Hawaii is a place that draws people all over the world for its attractions and Natural Beauty! Vacationing here is many peoples ultimate dream and some have the unique privilege of getting stationed here with one of the four branches of the United States Military. Hawaii is also comprised of many cultures that have immigrated here many years ago in search of work in cane and plantation fields. Not many places in the world have this type of dynamic. A dynamic like this is great for the economy, however, with Sex Trafficking rates on the rise these factors all play a role in Hawaii having an average of 100 High indications of victims of Human Trafficking each year.
One of the many reasons I love Hawaii is the love and passion for restoring and fighting to keep the culture and customs alive and thriving on the Islands. The spirit of Aloha runs deep in the people who believe in this movement, and that is a power. There are organizations that are up in arms fighting against social injustices that exist on Oahu, and Islands of Hope is one of those amazing Organizations.
When I met with the Vickie Lemasters the President of Islands of Hope Dream Center, I was met with the most genuinely sweet woman I have probably ever met. Her heart for the girls that she serves and the movement that she feels called to is contagious. Islands of Hope started in late 2010 and became an official non profit organization in 2014.
At the end of the same month they became a non-profit organization they received their first young girl who had been a victim of human trafficking. By 2015 they had already gotten 8 young women off the streets and into a secure and safe place to rehabilitate. Vickie Disclosed to me her inspiration for Islands of Hope and naturally, it hit home with me. Where did the inspiration for Islands of hope come from, I asked,
“It started when I attended a women’s connection study group on Lisa Bevere’s book Lioness Arising. In a study video Bevere mentions, “150 million women are missing off the globe right now.” Those words sent a chill through me. I was in shock. How could so many people be missing? As we continued to study, I slowly began to understand that she was talking about young girls and women missing from human trafficking, in particular for sex. I had been very aware of prostitution as a young child, but I had no idea thins were this bad. I began to seek out more information on the state of sex trafficking in the world. In finding the truth about how many young girls are taken and forced onto the street, I realized I had, like too many other, wrongly believed that these young women chose this way of life.
Once I understood what was happening to these young women, I could not get it out of my head. I realized that God had placed this on my heart and that I needed to do something. And so, I did all I could to form an organization that could actively help change this situation.
That is how Islands of Hope was born.”
Wow. Lisa Bevere has done it yet again; Inspired a powerful movement, and awoke a strong woman to see need and to work hard to fill it, with help from none other than God himself.
Vickie is a woman that clearly has been deeply inspired and moved. To do the work she does day in and day out had to take something in her to be the heart and soul of this organization. Her answer to who inspired her to create this organization (Besides Lisa Bevere) brought me to tears.
“I have an unconventional answer to this. So often, when dealing with the abused, we as organizers and helpers look to people of privilege who extend their hand to the hurting. And, while I value this perspective, I find myself incredibly inspired by the women who have been victimized.
These women blaze their own trail of progress. They must rise to each new day, despite the forced ruin of their lives. They fight battles with those who want to control them, but also the fight with their own desires for a good life. They constantly struggle against fear, worry, self-deception, and anger. They have every right to trust no one. And yet, in all this, they smile. They work. They extend their arms in love. They meet with us who strive to help, and they open their hearts. They ask for help.
I think in seeing and appreciating the effort these women put in to fighting for themselves, we can help them find and gain strength. We can help them laugh. We can help them find a good life without the pain and damage of abuse. And until we acknowledge and honor the work each woman must do in fighting her own battle, we will miss the greater truth: that God fights for these women’s lives. We are but the hands, the feet, the lips, and the heart. We are the ones who reach out to bring God’s love to empower and restore hope back into the lives of the broken. And in this, we are like Christ.”
This inspires me, to center back on what we as believers are called here to do. And that is to bring Heaven here to Earth. To Love deeply and to bring hope to all. We are just like Vickie so perfectly stated, “The hands, the feet, the lips, and heart” of the Body of Christ.
She went even deeper and disclosed some life changing experiences that she had in ministering to, and caring for these hurting girls.
“Each young women has a very special place in my heart and brings something different to my life. However, there was one young woman in particular who touched me in so many ways. I will call her (Abby) to protect her identity.
When (Abby) first came to us I did not realize until after a couple of days that she had multiple personalities. I had witnessed 5 of them.
(Abby) loved going to church and could not wait until the next time to go. She would quote bible verses constantly, memorizing a verse like it was nothing. She would sing gospel songs to us, and her voice was amazing. She also wrote some of her own songs. She had a smile that would light up any room and made me laugh constantly. Seeing her so broken from all that she had been through and yet watching her still be able to sing and smile through her pain made me see that there is hope for each of these young women that come into our home. Her hope in life has helped me become a stronger person. (Abby) gives me more passion to help these young women. She gives me so much joy.”
Her motivation is that of a faithful servant, and I think that you too will get to tangibly FEEL the genuine heart of Vickie. She expressed that,
“It is the simplest pleasure, and yet I feel so rich to receive it. I love knowing I can help even one Young women who is trapped in a situation they did not choose. I love seeing the difference a chance to start again can make in the lives of the young women that come through IoHDC. Seeing the healing that can happen when a hurting women starts to laugh again.”
Vickie is certainly a woman with visions of the future for this organization. She listed out for me the goals that she held for the future.
“My vision is of a world without sexual slavery. I think: wouldn’t it be wonderful if 10 years, we didn’t need IoHDC because we had abolished sex trafficking.
I know this is unrealistic. And so, in order to continue toward that ultimate goal, I envision IoHDC on a hour security, a garden where women can learn to grow, ongoing life-skills classes, recovery programs, physical and spiritual needs meet, and a café/bookstore/shop where the women can become educated and learn skills needed to go out into the community.
I also envision a similar campus on every Hawaiian island and one in the countryside of Missouri one day.”
I pray that all these dreams of Vickie’s are prophetic and will come to pass. I believe that every bit of Vickie’s heart and those who help her are invested so deeply, that their love will undoubtedly effect change, it already has.
Isaiah 58:10-11 “Feed the Hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.”
Even the difficult realities of the work that Vickie does motivates her even more to carry on day by day in the fight to empower and love on these girls. The hardest thing for her in serving these girls,
“Is to see them run away. To see these women have the choice of a better life, and yet instead turn away and return to a life of lies and deceit. This is the life they know. The one they have been brainwashed into living, and it breaks my heart to see the power of violence and deception work so strongly in their lives. I can’t even imagine how powerless and terrified they must feel when they run.”
This heart ache Vickie backs with her favorite scripture, which keeps her centered on the Ministry that God has called her to.
“Proverbs 31: 10-25
I love how proverbs talks about the strength of women. It is too often this world sees women as weak or merely pretty things. Yet, in this verse, we see that the women is powerful, strong, and laughing in the face of adversity. She is invaluable because of her vitality and being. She is not just strong, but she is clothed in dignity and has no fear. The future is her’s
The woman in Proverbs 31: 10-25 is not to be trifled with. She stands before her world, full of the fire of God, and she know that no evil can stand in her way. And yet, she also speaks with wisdom and kindness. She is fierce, but full of love – not power and dominion. She does not squash the towers of man because she does not need to. Instead, she holds those who are weak up above the storm.
This is how I myself and each young woman that comes through the door of IoHDC: Worthy and full of the Strength of God. We will not be bowed down by the evil of men and the sinful world. We will not stop. We will protect every precious heart. We are lovers, beautiful and full, and we are warriors who will not rest until we see a healed world.”
I pray that you are inspired by Vickie’s story and those that she shared of her experiences in working with these young women. I pray that your feet will no longer be able to be stagnant any longer, that you won’t be able to look past these girls in need of help anymore. Please reach out to your local organizations fighting against Sex Trafficking or donate to www.islandsofhope.org. Every hour, cent and effort to advocate for and create awareness on this social injustice matters.
Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
“I was born into a very broken family. My mother was my Dad’s third marriage, and my mother was not well. She suffered from scars of a sexually abused childhood. Yet, as many women do, she hid these scars well at first. My dad, unprepared for this situation, did not know what to do when my mother’s world fell apart. She became depressed shortly after I was born, and sought healing in the wrong places. Alcohol and parties. When I was three and a half, my dad had had enough. In the heat of the moment, my dad took me away from the only mother I knew. He did what he thought at the time was the right thing to do.
My dad, a shipping & receiving manager at the time, then raised me single-handed. This led to a very hard life. We moved around all the time. There was no stability in my world, but for the figure of my dad. I spent nights in cars, motels, and shared houses with other people I didn’t know. My dad was gone often either at work or on dates with women I didn’t always know.
When I was six, this chaos ended. My dad remarried a women who was also very scarred from a difficult past. My new step-mother and I did not get along, and my stepmother often treated me like a hindrance to her otherwise happy marriage.
Throughout my childhood and early adulthood, my dad continued to keep my birth-mother away from me. As such, I was raised alone. I technically had two different sets of siblings from different families, but these I was taken away from when my dad left these women. In the mix of confusion, others saw my vulnerability and took advantage in my dad’s regular absence. I was a victim of sexual abuse up until I left for High school.
Entering high school, I was given the chance to get away from my difficult life for a brief time. I went away to a Christian boarding school where I met new people, sheltered from my family situation. I was able to spend time growing into a relationship with Jesus. I found acceptance in Jesus, and I knew this was the kind of love I needed. I pursued with relationship through prayer. It was my one haven, my safe place. Jesus was the calm in my storm.
And yet, my past weighed heavy and dark on my heart. My father’s multiple past wives, ongoing new relationships, and unhealthy habits of pornography and strip clubs led me to be painfully aware of the concept of prostitution. Yet, whenever I would ask adults in my life, it was drilled into me that these women chose that life. I did not believe the adults in my life, having learned through the abuse of their power over me that adults could be wrong. I longed to know the truth.
One thing that helped me struggle on was the Christ-like love of my grandmother. I believe it was her non-stop prayers for me that got me pulled through my childhood safely. I spent summers with her and these summers were, again, a safe place for me. When I was at home or school, I thought of her often. She was my light on the hill. Jesus in the flesh. It was thanks to her that I was able, as an adult, to admit and face the past that I had wished long and hard would disappear. When I tell my story now, it is my grandmother’s hand I hold. A pillar of God.
In late 2007, I came to live on the island of Oahu in 2010 I found a strong community of Christians who gave me opportunity to become involved in a small women’s study group. That study group opened my eyes to the concept of being an empowered woman of God. With this realization, that I could stand up and face the past, I rose up and asked the biggest question of my life:
What I found in asking that question was one of the ugliest parts of humanity. I learned about the efficiency with which the powerful and rich snare, trap, and enslave the weak for their pleasure. And in finding that reality, I was able to look inward and realize not only was it true – but I knew exactly how it felt. That realization broke my heart, as I imagine God’s heart must break for those who suffer. In knowing I could be strong with Christ standing at my side, I decided to jump in. I began forming the idea of Islands of Hope Dream Center without any experience or assurance from the world that it would work. And yet, here we are. Islands of Hope Dream Center is only the beginning. “
Mark 12:31 “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Have Grit Sweet Ones,