After her own daughter was lured from a strip club into a violent human trafficking ring and enslaved for three months in 2013, Michelle knew she had to do something to help women in similar circumstances. Because Michelle’s daughter, Sam, had the courage to choose Life for her triplets and escape, she is alive today. Michelle wishes that someone had reached out to Sam sooner and offered her friendship.
Two-and-half-years ago, Michelle visited a local strip club in her hometown of Wichita Falls with a simple request. Michelle and her friends wanted to visit the women who worked there, offer them friendship, and bring them food and gifts once a month. Much to Michelle’s surprise, the manager welcomed the offer and said she could start whenever she wanted. The next day happened to be Valentine’s Day, and Michelle’s ministry, Talitha Cumi, began.
Michelle was inspired to start the ministry to offer friendship to those in need. Michelle says Sam’s experience showed her there are “hurting young men and women in places the church doesn’t typically go.” Despite fears that their efforts might face difficulties, the work brought hope and healing and continued to expand. Michelle says, “Our ministry now goes into the strip clubs of two cities twice a month with gifts and food. We love the women where they are at without judgment.” The name, Talitha Cumi, means “Little girl, arise” and are Jesus’s words to the girl he raised from the dead in the Gospel of Mark.
Because of the friendships they have, the dancers now turn to Michelle and her friends in times of crisis. Many of them do not have husbands and some do not have any family support. For these reasons, unexpected pregnancies can be particularly challenging. Talitha Cumi has been able to assist women facing unplanned pregnancies and has thrown eight women baby showers to date.
Many of the women who have chosen Life for their babies have shared with Michelle that their greatest obstacle is one of financial need. Through partnerships with local businesses, Talitha Cumi has been able to assist mothers to find other employment. The eight women who received baby showers are now raising their children.
The members of Talitha Cumi maintain friendships with the women and their families and visit them regularly for lunch or in their homes. Michelle says, “It’s just like any other friendship.” Staying in touch with each other and gathering comes naturally, because they have sincere relationships.
As part of the ministry, Sam shares her testimony through The Tapestry Book Facebook page. Sam also shares her story with ministry teams and educates them on the dangers of human trafficking. The ministry teams, in turn, share the lessons with those they serve. In 2013, 25,000 people were victims of human trafficking in the United States. Sadly, many victims are also victims of forced abortions, as Sam and her babies so nearly were. Talitha Cumi gives all of the women a phone number to call for help if they are in crisis.
Last Christmas, the ministry hosted a banquet for the women they serve. Through sponsorship, they had filet mignon, a decorated venue, and a wonderful celebration. The ministry hosts a bible study and fellowship night, to which both women who are still in the industry and those who have left look forward to attending. Michelle and Sam say their ultimate goal for the ministry is to have a safe house where adult victims of human trafficking and their children can stay while they heal from trauma and rebuild their lives. The home will be called Ellis Tate, after the triplet who tragically passed away shortly after birth. For now, Talitha Cumi, one of a network of similar ministries, continues to offer love to those most in need.
For information about human trafficking and for list of signs to identify possible victims, visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline website. If you are a victim or you have substantial evidence of human trafficking in your community, call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888.