In case you missed it, something very special happened on the mountain this past fall. At first glance it might not seem like much but in reality it was a miracle that was literally years in the making. Jo and David, bolstered by dozens of supporters transformed an old barn, in the middle of an old rundown camp, into a thing of beauty and purpose. On a Sunday, surrounded by nearly a hundred adults, teens and children, the couple put on an event called Autumn Blaze, complete with supper, a hayride and a bonfire. “It wasn’t fancy or elaborate, but it represented a flicker of something bigger” David recalls. “It is a signpost on the journey of making our dream of opening a ranch and transitional living home for female survivors of human trafficking just a little more real.”
An issue just now getting greater attention in the States, human trafficking is defined as the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through the use of force, coercion, fraud or any other means for the purpose of exploiting them. Sex trafficking is among the most offensive of these types of acts. The typical recruit is female and averages only 13 years of age. Young girls from difficult and impoverished homes who have already experienced some form of sexual or physical abuse are the most vulnerable. Men and women looking for a revenue source will often seek out these types of girls, befriend them and offer them a better life. In quoting a pimp from a recent book she read, Jo says, “If you promise these girls heaven, they will follow you straight to hell.”
As the laws in Tennessee have adapted to the reality of sex trafficking, greater efforts have been placed on busting sex trafficking rings in the state, freeing the enslaved and finding proper care for the women left with the devastating after-effects of the abuse and trauma they had to endure. Unfortunately there are few options available. Shelters and short-term facilities are ill-equipped to deal with the host of issues the girls are facing, mental healthcare facilities frequently serve only to deepen already painful wounds and places designed to deliver the long-term, holistic care that is desperately needed by these women are rare and those that do exist are filled to capacity.
Backed by their faith in a God who has a big heart for the weak and exploited, their passion for justice and their compassion for the hurting, Jo and David decided to begin the difficult process of doing something about the growing problem. “Fourteen years ago we knew one day we would open Blazing Hope Ranch; a ranch that would rescue horses and make use of the benefits of equestrian therapy to help people find themselves and their creator” Jo said. Once they learned of the reality of sex slavery in the States they felt their future ranch would make for a beautiful environment to provide hope and healing for these precious young women. They believe putting their heart and soul into this endeavor is undoubtedly worthwhile. “These girls are made in the image of God. He calls them valuable, so that makes them worthy” David said.
The event on the mountain represented a step toward that goal. It is made possible by the potentially no-cost use of the rundown camp. Such a blessing is huge for Jo and David who have little resources. “We can hardly put into words how grateful we are to the church that owns this property” David said. “We and the pastor are brought together by a common desire; see God do awesome things on these 100 plus acres and be the visible hands and feet of Jesus.” But there is still a long road ahead, many more steps that need to be taken. Buildings need to be constructed, fences need to be built, power and water need to be restored and, not to mention, a whole congregation needs to approve the lease. The church body plans to vote on the issue at the end of January. David and Jo are both excited and anxious to move ahead. They are a bit scared but believe their God is big and they believe he is going to do bigger things on the mountain than chuckwagon casserole, sweet tea and a blazing fire.