My name is Ashley and I work at Divisional Headquarters in the Eastern Michigan Division as the Anti-Human Trafficking Initiative Director. The mission of our program is to serve victims of human trafficking in Eastern Michigan by means of awareness, education and assistance. Our purpose is to promote and maintain community awareness relating to human trafficking; to identify victims and match needs with community resources; and to develop and implement initiatives to address, prevent and combat human trafficking.
Through research of human trafficking, we found that there is an underlying commonality of victims; vulnerability. Traffickers use the person’s vulnerability to exploit them into doing things they would otherwise not be willing to do. The majority of people who turn to The Salvation Army in time of great need are also vulnerable and we’re in the business of meeting their needs and rescuing them from bad situations.
One of the ways The Salvation Army in EMI seeks to rescue young, vulnerable women and their families is through a shelter called the Denby Center. The women who live at the Denby Center are provided with opportunities for growth, whether it is spiritual, emotional, or even social growth. As a way to connect with this vulnerable population of ladies, we decided to start a bible study. If I’m being totally honest, I was really nervous about leading a bible study. I had never led one before in my life and trying new things can be scary, right? The neat thing about surrendering our will and our comfort zone to God is that he always provides, he always comes through for us. So, I said yes to God and right around the same time I said yes, I heard about a unique opportunity for women in the Central Territory called Embrace.
As I learned more about the opportunity, I realized that at its core, Embrace was about facilitating authentic Christian community. Embrace groups were to meet once a month to share a meal together and engage in guided discussion with provided questions/challenges to help open up the doors of sharing and vulnerability – creating true sisterhood.
I absolutely loved the idea of bringing this opportunity to the ladies of Denby and knew that Embrace would look a little different there than at a regular corps setting. The desserts and conversation were overflowing as the ladies of Denby experienced Embrace for the very first time. I wanted to respect the time that was advertised and not keep them too long and one of the ladies responded with, “You can keep us here as long as you want. We don’t really have anything like this here!” Giving the women at Denby an opportunity to get together and share the things on their hearts seemed like such a simple idea at first, but the impact it had on them and ultimately me, was indeed profound.