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Special deliveries

"Special deliveries" Continued...

Issue: "Terrorism: Unmasked men," Oct. 16, 2004

When the church challenged members to sell a valuable possession, 200 did, raising $83,000 for various programs, including a $15,000 check for Heritage House. "When we took it to them, we sat in a circle with Heritage directors and some of the girls, and they just wept," Mr. Shirk said. "They couldn't believe people would bring them resources like that from a church."

The home used some of the money to start an onsite computer lab, and some to meet the individual educational needs of residents. Calvary women visit the home regularly, cooking large meals for the girls. The Heritage staff has allowed at least one onsite Bible study.

Mr. Shirk said Calvary is now taking its outreaches to the next phase: "We're asking, 'How do we turn these good deeds into good news?'"

Kelly had never heard the good news when she moved into the Wellspring Home, a church-run women's rehabilitation home in Peachtree City, Ga. Diagnosed schizophrenic and bipolar at 14, she survived a rocky adolescence, then bounced between college and drug rehab, until marrying in 1996 a man who that Christmas beat her up so badly a judge sentenced him to three years in prison.

The couple reunited on his release, but split in summer 2003 only to hook up again for a business deal: "He would pimp me out," said Kelly, who asked that WORLD use only her first name for safety reasons. "We both came up with a master plan to do this. He was driving me and I was giving him the money. For a while, I felt good. In a warped way, I thought I was helping him pay his bills."

A month into it, though, she wanted to stop. "It was making me feel disgusting. It was something I had always looked down on other people for, even strippers and exotic dancers."

There are plenty of those in Metro Atlanta. According to Wellspring co-founder Mary Frances Bowley, about 6,000 young women participate in the city's sex industry-strip clubs, dance clubs, prostitution. Most have suffered severe trauma at an early age. That's why two area churches teamed with a program called Victoria's Friends to open Wellspring, a Christ-centered refuge for women escaping sexploitation.

Victoria's Friends is a nonprofit that reaches out to women trapped in the sex industry. Southcrest Church in Noonan, Ga., and Grace Evangelical Church in Fayetteville joined with the group and a local contractor to fund, build, and open Wellspring in January 2002. Today, 22 Atlanta churches support the six-bed facility with donations and volunteers.

Wellspring's program is nine months long-six months residential and three months living in a transitional "host home" with a Christian family or woman, during which the women are required to work. During the residential portion, residents concentrate on recovery. Church volunteers teach classes on self-care and practical living, but the greatest emphasis is on Christ.

Kelly is now living in a host home. Her husband hadn't wanted her to quit prostitution, and a series of threats led to his final assault: While they sat in his truck one day, he wrapped his hands around her throat and began to strangle her. Kelly struggled for breath and kicked wildly, finally cracking his windshield. When she managed to mouth "I love you," he stopped his attack.

Kelly cycled through mania and depression. "I was completely out of control, drunk most of the time, depressed, suicidal," she said. Her behavior landed her in jail, where she spent last Christmas and New Year's Eve. While there, she heard about Wellspring and was accepted into the program.

"Those first six months just gave me time to concentrate on getting better," she said. "I was able to learn how to deal with everyday life. I got up every morning and learned about God. I didn't know God. . . . I didn't know the only way we find significance is through God."

Now in Wellspring's host-home phase, Kelly works in a restaurant making sandwiches. She spends evenings visiting her 8-year-old son at her parents' house. Her plans beyond Wellspring mainly involve putting one foot in front of the other-but along a path she'd thought was out of reach until now.

"I plan on getting up in the morning, getting my son on the school bus, going to work, and being here when my son gets home," she says, adding that she's trying to mend her relationship with him after multiple stints in rehab built distance between them.

Meanwhile, Wellspring's founding churches are trying to provide a conduit for Christian families and individuals to help those in need.

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