash over her. She said the alternative is to flee from what He wants, and yet, still, He will wait. “Certainly, in my life, I have fled. And He has waited, so that He can be gracious, not waited to punish or correct in a mean way, but waited to be gracious so that He can exalt Himself in showing us mercy. It always turns around to God. And in the meantime, He is being good to me despite my fleeing.”
Georgia said perhaps the hardest thing about believing God’s Love for her is accepting that He loves her unconditionally. She mentioned a friend who shared some insights from a Scripture study. “She said, what if, instead of saying, ‘I love you, God,’ we said, ‘I love you, too, God.’? Just that one difference in that one word makes all the difference because it acknowledges that He loved us first. There is nothing that I can do to try and earn that love. And so…it’s not about trying to earn His love or do what He asks of me, but to be ‘In Him’ enough that I can turn around and what He asks of me flows out of me.”
Georgia’s greatest joy in believing God loves her “…has to be the freedom in that. There’s nothing I can do to earn that love, and there is nothing I can do for Him to reject me. That freedom to be myself opens up a whole new level of being able to go out and pursue…while I am still trying to be smart about the mistakes I make…I’m not trying to be reckless, but I have the strength and the understanding that I am accepted the way I am…so I can go out and pursue what He has called me to without a fear that if I fail I am a failure, because that’s not my identity.”
It is certainly amazing and awesome in this age to see a 26-year-old young woman so devoted to the pursuit and passion of God’s call on her life. While her peers may be leaving college, self-focused, and pursuing personal goals for success, Georgia is laying down her life and following God’s voice to serve in a field that many people want to ignore or not even acknowledge. There is a lot of dark, heartbreaking realities in human trafficking, and through God’s tears, grace, and mercy, He reaches into those realities to set people free, to bring His healing and salvation, and to bring His love. He is doing that through people like Georgia.
Please remember Georgia in your prayers, that she will continue to hear and follow God’s voice and be refreshed and encouraged. Pray that awareness and support and partners will arise to help realize the vision of providing a safe healing home for those young girls and women in desperate need.
Feel free to send a message of encouragement to Georgia, or if you would like more information about human trafficking or Georgia’s vision to provide transitional housing, contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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