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Sometimes it feels as if nothing in our lives makes sense or that God is not “moving.” Though I have
felt like that many times, as I look back on the past seven years, I see how God’s hand was on everything I have done.

I had everything planned. After I graduated high school, I would go to college, get married, find a good job, and start a family. Then during my second year of college in Des Moines, Iowa, I felt God calling me in a different direction. I had been attending Eastwood Open Bible (now Experience Church) in Des Moines under the pastoral leadership of Mike and Pam Lumbard. I was in service the morning they announced God was calling them to the mission field to help launch what would become School of Global Leadership (SGL), a missions training school in Trinidad.

God gripped my heart, and I knew I would be joining them. I did not know how or when, but I knew without a doubt I was to go to Trinidad. The timing was not right for me to go right away, and God had other plans. I had heard about Des Moines Master’s Commission (DMMC) at youth retreats and events but had never given it much thought. Now I felt led to put my college career on hold and join DMMC.

Des Moines Master’s Commission and Great Lakes Master’s Commission enjoy a Winter retreat together.

I had no clue what I was getting myself into, but God did. DMMC was very intense, but it was a time of healing as I experienced God’s unfailing love. He began defining my calling and showed me who I am. God impressed two matters – the injustices of children being forced into lives as soldiers and human trafficking – issues that had been in my mind since college, deep into my heart. I wanted to work with women and reach out to the world.

As my second year of DMMC came to an end, I tried to figure out my next step. I wanted to apply for the School of Global Leadership but could not afford to go. That summer I worked at the Open Bible youth camp in Ogden, Iowa. I went for a walk one evening with Jaccie Kenyon, my former youth pastor and now lead pastor of the church I attended while growing up, Church of the Open Bible in Iowa Falls, Iowa. We were discussing my future and what I felt called to do. She decided to have me share at church that following Sunday morning.

Brandi and two young friends at the homework center in the Bayshore community in Trinidad.

I had everything planned. After I graduated high school, I would go to college, get married, find a good job, and start a family. Then during my second year of college, I felt God calling me in a different direction.

I told the congregation I felt led to attend SGL but that I needed to work awhile to save necessary funds. Pastor Jaccie then took the microphone. She asked everyone that felt I should wait a year to go to Trinidad to raise their hands. No one did. God began providing. After the church service, a lady handed me a check for a thousand dollars towards my tuition. God had my attention.

The following day I received another thousand dollar check from another couple in my church. I knew God was telling me something. Then, I received some unexpected mail from Texas. I opened the envelope to find the missionary permit form for Trinidad. I had not told anyone to send me those papers. To this day I have no clue how they got to me. I frantically began filling out paperwork and packing to leave for Trinidad in less than a month. I was about to embark on a journey that would change my life.

In August of 2011, I headed to SGL training in Trinidad. Before that, I did not even know where Trinidad was, let alone what to expect. Everything happened so fast I did not have time to process what I was doing.

One of the main components of SGL is immersion into a different culture. We attended many different churches; visited Trinidadian families, stores, and historic landmarks; and ate Trinidadian food. We learned much about adapting and relating to other cultures. One has to enter the other person’s world and build relationships to truly make a difference.

I fell in love with Trinidad and its people. They were welcoming and fun to be around. I prayed for God to lay certain ones on my heart and to give me words of encouragement for them. From those prayers, God gave me friendships that will last forever. I enjoyed every opportunity I had to spend weekends with my “Trini” families. One could say I was a bit spoiled by them. I felt like I just “fit.”

I absolutely loved the churches in Trinidad, with their vibrant worship and prayers that move mountains. The people are so “on fire” for God that I could not help but feel their passion. I knew I would be back.

In the fall of 2012, I returned to Trinidad to complete my SGL internship. Although I had been back in the States for eight months, it felt like I never left Trinidad. During this second session I concentrated on pursuing my call. I was assigned a church with strong women’s and prayer ministries, and lived with a Trinidadian family I had never met before. I was quite nervous, but I was blessed beyond anything I could have ever imagined, and gained a new family. They will forever be a huge part of my life. Since ministry to trafficking survivors is a fairly new concept in many countries, Trinidad did not have much to offer in the way of that type of ministry. So I continued to pray and seek the Lord for the next step after completing SGL. I connected with other missionaries and thought I would soon be going overseas again to begin missionary life. Little did I know God already had it all worked out. It just did not look like what I thought it would.

Brandi with Ann Marie Pollard, who taught her to pray boldy.

I came back home to Iowa Falls to contemplate my next step and to save money. I worked full time and tried to make connections with other ministries and organizations. No one returned my phone calls and each door I tried to enter closed. Although frustrating, I knew it was happening for a reason. Shortly after moving home, our town’s theater held a showing of the movie Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, a documentary about sex trafficking around the world. I thought I would go and see if I could connect with anyone there. The theater had a sign-up sheet in the lobby for those interested in learning more. I signed up and shortly after a group of us began to meet and pray. We did not know what God was calling us to do at that point, so we started a prayer movement. From those prayers, twelve committed people formed a group to follow God no matter the cost. We prayed, held meetings, and formulated a plan. Feeling called to open up a restoration home for survivors of domestic sex trafficking, we attended numerous trainings, read tons of books, and learned all we could about trafficking. It was a daunting task, but God was there every step of the way.

As things fell into place we chose the name Wings of Refuge and decided to focus on three aspects of healing for trafficking survivors: Rescue, Restore, and Rise. We would network with others who are rescuing victims, help restore the victims to full, abundant life, and then equip them to rise into a transformed life with Jesus.

Before we knew it, God gave us our first participant. We did not have a home yet, but we did not want to refuse an opportunity of healing for this young woman, so we housed her with a local family and all pitched in to take her to classes, appointments, and other activities. Having an actual person in our care really put things into motion. Awareness spread quickly and donations came in left and right. Our entire community stepped up to launch this ministry.

In just a little over a year from the beginning of our prayer movement, we were given a house! Volunteers and team members made repairs, and within a month and a half we moved in. At the end of May 2014, I began working full-time for Wings of Refuge. By mid July, I was living in the Wings of Refuge home with our first participant. A couple of months later, we received a call to house another participant. Once rooms become available they fill up fast. So many people surround us in prayer and provide donations to keep our home operating.

When God first spoke to me about my passion and calling, I never imagined I would be living it out in my home community, but God’s ways are always best. This ministry is by far the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the most rewarding. I help participants with life skills that range from cooking and cleaning to developing a daily routine and establishing a new normal. My goal is to create a healthy environment for healing and growth while letting the love of Christ shine through me in everything I do. I thank God for the honor of sharing His love in the darkest places each day. He has surrounded me with the support I need to do His work, and I look forward to what lies ahead.

Photo Credit: Photo by Jess Lindsay.

See the interview below to learn more about Wings of Refuge!

See the full interview below to learn more about Brandi and her journey!

Wings of Refuge (Iowa)

About The Author

Brandi is the Direct Care Coach for Wings of Refuge in Iowa Falls, Iowa. She attends Church of the Open Bible, also in Iowa Falls.