TYLER, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas ministry is working to rebuild the lives of young women rescued from a life in the darkness as human slaves. The PREP Home works to provide freedom to victims of sex trafficking.
Their mission is found in the ministry's name: Prepare for a new future, Recreate yourself, Empower through education, Position for success.
Executive director Donna Fraser is making room in their Tyler house for young women who've escaped trafficking.
"Many people think that traffic victims are from other countries. 'Oh, that's Cambodia. That's India. No. These are our children. These are your your children. These are my children. And if it was your daughter, what would you do? And so that's how we have to see this -- it's that we're helping our children."
The ministry provides young women with long-term housing and support during their transition back to society. Women are given the opportunity to return to college, receive life skills training, and support to become financially independent.
For Fraser, it's not about the past, but creating a brighter future. "This is my mission. This is my ministry. This is what I love to do. There's nothing like hearing their stories. There's nothing like rescuing a girl. If it was only one girl, it was worth it."
"Maggie," a pseudonym, is one of the PREP Home residents. She was taken from her college campus nearly three years ago and spent a year trapped in trafficking. Maggie says she is already walking the spiritual journey back, together with Christ.
"There (are) bad things out there, but you can make it better," Maggie said. "You don't have to go through those bad things. You don't have to turn back and go back to that."
The two year-program requires a certain level of trust. "If they don't let go of the shame of their past, if they don't realize that there's forgiveness in their life, it's very difficult to create a new life," Fraser said. "(It's) very difficult to go on and find a new future, if they're not allowing the Lord to come and wash them clean and take away the things of their past."
The house is a safe haven for the women, who will pursue a degree at Tyler Junior College or UT Tyler. Assistance is provided throughout the admissions process, especially when applying for scholarships and grants.
Fraser says the goal is creating a new life of freedom. "That renewal of their mind is very, very important. Otherwise they will go back to those doubts, those depressions, those fears, because trauma does that to the girls. So it's through the renewing of their minds through the power of God's spirit that they're truly transformed."
Day-to-day operations of the environment will be overseen by a live-in house mother. In their first year in 'The Freshman House,' women are guided through devotions before they head out for work or school each day. Structure and spiritual guidance are supported through church services each weekend, as well as Bible study classes. Women are also provided therapy sessions with a Christian therapist to address personal issues.
"You feel very, very alone," Maggie said. "Then once you open up to God and open up to the people around you. You feel full again and you don't feel empty any more."
After completing the first year with the program, the women will move into a second house, called 'The Sophomore House.' Participants begin to work part time jobs, helping to pay rent and utilities in the home.
The program aims to help at least 12 girls each year between the two homes. At the end of the program, extended housing will be provided as the students graduate and work toward their final goal of independence.
Green Acres Baptist Church, several individuals, and local businesses have provided spiritual and financial support for the 'Freshman House.' The PREP Home is looking for volunteers, as well as paid staff members.