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Update on Latisha's House

March 4, 2019 by Sheree Phillips 0 comments

Tags: justice, Orlando, human trafficking

Latisha’s House is a residential home for sex-trafficked women here in Orlando.  Redeemer Church has been able to partner with two other churches in Central Florida to restore a dilapidated home to beauty, made 100% possible by donations…and lots of hard work.

We met “L”, our first resident, in February 2019.  What a joy it was for me to welcome her home on that happy day!  She and other residents to come will receive trauma counseling by licensed professionals; art therapy; cooking classes; financial literacy; and GED or other academic assessment and tutoring.  Mostly, they will receive the love of God through our House Managers and numerous volunteers.

Many have asked how a pastor and his wife of a young church got involved in human trafficking?

51236169_2563499277058144_3275590476543033344_nIt started when our son Jesse first introduced us to the peril of human trafficking more than six ago during his involvement with a local anti-trafficking ministry.  Only God knew then that several years later Elizabeth and Jeff Ameling, a couple who used to attend our former church in northern Virginia, would contact us to see if we were willing to partner with them in opening Latisha’s House Florida.  Due to the success of the first Latisha’s House, which opened in 2013 in Williamsburg, Virginia, Elizabeth was asked by then- Florida attorney general Pam Bondi to bring this faith-led, effective model to Orlando.  (You can read more about this thrilling story at www.lathishashouse.com.)

Over the past year, Redeemer Church has been able to help the Amelings by working alongside two other ministries to renovate and prepare a home to welcome survivors needing safety, hope and healing for deep and often haunting trauma and shame.  Redeemer volunteers have given money, hauled away debris, painted, installed flooring, cleaned, replaced drywall, solicited donations, and recruited help with construction projects.  Our pastor, Benny, serves as Chairman of the Board of Latisha’s House Florida, while I serve as the Director of Staff Care and Counseling and participate in interviewing potential residents.  Mostly, though, our church has embraced this opportunity to show Christ-incarnating love to those who are often misunderstood as choosing a life of prostitution, abuse, addiction and shame – but who have most often been enslaved by greedy abusers.

51147685_2563499243724814_5447304268442763264_nA few days ago I was sitting at the kitchen table talking with L as we shared a yummy bowl of beef stroganoff one of the volunteers had just taught her to make.  I asked what she was enjoying most about being at the house.  Would she mention the beautiful lake setting?  The lovely bedroom Bill and Leslie generously decorated for her?  Or maybe having a spacious home after nearly 18 months in the confines of jail?

“Oh, Sheree, the thing I enjoy most is the people.”  L then mentioned House Mangers and volunteers by name.  “Everyone seems like they truly care about me and I just can’t thank everyone enough.”

Yes, we do care about L because we are more like her than we are different.  We are broken and in need of the safety of “home” where brothers and sisters in Christ see beyond our flaws and sins and shame and pain into a future filled with hope and friendship. Sins done by and against us may be different than hers, and our shame may be from sources unlike the horrific abuse she has suffered.  Yet we are just in much in need of the hope the gospel offers to the deep hurts in our own broken hearts and lives. 

Recently a friend asked how she can get involved with Latisha’s House because she “wants to be a part of something where the church is really being the church.”  If you, too, would like to help us take the hope of the glorious gospel to women like L, please contact us.  We would love to find a way for you to make a real difference in the lives of real people who need a real God to change their lives. 

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