Monday at about 9:00 a.m. I received a text message from Tess at Freedom’s Journey in South Dakota. Could we securely transport a human trafficking survivor? How soon could we be there?
She’s frightened, hiding from some really bad people—people involved in organized crime. Would I be willing to accept a call from a criminal investigator who is helping the victim?
That yes was followed by a message to Beret asking her to reorganize her schedule. She needed to get
Hazel and Trinity ready to run the gym for the next two nights. New tires were needed on her car; it was
going to be a long trip and the tires were at the end of their lives. We had a quick motorcycle trip with
Trinity to the in-laws’ house to pick up an extra car because our spare vehicle was in the shop. A bag was
quickly packed for three days, loaded up the armored backpacks and the tools needed to protect
someone from organized criminals. We grabbed snacks and drinks for hours in the car. With a push of
the ignition switch and a pull of the gear lever, we were headed west by 2:30 p.m.
We arrived in at our destination and got a hotel for the night. At 6:30 a.m. we met the investigator and the
survivor in the parking lot. We learned that our trip was going to be shorter, and instead of eighteen
hours further west we only had to go twelve hours east. We packed the car with almost all of her earthly
belongings and asked her where she would like to sit. She chose the back seat, and we departed. When I
introduced myself I stated that I was Tess’s friend, and she was encouraged by our mutual friendship.
We stopped for coffee to take on the road (Pure Bean Coffee—definitely worth the stop) and headed
into the dense fog that was covering the hills. Our survivor was quiet and frightened.
As we drove into the fog, the survivor sipped her coffee and gradually gave longer answers to our
occasional questions. We chose the fastest route and relied on window tints to obscure the back seat.
We avoided busy places and only stopped for fuel and bathroom breaks. As the survivor spoke about her
story, tears streamed down her cheeks as evidence of the fear, pain, and trauma she was holding inside
of herself. She would occasionally remember something important and would record it in her notebook.
Her voice grew stronger as she recalled things, telling more parts of her story, different pieces of her
history, and bits of the trauma. She became more comfortable, finally understanding that our purpose
was to ensure her safety. Her sister messaged her and was concerned that she was in a car going
somewhere with total strangers—how could she know it was safe? Our passenger had survived things
most people cannot even imagine and was therefore very vulnerable. She shared our ministry website
with her sister. She remembered that she knew someone whom we had transported a few years ago—
someone who needed us just like she did now, and she was encouraged. Her sister messaged back, “You
ARE safe.” And she was. Concealed, secured, protected, loved, heard, and diligently prayed for. Safe.
We spent almost twelve hours together on that rescue portion of the trip. Sometimes there was silence;
sometimes there were quiet conversations about memories; sometimes these thoughts were reminders
to write down details and to remember to tell the investigator later. It was always encouraging. We
arrived at the safe place and carried her belongings inside. We were encouraged that she had had the
courage to tell her story to the investigators and to hold the bad guys accountable. We were happy she
was able to have a fresh place to start as much as possible, away from where the organized criminals
were looking for her.
She hugged us, thanked us, and we saw more tears streaming down her cheeks. We closed the door,
walked back to the car, and settled in for the remainder of the trip home. One thousand three hundred
and twenty-nine miles. Fifty-five gallons of gasoline. Eighteen hours in the car. Too much caffeine. Too
many beef sticks. Sore butts. A safe human being. Another person on the prayer list. The opportunity to
serve in God’s kingdom. All this and more because of a simple word—yes.
This beautiful survivor, this woman who is an image-bearer of the King, our Creator, is worthy of every
mile, every preparation, every discomfort, every dollar. This story happens more often than I would like
it to. Sometimes the trips are a few minutes across town, ninety miles down the road, or a round trip to
a clinic, a courtroom, or an airport. Sometimes it’s a drive to a midwestern town or a southern city.
Sometimes they are not survivors yet; they are still victims. These rescues may be people escaping
human trafficking, drug addiction, domestic abuse, or homelessness. They may just need a ride home.
Safe, secure transportation is one of the many ways that Fallout Shelter Ministries serves in the kingdom
of God. There are others. We teach. We train. We share the gospel. We love people, help them through
hard times, introduce them to our King, share the message of grace, and prepare them for the
Tess wrote a letter to share with you, and I have attached it here.
*Distance and timeline details have been altered to protect the victim.
To Whom it May Concern,
It’s rare to find people who are competent, committed, and caring. It’s rare to find people who
are experts in their field, and able to effectively train others. It’s rare to find people who are so
committed that they’ll drop what they’re doing and clear their schedules when someone is in
desperate need. It’s rare to find people with the compassion to be gentle with the vulnerable
while being strong at the same time. But Rich and Beret of Fallout Shelter Ministries are these
rare people. The hearts they possess are unmatched, their skill levels are high, and their
commitment is unrivaled. We’ve relied on them over the years, and they’ve never let us down.
They are treasures, and their ministry is crucial.
So, if they put something on, I would encourage you to participate. If they’re building
something, I would encourage you to support them. And if they’re raising money for something,
I would encourage you to donate generously. By doing so you can help them make South Dakota
a safer and better state.
Founder and Executive Director
Freedom’s Journey, Inc.