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I'm Moving Back Home.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
- Frederick Buechner

"Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people he has made?”  
- Max Lucado

“Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless.  Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them.”
- Psalm 10:17-18

You know, I never planned on becoming a missionary.

Heck, I never even wanted to leave Miami.  I was the girl who experienced waves of homesickness just from sleeping over my best friend's house!  So when God called me to the African mission field - first I laughed, then I panicked, and then I went.

My Heavenly Father’s plans for my life were set in motion before I even knew how to walk, and that fact seriously blows my mind when I sit down long enough to think about it.  Somehow, by His grace and goodness, He managed to provide me with enough support, encouragement, and finances to fly 7,648 miles away to South Africa for what I thought would be a "one-year soccer coaching adventure."

Boy, was I wrong.

One year quickly turned into four, and each year was brimming with new struggles, victories, challenges, and discoveries.  I went from coaching "street soccer" on a futsal court at an Afrikaans high school to volunteering inside a men’s prison, and then just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more intensity, God lovingly nudged me into anti-human trafficking ministry.  For three and a half years, I volunteered as a full-time missionary with STOP - Stop Trafficking of People.  When I started in 2015, I knew absolutely nothing about human trafficking.  I only knew that the thought of children being bought and sold into sex slavery, forced marriages, and debt bondage shattered my heart into pieces and knew I had to do something to help stop it.  So, I led awareness presentations in schools, local communities, and churches, I passed out flyers on the streets, I spent my Friday evenings in Cape Town with the ladies trapped in prostitution, and I attended weekly prayer meetings with our amazing STOP team.

I did whatever I could to help make a difference, and as I helped, I met people - brothers and sisters of mine from all walks of life who had experienced all sorts of trauma, loss, and pain.  I was given the great privilege of holding hands with victims, swapping stories with survivors, raising awareness at anti-human trafficking conferences (in South Africa, Uganda, the USA, and Nigeria), playing soccer with ex-pimps and drug dealers, and sharing the Gospel with children all over the country.  Those experiences changed my life.

Through the anti-human trafficking work that I’ve been doing with STOP (as well as with other ministries such as Straatwerk, Global Care & Response, and MeCAHT), I have learned that prevention is always better than a cure, that raising awareness is necessary for change, and that building grace-based and Christ-centered relationships with survivors is the key to helping them find true and lasting freedom.

As I have prayed about my next steps, God has instilled in me a desire to teach, disciple, love, and counsel sex trafficking survivors through their long-term restoration and healing journeys.  To get one step closer to this goal, I took a leap of faith and applied to graduate school.  In December of 2017, I got accepted into Liberty University’s Online Masters in Professional Counseling (60 hour) Program.  So far, I have completed three courses - and I'm loving it!

My long-term vision for the future is to use this counseling degree (and subsequent state licensure) to counsel sex trafficking survivors in the United States and around the world.  I hope to make meaningful and lasting relationships with the people serving in safehouses, foster homes, churches, governmental organizations, ministries, and NGOs to reach as many victims and survivors as possible.  Through a biblical and integrated approach to trauma counseling, I hope to help these survivors find freedom, healing, hope, and restoration.  I’ve learned that there are very few counselors who specialize in this kind of work - so I want to be one that does... and one that does it well.

Now, here’s “the kicker.”
To accomplish this big dream, I need to move back home.

Therefore, on March 4th, 2019, I will be saying goodbye to my missionary life in South Africa so that I can say hello to this new adventure in my home country.  While I am back in the States, I plan on sharing and implementing all of the knowledge, experience, insights, and wisdom that I’ve learned in South Africa over these past four years.  I also hope to meet with many of you in person when I return home, so we can find ways to work together to fight human trafficking in the US!  In addition to that, I plan on continuing to volunteer with anti-trafficking, anti-pornography, and anti-sexual exploitation NGOs based locally in the USA while I complete my degree and work toward attaining my counseling license.

Before I dig into some of the logistics and the financial side of things, I want to say thank you to my supporters, prayer warriors, friends, and family who have journeyed with me throughout these past four years.  Thank you for fighting with me, thank you for donating funds to make this a reality, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless.  Without your prayers, support, encouragement, and financial assistance - none of this would have been possible.  I will forever cherish how you all have invested in me and in the work that I’ve been doing in South Africa, and I hope to continue going strong as I step back onto American soil.  It has been such a blessing to have an “army” behind me every step of the way, and I hope that you will continue to journey with me into the future.

With that being said, I desire to stay in relationship with you all by keeping this support system intact as I transition back home.  My goal of combatting human trafficking by working in counseling relationships with survivors is a career and ministry that I plan on having for a long time, and I would love to stay connected to you all as I navigate through this next phase of the journey.  However, if you would like to stop receiving my newsletter updates and/or if you would prefer to discontinue donating once I come off the mission field - I will totally understand, and I will be eternally grateful for the support that you have given me!  

If you would like to continue partnering with me in this fight against human trafficking and would like to know how to best support this long-term vision, here's some information on the logistical and financial needs that will make it possible:

I have 17/20 classes left to complete my master's degree and each class costs $1,845 - coming to a grand total of $31,365.  I am currently applying for various scholarships, and I also plan on working part-time while I go to graduate school full-time, so any financial help to reach this goal would be greatly appreciated!  My excellent and faithful missions funding organization Shepherd's Staff has agreed to keep my account open through June 2019 so that I can continue receiving donations during the first three months while I'm home (so please keep giving).  All of the donations that I will receive after March through Shepherd’s Staff will go entirely toward my school expenses since I will be working to provide for my everyday expenses.  I also created a GoFundMe page that will stay open and active to receive donations once my Shepherd’s Staff account closes in June.  You can find it here: https://www.gofundme.com/helpsamstudy

In the years following school and licensure I hope to be counseling, training, and consulting with workers and organizations around the US and the world, and I hope that some of you and your family members will be able to travel and serve with me - that would be a dream come true! 

When I arrive home, I will be moving in with my kind and generous grandparents as I study and readjust to Miami living.  (Including but not limited to: re-learning how to speak Spanish, driving on the right side of the road, sleeping in a house with air-conditioning, pumping my own gas, watching college football on ESPN, and not having to worry about baboons attacking me and stealing my food. These will all be a part of my American reintegration.)

Again, to my supporters both old and new:  thank you.

I pray that together we will be able to make a difference in the lives of many, especially those affected by the evils of human trafficking.  I love you all, thank you for taking the time to read through this letter, and thank you for keeping me in your prayer!


Samantha
Stay Tuned For A December Update...
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