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Sometimes I wish my body had a “re-entry” switch.  One that I could switch on to full power mode the moment my feet touched the dusty brown soil in Cape Town.  

But, lo and behold, my body does not have a “re-entry” switch.  Instead, my body has days worth of insomnia thanks to my dear friend jet lag, and a competent fluency in an unknown language called “Spafrikaans.” 

These past few weeks of readjusting and readapting have been stressful.  Leaving my home country for my “other home” country is always hard and confusing.  Things like driving on the other side of the road, sleeping in a flat without air conditioning, and exchanging “beef jerky” for “biltong” may not seem like a big deal at first, but when you haven’t had time to process the past four months of chaotic ministry in the States or the fact that you just left your entire family behind 7,000 miles away…   things get a little intense.  

“But by the grace of God, I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:10).  God’s grace has been the fuel in my tank and the pep in my step since I flew back to the Western Cape.  There are times in my life when I've been asked the question, “Sam, I don't know how you do it?!  How do you do it?”  To which I respond, “Jesus. It’s just Jesus.

And it is.  And it’s beautiful.  

So as I’ve stumbled to get my two American feet out of bed in the morning, and as I’ve nearly died 6 times already climbing down the ladder in my cozy little South African loft, I am reminded that though I may stumble - I will not fall, for the Lord holds me by the hand (Psalm 37:24).  In fact, at the rate I’m going… I am pretty sure that my Heavenly Father is gripping me lovingly by not one but TWO hands while He prepares to toss me directly over His Strong and Almighty and Heavenly shoulder.  Because that's what grace does; grace doesn't let go nor does it give up.

So here’s to my first month back in South Africa!  Read on to join in the adventure...
 
The STOP Western Cape team officially has a fancy new office!!!  We’ve been praying for an office space where we can grow and work and fellowship together as a team, and God has provided above and beyond our expectations.  I was welcomed into this new space with open arms, a homemade "Welcome Back Sam" sign, and some delicious coffee!  
 
Our team meets every Tuesday morning for prayer, worship, and a bit of vision planning.  The year has just started, and God has already been faithful to open up the doors for us to host a New Volunteer Orientation, a weekend-long STOP Workshop, and several other presentations that are coming our way over the next few months!  I am so excited to resume my role as the Western Cape Outreach Coordinator for this team.  Our heart and focus for this year is to focus on equipping the churches to fight back against Human Trafficking, to raise up many new volunteers to join hands with us, and to continue to empower South Africa’s youth via school outreaches and prevention work.  Eventually, we would also love to start out own local street outreach in the Somerset West/Strand area, so join us in prayer for that! 
Film School Africa is a nonprofit organization operated by two sweet friends of mine, Marie and Katie.  They created Film School Africa to equip students with the knowledge and tools necessary to thrive in the growing film industry in South Africa.  They also have taught the students how to use film as a type of healing art therapy!
 
Katie and Marie from FSA have filmed and produced two of my spoken word videos on Youtube which you can find HERE.  This month, they invited me to speak to the students during their weekly chapel session.  It was an intimate time of worship and prayer, and I had the privilege of speaking to the new students about their worth in Christ.  I reminded them that they are precious jars of clay, which are fragile and breakable.  But just like the jars of clay that covered the torches held by Gideon’s army in the Book of Judges, within those jars is a power and a bright light that shines out of our cracks and out into the world.  So if we want that light to be seen by others, we must be willing to let God shine through our cracks, weak spots, and broken places.
On March 17th, the STOP team was invited to attend the Hands that Heal training in Somerset West.  Our host and trainer for the event was Major Margaret Stafford from the Salvation Army.  This training was meant to equip us to assist with the aftercare process for human trafficking survivors.  We learned how to identify potential human trafficking scenarios through case studies and how to differentiate them from other types of cases such as human smuggling.  We also learned the multiple steps a victim/survivor must walk through during the transition process from “slavery to freedom,” and how to meet all of the different needs they have as they heal and reintegrate into society with a reclaimed sense of dignity and identity.  
 
Another important topic from the training was on how to network and raise awareness within the community.  For example, learning how to cooperate and partner with local law enforcement, social workers, teachers, medical practitioners, safe houses, advocates, local NGO’s, etc.  We were reminded that as ministry partners, and as the body of Christ, we are stronger together.
Friday Straatwerk OutreachStraatwerk (“Street Work” in English) is a nonprofit Christian organization located in Cape Town, South Africa.  Their focus is to serve the destitute and the women working in prostitution through weekly outreaches, job coaching/opportunities, and long-term relationship building.  One of the goals of Straatwerk is to help provide and facilitate “exit strategies” for the women who desire to exit the life and receive healing and wholeness.  

I will be joining Straatwerk twice a month for their Friday evening outreaches in Cape Town to minister, serve, and love the women working in the prostitution industry.  We meet for prayer and worship and then hit the streets with water bottles, snacks, and lots of love in our hearts.  As we walk down the streets, we connect with the girls, ask if they’d like prayer, and begin the relationship building process with them - all while sharing the love and hope of the Gospel.  Over time, the goal is to build intimate and Christ-centered relationships with these girls as we get to hear their stories and journey alongside them on a weekly (or in my case, bi-weekly) basis.  I have learned that the time it takes for a woman to leave the prostitution industry can take months or even years due to broken trust, manipulation, vulnerability, and fear.  Through the godly leadership of the women at Straatwerk, I hope to learn much and go deeper into ministry during these sweet encounters and outreaches.

Please pray for safety for the teams that go out, and for the women that we will be interacting with on the streets.  Our prayer is for them to experience freedom, healing, and hope as we shower them with the love of Christ.  

[Fun side note: Straatwerk is a ministry partner of Calvary Chapel Cape Town!]
On March 22, I was invited to attend a meeting at the Department of Social Development in Somerset West to discuss strategies for Child Protection Week coming up at the end of May.  I was joined by several other women who were social workers and ministry leaders in the Western Cape area, and each had a passionate heart for helping and empowering the youth of this country.  One of the most significant issues that we discovered was the lack of “safety foster parents” for children who have been displaced from their families due to unsafe environments.  Another problem is the lack of training that the police have to handle the children’s cases properly. 
 
Once we sat together and brainstormed, we came up with a plan to partner together for Child Protection Week by hosting a police training workshop.  This workshop would help equip the police to not only help the social workers with enforcing proper protocol and safety for the children, but it would also equip the police with the ability to identify potential human trafficking cases among those children being placed in foster families.  
 
Another goal we have is to reach as many schools during Child Protection Week as possible, so please be praying for open doors and lots of opportunities to share some of our awareness and prevention materials with the students and learners!
On March 26th, I officially start my first day of graduate school! I am so excited to be pursuing my master's degree in Professional Counseling from Liberty University Online.

Each course is about eight weeks long, and I hope to take one class at a time as I continue my work with STOP in South Africa.  My vision is to use my counseling degree (and license if I pass the national and state exams) to counsel and disciple female sex trafficking survivors all over the globe, by partnering with various safe-houses, ministries, churches, and NGO’s.  Through a biblical and Christ-centered approach to trauma counseling, I hope to share the love and grace of Jesus as I help these victims/survivors find freedom, healing, hope, and restoration.  

There are very few counselors who currently work with sex trafficking survivors, so I want to be one that makes them a priority.  By equipping myself with the tools, experience, and knowledge necessary be the hands and feet of Jesus in their broken world, I want to find ways to enter into their dark place and shine a bright light.

Because I will still be a full-time missionary on the field living solely on donations, this is a huge (and kind of scary) step of faith for me… but during these past three years, I have experienced God's faithfulness to provide for all of the dreams He's planted in my heart.  He truly is the God of the impossible!

So please join me in prayer for financial provision, for the Holy Spirit to empower me to work as a missionary on the field while I study online to complete this degree at the same time, and for this long-term vision of walking hand in hand with sex trafficking survivors all over the world.
Drumroll, please...
 
March 31st is my Momma's birthday!!!  I won't tell you how old she is (because honestly, I don't know how old she is).  In my head, my mom will always be 35 years old, whether she likes it or not. 
 
But mom, I hope you have the happiest of birthday celebrations!  I am so grateful for you, and I love you to the moon and back.  I may not be able to give you a big birthday hug in person, but just know that I am celebrating your beautiful life here with the elephants and the zebras in Africa. 
PRAYER REQUESTS + UPCOMING EVENTS
 
March 26th  - As a mentioned above, I begin my first master's degree class through Liberty University Online!  My first 8-week course will be Healthy Human Sexuality, and I am super excited to take what I will learn and apply it to the work I am doing here in South Africa with STOP.  My prayer is that it will equip me to become more effective in ministry!  So please pray for excellent time management, financial provision for my tuition, and lots of determination to study hard and get the work done!

April 1st  - Happy Easter!  Prayers for a joyful celebration when we take an entire day to remember that death has been defeated, perfect love has overcome, and our sin debt has been paid by the blood of Jesus!  We are forgiven and free, y'all! 
 
April 7th  - STOP will host a New Volunteer Orientation for anyone who would like to join hands with us and start to get involved with the anti-human trafficking work happening in the Western Cape!  Please pray for lots of new volunteers to help us carry the baton by fighting back against human trafficking and spreading awareness throughout South Africa.  Also, pray for the STOP team to lead and equip these new volunteers so they will feel confident and prepared to join the fight!

April 20th-22nd  - STOP is partnering with Shofar Church to host the STOP Injustice - Awaken Hearts Workshop!  The goal of this workshop is to equip the members of the local church and local community with the knowledge and tools that they need to combat human trafficking.  Topics will cover prevention, restoration, awareness, volunteering tactics, and more!  Please pray for a large turnout and for this workshop to stir up hearts and inspire those who attend!


And as always, thank you for taking the time to read this update!  I am so grateful for your support, love, and prayers!

Until next time,

Sam   <3
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Sam Stokesberry · P.O. Box 2302, Dennesig · Stellenbosch, Wc S-7601 · South Africa

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