My eyes had begun to open, and then, I met her. She was sitting on the curb at a truck stop with her few belongings stuffed into a black garbage bag. She scanned the parking lot with a fearful but expectant look on her face.
The truth was...there was no place for her here.
Even if she had been ready, even if she had trusted me, and even if she had been able to escape her circumstance, there was no place for her here to heal, to find restoration, or to see hope. So, she climbed into the car with a stranger and disappeared into the night.
I was serving in a homeless ministry at the time, but the weight of ministering to her and not being able to help her burdened my heart deeply. Over the course of that night...that weekend...that week, something inside of me broke. I cried out to the Lord for her, for women like her. His answer to me was clear...Hope Rising. As I
interceded on her behalf, I asked Him for a hope house - a place set apart for women like her to find healing and restoration, to find Him. He again, promised hope would rise for them. That was the summer of 2013.
That prayer along with His answer began a seven year journey. He would provide; He would sustain; He would not abandon; He would protect; and He would remain true to His word...not just for her, but also for me. I had no idea at that time what it would look like or how He would do it, but I believed and had faith that He would.
See, I had learned of His faithfulness, and I knew He was trustworthy. Through it all, my role was simple. Love Him and believe Him.
Before my eyes had been opened to the reality of human trafficking in our area and before my heart had been called to action by His promise, my every ‘yes’ came with an opportunity to see His great love for me and for the women more clearly. With that, He began to show me a deeper love for Him than I had ever known.
Although He had journeyed with me to this place for a long time, it is truly this point where my life shifted. I had loved Him since the day He saved me, but now, I was falling in love with Him. There is a difference.
Over the course of these seven years, the Lord drew me deeper into Himself by reminding me of who He is and who I am in Him. He taught me to love as He loves - pouring Himself out abundantly. Through His Word, I learned to stand on His truths even when I could not see them yet. He began building and equipping the
ministry by surrounding me with other women who shared the same burdens for the exploited and the same passions for the broken to be healed and made whole in Him. Even though we each had different journeys of pain, suffering, and brokenness, He alone was the One who had healed each of us. We longed for the women we serve to know of His possibilities and plans for their lives...to know He has the power to heal them, too!
In early 2019, we were approached by Wired Ministries about their Game Changer campaign. This campaign would raise awareness about local ministries services as well as provide financial support for specific projects that would further each ministry’s vision. Alongside nine other gospel-centered organizations, they chose us! Their only stipulation - we had one year to complete it.
We knew immediately our greatest need was a house for our women - here.
We started making plans and announced we would have a house by Wired 2020. This was super exciting for our ministry as we knew this was where the Lord had been directing us from the beginning.
However, the enemy ramped up his coordinated and relentless attacks. He worked to distract, dissuade, and destroy by manifesting his schemes in tangible ways. The closer we got to seeing the Lord’s promise fulfilled, the stronger the attacks became.
In Psalms, David cried out to the Lord, “Remember Your word to Your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” I didn’t know how deeply these words would come to resonate in my life. But through my own sufferings, God would show me.
Almost seven years after the Lord opened my eyes that day at the truck stop, and after many more women with similar stories had crossed our paths, there came to us another girl. This precious one sang so beautifully we called her ‘Songbird’ as her voice filled the room with a particular sweetness when she sang Amazing
Grace for us.
From the time the call came in, it felt different. We spent 28 hours with her walking through a beautifully coordinated effort with many agencies to meet her immediate needs and secure her safety.
She was ready, she trusted us, and she was free from her trafficker. But still, there was no place for her here.
The beauty and sweetness of the Lord is that He draws us close and reminds us of what He has spoken. He knows the ebb and flow of our days. He knows when we need rest before a season of running. He knows when to strengthen us with the sheer beauty of His presence before an attack of the enemy comes. He knows
when to reiterate His promises so we can walk through even the toughest storms without being overtaken by the waves.
Meeting her served as such a beautiful reminder - a sweet reiteration of His calling on my life and a display of His perfect love in wanting each of us to find freedom. Nothing would stop Him from prevailing.
So often, though, the enemy tries. Simultaneously, as we took her to safety, the most difficult challenge of my life was unfolding: the unexpected death of my husband, William. On the same day ‘Songbird’ found her freedom, my husband found his freedom from the cares of this life. He had entered his eternal home, and I was devastated.
Within a few short hours of her perfectly orchestrated rescue, I went from a supernatural high to an unbelievable, heartbreaking low. My husband of thirty years was now no longer by my side. I had received words spoken in prayer that did not match what I was now living through. Everything about my life shifted,
except for the Lord.
He would provide. He would sustain. He would not abandon. He would protect. He would remain true to His word...not just for her, but also for me.
There are moments throughout this journey when things did not happen the way I expected. In every one though, He asked me to trust Him despite not understanding and despite what I saw or felt in the physical.
Though the pain of loss is very real, so then is the refuge and safety of dwelling in His presence and trusting His heart for me.
In the months after, the attacks continued to come. Through every one, He asked me to trust Him.
When we had to change the name of our ministry, He asked me to trust Him.
When our efforts to purchase a house were thwarted again and again, He asked me to trust Him.
When a pandemic hit and isolated me even more, He asked me to trust Him.
When our family shop was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, He asked me to trust Him.
When there were attacks on me physically with unexpected surgeries and skin cancer diagnosis, He asked me to trust Him.
When members of our ministry team were attacked, He asked me to trust Him.
Every time the enemy attacked, He asked me to continue to trust Him.
Then, when things seemed darkest, His incredible light broke through. Despite every effort of the enemy, the Lord does what only He can do. He prevailed over darkness.
In our ministry, we have a standard to not make promises we can’t keep. This is because so many of the ones we serve have been lied to over and over. Our heart is to start the process of rebuilding trust so they can know that He is trustworthy. More than just about anything, I am adamant about this.
So as the Wired date drew near, this echoed in my heart. I had announced we would have a house by Wired 2020, and it grieved me that we did not. I wanted to fulfill our word, but I didn’t know how it would happen with just a few shorts weeks left. We had no prospects, and we would not settle for less than what He wanted for the women.
As I was having a conversation with the Wired Community Director, Morgan, I apologized for not yet fulfilling our word. She is a dear friend who had walked closely with me through this season, so she knew the toll it had taken on me physically and emotionally. She assured me it was alright. But, for me it wasn’t alright. It grieved my heart, and I replied, “No, I truly am sorry, but then again, He still has three weeks.”
Three weeks - My friends, He didn’t need three weeks! Literally, within 24 hours of our conversation, a prospective house came in, and we bought it on the spot! We had prayed for years for this moment, and we knew it was the one. The next day we signed a purchase agreement with the closing contingent on a survey to
be completed. It should have only taken a few weeks, and then we were going to be able to share with the public what He had done.
But, that wasn’t His plan. We had to wait. Again.
Lament is defined as a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. How fitting of the Lord to change our ministry name with a scripture out of Lamentations before I/ we had even walked out this part of the journey. Although hardships come, the author’s decision to follow the Lord anyway is evident in his next words:
Yet, I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself,
“The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!”
(NLT - emphasis added)
When I look back now, I know His timing is perfect. On exactly the six month anniversary of the rescue of sweet ‘Songbird’ and of my husband’s death, the Lord manifested the promise He made to me all those years ago. Dare to Hope, Inc. signed the closing documents to establish a home...our very own Hope House...HERE!
From that very first girl to those we have ministered to even this week, she will soon have a place to heal...here. She will soon have a place to be restored...here. She will soon have a place to transition from vulnerability to stability...here. She will have a place to find Him...here! And, because of the Wired grant and your generous giving over the years, we were able to purchase it debt-free! Only God!!
He told me long ago that He would provide for my every need, even before I knew that I needed it. His nature is that He not only provides, but He does so exceedingly and abundantly more than we can think or ask. He delights in lavishing us with His love and attention, and this house is no different. It is a matchless display of
His love and faithfulness, and we know that each woman who crosses its threshold will experience that matchless love in a place He set apart just for them.
Though this completes the first chapter, it is a new beginning for Dare to Hope. Just as He promised, hope has risen. Now, with a place for her here, we move expectantly into the next chapter. After renovations, we will open the doors to our Hope House and invite them to learn of His beautiful faithfulness, like He has shown us.
“Thank you” does not express enough my heart to all of you who have walked this journey with me/us over the years and for those who have joined us along the way. I thank Him for your faithfulness to pray and to give.
If you would like to sow into what God is doing here, or become a monthly partner, please visit our website at www.daretohope.net or mail you tax-deductible donation to:
Dare to Hope, Inc.
PO Box 6581
Dothan, AL 36302
We are truly grateful for your willingness to give her hope! So rejoice with us, dear friends, and send up prayers for every precious woman He will give us privilege to serve and to love! We dare to hope on her behalf until she can dare to hope in Him! All glory to God!
With deepest gratitude and love,
Gia Hughes, Founder