Dave, running for a reason on October 12

In four weeks, on October 12, my husband, Dave, will run the Chicago Marathon as a Run for a Reason participant.

His reason? To raise funds for a Refuge for Women safe house to be opened in the western suburbs.

What’s that? Refuge for Women, based in Kentucky, is an after-care home for women rescued from the sex trade industry, and it works with New Name, a ministry right here in the western suburbs that reaches out to women—right here in the western suburbs—who are trapped in the sex trade. New Name sends teams of women into strip clubs, massage parlors, and adult bars to form relationships with the women working or trapped in them; it also has a call center that contacts women—and even pimps—and offers to pray for them; and it bathes everything in prayer with both weekly meetings and teams that pray during the visitation and call center hours.

How did Dave find out about Refuge for Women? This is a long story that actually starts with me. I could skip it and cut to the chase, but I am always amazed at how God interweaves our stories and connects us with others, and then we can look back and see His hand in all of it.

So I’m telling the long version.

Two years ago Moody Radio kept running a promo bit on The White Umbrella, a book about the booming sex trade industry in Atlanta, Georgia, and an after-care home there named Wellspring Living. I read the book and thought, “I have to do something, but what?” Everything in the book was focused on the problem in Atlanta, but when I researched the issue in Chicago, I found it was alive and rampant here as well. I contacted the publisher (Moody) and said, “What do I do?” An editor at Moody invited me to a symposium Moody was hosting on this topic, and I listened to the leader of the Salvation Army’s Promise program (Partnership to Rescue Our Minors from Sexual Exploitation) as he shared how bad the issue is in Chicago and what Promise is doing about it.

I still felt helpless, but one of the messages I kept hearing at the symposium was that people needed to spread the word about this issue. I could blog on it, I thought.

So I did, enough that, a year later, when I joined the Redbud Writers Guild and met with Terri Kraus, one of its leaders, we talked about the topic of human trafficking as something I often wrote on.

“Well,” said Terri, “did you know that I’m one of the co-founders of the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition?”

I didn’t know such a thing even existed, but I began going to meetings and getting involved in a small way, and through the WCATC, I found out about New Name and got connected with Anne, its director.

When Dave wanted someone to speak to his Culture and Theology class last spring about sex trafficking in this area, I contacted Anne, and she agreed to come in.

She blew away any misconceptions the students may have had about women choosing to stay in the lifestyle of prostitution. “Almost all of these girls have horrific backgrounds,” she said, “with the kinds of sexual/physical/emotional abuse that makes you wonder how anyone even thought of it—really evil and horrific.”

One girl, Darcy*, was raped and then trafficked by her own mother. Another girl’s mother is a drug addict who began selling her daughter when she was young to pay for her drugs. Now the girl is trapped in the lifestyle. She doesn’t know any other.

New Name has connections with the Chicago FBI and calls the Bureau when a girl wants to leave the industry or simply is frightened. But the FBI doesn’t provide places for the girls following their rescue, so New Name partnered with Refuge for Women in Kentucky. Four girls rescued by New Name, including Darcy, have now gone to Refuge for Women and been involved in its 12-month, 24/7 program where sobriety, healing from trauma, rebuilding trust, and developing a relationship with Jesus are all essential elements.

Not long after Anne spoke in Dave’s class, I learned that Refuge for Women was raising funds for an after-care home here in the western suburbs, and then I learned it was part of the Run for a Reason program at the Chicago Marathon. When I told Dave, he signed up to be a Refuge runner.

So, my part was to do all the connecting.

Dave’s part is to run 26.2 miles (I like my part better).

Do you want to have a part?

Would you be willing to join us in this effort to bring healing to women?

First, please pray, for the ministries of New Name and Refuge for Women, for the fundraising for a local after-care home, and for Dave as he trains and runs the marathon on October 12.

Second, if you feel led to give to a Refuge for Women safe house in this area, you can do so in a couple of ways:

  1. You can donate online at refugeforwomen.org. Click on the “take action” button at the top of the home page and then choose “Donate-Chicago” at the bottom of the page that opens. When you review your donation, type “I am donating this in support of Team Refuge runner Dave Underwood” in the “add special instructions to the seller” box.
  1. You can write a check and send it to the address below. Please write “Dave Underwood” on the memo line of the check so they can keep track of his fundraising amount.

Refuge for Women

Attn: Run for a Reason

342 Waller Ave, Ste D

Lexington, KY 40504

Thanks so much for reading this. If you have any questions, please feel to leave a comment, and I’ll respond. I’ve also put lots of links in the post, so be sure to follow them to find out more about these ministries.


*I think Anne was already using a pseudonym, but I’m changing it again just to be completely safe.


The REAL battle this weekend

NOTE: The topic and the links I’m sharing are not comfortable.

A year and a half ago I wrote an article (it’s on page four of the link) about two American women who provide dignified employment for at-risk women in Bangladesh, a country known for its sex slave industry. At the same time my husband, Dave, was teaching a new class at Wheaton Academy titled Culture and Theology. One of the units in the class was modern-day slavery, so we were both researching the issue and how it impacts every single country, including the U.S., where we live. I read a book titled The White Umbrella about the sex slave trade in the U.S. and about one specific ministry in the Atlanta, Georgia-area that reaches out to girls rescued from it. Dave discovered ministries like End It Movement and Love 146, which fight against human trafficking. At some point in our research, Dave discovered that the Super Bowl creates a huge market for trafficking.

That’s the reason for this particular post at this particular time.

“In 2010, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children reported that 10,000 women were sold for sex at the Miami Super Bowl.” That quote is from an article published today that calls the Super Bowl a “sex-trafficking magnet.” Here’s a link to the several articles The Huffington Post has recently published on this topic.

Please pray.

Thanks for reading,


Difficult–but please read

A few weeks ago I posted that I had gotten the book The White Umbrella delivered to my Kindle and that I would write about it after I read it. Here goes.

The book is about sex trafficking in the United States: facts/statistics about it, stories about girls/women rescued from it, and testimonies of those who have worked to restore them.

It’s not as dark a book as I expected. The facts are grim; the book doesn’t pretend otherwise and shares the situation through facts, stories, and links to news articles on the subject, but I was surprised by the hope in the book. The author started a ministry, Wellspring Living, that works with rescued sex slaves. These girls have been through trauma that I cannot imagine. I read their stories and thought, “I would be crushed, for the rest of my life!”

So should they, but the girls themselves and those who work with them share story upon story of growth and new life. It may be backwards/forwards and take tons of time and patience, but as these girls encounter the God who wants to make them new, many of them grow.

After I read the book I wrote an email to its publisher, Moody. I shared much of what I wrote above, but I also had a complaint: The book is a call to action, and I WANTED to act after I read it. But since I don’t live in the Atlanta, Georgia, area—where Wellspring Living is located—I can’t really be involved in that ministry, other than by donating. What if I want to get involved right here? Do you have any suggestions?

I received a response from a woman in Moody’s book publicity department. She invited me to a luncheon hosted by Moody Church the following Monday that was about sex trafficking in the Chicago area. The speaker, Frank, is the director of Chicago’s Salvation Army’s PROMISE program (Partnership to Rescue Our Minors from Sexual Exploitation) and has worked with sex trafficking victims for more than 25 years. With the Salvation Army, he recently opened Anne’s Home, which provides long-term residential care for girls rescued from trafficking in Chicago.

So I went. I thought it would be a gathering of a couple hundred people; like they just tacked my name onto a long list: What’s one more?


Under fifty people, and the group included Mary Frances Bowley (the author of The White Umbrella), Mary Welchel (Director of Women’s Ministries at Moody Church and founder of The Christian Working Woman), and an FBI agent who works with sex trafficking.

Everyone else seemed to have a reason to be there. People kept asking me: “So what organization are you with?”

“Um, none.” (Okay, I sounded a little more polished than that!—but probably not much more.)

“Oh, so why are you here?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

I was certainly there to learn—and learn I did, far more than I really wanted to.

I already knew that the FBI’s low estimate is that more than 100,000 children, usually girls, are being forced to do someone else’s sexual bidding. The age range is nine to nineteen; the average age is 11; and the average life expectancy of a girl in forced prostitution is only 7 years.

That doesn’t make you want to read any more, does it?

But I also learned this is no longer just an inner-city problem. Law enforcement agencies in Illinois are reporting an increase in cases involving middle-class suburban children because the kids have access to a computer at home and can be targeted more easily.

I don’t want to bombard you with too much info in this post, so I’ll end here, but in a follow up post, I’ll put tips for identifying children who are being sexually molested and/or trafficked and hotlines you can call if you suspect it. It’s happening far more than we want to think it does, and it’s happening closer than we can imagine. I’ll categorize this post and all follow up posts “Sex Trafficking.”

If you want to do more research, below are two addresses to check out: one is Wellspring Living’s home page, and the other is the PROMISE website.



Thanks for reading.