Written by Eileen Knowles, Second Life of Chattanooga Volunteer

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“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched-they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month and, last Friday, the Chattanooga Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Second Life hosted their annual event: Unite. Wear White. The guest speaker this year was Becca Stevens from Thistle Farms and Magdalene.

I was first introduced to Thistle Farms and Magdalene when I heard Becca give a talk a year and a half ago in Nashville. This beautiful ministry helps to give women who have been out on the streets and trapped in a life of prostitution and human trafficking a second chance.  At Thistle Farms, survivors are employed and create fabulous all natural candles and also bath and body products.

On Friday, I heard a survivor and past resident of Magdalene share a little bit of her journey. Sheila’s story was a powerful story of redemption. After she spoke, the audience gave her a standing ovation. I had goose bumps and chills as I stood there clapping for Sheila.

When Becca took the stage she said something that stuck with me:  “If you mention the word home (at Magdalene and Thistle Farms) women will weep. A home is what these women have longed for because community heals.”

Becca shared another story of a lady who came to Magdalene house after serving time in prison. She began her journey of healing  and also began making candles. Because of charges still being processed through the legal system, this lady ended up having to go back to jail for 3 1/2  more years. Upon her release, she came right back to Thistle Farms and began making candles again. Becca asked her how she was able to remain hopeful after tasting freedom and healing and then having to go back to confinement. The lady told Becca that it was the first time in her life when she was behind bars and had a community of people supporting her, encouraging her, and believing in her.

As I thought more about this, I realized that the women of Magdalene weep at the word “home” because community, when done well, is a beautiful thing.  Like Helen Keller’s quote, home isn’t necessarily a place you can see and touch, its beauty is so much bigger than that. Home means you feel loved and accepted and cared for. A true home is a place of hope. It touches your heart and your soul and you can carry it with you.  That’s what I love about beauty that touches our heart…it’s portable.

Listening to the ladies from Thistle Farms share their stories at Unite. Wear White, reminded me of an important truth: Community, done well, is powerful. It touches lives in ways we can’t even fathom. It offers us beauty that most of the time goes so much deeper than the visible eye can see.

Be that to someone today.

The fight against human trafficking both here in Chattanooga and around the world is a collaborative effort. The help you provide makes a HUGE difference!