The smell of coffee hits my nose before my eyes open up. This is how I know my day is starting. Some people think I'm a coffee addict, and they are probably right. But 6am has arrived, and I am in dire need of some coffee.
I make my way downstairs, pour myself a cup and plop down on my couch with my Bible. It's worn and the binding is a bit fragile, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Its fragility reminds me of its use. These words have been life to me through my hardest days, and I know that they will give me strength again for the day ahead. I spend some time in various texts, but finish my morning off in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this than one lay down his life for his friends." These words soak through me each day as I prepare to do this work. They are a reminder of why I am in this work, and they are a challenge for how I am to live my life - lay it down and love them.
I take another deep sip of coffee and open up my inbox. I've read how most CEO's start their day off by working through their inbox and getting through what they can before meetings begin. I guess I am no different. I wish that most of the emails could be answered with a quick response, but it looks like the pile in there will take a lot more time as most of them require decisions that have to be made, and I have learned that it is best to move slowly on making decisions in this work.
Before I know it, I look up and realize that I need to get ready to leave as I am supposed to speak at a Women's Ministry group this morning. I get ready, jump in the car and check-in with Heather (the Program Director of Amirah). Heather is my right arm, so most days I call her to check-in to make sure that my arm is functioning. The weight that she bears is tremendous, but I know that we are to "bear one another's burdens" and so I support her as she steers the program, leads the program staff and deals with some heavy issues each day with the survivors in the home.
Today will be a busy day for her and the staff as we have a new woman and there is so much to get done for her. On top of the work to do for her, we have another woman that is in a crisis because of meds, a third woman that had a family member pass away, and another woman that just wants to feel some support and not left out. I listen to Heather, offer her some support, but mostly am there for her as a sounding board as she has so many decisions on her plate. We hang up as I've arrived at the church, but I promise to check-in with her later on and stop by the home.
I'm greeted by friendly female faces, all excited to have "the Stephanie Clark" with them. I don't roll my eyes at this, but I want to. When did I become "the Stephanie Clark?" The group knows about Amirah, but don't fully understand how sex trafficking happens here; so I am there to share with them about Sex Trafficking 101 and to shore up a partnership with them - financially, through prayer support and volunteer support. About 10 minutes into my talk, I can tell that the women sitting there are raw as they have been exposed to a snippet of the evil that the survivors in our home have been enslaved by; so I gently work to lift their spirits.
Another 10 minutes pass and I have them laughing, smiling and crying tears of hope and joy. It is hard to be exposed to this evil, but I am reminded every day that "light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." Most days, I have to remind fellow Christians of this - walk into the darkness, shine a light, you will be just fine.
I leave the group with a few checks in hand, promises to become volunteers, lots of sign-ups to get involved, knowing that I will need to pass each of these things onto my amazing staff. I laugh at myself as I was never able to delegate a thing before in my life, but with this job, I delegate as much as I can. I guess this is what it feels like to be living out the calling on your life and walking in the will of God?
I have just a few minutes to get to my next appointment, a lunch date with a potential major donor. We talk about the women, about the program, about the needs we have. Deep, lasting work resonates with them; we can't just put a bandaid on this, we have to give them time, intensive recovery and a lot of money. I let them know the facts that it costs on average $40,000-45,000 a year to free one woman from slavery here in America. The reality is that the harm and trauma that she endured made far more off her than what it takes to free her. Her trafficker could make that kind of money off her in one month, we just need to come up with that money for her for 1-2 years.
This sinks in. The reality of the cost - the cost to free her, because her reality was something we cannot fully understand. I let the donor know that last year we had one woman that had 221 Psychological Recovery meetings/groups. While that is an incredible number and amazing work that she did, the fact remains that she NEEDED 221 Psychological Recovery meetings. Trauma recovery work is no joke; it is no bandaid; it is not cheap. I never liked cheap grace anyways.
I leave the lunch hopeful. Today was not the day for the ask, but the chance to have them learn more. I saw their face light up at providing freedom for one woman for a year, so I know that in a week the ask will be $40,000. I pray and give that up to God. The reality is that all I get to do is ask, He is the one that will nudge them.
My next stop is to the home. Heather runs down with me how the women are doing. Sarah (our Program Clinician) is plugging away with about 20 irons in the fire. I'm so grateful to have a staff that can handle a full load, as each day presents new challenges. I get a chance to sit-down with the woman who is grieving her family member. I'm not her counselor, I'm not her case manager or her Program Director, so I enter her space as her friend, her sister, her support.
Her words sink in. I store them away in my heart. I know that people want to hear these words more than anything, but these are her words, her trauma, her recovery - and I value the relationship we have far too greatly than to ever use them to get another buck (isn't that what a trafficker would do?). We cry together, and she lets me pray for her. As I leave, I send myself a reminder to write her an email in the next couple of days to check in and encourage her again that we love her.
My next step is to what else, a coffee shop. I have two more meetings lined up here with our liability insurance guy (nothing like going through boring paperwork), and then a chance to connect with one of our referral partners, our very own Jack Bauer, I like to call him. Each meeting goes well, but I check my phone and my email has tripled in size. I open up my laptop and plug away - answer after answer, more decisions to be made. Eventually, I have to shut the laptop down, or I will continue to work through the night. Each day I start my day with decisions that have to be made, and each night I leave with more than what I started. No way around it, but to continue to work harder, not longer.
I make my way home, throw on some work-out clothes and jump on our Peloton. My favorite instructor is teaching a class. She starts off by saying, "Drop your shoulders and drop your baggage..." and I begin to let the day melt away. As I peddle faster, each woman pops into my mind and I begin to pray for them. I pray for each staff member. I pray for God to continue to do more than we can ask or imagine possible. Before I know it, I'm crying like Kate on This is Us when she was hitting the mat with the workout sticks (although I won't admit that to you in public).
This is amazing work that I get to do. These are amazing women that I get to call my staff. And the survivors are the most courageous women I will ever meet in my entire life - I am honored to lay down my life for them each day and love them. This is an incredible gift I have been given. Even though my days are busy, I wouldn't trade my days for anything in the world.
I spend the next few hours with my husband being "normal." As I my head hits the pillow, I know that the smell of coffee will be there again at 6am tomorrow to start a new day.