I have never been a part of something so powerful – and all of that comes from your absolutely tireless and courageous efforts to ensure sisters can find their way home here.
Thank you to Teresa, a dear sister on the Magdalene Omaha Board, for this guest blog thanking Thistle Farms for visiting Omaha for the Magdalene Omaha kick-off celebration (October 14-16, 2016).
My heart is too full of thanks for your recent visit and efforts here in Omaha. I don’t even know how to put into words what you have done here. How much you have transformed me, the board, Trinity Cathedral, the Omaha community, and all the good that’s already rippling through the state as a consequence of you lavishly sharing your love with us here this weekend! I have never been a part of something so powerful – and all of that comes from your absolutely tireless and courageous efforts to ensure sisters can find their way home here.
Some of you know that I’m in recovery – clean and sober 18 years in August. Many years ago, when I still lived in the Washington, DC area, a woman named Donna who had a lengthy history of being trafficked and of addiction asked me to be her sponsor. We went through a long and winding journey together that included me visiting her in jail, hospitals, treatment centers, and half-way houses. She was not the last woman who had been trafficked that I would sponsor, but she held a special place in my heart. I watched how hard she tried to leave the life, and how horrible the system was time and again. And every time it seemed like she was turning a corner and just about to make great progress, there was a new obstacle – most especially lack of employment opportunities because of her record.
Donna didn’t make it, and while I have lost other friends in recovery over the years, losing her hit me hard and I never gave up believing that there had to be some better way to help survivors. Then, after we launched the Friends of Tamar here and started to realize what a growing trafficking problem Omaha had, Bishop Scott Barker and Trinity Cathedral Dean Craig Loya provided funding so that I could attend a Thistle Farms Education Workshop. I got to chat with Penny in the café as people gathered before the day started, and with Anika briefly after she gave the group I was in a tour. Although I read everything that I was provided, it was my conversations with them that made me an absolute believer in this model. I swelled with hope as I came back here and started to try to share all that I had learned.
But, as happens with all of us in this kind of work, earlier this year, I just hit a wall. I felt like I was not making a difference here, we were not making progress fast enough, and I feared we may never be able to truly get this thing off the ground in Omaha. During that time, because I subscribe to the Thistle Farms e-newsletter, I received the May 25th e-newsletter with a link to the Thistle Farms - Magdalene 2016 Graduation video. When I watched this – and I have watched it countless times since, as have several other people I shared it with including the members of our board (I call it my sunshine booster shot) – everything changed. I got fired up again and redoubled efforts here. Fabulous new board members joined the circle here in Omaha, and together we expanded efforts to build community partners. Seeing these beautiful women exemplify the truest meaning of freedom and joy made the point better than any words of mine or anyone else’s here ever could. That’s also exactly what all of you being here did so very, very powerfully – you drove home we need a Magdalene house here…now. When Brooke gave me the names of who would be joining Becca on this trip, I just about fell out of my chair. I asked if I had it right that Jovita & Lori, in this very video, would be with us – and how blessed are we that they were!
I love that the four of you joined Becca here, and The Fantastic Five gave everything you had to help us get this going. You sharing your experience, strength, and hope so generously truly built the foundation of our house here. I love that you already are hearing and knowing the difference you made – your visit absolutely was a game-changer. I know you gave so much for us, but know this too – feeling like we are part of the larger community has meant the world to all of us, and most especially me. When Jovita answered my question in the October 15th Saturday morning Expert Roundtable meeting by talking about community and accountability as part of that, I realized that for me and for the board, that’s the change we all were experiencing this weekend that made it so special to us. We aren’t just out here trying to do this alone now…we are a part of, and now we need to pay forward the love and energy you shared so beautifully with us, and all that you all taught us by what you shared. We will make this happen here! And from this moment forward, know that in more ways than you ever realized, you all are as much a part of Magdalene Omaha as any of us here!
With more love and gratitude for you than I know how to say,