I posted the video we had just watched on my FB Musician page and a friend I had not seen in years from Jacksonville, FL immediately commented and said "you have to talk with my friend Angelique who is volunteering with an organization called The Defender Foundation." I got in touch with Angelique and discovered that this organization actually was going and rescuing teens, finding the help they needed after rescue to be restored to their identity and families, and their focus was also to prosecute the offenders. Their vision was to not just bring awareness or advocate but to recruit people like you and me - what they call 'active activism'.
It took a few weeks because of leading a Shield Team rescue mission to the Dominican Republic, but I was eventually on the phone with Dan Benedict, the founder of The Defender Foundation. They had only been in operation about a year at that point but I could hear the passionate cry of deliverance coming through Dan on the phone, especially after coming out of a recent rescue and the story he was relaying. He also was very open with us regarding his past. He'd been through much personal trials, most of his own wrong choices and doings. He had been humbled and humiliated and yet in this place, God had called and qualified him for this enormous work. After an hour and a half on the phone and also my sharing the vision of the song, "Where Has Love Gone?" being put to a dramatic music video to help support the work of The Defender, along with a Benefit Concert to raise additional funds, he and we knew God was ordering our steps...we just needed to take the next one. Secretly I hoped that maybe one day our ministry, One New Man could house the volunteer offices of a Seattle chapter of The Defender. But that was too big..for now the next step.
I knew one person in the film industry here in Seattle, my friend Tonya Yorke who had written and directed several short films and I was hopeful she could do it. Tonya immediately loved the song and the whole idea but her schedule was maxed out for months in advance and she had to decline. I started to get discouraged but she did a great favor for me and I am forever grateful to her. Tonya sent out an email message on FB to all of her director and producer contacts in the Seattle area. Within a day I got a response from a director named Gary Voelker with Experience Studios. Wow, what a divine connection! On January 6th, we met with Gary at Starbucks to discuss the vision of the music video to not only awaken people to the reality of the problem right here in our own backyard, but to also be a catalyst for and he immediately got the picture. We didn't realize the caliber of director Gary was - he had recently won several awards for his short film "Breaking" but shortly after, I began to see he was a real gem; not only as a director but overall as a great person. He really got the vision in his heart about the purpose of the video and the work of The Defender. As I listened to him share with each person who auditioned for different roles in the film, I heard the passion in his heart and I knew it wasn't an accident he was directing this music video.
The rest, as they say, is 'history'...from the time we announced the music video production budget, almost all the provision came in within 60 days. Filming was an incredible experience to work with such an amazing cast and film crew. The video is scheduled to be released publicly on May 31st.
Somewhere around March, it became clear that we were already acting like we were the Seattle chapter of the Defender! I think Dan knew it too and it was obvious this was the bigger purpose of the video and the benefit concert. Our hearts desire is to not only rescue these kids (because we know there are many in the Seattle area who are working with organizations to do this) but to RESTORE them to their God-given identities and destinies. Sadly, most victims go back to the lifestyle of trafficking because they lose any sense of who they are. They are drugged, beaten and raped. If they survive, most don't live past 3-7 years from the time of being taken as a sex slave. Their only hope is not just to be rescued - their only hope is to be restored and healed in their core of their being...to be restored to God's purpose for their lives. And this my friends is not so easy. It takes a LOT Of people helping...it takes qualified and trained phone volunteers, shield team members, health care practitioners, counselors, nutritionists, teachers, and a lots more.
So, the next step is the benefit concert on June 16th. Some may ask 'why such a big deal over a concert?'. Because it is an official launching pad for the Seattle Defender! How effective would the shuttle launch be if it didn't have a big booster rocket? This event is an opportunity to be a booster rocket! We want to bring people from all over this city together so the Defender Seattle can have a known presence; so the vision can be shared by Dan Benedict and shield team recruits and other volunteers for phone and contact teams can be trained while Dan is here that week. Ultimately, this event can help raise the beginning funds needed to establish the Safehouse and Restoration Center. We will be announcing the name of the center at the concert so stay tuned!
Now that you got through all of this, buy a couple of tickets. If you are out of the greater Seattle area, then please consider sending in a donation to help us get a huge booster rocket started for this huge vision. We need everyone's help and no help is too small OR big! We will pray and hope for the big donations as well as the small. :-)
Thank you for your partnership and commitment to change a life. Let's take Seattle out of the 'number 1 highest trafficking city', spark an awakening and make it a memory so we can talk about all the amazing miracles of deliverance and restoration!