Beauty From Ashes Videos


Monday, July 30, 2012

My Internship with Beauty From Ashes™ Ministries

I have been blessed to join Beauty From Ashes™ Ministries at a pivotal time in their development – “For such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Beauty From Ashes™ (BFA) has a ministry-focused, evidence-based, informed, and holistic approach to working with victims of sex trafficking and exploitation that is Spirit-led and Christ-centered. First and foremost, BFA meets women where they are at, like Jesus, and trains and encourages others to do the same. At the core of their program model is the “Come as you are” Agape Love. I am learning much more during this internship than I originally expected.

As a part of my internship, I have spent ample time serving and interacting with clients. I have been learning invaluable counseling and faith-based mechanisms to help them achieve restoration step-by-step. Also during this experience, I have been able to spend time reaching out to women at a weekly outreach in an inner city area of Fort Myers known for high rates of prostitution and drug use. Every week, we have encountered women who have each opened up to us about abusive situations she is or has been in, and it is so clear to us that we are planting seeds in these women’s lives while the Father builds their strength and willingness to seek help. We continue to build relationships with them, and it’s tough to deal with the fact that I will be leaving these precious women shortly.

From my experiences, I believe that the most important aspect of counseling and helping to restore these women is knowing that we will never be the ones to solve their problems and heal their trauma. Those are things only the Lord can fully do, and something they must independently seek. Another important lesson in loving and helping to restore these women is that we have to allow them to come as they are; whether they are addicted to drugs, or still continuing to prostitute while living with their trafficker. BFA will not turn anyone away just because they are not immediately seeking to make their lives Biblically sound or socially acceptable. Unconditional love will always involve endurance, peace, and patience. These women simply need someone who will continue to love and stand with them even if they persist in making unhealthy choices. They need someone who will reflect Jesus to them.    
I have found myself doing a variety of tasks to reach, rescue, and restore women who have been exploited, besides just engaging in outreach. I helped update BFA’s referral database, which provides the names and intake criteria of over 140 residential programs nationwide so that they can place clients into them (on a case-by-case basis). The information and criteria of these residential facilities change very frequently, so it is vital we stay updated with them. Women are placed into them when they express a desire to be in a residential program and BFA helps them find the program that is appropriate for them according to their individual needs. There are many tasks that need to be done to continue serving clients in a comprehensive fashion and I have been able to acquire experience doing so many of them, such as drafting intake protocols for shelters, assisting in the development of an aftercare curriculum model, as well as utilizing social media to raise awareness about human trafficking and BFA’s work.

That being said, I have been given experience in many aspects of Beauty From Ashes’ work as a community-based, ministry-focused agency, and been able to see the realities of the difficulties and spiritual warfare that occur in the nonprofit sector, but also the splendor of God’s timing and His perfect provision in every aspect. BFA is completely donor-funded as a nonprofit, and does not rely on government funding. They will help any and every woman, free of charge, whether she has worked in the sex industry or been sexually abused. Identification or verification of human trafficking is not necessary because BFA knows that the majority of victims do not self identify.  They also know that 66-90% of adult sex workers were sexually abused and exploited as minors.  Most sex workers have experienced a severe form of human trafficking and never had an effective intervention in their lives.  In fact, it took Julie Shematz, the founder of BFA, years to realize that she had herself been a victim, and she has incorporated this understanding of victims into Beauty From Ashes’ program model and method of serving clients.

Additionally, I have also been learning about how widespread human trafficking and sex trafficking are; it happens in every single area and context, in both the U.S. and internationally. This is a harsh and humbling reality, but is so vital to know when engaging in ministry in this field.

Furthermore, during my internship experience with BFA, I have had the opportunity to horseback ride with Julie, my first time horseback riding for about 7 years (I used to take lessons and show competitively). Horsemanship can be extremely therapeutic, especially in the building of trust and confidence for riders.; there is a vast amount of evidence based research supporting effective outcomes with the populations such as the ones BFA serves.  I was able to watch Beauty From Ashes™ begin the development of an equine psychotherapy program while interning with them.

As a matter of fact, the 14-year-old quarter horse, Murphy, that I have been riding, is one of the three horses being trained for this new equine therapy program.  It has been a BLAST riding him and being able to explore the beautiful countryside of North Fort Myers during trail riding adventures, in which we’ve gotten to ride through creeks and woods, over hills, galloping, and running through smooth, grassy straight-aways.

Horseback riding has been an awesome way to get to know Julie better and a fun way to spend my weekends and get exercise. I have recently been making some healthier lifestyle changes; I have had ongoing back and neck pain partially due to my being out of shape and having weak muscles, so I have been finding balance in my life by working out and taking better care of myself. Christa Hicks, the Program Manager, and Julie have been teaching and demonstrating the importance of self-care, balance, and maintaining boundaries for work and personal time. These have been exceptionally important lessons to learn and I plan on carrying them with me into this next school year and beyond. I feel blessed that the Lord brought me here to Fort Myers to work with such knowledgeable, Spirit-led people and I am grateful to have received experience in many different avenues while working with this unique organization.

Kelly Bolton is a senior at the University of Florida (UF) majoring in Family, Youth and Community Sciences who is a summer intern with Beauty From Ashes™ Ministries. Kelly is involved in Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) at UF and leads the International Justice Mission, UF student chapter.  Her talents and hobbies include playing the drums, creating art, writing, and horseback riding. As a believer for 13 years, her passion is to serve the Lord, and seek justice for the poor and oppressed, through ministry and her future career.

Beauty From Ashes™ Ministries, Florida's first and only, human trafficking, overcomer-led, community service agency, offers college and non college internship opportunities.  If you're interested, email us at

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