During an above body and near death experience due to an intraoperative accident that completely changed her life, Debra Brown, Founder and CEO of Pillars of Hope, recalls begging Jesus to take her. She says, “The ironic thing is I wasn’t even in a daily walk with Him.” That all changed a year after her experience. Debra was spending some quiet time in her backyard with her coffee and listening to the birds sing, when, she said “Out of the blue sentences just came into my head.” You will facilitate a restoration center for victims of human trafficking. I will send many people to help you. Many people will come to know Me through this. Debra went on to say that God told her, “He would provide the funding.” On September 17, 2010 Pillars of Hope was founded.
Pillars of Hope is an anti-human trafficking ministry. Their mission is to rebuild lives and restore hope to victims of human trafficking. Their program consists of five pillars.
- AWARENESS – through their public outreach campaign Pillars of Hope has been working for several years educating and equipping communities with knowledge about human trafficking.
- INTERVENTION – through Pillars of Hope’s street outreach program, in coordination with local law enforcement, trained groups of people go into known areas of trafficking. There they hand out bags containing food, toiletries, food gift cards and an inspirational note and an offer of a way out of “the life.”
- RESTORATION – this part of the program is built on comprehensive, therapeutic healing, healthy relationship classes, financial education and a variety of life skills. It also focuses on an individual plan for each woman that addresses physical, psychological, educational and spiritual needs.
- TRANSITION – this consists of two phases. Rescue housing which is phase one and transitional housing which is phase two. Moving from the healing process into the confidence of career development and continued character building.
- REINTEGRATION – helping former victims back into society and reach self-sufficiency, maintaining an ongoing relationship with their Pillar family.
“About a year ago I was in prayer and all of a sudden He gives me this vision of this view of Mount Diablo with these trees almost reaching the top of it.”
After God told Debra she would open a restoration center He gave her a picture of what the house would look like. He began to show her the blueprint floor plan. Debra said, “I remember thinking I’m never going to remember these details.” She found some paper and remembers her hand flying across the paper drawing out and labeling the rooms and many other details of what the future Hope House will look like. God also gave Debra a picture of the property that Pillars of Hope calls the vision property. Debra recounts, “About a year ago I was in prayer and all of a sudden He gives me this vision of this view of Mount Diablo with these trees almost reaching the top of it.” Recently Debra went to look at a 50 acre parcel, which has a 7000 square foot house already on the property with a smaller 1200 square foot cottage, which is perfect for their needs at the moment. Debra was thinking to herself that this wasn’t the property because she didn’t see Mount Diablo. She decided to go outside to look at the cottage when she spotted a flat area and as she was walking toward this area and turned around to tell one of the Board Directors this area would be a good spot for the vision property, there is was, the view of Mount Diablo that God had given her!
“You hear human trafficking but you don’t know what it is or the details of it.”
I also had the opportunity to talk with Jeni Spiegel, Executive Assistant at Pillars of Hope, who shares Debra’s vision and passion for sharing hope of a way out of ‘the life’ to those who are and have been victimized by human trafficking. Jeni first heard about Pillars of Hope when a friend invited her to attend one of their crab feed fundraisers. She remembers not knowing much about Pillars of Hope and what they were doing. She said, “You hear human trafficking but you don’t know what it is or the details of it.” At the time she was helping women in recovery and was in the middle of an intense interview process with another organization. She received a phone call from her friend that she went to the crab feed with who told her Debra would like her resume. Jeni began praying and asked God to lead her where He wanted her. She said, “I believe in Isaiah 30:21 this is the way walk in it.” Jeni was still waiting to hear from the other organization and as she continued to pray meetings with them started to fall through. She interviewed with Debra and the Case Manager and during the interview she looked up and saw a verse on the wall that was the exact verse she had read in her morning devotion and knew Pillars of Hope was where God wanted her. And, as Jeni says, “The rest is history.” Jeni commented, “It is very easy to back Debra in this ministry because not many people hear things from God and follow through.”
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21.
Currently Pillars of Hope is evolving from the transitional housing they offered toward the vision property God has given them. The original transitional housing gave them the hands-on experience they needed to move forward. Debra said, “It was an amazing experience and I knew it was God directing us so that we could refine our program.” Through the transitional housing Debra, her staff and the Board realized that the women need at least two years in the program to reacquaint themselves with living again and for healing. The goal is to start with housing for 12 to 18 women, on staff qualified therapist(s), who will be able to address the immediate need of flashbacks and handle the PTSD that these women suffer rather than having the women wait until their next therapy appointment. The vision property will also include housing for up to 36 children ages 18 and under and a large training center for classes such as Bible study, painting, and health and wellness among others. While they are not currently housing any women they are taking calls and helping in many ways. Debra said, “Through the years we have made a lot of partners,” and through networking they are able to continue helping trafficking victims until Hope House is built. Jeni told me the story of a young woman who had the name of the exploiter who victimized her tattooed on her chest. Pillars of Hope was able to send funding for this woman to have that tattoo removed.
- Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world.
- It is the second largest criminal enterprise after drugs.
- Over 100,000 children in the U.S. are at risk every year for sexual exploitation.
- 55% of forced labor victims are women and girls (Polaris Project).
I asked Debra for some closing thoughts and she told me, “You can build a home and put girls in it and try to help them get over their trauma but if you don’t stop the demand it’s going to go on and on and on.”
If you suspect human trafficking of any kind please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 888-373-7888.
To learn more about Pillars of Hope and how you can help please visit them at https://pillarsofhope.us/#home