I could see them so clearly.
Figures of beautiful, dark skinned bodies, walked up and down white, sandy beaches, their brightly colored clothing nearly masked the emptiness, which so loudly exuded from their countenance. These images waltzed in and our of my dream, but I knew.
These were Haitian women working as prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.
I began to have these types of dreams frequently. It was if the women were visiting me in my subconscious state, desperately pleading for help.
Where would I even begin?
March 2015, my heart was heavy.
My knowledge of young Haitian women trapped in lives of prostitution in the Dominican Republic only grew.
Young women seeking opportunity. Opportunity to escape poverty, abuse, or to simply find hope to offer to their families back home. Leaving everything they knew expecting to enter a land of promise, only to be greeted by the harsh realities of a culture who often times treats dogs better than their darker skinned, French-influenced neighbors.
Just when I gave up on trying to find an answer, it came in the form of a Facebook message.
A young woman, not much older than I, sent a most peculiar message. She introduced herself as a Canadian journalist, who had just spent several months doing intensive research in the Dominican Republic. The purpose of her exposé was to shed light on the innumerable amount of cases of prostitution amongst minors, and most astonishingly, an overwhelming majority of them being illegal, Haitian immigrants. She explained she had received my contact from two American missionaries working in the DR, who had told them about Jasper House and I, and wanted to know if there was anyway I could help.
There were five women in particular she had grown fond of. She had spent extended amounts of time with each of them, and wanted to believe there stories would be ones which ended in hope, rather than what statistics showed. Ranging in ages 14-34, each of their stories more heartbreaking than the next, but all beginning to put identities behind the faces who came to me in my dreams - pleading for a way out.
Her message concluded with a fervent plea expressing her determination to find a way for each of these women to regain their sense of self and control of their lives. She had made promises to help them find a way out, and she would not leave them with false hope. At this point, Jasper House was in the most infancy of stages, and in no position to be receiving any type of residents, but I knew - this was the first piece in understanding the messages of my dream, and I was going to find a way to get these women out.
Two months later I took a trip to the Dominican Republic to meet the girls face to face. I'm not sure what I expected, but meeting four out of five of them only further confirmed what I already knew. These girls were coming home, it was only a matter of time.
Six months later...
The music blared overheard, seeming to come from a tape recording that was twenty years old. Scratchy and set to a volume louder than anyone could stand, I sat pinned against the window as three other full grown adults shared one row with my over agitated self.
Tomorrow will make this discomfort all worth it.
The day was finally here. Two of the five women were ready. Jasper House was open, and prepared to give them a new, safe place to call home.
In the morning I would be meeting the girls at the border and starting their journey of transitioning back to a land they had once left, but this time, returning with a small glimmer of hope that this time, things would be different.
My alarm went off at 6:00a.m., and I was immediately awake. My heart burned with excitement and twinge of anxiety, unable to fully process the reality of what the day would bring. It wasn't fully real until about four hours later when they stepped out of the van, their chariot of deliverance.
With suitcases in hand and new dresses adorned, they were ready. We embraced the sweetest embraced and said goodbye to the dear companions who courageously brought them out of the bowels of darkness and into the light. Without any hesitation, they hopped into the moto cart, which would triumphantly lead them across the border, signifying their victory over the misery that once haunted them.
My heart leapt in my chest as we arrived back on Haitian soil. The first hurdle had been cleared, now it was time to return to the town where the nightmares began.
Cap-Haïtien was the original Capital of Haiti. Formerly known as Cap-Français, it became Cap-Haïtien once the Haitians had won their independence from France. Columbus' ship, the Santa Maria, sank just off it's cost, and it was the location which earned Haiti it's reference of, the "Pearl of the Antilles."
Remnants of the beauty that once was can be seen throughout the town. French-inspired architecture stands as proof of the vibrant culture and bourgeoise-influence of the former Capital. Yet, poverty has taken it's toll, polluting the canals with garbage, and filling the alleys with sewage.
My pulse raced as we arrived. I wasn't sure what to expect.
As we walked through backstreets and alley ways, images of what their childhoods must have been like flashed before my eyes.
Little girls with bright eyes, beautiful smiles, tattered dresses and bare feet, giggled and followed close behind us, enamored with the fact that a tall, "blan," was in their neck of the woods.
Each moment it became more clear. Life here was all about survival. It was what led each of my women into their situations. Their lives had been products of extreme poverty and loss, and they did all they knew to do.
Men sat on the narrow corners, eying the young girls who passed by. Many of them using their dominance to offer a way "out", but it all being an illusion masking perverted motives.
Mountain after mountain had been placed in the path of the women now in my life. Mountains, which all needed miracles to overcome, and here it was. Their answer. They didn't have to survive anymore. They could live and thrive and leave behind all the horrors of the past.
The next morning we boarded a plane from Cap Haïtien to Port-Au-Prince. I took a few steps back and watched as they walked toward the aircraft and reveled in the beauty of the moment I was watching unfold.
Trial after trial.
Mountain after mountain.
Tragedy after tragedy.
And yet, here was their miracle.
They were not forgotten.
They were not abandoned.
They were not without worth or value.
They were rescued.
They were FREE.
I'm still not sure what I have done in my life to merit the privilege of being a part of these precious women's lives and the testimony of their restoration. And that's the most beautiful part of it all, none of us have done anything to deserve the grace, love, freedom and salvation that is freely given to us.
We are broken people called to broken people.
We are commanded to use our messy lives to paint a beautiful mosaic of what happens when forgiveness, healing, and restoration occurs.
There are mountains all around, and sometimes, we are the miracles called to overcome them.
If you would like to help support the efforts of Jasper House Haiti, and partner with us so more women may find the opportunity to leave lives of prostitution and abuse, please click the link below.