I get asked this question quite frequently. So I decided it was probably not a bad idea to write it all out here. Nothing is ever simple when God is involved. That way a person KNOWS its God (well, at least I do).
First of all, I looked at buildings as a child (about 1978 on) and I just named them for whatever they were to be. I never realized my vision was to help human trafficked victims. I only knew that I would have something for women who were high at-risk women. When I was a kid I remember driving around with my parents and sitting in the backseat looking out the window seeing buildings and houses and just naming them. “I would own houses to put women here to keep safe,” or “That building would become a training center,” and “We are going to have business in this area near the training center to ____”. I never really realized how things would evolve.
Well growing up, it was just usual business. Typical teenage girl, although I never stopped looking at buildings and calling them out for what they were to be. I did not know if they would ever come true. However, things really did not begin with BRANCH until after the death of my parents. The vision has always been there, but no clue as to why I was always envisioning things for buildings or homes. Into my adult life, I never even told my husband about the vision I had seen for years. We were going through our own issues and I just couldn’t put something so fragile that probably didn’t even mean anything, out there to get trampled on if it was never to exist. Since 2004, I became a caregiver for my parents. During 2004 through 2012 were probably the toughest years of my life. It took a physical toll on me as well as emotional. My father passed in May 2011 and mom passed in March of 2012. The week before mom passed, little did I know or expect what was about to happen.
March 3rd of 2012, I surprisingly got called into a meeting and was laid off just like that. I was stunned because things had really been going on the upswing at work. I wanted to be devastated, but somehow and for some reason, I was actually happy (that’s a whole God-story of its own). I left on what I believed were good terms with my ex-employers. They let me come back later that week to pick up some things I couldn’t take out at that time and it was all good. I never looked back. Well that same week, I had to collect unemployment, call my friend to help me organize things at home and settle into unemployment life for a while. Then “suddenly” I get a call from assisted living where mom was living that she was being taken to the hospital. That is when things went crazy. Mom was admitted on that Thursday and passed away a week later on a Thursday. It was truly a whirlwind of emotions. Now I’m trying to cope with mom’s loss 10 months after dad’s death, unemployment, and now estate planning.
Then in 2012-13 somehow in the midst of all of that, BRANCH: A New Beginning (based on Matthew 5:1-17) came into existence on paper. God whispered that name to me in my dreams. I always wanted a business with an acronym name and BRANCH was perfect. It simply means Be Ready Always Never Ceasing Hope. Whoever was to come through our doors, had to have hope. Hope brings about new beginnings. We were going to provide an environment that clearly offered hope. However this organization has to be with God as the foundation of the ministry. With that there was no compromise. So off I went to an attorney, registered everything and voila…. BRANCH: A New Beginning was born. I cannot even express how nervous I was about getting a bank account in our new name. It really scared me. For the first time I was really very nervous and I even had a business before. Why was BRANCH banking making me nervous? Now a 35+ year vision was beginning. Things were about to get interesting.
During the year after losing mom, I really felt led to start going house hunting now that I had all the legal in place. I thought there is no way I can go looking for houses. We have nothing prepared. We don’t have our tax exempt status. We don’t have the following, we don’t have the support, no one knows me from Adam. But I could not help feeling unsettled about not looking for homes. I can’t begin to tell you all the back and forth debating I did, but I started remembering the story of Abraham and Isaac. When God asked Abraham to place Isaac on the alter as a sacrifice it was out of obedience. I started wondering how the heck did placing his son on the alter have anything to do with purchasing a house? I chewed on that one for a few weeks. Then I just knew. How could I ask anyone else to contribute if I was not doing my own sacrifice by putting my own money out there in obedience. Secretly though, I was hoping that God would retract the monetary sacrifice.
So I talked with my contractor about it. I had talked to him some time back about what my “vision” was and he was stunned by me. He simply said, “Sabrina, I will help you however I am able.” Well it wasn’t too long after that when I started talking about the house. He actually came house hunting with me. He looked at houses, said what would work, what I should offer and the highest I should go. He provided me with a wealth of options when it came to the construction side. Then we stumbled across the house we now have. It spoke BRANCH all throughout it. The house was broken down, desperately in need of tender, loving care and remodeling and God’s excellence within the walls to provide the comfort needed for future survivors. There was vision when we walked into that house. When we walked through the house, my contractor looked at each of the rooms and spoke of the possibilities. They were in line with mine. We talked about the offer and my limit on what I could afford being I was paying for this in full. I made the offer and BOOM, just like that, it was the BRANCH house.
Shortly after I closed on the house, my contractor already had a rendering of what the BRANCH house was to look like even before the purchase was completed. Once I approved things, within the first week of owning the home, it was gutted on the outside. My offering on the alter was the purchase of the house and all the work on the exterior. We’ve owned the home since August 2013. A lot has occurred with this house. We have had our fair share of challenges, but those were totally expected. Now we are preparing to begin again for the spring time and finish the exterior of the home and working to raise funds to begin work on the inside of the home.
What I failed to share earlier is that when I purchased the home, I still had no clue what type of women I should be helping. There are already plenty of drug rehab facilities, domestic violence shelters, etc. What type of women did God want me helping? Well I had a friend who kept passing me information on human trafficking events. I never wanted any part of them to be honest. But one day my friend handed me this pamphlet that was local in my area and I felt a real “urge” to attend. One of the panelists speaking said, “We need beds for butts” and would you believe that crazy statement was a confirmation to my heart on what I had envisioned in such detail and would align so perfectly to the need of trafficked victims. My vision 35+ years ago was extensive. I looked into drug rehab, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, etc. None of it felt right. None of it was fitting properly with what I had seen for so many years. Many things were already established. How was I supposed to fit into that? But hearing those words, “We need beds for butts” for human trafficked victims… the pieces fit. NOW that I had the type of hurting women, it was now all systems go. So initially BRANCH will be housing victims of human trafficking who are adult women 18 and older. At least that’s where BRANCH is supposed to start.
By now you are probably asking “Tell us what the vision is.” There is an extended version of the vision I’ve seen located here. The needs for trafficked victims is mammoth. Many victims are placed in domestic violence shelters, but the truth is, that does not even begin to help with the needs of a trafficked victim. So the need to help provide services and housing are unique and need to be customized pretty much for them alone. You are basically taking an adult who has been taken from childhood and has grown up in trauma. Most people cannot comprehend the horrors that these victims have gone through and what it takes to help in the recovery process from even the most basic needs we take for granted.
So the vision is that BRANCH is going to have houses all over (could even be nationally) to help hide and protect victims of trafficking. There will be safe houses, transition houses, and houses for specific needs (like male victims, recovering pimps, children, and adults). It is providing the housing and environment that will nurture the needs of the victims. We also want soon-to-be survivors (STBS’s) that may not be able to work to become the mentors for those who are coming through our doors. We want them to know not only are they loved, but they have a home and no worries. We are also going to have buildings that will be training centers, libraries, school(s) to meet all sorts of vocational or targeted needs for training. The goal is to keep families together, so we want the children with their mothers and provide a safe and nurturing environment. Family means everything despite what media and society tries to dictate.
We want these STBS’s to discover their passions. That will mean providing scholarships for them to help them accomplish those tasks. We will have resources (either of our own or access to) such as counseling, legal, employment, physical education, nutritional, and the list goes on. BRANCH is going to have businesses that are developed by our own hand or partnerships with businesses that will work with our STBS’s to help mentor them in their area of interest and keep them employed. We are going to have a plot of land that will allow us to house over 100 victims on the property (while being spread in other areas) that will give us enough land to start working with businesses and hopefully house at least 100 plus victims.
That is only scratching the surface, but there is a LOT that is enveloped in this plan. That is why I am entrusting God. This is not something I can do on my own, but know that God is in the midst of orchestrating things just beautifully. We have the first house to kick things off, but this is only the beginning of grander things to come. Hopefully you will stick with us and not only watch, but become a part of someone else’s miracle. This is how BRANCH: A New Beginning started. Now to move in obedience towards God’s grand design.