The Story, Our Journey
The Story, Our Journey. I was born to a family of sweet-tea drinkers in North Carolina. I was a preacher’s kid and learned to accept my fate of hand-me-downs and attendance at every potluck dinner. Cancer was a part of my childhood, claiming my dad’s life and stealing some years from my mom, as well. My highschool years then introduced me to my husband, Matt, and I was actually his date for our senior prom.
We got married young, after our junior year of college at Appalachian State University in NC, where I majored in Middle Grades Education with a minor in English. Wanting adventure, we spent a year on a tiny island you probably won’t recognize (called Saipan) teaching, then headed back to North Carolina where we worked with students at a local church. After a brief trip back around the world to New Zealand to live (which regretfully didn’t work out), we landed out in the tiny mountain town of Woodland Park, Colorado, where my husband worked as a pastor for a community church. For nearly five years, I reveled in glorious summers and endured cold winters as a stay-at-home to our three little people.
Eventually, in April of 2010, we loaded nine suitcases and three kids on a plane, endured 30 hours of travel, and began calling rural Thailand, home. We came initially to help direct a Children’s Home for impoverished hill-tribe girls, and after one year, moved into counter-trafficking work full time. The following three years’ experiences form are the bulk of this blog (from 2010 – 2013), and the journey recorded is a gritty, messy one full of disappointments, surprising miracles, and nearly 300 brothels. In those days, I learned and wrote lots about missions– the ethics and effectiveness of it, a faith that was beginning to buck conservative Evangelicalism, and a front row seat to counter trafficking work and the nonprofit turf wars that accompanied it. Perhaps my most personal pieces were stories I shared about sending my husband as an undercover operative into dark places around Asia while he worked with police.
After 2 1/2 of the most difficult years of our lives, we moved back to Colorado on personal support, with the hopes of launching a nonprofit, The Exodus Road. We figured we had funding for three months, and if we couldn’t raise the money to keep rescue work going by then, we’d need to quit and get “real” jobs. It was Matt and I at our tiny kitchen table with two laptops. Doubt was a constant companion in those early days, but six months later, we had enough funding to open our first office, above a tire shop in a town of 8,000 people where we lived. We hired people, we expanded to India, we started buying covert gear for field teams, and we started really empowering rescue. The next two years were a full-sprint hustle, and it nearly killed us. It was the first time I was managing working full-time and mothering full-time. Those two gigs at the same time are no joke, I quickly learned.
In May of 2014, we packed up suitcases (again!) and moved back to Thailand. Things were stable in the Colorado office, Matt had a key opportunity for government partnerships in the counter-trafficking space, and I wanted to reconnect with the work on the ground level. Our three kids were up for round-two in Asia, so we headed back overseas. About four months in, our Thailand office experienced a painful season that caught us off-guard. Partnerships fell apart, and lots of hard (deeply personal) lessons were learned. For the next year, we waded through hurt and betrayal from all sides and got schooled in leadership, forgiveness, sustainability, and what it means to build something “better before bigger.” My personal writing (on this blog) grew pretty quiet of the course of these years, as I spent most of my creative energy into launching and advocating for the organization and just surviving life overseas on the front lines with three kids. I danced dangerously close to full-on burn out, grew colder than I like to admit in my personal faith, developed an unhealthy life/work balance, and shamefully neglected self care (all of which I’m committed to correcting these days).
Over the months in Asia, we rebuilt our entire Thailand office from the ground up — for the second time. We eventually found and hired Matt’s “replacement” and worked him out of a management role on the ground. Security was becoming an issue for Matt personally, and we opted to make the final move back to Colorado Springs in the summer of 2016 (the 16th move for our marriage!), where we are leading the head office from there. Asia will always hold a special place in our hearts (we’ve spilled a lot of blood here), but we’re excited to give our kids a taste of home and stability for the next few years in the US, as well as launch efforts with The Exodus Road in other parts of the world.
We don’t claim to have all the answers or to have walked a perfect road. We’ve gotten our asses kicked more times than we can count, and we’ve wanted to throw in the towel — on community, on mission, on relationships, on Christ-following — even more often. I still have to practice radical grace for myself in the many mistakes I’ve made, ways I’ve let people down and led poorly, times I’ve chosen work over family, self over faith. But, I look back over this wild story we are living, and despite it all, I see Love guiding, hope winning. I see God taking offerings of mustard seeds and five loaves, and somehow using them for hopefully, a little bit of good.