Author Archives: Chelan

About Chelan

I grew up in a sweet lil family of 4 and lived in the same home from age 2-21 when I transitioned from college life to married life. Enter: Ricky G. Russ, Jr. - this guy was a playa w/an ego from the day we met that fall of 1990. And oh, so cool, totally rebellious pastor's kid...but I like to think I knocked some sense into him (after I dated his brother). We fell in love & the world around us turned to a dull gray & brilliant burst of color all at once. I've been singing since '90 - in choirs, worship teams, a women's prison, & three coffee shop bands...an absolute blast. Been writing my own songs & playing around w/a shiny black acoustic martin my hubby bought for me for my b-day back in '06...& I'm gettin' to really appreciate jazz & blues. But will never abandon the art of surrender in worship music. In the fall of '07, work & God moved us to the lone star state near Austin & after a month of being sick emotionally & physically, I started getting used to my new home & life. We found a good Bible-preachin' church & hooked up with a few good musicians too. In '10, a love for family time and the need to represent the NW in my burden/passion to fight child sex slavery brought me back to Portland. I represented Stop Child Trafficking Now in the Rose City - the city we always loved, called home and desperately missed. And that chapter ended in December of 2012. My husband is pursuing his love for all things graphic and web - and actually gets paid to do what he loves. Our prayer is that we will be used wherever we live, to our fullest potential & to be selfless, positive influences for Christ until he brings us to our real home - heaven. ~ I also pray that this blog - this journal - will be an ongoing witness to His faithfulness, continually giving Him glory.

Release Freedom

Wow, it’s been quite some time since I wrote on my incurable fanatic blog… maybe even a year! This last year I’ve been keeping busy with abolitionism stuff 🙂 which really means doing a little writing for Abolition Now (.com) and a handful of consistent jobs for the Rebecca Bender Initiative as the Communications Manager, which keeps me busy volunteering part time 20-35 hours/mo.  I used to be on the Speakers Team, but decided I like the classroom and youth setting vs. other more platform-related settings that others on the Speakers Team were focusing on. I write a blog every couple of months, I love handwriting cards to donors each week, sometimes I attend fundraising campaign events and occasional trainings, design and publish (email 1200+ subscribers) the monthly RBI online Newsletter, research information about shelters across the US to help update the resource packet for us to use when we come across victims who are ready to escape the life, and I also meet with a couple survivors I know close by, who could use support and face to face encouragement. I have been doing that last one more than usual. God knows I work best as an advocate when I have one survivor I am helping intensely,  at a time.  And he faithful to provide that survivor for me to help. Right now I am walking alongside a survivor of child pornography, domestic violence, rape, attempted murder, and more, resulting in PTSD. I find it pure joy when I’m able to meet a need she has, whether it be a trauma-informed counsellor, a book, diapers, prayer, marriage advice, or a little bottle of essential oil for her anxiety attacks.  She is worthy! And I love it.

When my mind is not on my sweet family, Ricky, Braylon and Angel, I find it is till often landing on some aspect of sex trafficking or how I can use my gifts and talents and time to change the equation – change the atmosphere as far as it depends on me… not only that. But to release freedom. This has become my newest and favorite calling. Releasing freedom. I know that because of Jesus and all he has done, I have freedom. I have it now to release to

I know that because of Jesus and all he has done, I have freedom. I have it now to release to others, if they believe.  This goes for so many people who are bound to things. Bound to wrong ways of thinking. Bound to unhealthy or abusive relationships. Bound to sickness – in the body or the mind. I am determined to release freedom wherever I recognize bondage happening. It is my duty as I love Jesus and that’s all he did when he walked the earth. My greatest tool for this task is love. SO I am praying that I love so fiercely that I forget about my own selfish desires. I take care of me, but I don’t let myself get in the way. And I see people around me empathetically.

See them in a way that I can only imagine the Father sees them. Love them in a way I can imagine he would, if he were here – in my body.  Because… if you think about it, he is.

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3 Ways to Use Facebook to Help your Survivor Friend

If you have a relationship with a survivor, and I need pops up, you have a choice to make. You can pray. You can pray and see how you can help without enabling, and/or you can pray, see how you can help, and mention the specific need on Facebook, without names.

I recently tried this and honestly, I didn’t expect the response I got! I noticed not many items had been purchased yet for her baby shower the following day. So I posted this: 

I immediately started getting responses – the first of which was a phone call from a friend of mine who’d just moved to Texas, and she wanted to use their tithe funds to help out! She bought a Boppy, grooming kit and a super cute  and pretty costly bouncer. 😳

Other comments started pouring in:

“Just got breast pump & accessories kit. You’re listed as alternative pick-up person at the Sherwood location :)”

“I wish I could do more. Kind of like trying to choose Christmas gifts for kids in need- want to get it all!!”

“Thanks. They don’t have her diaper backpack at Sherwood 😔” (This friend purchased a $50 Eddie Bauer deluxe diaper backpack online and had it shipped direct!)

“Chelan, order 102825229756 is waiting for you at Sherwood. :)” (0-3 mo. baby clothes and mittens)

Then I got this text from that pregnant friend of mine who got a surprise at her door: 

At the shower, I just kept handing her various presents and she was so confused and happy. “Who are all these people you know?!”
I think that I got such a great response because the Facebook post had these three elements:

  1. It was a specific need for a specific person
  2. It incorporated team-work. I said I was willing to go pick it up at my local Target, wrap and deliver it.
  3. It was brief and to the point. People can lose interest if you go on and on about a need, even if they have a heart to help.

So that was a cool little unintended experiment that I plan to conduct again and again. And I hope you do too! The girls are worth every bit of energy, time and attention you can give them. Really, it all equals love.


Freedom Stickers ~ a Dream Coming True

In late 2012, I was given an idea I think I called the Bathroom Stall Initiative Campaign, Rest Stop Sticker Initiative. It was to create stickers to place inside bathroom stalls in women’s restrooms, in the establishments along our major Interstate, I5…establishments such as bars, restaurants, rest stops, and gas stations. 

I played around with various sticker designs, and first researched my chances of distribution at rest stops by calling Oregon Department of Transportation, then the OTE ~ the Oregon Travel Experience, who maintains all of Oregon’s rest stops. I was met with a stop sign, and I put the idea on the back burner for a while, but I made sure to tell a few influential friends about it.

Well, I am so excited to report that one of those amazing and influential friends of mine, Ms. Nita Belles, has played a major part in getting a sticker designed, and helped pass a bill through congress, into law, that says we can now distribute “Freedom Stickers” in establishments where liquor licenses are renewed, as well as other places, with owners’ permission! 

Just. Wow.

A local news station did this story on it today:

http://www.katu.com/news/local/Sticker-to-help-human-trafficking-victims-in-public-restrooms-346509102.html?mobile=y

I just think it’s so amazing that I was unable to implement an idea The Lord gave me three years ago, so I just waited, and someone else  – someone I admire and respect – was completely able to. It was just a matter of time and legislative power and I’m sure, connections. And I was invited to be a part of the action.

I cannot wait until Monday when I go with my survivor friend, to the Freedom Sticker Release event at the Salem Capitol, to hand those freedom stickers out!!!

Praising My God AGAIN for his faithfulness in my life and for using just the right people at just the right time to bring about his will for freedom on this earth. 😄

   
   

A screenshot of an email from January 2013, when I was telling a friend about the idea:  


SCTNow – a Retrospective on the Good, the Bad and the Eternal

I believe it was 2011, Stop Child Trafficking Now’s 3rd annual, and my 2nd walk-year, when their Kansas City ambassador was asked by a survivor there, for a fairly significant amount of the event’s donations that would come in from walkers and donors, so that she could use it for her local anti-trafficking shelter. It was about 5,000. She was told that there was actually a certain process that other non-profits must go through in order to direct funding from the walk to their npo of choice and that meant applying to become a partner with SCTNow first. Then once an approved partner, they could be on the list of npo partners for all donors to choose from when they donate online – i.e.: anyone could check the box to designate 10% of their donation to go toward her shelter, or a different partner’s program.
It was clear she did not like that answer, and started asking where all of the walk funds actually go. Legit and very good question! The issue with that was, SCTNow was started as an arm of ministry under a different non-profit. Its Founders, Ron and Lynette Lewis, were/are Pastors of a large church in New York, and they thought they should start the anti-trafficking movement under that church “umbrella” like many ministries start. But the movement took off faster and expanded further than they initially expected. Word got out about this “new” exciting cause and the organization’s unique approach (decreasing demand), and 20-30 city ambassadors were soon organizing walks and other events across the nation. The funds started pouring in, for SCTNow’s operations and investigations of suspected traffickers and suspicious establishments. Each ambassador had a charge to try and raise $25,000 per walk. I think my first year we raised $33k, my 2nd year, we raised just over $25 and the 3rd around $13k.

As far as the transparency of “990’s”, SCTNow had them all up and avail. online on GuideStar.org, but if anyone was to see it, it was misguiding. What they’d actually be seeing was the funds that came in under the umbrella of that church’s outreach ministries -which SCTNow was originally a part of.

That woman was convinced SCTNow had something to hide and she wanted to get to the bottom of it. So an investigation was conducted by local (KC) news reporters and aired on their segment, “Problem Solvers”. It had one objective – to get as much dirt on SCTNow as possible. Expose their deeds of dark intentions.

There were days in 2013 – the year I heard about it all, when I really wondered if SCTNow was hiding anything from their donors and even their ambassadors. Mostly because after many requests, I couldn’t get a reply with a break-down of funds and how they were allocated. Turns out, I didn’t get it probably because it didn’t exist. All the funds received were, for far too long, put in the “Strategic Global Initiatives” nonprofit – that originally the church used for many different outreaches and ministries. To make matters more intense, there were two interviews that hit KC news stations  – one where SCTnow’s Walk Campaign Director completely failed. She was at a walk, and she didn’t know how to answer the interviewer. Her unpreparedness made her look stupid and much worse, made SCTNow look guilty. As you know, news station interviews have links and can be spread all over the nation quickly.  With that, the reputation of a wonderful organization with God-fearing Founders was obliterated with an unprepared interviewee and the help of social media. Of course the way they set up the organization in the first place, by not waiting it out to get their own individual 501c3 status was a crucial element that affected their reputation.

The operations (the work SCTNow hired retired Navy Seals and other professional agents to conduct) – were legitimate and expensive. To pay them a decent pay to travel to areas with suspected trafficking going on, to work with that area’s law enforcement, collect data over time and document it detail for detail in a program, in order to hand over to law enforcement for them to use in solid case building… It was spendy, and took time. But it was ethical, difficult work that was worth the time and funds raised.

The President of these Operations, Clark Stuart, was full of integrity, as was everyone I knew in SCTNow. He was targeted in a different interview by KC investigative media as well, and did not know how to answer some questions either, because they were asking him direct questions about SCTNow. The problem was,  he and his team were simply hired by SCTNow. He was actually with a for-profit company called “Global Trident”, which SCTNow used to conduct these operations. So he shouldn’t have been the one to ask about funds. Since they thought he worked for SCTNow, which I learned was because SCTNow actually had him listed as Director for a time, on their website, when he said he did use funds that were raised in SCTNow walks, they thought of it as a conflict of interest (of course) and basically accused him personally, of embezzlement. But what he was admitting to, was what he was subcontracted/hired to do by SCTNow as their mission. It was legitimate. But it was confusing. What SCTNow should have done was NOT list him as Director, but as he was – President of Global Trident – the 3rd party organization SCTNow used to carry out their mission.

This whole thing was a huge spiritual battle that lasted a long time…1.5-2 years, I’d guess. Even when the Founders stepped down and they got a new Director, she asked for a large salary that SCTNow simply had no way to provide. Next thing I knew, she was gone too, and the reigns were handed over to a Pastor and Author from Chesapeake, VA, named Eric Watt. He quickly changed his title from President/CEO to Chief Volunteer Officer and changed the SCTNow name to Empower, and now it has been changed to HMNTRFK (http://endhumantrafficking.com/)

Strategic Global Initiatives did finally separate into two entities, and SCTNow got its own 501c3 status. But that was in 2012. It was too late, and their reputation was already past hope for recovery.

What was not made clear and should have been, was that all of the walk funds that came in except for about 10% for admin costs, DID go toward operations to decrease demand / help find, track and gather data on predators and traffickers. I know this first hand, as I got to know one of the agents they hired, and traveled to the State Capitol to speak with a Representative of Congress with him about all the work he was doing for SCTNow. I even saw the intricate mapping program on his computer, that he used in his operations. He was passionate.

Well, if SCTNow was investigated for fraud, misuse of funds, or embezzlement…what was the result?

The news station investigation out of KC was inconclusive, and then the Department of Justice conducted an investigation of SCTNow and Clark Stuart with a fine-toothed comb. They concluded there was no embezzlement. In fact, they could not find anything unlawful about how SCTNow conducted their organization.

At the conclusion of their investigation, there was no evidence of mishandling funds, so there were no charges against SCTNow, Global Trident, any of their agents or representatives. No arrests, guilty verdicts or convictions. Just a reputation that was ruined so badly that there was no other option but to dissolve SCTNow, which happened in January of 2013. It was so unfortunate. They made many mistakes that cost them everything. But I still believe, those leaders loved God and had integrity.

~~~~~

I can look back at my time spent fighting for justice as their Portland ambassador, and be proud. Not hurt. I was never angry or upset. Even with how it ended, I am still proud to say I was a part of SCTNow and all they accomplished in those few years we raised awareness across America. Thousands of people learned about sex trafficking for the first time. Many were inspired to then do other various things to promote justice and freedom in their cities. One specifically, was my co-laborer and amazing friend the Tulsa ambassador, Ms. Kristin Weis. She and her husband Jason began their own npo, The Demand Project, after SCTnow dissolved.  They are doing incredible work alongside law enforcement in OK now, providing direct services to many victims and survivors and literally catching predators and online buyers. SCTNow was their launching pad for the positions they now hold, just as it was for me.

I worked for SCTNow for 5 to 6 months each year of ’10, ’11 & ’12, for no pay. About half of those months averaged full-time hours.  My fellow ambassadors and I sacrificed a lot to make an impact in our communities because the Lord called us to do just that, with that organization, for that time. I had no doubt. He blessed so many of us during those years and He made some lifelong connections in our lives with other freedom-fighters. I give Him all the glory!

Some may think of scandal, embezzlement (or possibly poor fund-management at best), when they think of SCTNow. But I think of communities coming together, I think of us as pioneers of an American awareness movement, I think of hard work that all paid off on incredibly rewarding Walk days, and I think of how God uses anyone he chooses, who will say YES to Him. We ambassadors were some of His agents of change and hope during those years. It was really humbling as I had absolutely no experience organizing a large event in my life. And it was jaw-dropping to see all He did through us – how quickly he did it, and the impact of it…most of which I’m convinced I won’t see until I’m standing at the Bema seat, in heaven. And that’s totally ok.

Three years later, I guess I had some re-processing, remembering, crying and realizing to do. Maybe I’d stopped short in the midst of the scandal, and just wanted desperately to move on to where I felt God was calling me to next: prevention via education of youth.

I had to remind myself today, of all the good that came from that journey my family and I went on. Because Satan does try to whisper lies. I don’t think of it much actually, but there have been times when he’s tried to get me to focus on the negative, the lack, the visible outcomes, and if anything, get me to believe it was all for nothing. Or that I should have known better, left sooner, picked wiser.

But I choose to fix my eyes on:

what is unseen. On all that I learned. On my deepened relationships – how I now know how to set boundaries with my workload and passion in order to honor my family first. And on how God revealed his love and grace to so many who were involved. It was my SCTNow huge decals all over my car that caught the attention of a survivor living in my neighborhood in 2010 which led to her writing out her story for me, and shoving it under my windshield wiper. She was living with a customer at that point, twice her age, and she had a 3 year old son from another man. We met the next day, and I’ve been supporting and mentoring her ever since. I’ve been watching her learn who she was created to be.  She loves God and has grown so, so much, especially in the last 2 years. She’s overcome PTSD, Depression, suicidal thoughts, self-sabotaging tendencies, and more. She’s now starting a family with a man who treats her with respect and has stayed faithful by her side for a long time. She has a ways to go, but I recently honored her in a post Monday and this was her comment:

i love you. Like so so much!! You have literally seen it all!! Youve seen some of my most low points and victories. One thing ive learned along the way is no matter which it is, you are ALWAYS there! Its been such a great journey and experiencing a solid, legit friendship has been a-mazing!! Thank you, for always being there and directing me back to whats real and truth. I appreciate you so incredibly much sister!!

This is so incredible to me. I don’t add it in here to get props or a pat on the back. I add it because it is a very tangible example of one thing the Lord has done through my work with SCTNow. He used it to connect me to her and cultivate her identity in Christ and show her what a friend should look like.

Questions to Ask When You’re Looking for a Great Anti-trafficking Organization to Join:

I took a hold of some rich lessons and I can now caution others, when they are looking for an organization to get involved in. Here’s what I came up with today:

  • Ask God for direction.
  • Research how long it’s been in existence. If 1-3 years, it may fizzle out against the competition or make too many rookie org. mistakes. Ask what they’ve accomplished thus far and ask about some lessons they’ve already learned.
  • Ask if there’s a healed survivor on the board or giving consistent input.
  • Research how much money they raise annually, and the percentage of funds that go to administration. If it’s over 10%, Ask why? It may be a legit reason to you.  If it’s 20-30% that goes to admin costs, I would move on.
  • Ask if they have partners. If so, who are they? Go to their websites. Do you agree with the partners’ mission statements as well? You should, because they may be receiving some of your donation. Does the org. work with local law enforcement? If so, call a few of each of them (partner reps and law enf. agents) to ask for a reference about the org.
  • Look up the leaders & board members. Ask yourself if they are reputable. Look into their former efforts in social justice, human rights, etc. & look them up on their social media profiles. See if you have any mutual friends you trust, and if so, ask them what they think.
  • Ask the Director for a breakdown of raised funds for the last couple years, or even the last year. If it takes uncomfortably too long or they don’t reply after many attempts, don’t invest yourself in the org. Move on to one that can answer you in a reasonable time-frame or has specific breakdown of funds received, available on their website.

That’s the good, the bad and the eternal – that I took away from my experience as an ambassador with SCTNow. I trust it will help others out there!


The A21 Portland Walk for Freedom 2015

   

The tape over the mouth, to me, symbolized how million of currently enslaved victims feel. They may not have tape on their mouths, but they feel too  fearful to speak up or speak against their abuser. And so they remain silent. So many are bound by chains of the mind or threats that are very real. We walked to in a way, speak on behalf of those silent ones in a life of slavery.

  

  

 
   
  
 
 

Today’s Walk – was walked in honor of 3 of my local survivor friends…  
   


The Lantern Walk ’15

What an amazing evening of light, information, inspiration and activities at the Rock Creek Country Club! It was a full day, as I’d worked the first half (care giving for my client, Vern), but after I arrived so much was already prepped for the evening’s event. When I was gabbing with a fellow volunteer, a Compassion First friend approached me asking if I could pick up a girl from a transit center so she could attend for the night. She was a suspected victim or survivor of either sex trafficking or domestic violence. So I jumped on the opportunity. “S” was very shy, beautiful and reserved…and seemed to keep asking people how CF rescues girls. I’ve yet to hear how the evening went with her but I know she got connected to some of the best people in the biz like Darlene Of “Abolition Now” who I believe, drove her home that night.

I got to rock climb, walk the lit pathway through the golf course alongside another amazing survivor I love (while our kids connected ahead of us), and tear down the chairs for a while until alas, my poor nearly 40-year old body gave out. 

  • There were about 250 attendees
  • Amnt of funds raised: over $18,200 (net)
  • Close to 30 people from Horizon Community came as a direct result of promotional efforts like a lobby table, a video announcement they made me do, and of course, word of mouth.

I’m so proud of my church and proud of all who made The Lantern Walk a success with only a few glitches here and there. A special shout out goes to Julie Gholston, Horizon’s Community Care Director. Amazing.

It was a phenomenal effort and over all, a great event that raised both awareness and funds for Compassion First’s mission to provide safe shelter for Portland area survivors, right downtown.

I’m on board for next year, already.

  


A New Endeavor Awaits

This last year I’ve been content. I’ve been doing things here and there – what I can do without carving too deep into family time. 

  • I’ve been representing human trafficking on my church’s Community Care Task Force (1 of 5 focus areas we engage in), 
  • giving what I call “text support” each week, and each month mailing handwritten cards and praying for the handful of beautiful survivors I know (along with my friend Samanatha – part of our “Break Free” evening of prayer for sex trafficking at Well & Good Coffee House), 
  • attending fund raisers (like the Christmas wrapping party for A Village for One, The Lantern Walk and the Banquet for Compassion First), and awareness events (like, the Women’s Mission Fair for Horizon Community, and documentary showing of “In Plain Sight”)
  • lobbying for the passing of important bills
  • keeping up on occasional trainings on writing articles and other ways to engage the fight, via Abolition Now
  • pursuing and executing 2015 winter I5exit ~ our family’s annual awareness event (holding up signs along I5 and driving website traffic to http://www.I5exit.com along with recruited volunteers). That’s been cool, especially when the local news comes by for an interview, features it in a story and the web traffic skyrockets as a result! But it’s one day a year.

I was made for more.

I’ve been content, but also…not. Discontent in a natural, happy, waiting for His timing kind of way. It’s been low-key like this – in the ways of awareness and advocacy – since I stepped down from Stop Child Trafficking Now, December of 2012. It went from all the work associated with organizing annual 5k’s and annual documentary showings all with zero budgets in 2010, 2011 and 2012 to attending the occasional training, prayer meeting, film or banquet. In ’13, I was trained in AWARE’s “Deceptions” curriculum, awarded a certificate of classroom readiness to present it in middle and high schools, and in ’14, I was trained in “Mending the Soul” to deepen my understanding of trauma and abuse. But I haven’t quite been able to utilize either, really, since. Mostly because AWARE merged with NW Family Services and was not able to give me any word on opportunities/interest in Oregon schools.

I’ve wondered if I’d ever feel that powerfully electric, emotional feeling again, that I felt on my way home from presenting “Deceptions” to high schoolers in Vancouver during my January 2013 training presentation. I cried, driving home on I-205 that day, tears of fulfillment.

But things can change pretty quick. A few weeks ago, I received a message from a friend who owns a non-profit…a God-loving woman who’s had my respect for many years, and it seems as though He in his goodness and perfect timing, put me on her heart to collaborate. Teach. Train others. Present. Travel around Oregon. Bring hope and empowering resources to those on the front lines. To join her small team of difference-makers. I could hardly believe it, and at the same time believed it entirely!

This will change everything. It’s already begun to  reignite in me my purpose in this pursuit of justice and freedom and healing, as well as the pursuit of the preservation of childhood, purity and innocence. 

Pray for me? I will be accessing God’s guidance, humility, protection, boldness and wisdom and letting it all loose in this new endeavor. Your prayers for me will be a catalyst for God to bring it all about for His glory! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

More details in the next month. 

Til then, keep speaking up for the voiceless, standing in the gap for the defenseless, sticking up for the vulnerable and shining bright your light in every dark place you come to.