The Pearl House is a safe, confidential place where beautiful lives are being restored and here is the story on how it all came about.
As I rode down Stockton Blvd in Sacramento, CA with a friend, she suddenly yelled, “there she is!” She quickly pulled over into a parking lot and began talking to a young lady. As I listened, it quickly became clear that this 14 year old girl was on the streets and “in the game” of sex trafficking. On my side of the car, a young man, on his bike, intently watching and listening to the conversation between this young lady and my friend. I learned later, he was the pimp and that some time earlier she had been lured into sex trafficking, now unable to break away because of a meth addiction. I would learn much more about this issue over the next few years.
In 2009, I was minding my own business, in a little church in Tahoe Park called “Restoration Life”. I had been active in my community and church for years, but God was doing something different in me. He was lifting blinders that had been skewing my vision for years. He was revealing to me, his heart for “the least of these”. For the first time in my life, I felt like He was actually talking to me and it was clear I was supposed to do something. That something became E49 Corporation.
When God birthed E49, I knew I was supposed to start it, but I didn’t know that 7 years later, it would be my life’s calling. God placed a very clear vision in my heart and soul that I cannot run from regardless of how hard I try. That vision: “unite the church around the things that matter to me, caring for the poor, widow and orphan”. Specifically, He said we would be focused on the cause areas of Homelessness, Youth and Sex Trafficking and that we would have a physical space where we would be a “hub” in the community. Through that hub we would help the Church unleash their gifts, we would have safe homes for sex trafficking victims, and finally, that we would be engaged in 24-hour ministry.
As I set out to execute the vision, I began looking at every commercial building for the “hub” and every home for the housing for sex trafficking victims! We had decided the home would be called “The Pearl House”. The activator in me thought we’d have those things within a short period of time! After all, God asked me to do it! What I now understand about a call from God is that after the excitement of recognizing the calling, there usually comes a time of pruning and training. Little did I know that God’s timing for the safe house would take 7 years to come to fruition. If I had known that then, I probably would have ran!!
As I watched my friend talk to the young girl, she asked her if she was ready to leave the streets, she said she wasn’t. She wanted to, but she wasn’t ready to get off of the meth. My friend reminded her of her phone number and we left. I sobbed. This girl was the same age as my girls! How could this be happening in our city, on a street I traveled every day? And did I not know about it? Over the next few years, God showed me the world of sex trafficking, how the victims are “groomed”, why the girls sometimes say yes, how agencies respond, how we as a church body are not really equipped to handle it without expert help, and how difficult it is for nonprofits to raise funds for the work without posting photos and stories which ultimately re-exploits the girls who have to relive their stories. Most importantly, God allowed me to meet, talk to and build relationships with survivors of sex trafficking and see first hand, how our well-intentioned responses affected their recovery.
My experiences could and eventually will span multiple blogs, but here are a few of the things God showed me about this issue and our responses:
- When funding goes away, only a few “called” organizations and people, remain to fight this social justice issue. The people, who remain and are doing most of the long-term work, understand that any discussion, photos or description of individuals, location of safe homes, introductions to survivors, can and most of the time, end in re-exploitation of the people involved.
- We cannot do this on our own. It takes medical experts, mental health experts, law enforcement, case management, safety, community, confidentiality and a lot of money to run an effective and transformative safe house.
- It’s very difficult to “raise funds” the traditional ways and maintain confidentiality. How many times, I’ve been told if we would just put a picture up and tell the story, we could raise more funds. But I’ve talked to too many survivors who suffer for days, weeks and months after discussing their trauma with others, especially when it is for the purpose of raising money; the very thing the pimp was exploiting them for!
- Most survivors have been gang-raped, taken against their will, witnessed horrific crimes as they were threatened with their lives, will suffer from PTSD and trauma and triggers for the rest of their lives and will not get to a place of feeling “normal” on average until they are 30. In the meantime, they will arrive, leave and come back to places that offer help, just like any other person suffering from trauma. Transformation is a process and doesn’t always happen the first time they are able to get away.
- There is nothing glamorous about this life! God is at work in the hearts of His people to fight this injustice. But it requires sacrifice on behalf of people and His Church.
So, in 2017, 7 years later, we purchased a property, partnered with experts, and opened “The Pearl House”. Again, The Pearl House is a safe, confidential place where beautiful lives are being restored. God is good!
CEO, E49 Corporation, Real Estate with Purpose, With Purpose, Inc.