Jennifer

Human trafficking. Prostitution. An absent mother. An unborn child. For many, it would be too much. But for this child of God, it’s really just the beginning.

“He started forcing me to sleep with guys and pointed a gun at my head and said if I didn’t, he would kill me.” She states her past matter-of-factly, calmly explaining how she ended up at Redeeming Life Maternity Home in Sanford, Fla.

Meet Jennifer, a survivor of human trafficking and prostitution. She’s speaking up. By sharing her story through the #eyesoflife campaign, she is giving voice to what millions of others believe as well: that all life, from conception to natural death, is sacred, valued and a gift from God.

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Portrait of Jennifer, a resident at Redeeming Life Maternity Home, taken at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, in Sanford, Fla.

LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

“It started with just needing the money to take care of myself,” she recalls. “I wasn’t able to work legally because my green card is expired. I couldn’t renew it because I was underage, so … I started making money the only way I knew how to and that was dancing at a strip club.

“I found myself falling for one of my customers, who was … later to be my pimp. He had a big organization, and he made me the big fish,” she explains. “He spoiled me with material things and what I thought was love.”

Then came the demands that she sleep with men for money and the threats that accompanied them.

And the gun.

And the fear.

And the realization that she had to get out.

By God’s grace, she did.

“I learned to be comfortable sharing my story to help the women that are scared to get out because I did it,” she says with confidence.

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Jennifer works on homework at the Redeeming Life Maternity Home on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, in Sanford, Fla.

LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

She has another reason as well: Jennifer is a mom, expecting a little boy in the near future. “With the help of God, He opened my eyes to see the mother I wanted my unborn son to have,” she explains.

Her decision is more noble and beautiful than she lets on, because she’s reversing a tragic trend that impacted her own life: “I’ve decided to raise my child because my mother wasn’t in my life. She abandoned me.”

Jennifer, however, knows she will do better. “I want to give my son what I didn’t have,” she says with determination.

And so she’s found herself at Redeeming Life Maternity Home, among loving and supportive staff like Sheryl DeWitt, who have “come alongside, helping me grow into a soon-to-be mother, raising my son Leon Josiah,” Jennifer notes.

And while she is thankful for the physical things like a home and food, she focuses on something even more important to her: The fact that “they made sure I was safe and assured [me] that I can count on them. I’ve never been dependent on anyone because I’m an independent individual and still am. But … God and all His servants [have] molded me into that self-sufficient woman I am today.

“The church and the maternity home have given me a place to lay my head at no cost and given me everything my son will need when he is born,” she says gratefully. “They’ve provided so much support, helping me to get ready for my son.”

Human trafficking. Prostitution. An absent mother. An unborn child. For many, it would be too much. But for this child of God, it’s really just the beginning. “[Having] eyes of life opened my eyes to new possibilities,” Jennifer explains. She is now “going to college [to be a] paralegal assistant. I didn’t think I could do it, but I’m pushing myself. God has put people in my life to push me and love me.”

And when little Leon Josiah makes his grand entrance, Jennifer will be assured of yet one more thing: “God blessed me with a precious bundle of joy even when I doubted myself and said I wasn’t ready. The Lord has shown me I am ready, and that’s why I have eyes of life!”

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