Refuge for the Sexually Exploited Offers Safety and Life Transformation
WORDS// G. Polly Jordan
The Lord stirs our hearts and He plants dreams within us. Twenty years before Hope Center Indy became a reality, Pastor Hubert Nolen’s heart was stirred at a conference when he was introduced to the idea of a “dream center” to reach out into the community to love the least of these. Hubert filed the idea away and continued faithfully pastoring the church he had planted several years prior, Brookville Road Christian Church.
Fast forward to a New Year’s fast in January 2015. Hubert asked God what God wanted done. The dream center concept came to mind and a Google search showed an actual Dream Center was now a reality in Los Angeles—a faith-based resourcing and residential facility addressing the community’s most desperate needs revolving around poverty, addiction and abuse.
Hubert watched a testimony of a woman who had been transformed by the love shown by the Dream Center and he wept. He wept at the full realization of God’s grace and goodness, and he wept with thanksgiving that this young woman now had a purpose for living.
Then Hubert heard God whisper, “if you are going to do this, get on with it because you are not getting any younger.”
Developing the Vision
So at age 59, Hubert stepped aside from 32 years of pastoring Brookville Road Community Church. On March 1, 2016, along with son David Nolen, he began casting vision for this center of hope. It did not have a name and it did not have a facility—it did not have anything other than a heart-stirring dream. Hubert just continued to share his vision and had Wednesday night prayer meetings.
Hubert and David lay out the statistics: according to the 2016 Indiana State Report on Human Trafficking compiled by the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, “human trafficking is a rapidly growing crime in Indiana and the U.S. Worldwide, 1 million children fall victim to the commercial sex trade each year.” Additionally, “178 trafficked youth were identified and served by one Indiana service provider in 2016 alone.” And tips—notifications of suspected human trafficking—have exponentially grown in the last few years in Indiana, up to 520 reported tips in 2016, according to the detailed report.
Hubert toured his inspiration, the Dream Center in Los Angeles and knew his center of hope had to offer much more than a 30-day intervention. It would take 12-18 months to transform a young woman from the horrors of being sex trafficked. These women need education and they need to learn a new profession to provide employment. They need significant healing. Hubert returned to Indiana and started looking at many different residential facilities.
Stop looking – start praying
When they looked at the facility which is now Hope Center, Hubert knew it was the place. He stopped looking and started praying. He made an offer on the building with money he did not have. When an offer of 2 million did not get a response, son David suggested 3 million. They did not have that either, but it did not stop them.
Hubert decided to share the vision with Mark Wright, pastor of a daughter church, Brandywine Community Church. Mark invited Hubert to join him to share the vision with his church. When Mark spoke about the dream Pastor Hubert had for the Hope Center, he spoke with full authority. He put a picture of the hoped-for future Hope Center campus up on the screen and proclaimed “this 140,000 square foot, 25-acre complex will be the largest aftercare center in America to help victims of human trafficking.”
Hubert was stunned. It was prophetic. He had never thought of it this way. All he knew was he had a dream, he found a facility and he had no money. But PastorMark encouraged him with his urgency to pray.
God’s call is clear
The next day, Hubert received a call out of the blue from the attorney for the property (who had ignored their two low offers) and asked if they would be interested in a lease. Hubert had already offended them twice with low offers on the six million dollar building and he did not want to do it again. He prayed and after a couple days, settled on an amount he thought he could live with.
So Hubert called the attorney back, boldly asking for a monthly rent of $10,500 insisting that that amount be returned to the property in capital improvements. Hubert reflects, “$10,500 is a lot of money when you don’t have it, but it is surely a miraculous rent as it calculated out to just 7.5 cents per square foot when commercial real estate rents for $10 per square foot.” This might have been the third and final offending offer, but two days later, the offer was accepted.
“Thank you, Lord…I think.”
Pastor Hubert was on his combine harvesting soybeans when the call came in. He got off the combine raising his arms toward heaven and said, “thank you, Lord…I think.”
When God plants a dream, He provides the way. A God-sized dream generally requires miracles on the order of parting the Red Sea. God shows up with miracle after miracle to confirm it is indeed His show. Standard operating procedure at Hope Center is “Let’s pray and then wait until Monday and see what God will do.”
It took twenty years for the dream to take root. However, the desire to create a center to reach the community in order to serve the least of these became a center of hope to rescue women from the bondage of human trafficking and show them the miracle of what Jesus can do.
One such miracle came out of the life of Hope Center resident, Shaunestte. Human trafficking is real, it is raw and for Shaunestte, it started in the home at the shocking age of six. From that young age, up until she was 13, Shaunestte was raped by 50 different perpetrators. “I was sold for sex in order for my mom to get her drugs,” Shaunestte painfully recalls. In addition, she was molested by family members at her father’s house.
As a young adult, Shaunestte repeated some of her mother’s habits and found herself pregnant by an older man she met at a bus stop. Addicted to drugs, sex, and self-harm, Shaunestte was in and out of treatment facilities for mental illness and other required therapy programs. She had subsequent children and, in due time, lost custody of all of them.
But for the first time in twenty-seven years, Shaunestte is now safe, she is free and she just met Jesus.
Shaunestte describes, “then I had the opportunity to come to Hope Center and everything changed. I had never been in a place like this. This is love—how I am treated here. For the first time in my twenty-seven years, I am safe and genuinely cared for.”
Shaunestte started Biblical counseling at the center and says that is where she met Jesus. “Week after week, I became stronger and stronger,” I had a vision where Jesus was holding my youngest child out in front of me and telling me He had a plan for my life if I would just trust Him.”
“Living my whole life in pain and hurting others and not being there for my kids, I am ready to do something wonderful for my life. Change is uncomfortable, but I embrace it. The people here have become my family.”
Shaunestte is one of 43 women who has had their lives impacted in the year and a half since Hope Center Indy opened its doors as a Christ-centered residential campus committed to transforming the lives of women exiting commercialized sexual exploitation. They do this by providing a Christ-centered approach to healing, self-sufficiency, and reintegration into the community.
Hubert reflects, “When I pastored Brookville Road Community Church I had a large church congregation and we had resources, but at Hope Center I only had God. [I knew] it would take an incredible stream of miraculous provision to be able to do this.”
In addition to the miracle of how the facility itself came to be, and the stream of miraculous lives saved through hope Center’s work in its two years since inception, there have been countless other extraordinary feats of God that Hubert has journaled.
Like when the newly secured 25-acre complex sat empty and a prayer prefaced a nine semi-truckloads delivery of donated office furniture to furnish the center.
Just in the first year of preparing the center for residents, there were 21 miraculous answers to prayer documented. Provision included a new roof for the greenhouse, someone to mow the 25-acre campus for free, and countless other donations that fully covered the cost to renovate a prayer center and provide a security system.
Fifty-eight churches and countless volunteers from all walks of life provided financial support and prepared the rooms for the residents before opening in August of 2017.
The campus is expansive with 35 offices, 6 classrooms, a computer lab, commercial kitchen and cafeteria, 300 seat auditorium, 50 residential rooms each capable of housing three women, a wedding barn, a greenhouse, and a coffee shop. Hope Center is indeed the largest sex-trafficking recovery facility: throughout the entire United States, there are only 500 beds available in residential aftercare programs for women rescued from human trafficking, with Hope Center’s 150 beds amongst that count.
But all those miracles paved the way for the most celebrated of the miracles—the transformed lives. “Almost all of the women who have come here have given their lives to Christ,” says David. “Some of them have gone on to be great voices in telling others about Jesus.”
Editor’s Note: Hope Center client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.
G. Polly Jordan is a connector of people, a hobby writer, and photographer. You can follow her at thestoryteller.net.