In the Know: A Survivor's Perspective

What Love Does

I might be taking a risk here, but my whole heart is being drawn towards writing about “love” for this blog. I have learned a lot of things over the last four years that I could share, but nothing is more powerful than love. If there is one thing I want the anti-trafficking community to know and experience as a whole, it would be the supernatural, God-given power of love, and how it has the ability to not only change the direction of a life but also to save a life!

I am a living testimony of God's love through His people, and I’m alive and well today because of it. As a child, I endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of my father and even others. I was clothed in self-hatred and shame. In my tiny mind, I was a dirty little girl with one ugly purpose. Of course, I carried this identity on into my teen years and quickly, in an effort to numb the pain, succumbed to the demon of addiction. After years of living on the streets in San Diego, California, I spent a short time in the sex industry at the age of 18 to fuel my drug habit. Finally, after two failed suicide attempts and two drug overdoses, I knew it was time to get help. This is where the story gets good. I liken it to a fairy tale.

I was taken to a program that completely changed my life. I walked through the door and was met with smiles. The aroma of a hot cooked meal and a safe bed to sleep on made me feel at home. I remember thinking “why would they do this for me and other girls like me?” Days later I began to understand. The women running the program were doing it simply because they loved me. Each smile and each hug began to chip away at my old identity. They began to share with me the truth. They said I had value, a purpose, and am loved extravagantly by an awesome God. Not only did this “God” love me, but He also loved the staff, volunteers, and residents. It was all so surreal. This love stripped away the pain, the memories and the old way of thinking. It wasn't necessarily the counseling, life-skills classes, drug treatment, or any piece of the “program” that prompted this change in me, although those things are imperative. It was truly the love and grace I was shown while at the home that transformed me. I had never experienced such an unconditional, no-strings-attached kind of love, and it was healing. I took this love with me when I left and have not stopped loving freely since.

Our very own Valerie Bellamy, Compassion First Holy Night Director, is quoted as saying, “He is the God who lights the darkness, not from afar, but by dressing himself in flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhoods.” God is love. It’s His love that has the greatest impact on the girls we serve. It’s His love that brings us together as a community.  We must have love for one another as abolitionists and not be divided if we want to fully serve this population well.

I believe if we are filled with His love, we can endure pain, conquer fear, forgive freely, renew our strength, and bless and help others.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” — John 13:34-35

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” —Romans 12:10

Love is not a feeling but a choice. It’s not what you feel but more what you do. Being devoted to one another in love means that we honor others above ourselves as it puts others first and ourselves last. Hope we all can be inspired to love one another extravagantly today!

Jennifer Unangst Survivor Leader Advocate Compassion First / Development Associate

Jennifer Unangst

Survivor Leader

Advocate Compassion First / Development Associate