Dec 21 2016

Horses, Healing, & Hands of Hope

How a local ranch is helping trafficking survivors thrive

Posted in Blog, Reflections, Abolition Now

Horses, Healing, & Hands of Hope


Becoming involved in the fight to end trafficking
          A friend invited me to attend an informational meeting with
 Hands of Hope to learn more about becoming a mentor to sexually exploited victims. After meeting Darlene Domenigoni and hearing about their program, I felt like I was home. I loved her heart and the mission of Hands of Hope and it seemed like a perfect fit, except for one thing. I invited her over to Echo Ranch to share the painful story of my husband’s former life of sexual addiction and patronage of strip clubs. I wasn’t sure if that would disqualify me from becoming a mentor since he was a contributing factor to the very problem I wanted to be part of the solution for. 
          Darlene was so kind and gracious in her response. She said that was the very reason I
 should be involved in this ministry. She understood that I’ve felt the pain of betrayal and trauma but refused to allow it to define or destroy me. Instead, it caused me to rise up and take a stand against this plague. Evil wanted to destroy my husband, my marriage, and me, but because of God’s gracious healing we both have a heart to make a difference. Me, working with and mentoring the women, and my husband, who is on the other side of his healing journey, is completely committed to helping other men who are struggling with sexual addiction. He now leads a Seven Pillars of Freedom group through our church.
Echo Ranch’s partnership with Compassion Connect’s Hands of Hope model
          Echo Ranch’s mission statement is to ECHO God’s promises of truth and hope, a place where the healing journey can begin. Our purpose is to be a place where hurting people are able to come and “just be,” a place where they can come and take a break from the chaos in their life…just come and breathe. We have no agenda to try to fix or change people but to simply love them where they are and walk with them on their journey. We believe each person is a unique masterpiece, loved and treasured by God who has a great plan for their life. We get to be his hands, feet, ears, eyes, and voice to the precious souls who come to Echo Ranch. 
          There are many ways we get to reach out to survivors. One example would be allowing them to work with our rescue horses who have their own story of neglect and abuse. It’s amazing to see the connection between the survivors and our sweet horses. One survivor said to our severely abused horse, Sonny, ”I get what it’s like to be hurt.” Sonny is on his own journey to learn to trust again. He has come a long way but his journey is slow. That is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned though this process. It’s not my journey…I don’t get to decide how fast and how far someone should be along their journey. It’s not at my pace—they get to decide when the next step makes sense or when they are ready to digest a nugget of truth.  


          Some other activities we offer are gardening and arts & crafts (we even held a bazaar this past November so the survivors could sell their crafts and earn some extra money for Christmas).
Mentoring survivors of human trafficking
           It’s such an honor to get to walk beside another human being who has decided not to let the past define them and who has decided to take the very difficult road to healing. As I mentioned above, sometimes I get over-anxious and want to rush people along but that just isn’t my job. God is the only One in charge of the timing and healing. He is the only One who can do the heart work. My job is to pray, support, encourage and offer hope. His hope. The only hope.
Encouraging moments
          This was posted on Facebook from one of our survivors. I’m humbled by her words but am thankful that God has allowed me to be part of her life. "The best Christmas gift is knowing God has brought the safest people in your life. People who literally walk out your deepest pain with you. Dorine, words can't express my unrelenting gratitude for you, your life, ministry, your heart and how you follow through in love. And Darlene is amazing as well! Today, you both took my heart so kindly, you cried when I did, and you genuinely cared for my heart and I really needed that support and affection today. My heart is a bit lighter this afternoon. Thanks for saying yes to Jesus. I love you.
--Dorine Nickerson

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