The beginnings of Restore One were signaled by a holy cue and followed with blind faith. It was a wild idea that two young twenty somethings, newly married and totally naive to the underpinnings of the nonprofit world, could effectively pull off addressing such a complex topic that is so seldom spoken of within our western world. Chris and I had no clue what we were signing ourselves up for when we jumped into addressing the issues of sex trafficking as it pertains to men and boys. During the first few years and even now I feel like we are learning how to pilot as the plane is taking off.
Restore One began during what I’d like to say was “casual” dinner conversation between Chris and I. We were both less than a year out from undergrad and from the marriage alter. The only things to our name were a cocker spaniel named Titus and a vehicle. We’d spent the past year raising support to work with another anti-trafficking organization as a dual package, me being the eager social worker and Chris as a former youth pastor. We’d been working for the company for about 6 months when Chris pitched an idea that sent me spinning. Maybe we had chicken that evening, I don't remember. All I recollected were his words, “Anna, I believe that God is calling us to start our own nonprofit organization.” I was dumbfounded by his statement and thought, “Man, he must have had a terrible day.” Ultimately I wasn’t listening to Chris but in his patient urging, he continued this conversation over another dinner and then the next day and the next and so on. You get the picture.
I did not want to start a nonprofit organization. Every bone in my body was terribly afraid of making such a fierce leap. Yet, as we began to pray, it was undeniable that God was calling us to start an organization dedicated to opening safe homes for survivors of sexual trafficking. At that point, we’d not even begun to dive into the particular needs for boys and men. It wasn’t until 6 months later that we made the shift and chose to pursue opening The Anchor House.
So with clenched teeth and watery eyes, Chris and I packed up our life in central North Carolina and moved back to our home town of Greenville. All that was concrete was the name Restore One and the beginnings of the vision. Looking back I realize we were on a ghost trail following God. It’s laughable because we had no clue where we were going to end up by just saying “yes” to the option placed before us.
Many people ask us, how did you start Restore One or what made you want to get involved. I believe that we made those choices consciously and subconsciously. It’s a no brainer for most, knowing that children should never be sold for sex and if they are, we must do our very best to restore all that was damaged; that is a conscious choice. Subconsciously, our own narratives are always taking flight. I’m convinced that we are drawn into this work through our own attempts to heal from past woundings.
Holding these concepts, I believe that we didn't choose Restore One but Restore One chose us. Beginnings, no matter the start, always cast us into the past long before launching us into the future. Our wellspring of healing began the year we waveringly plunged into addressing that boys and men are wrongfully sexually trafficking on United States soil. As Chris and I dove into our colliding pasts, we were able to piece together the underpinnings of what restoration looks like not only for us but for the boys that will enter into The Anchor House. It is uncanny how unearthing Restore One unearthed us.
I’m forever changed by precious people I’ve met these past four years. However, I’m not a better women by choosing to say “yes,” but I’m made more complete only by God’s artistry of my heart in the process. For I now see that we’ve not danced until we’ve wept; nor have we wept until we’ve danced. It is a privilege to sit with those who mourn, to sing with those who sing, and to bear the burden of human suffering on behalf of others. For even as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, you and I are called to serve in this fashion. However, it’s God’s grace that continues to let the sparks of love grow in our hearts, so that we may enlarge with a grander empathy that heals human suffering outside ourselves.
Freedom for All,
Anna Smith, Co-founder & Executive Director of Restore One