I Call Out

Author: Kayla, WAR, Int’l Intern
September 2022


As a teenager in my late teens, I call out for the injustice being done to my generation. I call out for the voices that are silenced. I call out for freedom and protection for children and teens who are vulnerable. I call out for moms and dads to be involved.

I am calling out because it takes many voices to be heard, and I want to voice something that I see is a problem. Many people, including myself, have believed that our voices don’t have value or won’t make a difference. This is my cry to make a difference—not as a political resume but as a voice of freedom.

I have been given this opportunity to share what is heavy on my heart and to invite you to join me in calling out for freedom!

A Cry for Men, Women, and Children to Take Action!

I look around my country in the land of the free, and I see a lot of brokenness and isolation. I see people vulnerable to being trafficked and exploited. I call out for moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandmas, and grandpas to create circles of protection! We like to turn a blind eye to what’s happening, but we can’t! We have to get uncomfortable and reach out to people who are hurting!

This is our problem! We need to do something. We have an epidemic of slavery transpiring in our country! According to the U.S. State Department, at least 1.5 million people within North America fall victim to sex or labor trafficking. Friends, 1.5 MILLION PEOPLE in North America! Don’t think of that number as merely a statistic but as representative of other human beings like you and me, each with a name and a face, each with their own hopes and dreams, each with their own fears and insecurity. People like you and me who are enslaved and being robbed of their future.

I plead with people to take a risk and step up for the voiceless by educating themselves so they will not be caught off guard! The internet and COVID -19 have changed the face of trafficking as we know it. According to Statista.com, 83% of human trafficking is facilitated through the internet.

The popularity of technology and social media has increased trafficking and made it easier for predators to find victims. In a world where a lot of kids and teens are attached to their phones, it makes sense that traffickers have changed tactics. It is much easier to deceive and entice someone on the internet.

I challenge parents and kids to set up precautions and have conversations about the risks that the internet and social media present. It seems so innocent until it’s not! Traffickers know that kids and teenagers are vulnerable, and they use this to their advantage.

Take a stand today and have a conversation with your kids about internet safety. You can’t put your kids in a box to “protect” them from this issue. Parents need to have open and honest conversations about this topic. Talk about “red flags” and boundaries that can be put in place to safeguard them from being exploited. It means being practical and smart as you handle this new generation of technology at your fingertips. Circle around your kids, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren! They are lonely, confused, and hurting. Being a teenager is not easy, so give grace but also give truth. They need you to circle them in protection and love.

To the teenager and beyond, if there’s anything you take away from this message, know that you have a voice! Will you stand with me to reach out not only to our peers but also to our communities?! Not in anger, but with love and a heart to listen. As I wrap this up, I want to communicate a spirit of humility that I am right there with you wrapped in my own comfort bubble, and this is the beginning for me to break out of my own comfort zone one step at a time. That’s all I ask—to take one step at a time!

This is Kayla calling out!

My Shopping Habits Were Changed Forever

Author: Rebecca McDonald, President & Founder
August 2022


My experiences of rescuing survivors of horrific abuse and teaching them to work with dignity by making artisanal products changed my shopping habits forever.

I was never one to buy shoes, purses, or jewelry. Then I started creating programs for survivors on a global scale and realized they needed a sustainable source of income. I told God, “If I’m going to have to sell something, it has to be beautiful!”

And so it began. WAR, Int’l started selling handcrafted jewelry and accessories made by rescued and at-risk women (and even men) from around the world. Now, I’m a walking mannequin for WAR!

Besides, the day I don’t dress up is the day I will be asked for an interview or meet with a person of influence, and I want to take every opportunity to show off the work of our artisans’ hands! Today, the WAR Chest Boutique has over 7000 unique gifts handcrafted by or sold in support of rescued and at-risk individuals.

The stories of the survivors we support are the heartbeat of our mission, and every product comes with a story card allowing you to read personal stories of men, women, and children who have passed through our programs. Whether they’re made in a preventative or a restorative program, our artisans craft fair trade items within a safe environment where they receive wraparound services designed to rescue, restore, and empower them to live with dignity and purpose.

Shopping with a purpose proves how my meager purchases have the power to change a life forever. Another non-profit that rescues survivors and sells handmade candles as we do says, “A single candle cuts through the darkest night.” Decades of experience have taught me the truth of Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement, “Darkness does not drive out darkness, only light can do that.” Our goal is to shed light on a dark subject and give hope and healing to those who seek safety beneath the shelter of our wings.

When you buy a product from the WAR Chest Boutique, you’re truly a fellow soldier in the fight to set the captives free. You literally jump in the trenches with us lifting the lives of those once trafficked and exploited to jobs with worth and dignity.

I can’t shop at Walmart or JCPenney anymore! I struggle shopping at the dollar store. I don’t know who made their products, their working conditions, if they’re being paid fairly, how they are being cared for, how old they are, or even if they’re free to choose differently. My eyes have been opened.

Every Friday, just for you, we curate a collection of specialty gifts from the WAR Chest Boutique. It is a treasure chest, if you will, of unique and beautiful handcrafted items – like ​jewelry, scarves, accessories, and more – to provide you with moments of opportunity.

-The opportunity to add fresh style to your home and attire.
-The opportunity to equip and empower survivors.
-The opportunity to give a hand up for those at risk to live in freedom.

Please take a moment to shop with a purpose at the WAR Chest Boutique!

Browse this week’s collection at Fresh Finds!

TRIBUTE TO THE UNSUNG MOMMIES

Author: Rebecca McDonald, President & Founder
May 1, 2022


This Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate the women who never mothered a child biologically. They’re role models of a mother’s heart in ways deserving respect, love, and adoration. They sacrificially give of their time, talent, and treasure to nurture in the truest sense of the term “mothering.” True mommies to the mommyless or to others’ children, they may be single committed to nurturing others’ children or married but will never deliver their own. They nurture babies whose own mother was not there for them or nurture others’ kids in ways their parents couldn’t.

Single women profoundly influenced me as a young girl and one reason I am who I am today. I grew up on a humanitarian mission compound in a foreign land with a high number of single women serving the hospital, school, and other humanitarian works. They embraced singleness and poured their lives out 24/7 like a drink offering to nurture little ones. So powerful were these role models, I did not fear singleness. I saw lives that gave up marriage either by choice or by God’s design to nurture a world of children who desperately needed the maternal instinct that’s in every woman.

One of my heroes in Asia would love to marry and have her own children. My heart breaks that she is lonely in ways that married women will never understand. But she was called to be a mother figure to the broken girls of the red-light district who hang on her like the mother they never had. She’s too busy “mothering” to find a husband. She radiates joy and nurture; children flock to her in droves. She is the only safe person they know, a drink offering in a dark place.

Just because you can conceive doesn’t make a good mom. Sadly, this greatest job on earth requires no education, no certificate, no liability statement, and comes with no directions. Babies are having babies with no clue how to nurture. There’s so much more to “mothering” than physically bearing a new life.

This Mother’s Day tribute is to those mothers who have given their lives to lift others’ babies. I often state that after I raised my own babies, I am still just a mommy…Now a mommy to the mommyless. I’m nothing special. I simply do the work I’ve always done of nurturing. Women who aren’t biological mothers are experts at doing the same thing. We stand shoulder to shoulder and join forces with incredible ranks of “moms” who nurture to the exclusion of their own biology. I don’t deserve to be in their company. They know a pain and loss that I don’t. Yet they pour out their maternal instincts to lift the babies of the world.

As a practiced observer of pain, I don’t miss the signs of their sacrifice and sense of loss. They don’t cry in their soup and whine. They quietly give their lives to nurturing others. They are the teachers who pour themselves into the children born to others. They are the nurses who rock the babies in the nursery where the biological mom is incapable of loving for so many reasons. They are safehouse staff who faithfully go into the darkness to find little ones or who, when they were little, no one heard their cry. They hear the cry of the wounded and rejected. They make their pain their responsibility. They bring to the table whatever skill, talent, or treasure God has entrusted to them to be the moms those wounded, at-risk children never had.

It’s my privilege to stand in their shadow. I feel a unique pain for singles offered platitudes that married women and even clergy heap on their heads. I watch as they quietly bear senseless remarks and flippant misunderstandings. As a child, I cringed at the quiet pain filtering across their polite faces as grownups were oblivious to the impact of their comments. I have an uncomfortable knack for seeing pain that has no voice.

I have a soft spot for married women who cannot bear children. I grew up as an American in foreign lands where a woman can still be divorced, abandoned, used up, and discarded for this “sin.” I understand culturally why the women of scripture…Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, and Rebecca were devastated at their barrenness. I have a soft spot for moms who miscarry and mourn their loss. I have witnessed the unspeakable pain and confusion of Russian culture that considers abortion normal birth control, yet is taught by the Orthodox Church that abortion equals murder and is, therefore, an unpardonable sin. One of the earliest programs of WAR was stumbling on a weeping Russian who believed she was required to abort her new pregnancy because of living in a one-room apartment with six adults and no room for a child. She wanted this child in her happy marriage but couldn’t afford it. We supported her for two years. Now her precious son is a wonderful man.

So this Mother’s Day, the world of Women At Risk, International salutes those women who are, in some ways, more a mommy to the world than many biological moms. You are our heroes. We cherish you and lift you high. We honor you in the cultures of the world that would whisper other messages. We could not do what we do without you. We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as the mighty warriors of mothering and nurturing that you are. We honor your life as a “mommy to the mommyless,” standing together fulfilling the call to parent the motherless. I could write a similar letter to you about nurturing, protective dads who have not born biological sons and daughters, but that will come on Father’s Day.

Thank you for the honor of working beside you. Someday in Heaven, there will be a real Mother’s Day where the fruit of your labors will rise up and call YOU blessed. Because of you, they will celebrate your nurturing in their lives through your time, talent, and treasure.

From one mommy to another………..I love you. Becky

Is Happiness A Choice?

Author: A Dear Survivor
April 12, 2022


    This, I Believe

Over 10 years ago, NPR had a radio show called “This, I Believe.” This segment focused on written essays from listeners who were stating their stance on something they believed in. It was incredibly inspiring, but it also encouraged listeners to broaden their point of view to hear and understand someone else’s opinion. Below, I’ve written my own “This, I Believe” statement about something that can often be considered controversial:

    Is Happiness a Choice?

Having been a circle of protection to survivors of sexual and physical abuse, human trafficking, and other traumas, I believe happiness is a choice. Persevering against the odds stacked against them, these survivors have risen from the ashes because they chose to invest in their own happiness. One recurring observation I often hear when a survivor publicly shares their story is: “I would’ve never known they were a survivor because they’re just so full of joy!” Every morning, these individuals wake up and are haunted by their horrific pasts. They are faced with the decision of whether they are going to choose to linger in the darkness of their trauma or whether they’re going to choose the warmth of happiness – and by no means is that decision an easy one.

It is incredibly easy for anyone who has endured trauma to any extent to linger in those dark corner shadows where they won’t ever have to face what’s keeping them there. But the choice to be happy? That choice is one of the most difficult ones they have to make on their healing journey. When a person chooses to expose all those dark and scary places, they prove that they’re no longer afraid of what awaits when they open the drapes. It’s like when spring finally comes after a long winter, and they can finally open the windows, let in the fresh air, take a deep, cleansing breath, and allow themselves to begin sweeping up the settled dust and cobwebs.

I personally went through my own healing journey from the years of trauma I endured that resulted in multiple mental health concerns. After one final breakdown, where depression and anxiety left me on the ground, a shattered mess of hopelessness, questioning if I was strong enough to keep going, I realized that I needed to play an active role in my recovery to find true healing. It was no longer enough for me to solely rely on my weekly therapy sessions and my prescription medication. With the help of my therapist, I found it was most beneficial to start every morning making the conscious choice to choose happiness and appreciate the little things around me. I opened my eyes and found joy in the turkeys and deer as they walked through the backyard, in the sunrise over the golden cross that stands glowing high above the Cathedral on my drive to work, and in the sunsets as the burnt orange rays of warmth came streaking through my bedroom window in the summertime. Maybe that’s more of a testament to my personal growth, but similar practices are mirrored in the courageous and strong individuals I’ve had the honor of knowing and loving. Surely, if a survivor of something as horrific as human trafficking, torture, assault, etc., can open their eyes and choose their own happiness every morning, anyone can. This, I believe.

Love After Trauma

Author: A Dear Survivor
February 21, 2022


Merriam Webster defines the essential meaning of love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.” While that seems simple enough, after enduring traumas such as human trafficking, rape, abuse, etc., love’s definition becomes less clean cut. Love also begins to change shape after a traumatic experience like the ones stated above. For some of us, love becomes sleeping on the floor together, because beds are too much of a reminder of the things that have been done to us, and our bodies begin to seize up, leaving us unable to move – or sleep. Some of us can’t argue with our spouse because it’s a stark reminder of our past experiences and shutting down is the only way to cope. Sometimes, love looks like sleepless nights, wrapped in a weighted blanket and the arms of our spouse as we endure another anxiety attack that shakes us to the core of our being and leaves us sore, exhausted, and unable to communicate other than in soft whispers once it’s over.

The idea of finding love after trauma can be terrifying. While some of us had happier childhoods and others learned the feelings of abandonment from a young age, the one thing we all can agree on is that we can still feel the brokenness and betrayal long after we were wronged. For myself, my father taught me at a young age that I would never be good enough for any man to stay in my life, including him. I carried that with me for my entire life – admittedly, I still do – which led to continuous situations of abuse while accepting any “love” that may have wandered my way…because I craved being loved. When I found my husband, it was the most terrifying experience of my life, even more than the traumas I had already survived, because it was REAL love, it was POWERFUL love, it was a love that was kind and would never falter. What I didn’t realize was that this love would be the hardest for me to place my trust in – it was just too good to be true.

One of the first things I ask when I speak with other survivors is, “How did you learn to trust people again?” That question is often answered with a little smirk and a chuckle, knowing that’s a loaded question with a loaded answer. I ask them, mainly, because any advice I can get is valuable, but also because it truly is the one aspect most of us can relate to. Almost every time, the first sentence of their answer is, “it was really hard.” Then, I asked one survivor that loaded question, and she told me that her trust in God was so abundant that her trust in people was because of Him. She then wrote me a verse on the back of scrap paper about trust that I still hang in my home office to this day. Mind you, this incredibly strong, sweet, and wonderful woman had been trafficked and tortured after trusting in people, yet smiled the biggest, kindest smile I had ever seen and answered my question so confidently, there wasn’t a split second of time for her to even think about what she would say! I have to say, I was completely awestruck! How did she make it sound so easy!? Though I’m still working on the trust part myself, I have been blessed with a husband who is patient and kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, and whose love will never end.

After surviving trauma, love can “sometimes” look like many different things. However, for survivors and their spouses, love is always sitting through the highs and lows of a painful past that may never be fully understood. Love is always just being there for each other 100%, even when we may not be 100% ourselves, and knowing that is enough. Finally, love will always be full of forgiveness and overcoming any argument or situation without giving up!