Confident and wise beyond her years, 20-year-old Desiree has a singular focus. Her heart is fixed on the 27 million people, many just little girls, in bondage by the evils of the international human sex trade. Her new ministry, Help Me Help Them, meets every week to pray and strategize help for these lost souls.
Desiree knows a lot about the loss of childhood. From age 13 to 18, her life was in bondage to drugs and alcohol. “My best friend and I went to school every day looking for anything we could find to get high," she said. "It didn’t matter what it was, we would find it and drink it or take it.”
But Desiree’s story started years before her 13th birthday.
“Growing up, I was just a happy, normal kid with a huge imagination. I lived in my house with my parents and had lots of pets. I would pretend my pets could talk, but they didn't want humans to know. And I was sure my parents knew! As an only child, my imagination kept me entertained.”
What she never could have imagined was that her parents were both addicted to drugs and alcohol and were having serious marital problems. She was also unaware of how she fit in to their story. “I found out later that, before I was born, my parents had broken off their relationship. Soon after that, my Mom discovered she was pregnant with me. They got married to do the right thing and stayed together to raise me.
But things changed drastically when she turned eight years old. Desiree’s mother started attending Eastside Christian Church and soon made a decision to give her life to Christ. Desiree also wanted to be baptized and was, alongside her mom. Almost immediately, things heated up at home.
Desiree's dad was not pleased about this newfound change and although he went out with his friends often, his absence got even more pronounced. Although Desiree doesn’t remember ever hearing her parents fight, the news finally came that her Dad was moving away. When she and her mom had to move out of their house and live with friends, Desiree’s heart was broken and her entire world was turned upside-down.
Looking back, Desiree remembers, “I was given a cell phone at just eight years old to be the go-between for my parents because they couldn't even speak to each other. With that phone, and lots of secrets to keep, I became an excellent liar.”
She put this skill into practice when, after several years and many bad roommates, her mother was finally able to get them an apartment in another town and enrolled her in a private Lutheran school. But as a new student at a new school, she fell in with the wrong crowd.
“I showed up at this new school with my little pink backpack and ankle-high white socks and left there a few years later with my uniform skirt hiked up high, wearing makeup, cussing like a boss, and just being a really mean kid.”
Drugs and alcohol were the focus in her Jr. High years. She and her best friend began an earnest quest to dive into finding big thrills. “We were drinking and smoking pot, of course, but then we started finding out about other drugs like ecstasy, JWH and acid – and tried them all,” Desiree said.
As boyfriends entered the scene in high school, her drug use got even more risky. “When I was 15, I had a boyfriend who introduced me to heavier drugs – Oxycontin and heroin." And, finally, after years of getting high and hiding it from her mother, Desiree got caught. “One morning, we were looking to get high before school and all we could come up with was a stolen bottle of vodka. After drinking it down, I got sick and ended up in the school nurse's office. A drug test revealed drugs in my system, so my mom finally placed me in rehab.”
Nine months of rehab did little to stop Desiree from the lifestyle that she’d established and, with no belief in a Higher Power, applying the 12-step program was not effective for her. At the end of her treatment, she convinced her mom that she was 'cured,' but, of course, that was far from true.
When she met her next boyfriend at an AA meeting and was caught getting high with him, she knew her mother would issue an ultimatum for her to get rid of him. Instead, Desiree decided to move in with her drug addict father. She remembers, "Moving in with my dad destroyed my mother. At the time, it was the worse thing I could ever do to her." She remembers crying herself to sleep every night after that decision. “I’ll always think of hurting my mom in this way as my biggest failure in life.”
Years of bad relationship choices and drug use continued and living with an addicted parent with few boundaries only made it worse. Although Desiree didn't believe in God, she did believe that evil forces were around her and that scared her. A relationship developed between Desiree and a friend of her dad's who was 10 years her senior. That relationship would ultimately help her hit bottom.
Then one night changed everything. Desiree and her boyfriend were sitting in a car getting high and got on the topic of God. Just to prove a point, her boyfriend decided to play a podcast from one of the letters to the churches in the Book of Revelations. As the words of Christ began, they seemed to speak directly to her. She recalls the extreme intensity of it, “In that moment, I could almost see the Holy Spirit there in front of me, convicting me of every sin I had committed. I was completely shaken and humbled and I knew I had to break free of this life I was living.
The story of Desiree's last two years, living out her sobriety and newly found Christian faith, could easily fill a book. It's the story of finding a new family, of being restored and finding peace in her relationship with her mother. It includes her experience with real moments of contentment and heartfelt love in serving with others at her home church. It ends with a clear call from God to minister those involved in sex trafficking.
Looking back on her life with a grateful heart, she sees how God was watching out for her, “Even though I turned my back on Him, He kept me safe all those years. No arrests, no trouble that could have easily ended with me in jail or dead.”
Continuing to pursue her long-term sobriety, Desiree found that some recovery meetings were harder for her to attend when there was not a shared Christian view. So she returned to Eastside Church for the Friday Night of Hope, where she was baptized so many years before.
“There are so many things I love about FNOP and Celebrate Recovery at Eastside. I love that there is dinner before the meeting. I never get to have a home-cooked meal. It really feels like family and it's a safe place where I can talk about Jesus openly."
“I now have not only an AA sponsor, but also what I call a 'Jesus' sponsor. We meet once a week for bible study and prayer. She’s someone who hears God’s voice and I need to learn to pray, wait and hear the Lord for the work He has given me to do.”
Looking back, Desiree sees how God used her past to demonstrate his loving grace, “What’s true more than anything else is that God uses for good what the devil means for bad and it’s God who redeems us. No matter what I’ve done in the past, I truly believe I will always be my Lord's precious baby girl."