Margaret “Beth” Iha, 2L
Candace’s goal for any law student interning at Restoration Ministries is to provide the intern the opportunity to get to experience the reality of girls who have been trafficked, in hopes it will create a greater sensitivity towards the victim for the intern’s future practice in law. In addition, a legal intern is able to get a firsthand understanding of domestic rather than international trafficking, something that often gets overlooked. I have been richly rewarded in both of these ways.
Interning at Restoration Ministries here in Washington, D.C. has already proven to be a great learning experience. I go every Friday to the Psychiatric Hospital of Washington and every Monday to the juvenile detention center called the Youth Services Center to meet with around twenty girls ranging in age from 11 to 17, some of whom have been sex trafficked, to participate in what the founder of Restoration Ministries, Candace Wheeler, calls “a ministry of presence.” During my second week at Restoration, I was called upon, due to a change in staffing, by God and Candace to lead the teams at the psych hospital and juvenile detention center in our weekly discussions. As a mom of three boys, I found it a little daunting to deal with a room full of girls, but have grown to love it and to really love the girls. They need so much of it. Restoration has also been blessed with a great team of women this summer, and I feel honored to work with and know each of them. A true team spirit prevails here.
During our time at both facilities, we read through a discussion sheet focused on a particular topic for that week and follow that up with an art activity that compliments the discussion. The discussions always deal with spirituality, health and wellness, prostitution and trafficking, or job skills but always with a Christian focus and scripture. The goal of every discussion time is to get the girls to open up and begin talking with the ultimate goal of building relationships with them. It’s through that process that they are more ready to reveal the truth about the things they have experienced, including sex trafficking. This week, my last of four weeks of leading discussions, I was blessed with a team of musicians to play worship songs, and I taught the girls sign language for signing the words of part of one of the songs. It was a big hit and led to a prayer circle time at both facilities that led to the girls’ speaking out their own prayers to God, something they also write on paper so we can tape it to our “wailing wall” and continue to pray over back at the organization. It was powerful and moving, and God was clearly present. Some girls began to cry and to seek one-on-one attention and prayer from the team, which each of the members was glad to do, the true rewards of the work.