After eight amazing days in Nigeria, I am back in South Africa safe and sound! Because it was a quick trip, each day was jam-packed with opportunities to serve, speak, share, and elbow-strike my brother in Christ and counseling mentor, Kyle Miller, in the face. (Don’t worry, I’ll explain more later).
After a three-hour delay at the airport in Abuja due to some unfinished visa paperwork, we rushed straight over to the MeCAHT/NAPTIP Capacity Building Training Workshop at The Reno Hotel. Heightened levels of dehydration, crazy heat, sleep deprivation (and wearing the same outfit for two full days while traveling on two flights with a twelve-hour layover in-between) gave the verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” a whole new meaning! What an adventure!
The training workshop hosted four local safehouses from Abuja (one run by NAPTIP) and included training sessions covering essential topics like biblical trauma counseling, rehabilitation programming, trauma and mental disorders of sex trafficking survivors, creating sustainable income through farming, and the role of advocacy in preventing human trafficking. Each safehouse had to develop their own advocacy plan for raising awareness about human trafficking through outreaches, merchandise, and media campaigns. The safehouses also developed and revised individual rehabilitation plans for the upcoming year based on all of the new information and knowledge they learned at the workshop.
The feedback from the caregivers and safehouse workers was overwhelmingly positive. The staff walked away empowered, equipped, and encouraged from the three-day event. Existing relationships were deepened and new partnerships were established - and we hope that these friendships will last for years to come!
Kyle Miller (from Global Care and Response), several members of the MeCAHT team, and I had the privilege of spending three days post-conference at the Greater Love Lighthouse Restoration Home for female sex trafficking survivors. During the three days, Kyle and I met with the staff members and our five “survivor sister” residents for group discussions and Beatitude Trauma Model (BTM) training. The staff members and residents also had individual counseling sessions with Kyle throughout the three days we visited the home.
But the most fun we had at the safehouse was when we taught a self-defense class! We believe that it is so vital for these young women to know how to defend themselves (and each other) from abusive men/traffickers/perpetrators - and that it’s okay and encouraged by our Heavenly Father to do so! When a girl knows that she can defend herself and use her God-given body and voice as powerful weapons for protection, it makes her less vulnerable to attack. Being able to stand confidently before a threat with self-defense skills at your disposal is incredibly empowering. The girls learned how to break away and escape from chokeholds, wrist grabs, and bear hugs. We also talked about how to “use anything as a weapon,” how to find certain pressure points on the body, and how to elbow strike an attacker!
[*Disclaimer: No one was injured during the making of these Warrior Princesses.]
After the self-defense class, the girls were laughing, smiling, and practicing their fierce moves on all of us. It was such a beautiful sight to see the determination, confidence, boldness, and joy radiate from their faces after only a few hours of training! It made the entire trip worthwhile!
On the final day of the trip, a workshop event was hosted by an organization called Secure the Future (aka SPY-D Future). About 70-100 psychologists and counselors were present, and very few of them had experience working with sex trafficking victims/survivors. Kyle spoke on his dissertation titled [*takes DEEP inhale] The Healing-Discipleship Ministry of Jesus Christ in Matthew: Post-Traumatic Growth through Biblical Trauma Counseling for Female Sex Trafficking Survivors and the Beatitude Trauma Model. Anne Abok from the MeCAHT team spoke about the importance of understanding the logistics and methods of human trafficking in Nigeria and how to prevent it through advocacy work, strategic partnerships, and awareness. I was able to speak about working with victims on the streets during outreach, secondary trauma awareness/prevention for caregivers, and practical examples of how to use the BTM to work with survivors during the restoration and healing process. Several governmental organizations were present and various faiths were represented. The conference setting provided a unique opportunity to stress the importance of working together on a united front.
Lastly, to all of my donors, supporters, and prayer warriors - thank you again for making this trip possible. We were safe on the roads and in the hotels, no one got sick, and all of the expenses were covered! Praise God! I learned invaluable lessons about counseling ministry, rehabilitation/restoration work with survivors, and equipping caregivers with the tools they need to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue. I also learned about the importance of continuing to heal from my own traumas so that I can more effectively (and lovingly) journey with these brave survivors human trafficking in the long-term.
I look forward to bringing all of these experiences and life lessons home with me (back to the States) so that I can share them with you all. Please keep the entire MeCAHT team and Kyle Miller and his family from Global Care and Response in prayer as they continue in the fight against human trafficking across the globe (specifically in Nigeria, South Africa, and America.)
I am so grateful for you all! If you have any questions about this trip, or simply just want to know more about human trafficking, safehouses, or the Beatitude Trauma Model for counseling - feel free to send me an email!