I had no idea what to expect.
I was riding in a small open trailer being pulled by a motorbike through the streets of LaVega. We were headed deep into the barrio of this city located in the Dominican Republic, we were on our way to where it all began. The closer we got the narrower streets became, the smaller the homes and the more depressing the conditions. We parked in the street, crossed the dirt and dust of the road and trekked up a steep incline, littered with trash and being traversed by roaming chickens. We approached a nondescript shack on the hill. A place where the rescues and redemption began.
It was the fall of 2018. I traveled to the DR to serve a nonprofit organization with my marketing and communications expertise. My dad joined me on the trip, and words like “life-changing” and “faith-growing” seem trite for this mission trip that is forever imprinted on my mind and heart. However, they are perfect descriptions of our experience.
New Hope Girls is a purpose-driven group of people on a mission to shine the light of Jesus into the darkest of places. In the DR, the systemic problems of abuse, sex trafficking, human slavery, and disrespect for women are staggering. Rather than seeing these problems and feeling hopeless, the people of New Hope choose to fight back against the darkness and create lasting change, one girl at a time.
New Hope has three core functions that all roll up and into their mission.
They have a safe house (the Academy) for girls who are rescued from dark circumstances. In the home, the girls receive physical, emotional and gospel-driven spiritual care. There is the workshop (New Hope Creations) in which adult women hand craft lovely, high-quality purses and bags. The workshop helps support and sustain the academy and provides women with dignified employment. And finally, there is a community outreach program which allows New Hope to reach a larger group of young girls each week, living within the barrios (neighborhoods) of LaVega. It is a very intentional organizational structure that has created conditions to serve girls and women in a way that will result in change.
I’m now on their Board of Directors and also volunteering my time to support them with marketing efforts and strategic advising. They have captured my heart and my love for them transcends geography and language barriers.
In a recent update, shared by the Executive Director of New Hope Girls, Joy Reyes shared:
“We have heard stories of all the violent rebellion in the barrios carrying away truck loads of violators to jail each and every evening. The pictures are scary. The rise in COVID-19 cases are reported each morning and we are tempted to give away our peace– but we wont. We received news that one of our former beloved caregivers was hospitalized so did what we needed most– we gathered to pray.”
The impact of Covid-19 has meant that the workshop is entirely shut down. The women are not allowed to work according to governmental orders. New Hope is committed to still pay them their salaries so they do not have to choose between their honor and putting food on the table. The outreach program cannot happen; the country is on mandatory lockdown. Those who break lockdown are arrested and taken to jail. This also means that there are girls awaiting rescue who will have to continue to wait, while enduring abuse, homelessness and unsafe home lives.
A global pandemic does not touch the globe equally.
While some of us complain about an absence of toilet paper or having our routines radically altered, the girls served by New Hope face additional challenges we do not.
The safe house is now full 24/7 with 22 girls, working through past traumas and pursuing joy in Jesus. They have 5 laptops for all 22 to continue their schooling.
There are so many earthly reasons for New Hope to feel overwhelmed and like everything is out of control. They could give into the ugly lies of fear. Yet they are relentless in their refusal to succumb to fear. They know that the struggle of Covid-19 is not only a struggle of flesh and blood but like all our struggles, it also has deeply spiritual implications. And what I love most is that when trouble strikes they stop what they are doing, gather together, and pray earnestly.
After a recent conference call with their leaders, I was humbled again, thinking of my own family’s adjustments during these days compared to this ministry’s. They are warriors, fully putting on the armor of God and turning to Jesus for all they need to overcome the daily struggles of living brought about by Covid-19. They are bringing Ephesians 6:10-18 to life.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Through His word He reminds us of the tools and weapons we need to stand firm and fight – righteousness, prayer, the Holy Spirit, and our salvation, The women and girls of New Hope are mighty faith warriors. While their struggles are not our struggles we can take note of how they are leaning into faith to fight fear. We can also choose to claim the Armor of God as our battle gear during this unprecedented time.
As sisters and brothers in Christ we can also join their fight.
There are tangible ways to join the fight that offer support and contribution toward the salaries of the women in the workshop. There is also the ever present, no-cost, high return option of adding the women and girls of New Hope to your prayer time. I have seen their faces, heard their stories, run and danced with them, listened to their laughter and shed tears with them. They are deserving of our prayers and they are grateful for each one.
Above all, I challenge you to consider your spiritual response to Covid-19. I encourage you to consider if you will be a mighty faith warrior in a time when the enemy of fear is raging. Remember, in the darkness His light shines the brightest and you have a significant spiritual opportunity to reflect His brilliance.