a guest post from Anne Kinsey, overcomer and founder of Nails on the Trail
My heart aches as headlines infiltrate my newsfeed sharing confirmation of the painful end to Jacob Wetterling's life in Minnesota, yet I feel grateful that after 26 years of wondering and praying, his loved ones finally have answers and a confession from Danny Heinrich, as well as assurance that officials are using more current child pornography charges to hold him in custody. I weep as I see his mother's pain and pray for the 300,000 children the U.S. Department of Justice estimates are trafficked each year in the United States alone. Good hearted people want to know how to help those who are rescued, what to do to make a difference for trafficking overcomers. Love, healthy relationships, and tools to equip, empower, and encourage trafficking overcomers to become accomplished and confident are the answer.
As I pray, my children laugh in the next room and I feel suddenly grateful that today I know and believe in my heart that I am loved and that I get to learn to live and grow in that truth with each breath and sunrise I am given to enjoy. Sometimes I pinch myself as I look at my life, Nails on the Trail, my loving and supportive husband, and our three beautiful children who we homeschool at our peaceful home in rural North Carolina. Am I really this undeniably blessed mama who lives her dreams, rocks pretty nails, and embarks on weekend hiking adventures in the Blue Ridge mountains for fun? Could this really be my life?!?
Few would guess that the joy they see in me today has not always been my reality. My past includes addiction, abuse, exploitation, chronic illness, and many other struggles that led me to live with depression and Complex PTSD and nearly cost me my life more than once.
Today, I am an overcomer. In early 2014, God brought me a mentor through my journey with Jamberry Nails. Through her friendship, mentoring, and coaching, this decorated seminary graduate writing to you today came to experience, believe, and accept God's love in my heart for the first time, instead of in my mind by trying to figure everything out in a controlled scholarly exercise of my intellect. I began to grow in self worth and feel my fear decrease, experience an improvement in my physical health, as well as gain new life skills, decision making skills, and a greater quality of life. I wanted to pass it on!
In the summer of 2014, I began serving kids who are trafficking overcomers at On Eagles Wings Ministries' Hope House, a safe house for children ages 13-18, located in the Charlotte, NC area. The Hope House provides trauma informed care, a safe and structured environment, private education, therapy, medical services, and more to these girls. I am blessed to mentor them, watch them learn to trust little by little, witness them loosen up and goof off like normal teenagers, come to faith, be baptized, dare to dream big, and to believe they are worthy of the dreams placed on their hearts.
Nails on the Trail is a dream that was first given to me on a hiking excursion on the Appalachian Trail in late 2015, as I stared at my beautiful nail wraps while my hands grasped tightly around a tree trunk to pull myself up and onto the next leg of a very rocky and steep trail. I felt so strong and so positive! When I am hiking, I feel like my body rocks and I want to share that feeling with trafficking overcomers. I want to share access to the kind of love, relationships, and practical life and decision making tools that have changed my life, and I want for trafficking overcomers to feel empowered to make a difference in the world. Trafficking overcomers do not need more and more fancy programs or stuff - what they need are genuine relationships, love, and practical tools.
Nails on the Trail is a mentoring and job skills program that offers hope and a future to sex trafficking overcomers through hiking and the joy of creating one-of-a-kind nail art using their hand-designed graphic images. I meet with the girls from the Hope House or other ministries in sessions that alternate between them creating nail art in Jamberry's Nail Art Studio and going hiking together by lakes, streams, and on mountain tops. They also wear the nail wraps, which serve as reminders that they are loved, capable, and that possibilities are everywhere. I am blessed with the opportunity to serve as a reference for them in their future as they apply for jobs or educational opportunities. Each time a customer purchases our artists' wraps, the proceeds go toward the artist's future educational opportunities or their safe house. As the girls see photos of others enjoying their art, they are reminded that they make a difference and have an important contribution to offer the world. While our customers wear the wraps and feel beautiful about their nails, they also spread awareness about the issue of trafficking each time someone compliments them on their nails.
Our ministry and others that focus on safe relationships, love, and practical tools that equip, empower, and encourage trafficking overcomers are making a real difference in the lives of survivors, who are feeling equipped and empowered. When looking for who to support with your dollars or time, look to those who put relationships first or support programs that put relationships first and funnel the proceeds back to the overcomers themselves. bonJOY is one remarkable business that provides a bridge between you and these ministries that make a powerful difference for overcomers.
Getting involved with Nails on the Trail:
To make a difference for the girls in Nails on the Trail, visit the girls' website to purchase their nail wraps or contact us to make a donation or start your own chapter. You can also contribute directly to On Eagles Wings Ministries to help sustain the Hope House where the girls live and heal.
Nails on the Trail has the vision and goal to expand to chapters all over the nation and the world, with at least 10 in the next year. The time contribution is only about 5-10 hours a month, can be split between multiple people, and makes a lifelong impact on the lives of countless trafficking overcomers and those who want to help spread awareness. Our flagship Charlotte, NC chapter is delighted to provide support and training to anyone wanting to get their feet wet.