In 2014, Jonah’s founder happened to be helping with a local high school baseball team in Spokane. Before a ballgame, he noticed a player with no cleats and discovered the young man didn’t have any shoes either. In one way you could say Jonah's story started here; a simple act of kindness without leverage. He did what many of us would have done… he simply bought the young man a pair of cleats.
Cleats turned into some basic outreach activities in the community. More importantly, the building of some relationships that last to this day. Soon, Ryan Douse, a counselor for the school reached out with an email of thanks and opened the door for a more discussion. The heart of Jonah would become began to grow from a story heard that day from the school’s Athletic Director as she detailed to our founder and our first Jonah member Liberty Allen, the difficulties a student had faced that past winter, abused and thrown out of their home into the snow with nowhere to go.
Kids began calling from time to time for serious help, or just to chat. A few school counselors reached out when they had no place to go for housing that was safe. One day a young girl came forward for help. Her story was powerful...and tragic.. And it was happening here. To kids. Trafficking. Modern day slavery.
Jonah began trying to share with teachers, pastors, and friends a glimpse of what was hiding in the dark: Kids were exploiting other kids. Law enforcement was struggling to build trust with victims and prosecute bad guys. Resources were almost non-existent. Agencies that were supposed to be helping on the front lines, were in fact, building models to profit from the growing epidemic. Schools were weary of discussing trafficking openly on campuses. Many churches felt it was too dark to talk about. The city did not have a plan to fight this...
Recognizing the need for both a Proactive and Reactive approach to trafficking, we began reaching out to women and children through a 24-hr Resource Line and basic needs. Light does indeed shine in the darkness. One morning, Kristi Burns with Life Center church reached out - their board had agreed to fund JP for a year at $1000 a month! It was just enough! As spring of 2016 rolled around Lighthouse opened - Spokane’s only operating Safe Home for child victims of sex trafficking! That player with no cleats?Is becoming a coach. One kiddo is now a General Manager at a restaurant...another student is on the way to college with a volleyball scholarship! Another young woman has started her own street ministry in Portland...The Jonah story is a story redemption. Of love winning...
Jonah has always been about Freedom. Today our task remains the same. Slavery is real. Since our beginnings in 2014 The Jonah Project has served more than 500+ survivors, everywhere from Michigan to North Carolina to Rescue Operations across international borders. It is our intention to create avenues for survivors to heal as well as for a community to surround them with Love.
We continue to partner with local churches, schools and agencies such as Homeland Security as well as work on "Freedom Railroad" with groups like Justice Ministries, fighting for Freedom and be a voice for those who've had theirs taken away.