House of Cherith West in Bremen is expected to open soon, Rotary members of Bremen learned on Thursday.
The Reverend John Butler, pastor of Covenant Life Church in Bremen, visited the group on Thursday to give an update on the church’s two-year mission progress. The church has partnered with House of Cherith in Atlanta to provide phase two services to women rescued from sex trafficking.
The first phase of rescue is a safe house, Butler said. The women are taken to a safe place away from their traffickers. They go through a rehab program to get rid of all the drugs their dealers gave them and they begin the process of reclaiming their lives, Butler said.
Phase two, which is what the Bremen facility will offer, is a 12 to 18 month program that offers counseling and therapy to begin to heal from the trauma they have suffered. It includes learning work skills and life skills that will enable them to become self-sufficient and self-sufficient and helps them build a support network to help them start life on their own.
The Bremen facility has seven bedrooms, a common room, a kitchen and a dining area. At the same time that Butler and Covenant Life Church were planning their facility, a church in Tallapoosa was also creating a partnership with House of Cherith, Butler said. This facility serves women and their children and is already open.
“I didn’t know the other church leaders and they didn’t know me,” Butler said. “It certainly seems like there’s a bigger plan going on.”
House of Cherith is still looking to hire staff for the Bremen facility so it can open, he said. The two facilities together form House of Cherith West, Butler said.
Learning about the problemButler has learned a lot about sex trafficking over the past few years, but still needs to learn more to provide the best resources for victims, he said.
“Honestly, in 2018 I knew very little about what sex trafficking really was,” he said. “We started educating ourselves and looking at all the ways we could leverage the resources that God had blessed us with to fight this battle.”
The church started on the path to this partnership in 2019, with the launch of Project Jericho, he said. The project was named after the story of Jericho in the Bible in which the Israelites rescued a prostitute named Rahab from the city of Jericho after she helped them.
In December 2019 they started fundraising and in March 2020 the pandemic hit Georgia and everything stopped, Butler said.
Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, the church was able to establish its establishment thanks to donations mainly from its members, but also from the community, he said. The church hopes to expand the facility to at least double the number of rooms and add other services such as a hair salon, clothing store and medical facilities.
“That’s the medium-term vision,” Butler said, adding that plans remain fluid. “This fight is changing quickly, so we don’t want to make any concrete plans too far into the future.”
Sex trafficking mainly involves girls and women, around 80% of those trafficked are women, as young as 5 years old. The biggest predictor of a girl being vulnerable to trafficking is foster care, he said. Fostering involves broken homes, substance abuse and/or physical abuse, and poverty, making a girl vulnerable to being groomed by traffickers. In the United States, the internet has made it easier to entrap these women and girls, he said. The traffickers do not need to be in the same room or even the same town as the women to treat them, he said.
Law enforcement uses every tool possible to stop sex trafficking, but ultimately it’s demand that fuels the business, Butler said.
“It has to be a legislative and enforcement battle,” he said. “But it also really has to be a moral and ethical battle, in the hearts of men around the world who see this as something to which they are entitled.”
As in every group Butler spoke to about the project, Rotary members asked questions about safety.
The church takes safety seriously, he said.
Since the women – they will all be over 18 – have been in the Atlanta safe house before, their traffickers have likely already moved on to other victims. There will always be 24-hour staff at the Bremen facility to monitor him. There is a state of the art security system. If any doors or windows opened, they would know immediately. And the Bremen Police Department is aware of the facility and ready to respond quickly if necessary, Butler said.
“We want to make sure the ladies who are there are safe,” he said. “When you meet a traumatized person who is intentionally working through the things they’ve been through, sometimes you just want to get out. So there are processes and protocols in place.
To donate to the House of Cherith, visit hocatl.org or to donate to Project Jericho, drop by Covenant Life Church, 130 Atlantic Avenue, Bremen, GA 30110.