Heaven’s Light

Meg Johnson

121Hope, Latisha’s House Unite to Provide Safe House

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
– Anne Frank, “The Diary of a Young Girl”

What a powerful testimony written by a young Jewish girl during one of history’s most prolific and cruel delineations of the human spirit.

Modern-day slavery is also an epic eulogy of stealing and destroying the human spirit, all for the pleasure of others. Selling a man, woman or child for labor, sexual desires or marriage destroys the notion of human kindness. Yet there is nothing “modern” about it – as if it adds some cool connotation to its meaning.

The first written account of human trafficking is found in Genesis 37:12-36 when Joseph was sold by his brothers for 20 shekels. This story is a dramatic illustration of how God uses man’s evil intent to bring about good.

Throughout the years, Christians around the world have fought to eradicate human trafficking. Equally important, Christian ministries have dedicated their efforts to helping survivors regain their livelihoods and sense of self-worth. Such is the mission of the 121Hope ministry, Northland’s response to human trafficking.

Unlike Anne Frank, whose life was cut short, many survivors of human trafficking have been rescued from captivity and set free right here in Central Florida. But their questions linger: “Where shall I go? Who will help me? Will I be stigmatized as a member of a victimized population? Is it too late for Heaven’s light to shine on me?”  121Hope has five certified victim advocates who help survivors answer these questions through God’s tapestry.

As a ministry, we help rescue the enslaved, offer respite care for victims in crisis through our partnership with a local safe house, and provide case management services to survivors with whom we work. As the leader of 121Hope, I can confidently state that it all starts with having our hearts wrecked for the brokenhearted and recognizing that simple obedience changes history.

In truth, some of the most remarkable changes in the life of a survivor have taken place through collaborative efforts deeply rooted in God’s calling. One such relationship can be found within the mutual heartbeat of 121Hope and Latisha’s House Florida.

In the past, 121Hope advocates struggled to find long-term residential programming for survivors in Central Florida. To date, there are fewer than 40 beds in the area for adult survivors.

But in the fall of 2017, heaven sent a light to us, and that light had a name: Elizabeth Ameling, founder of Latisha’s House.

Elizabeth learned about the dire need for housing for adult female survivors in Orlando after hearing that Florida ranks third in the country for most calls made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. She contacted 121Hope, and shortly thereafter, we met, visions were shared, and we realized our respective ministries use God’s Word as the compass to help restore broken and abandoned souls.

“We chose to work with 121Hope because the Lord brought us together and connected our hearts,” Elizabeth said. “The heartbeat of Latisha’s House and 121Hope mirrors the heart of Jesus when He reached out to the woman caught in adultery. He saw her as a wonderful human being with extraordinary value because she was created in the image of God. We exist to help survivors find out who and what God created them to be.”

The first Latisha’s House was founded in 2013 after Elizabeth met young Latisha on the inner-city streets of Chicago during a mission trip. Her entire life’s journey changed when God placed it on Elizabeth’s heart to help this young survivor and many others. In essence, Elizabeth captured the true spirit of Anne Frank’s words without hesitation.

Latisha’s House, located in eastern Virginia, has been nationally recognized for its Christ-centered, trauma-informed care approach to restoring the dignity and well-being of survivors. Since 2014, 47 women have successfully completed the program, testified against their traffickers, regained custody of their children, and graduated from culinary school or attended college.

Currently, the volunteers of 121Hope are helping to restore a home in Central Florida that will serve as a long-term safe house for six survivors, thereby establishing the first Latisha’s House Florida. Dreams abound of opening a forever home (or independent housing) in the near future.

Oftentimes 121Hope victim advocates shine their own light by being the breath of life for the women and offering them hope. Yet in creating a relational discipleship with the staff of Latisha’s House, we are gifted with the Holy Spirit’s presence in abundance and know that darkness cannot overcome. The Gospel of Matthew reminds us, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14, NIV). Profoundly, many survivors claim the healing of their spiritual journey was the turning point in their road to recovery.

For the future residents of Latisha’s House Florida, we pray that each courageous step the women take will lead them to the upper room.

To learn more about Latisha’s House Florida, visit www.latishashouse.com. To donate your skilled labor and materials or new or gently used goods for the Florida house, contact Meg Johnson at meg.johnson@northlandchurch.net.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. To learn more about this topic, contact 121Hope’s Speakers Bureau at 121hope@northlandchurch.net.