Fuel for Hope - by Addie Gerlach

Fire needs three things to survive: oxygen, heat, and fuel. It will extinguish if even one of these three things are missing.

Candles cannot spontaneously combust; they must be lit by another flame.

So it is with hope. Hope must be fed to grow. Hope can be ignited by another’s hope, another’s grace, and another’s truth. Hope also needs time to grow.

The candle in my heart was ignited during the Thrill of Hope in December. I was able to learn about human trafficking and raise needed funds. In January, I was able to fuel the flame for hope by attending Peoria Home’s “Day of Hope” Volunteer Information Day.

Walking in, I was nervous; kind of like walking into the first day of junior high, barely knowing anyone and not sure what to expect. I encountered grace. Kind people seeing the big picture, not out to fix anything overnight.

The volunteer training covered topics such as the Peoria Home story and why this organization came to be, how to identify those involved in human trafficking, as well as the law and why some new legal issues might actually make it harder to end human trafficking in our area. Subjects like community and prevention, working in juvenile detention centers, foster care, and how these areas all impact the issue of human trafficking. All topics were approached with grace and sensitivity that this is a complex issue that we will likely not see resolved in our lifetime, but is nevertheless a worthy and high calling to try and make a difference in the lives of women, men, and children who are enslaved. One changed life makes this all worthwhile.

I especially appreciated the session on Vicarious Trauma—defined by Kusum Batey as “the result of exposure to those of us who work with survivors as we are hearing their traumatic stories and bearing witness to the pain, fear, and terror that they have endured.” Basically, those who work with others as they heal from the abuses of their past may likely experience secondary suffering. It’s empathy. It’s understanding. Kusum shared practical ways to prevent burnout.

I found this impactful because, to me, it shows the care Peoria Home has for its volunteers as well as the women who will eventually live in the community. We all are on a path of healing. Through involvement in an organization such as Peoria Home, we will all be impacted and ministered to. Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farms, Peoria Home’s parent, in her book Letters from the Farm states, “I needed the community of Thistle Farms as much as the women coming off the streets needed the community. We all need to feel that love heals (p. 49).”

We all need community and grace. It fuels our hope. It heals.