From One Prodigal to Another

By Tony Hudson

BOSTON – “What’s someone like you doing in a place like this?” When Faith Garland goes where she goes, that question is bound to come up eventually. And perhaps the best response she can give is this: Sometimes, it takes a prodigal to know a prodigal.

“I relate well to runaway types,” she says, “because when I was younger, I also made a lot of really unwise choices. Like a lot of the women I now meet out on the streets, I put myself in unsafe situations. But Jesus brought me back, and He showed me that I am beloved. And that’s what I share with the women I work with here in Boston.”

The first few times Faith Garland went down dark alleyways in Boston, she was nervous. But the more women she met there, the more comfortable she became. Faith is a missionary in Boston with Send Relief, Southern Baptist’s compassion ministry arm. Your gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provide her with resources to share Christ with the strippers, prostitutes and other lost and lonely women she meets on the streets of Boston. NAMB photo by Ben Rollins

Faith Garland is the coordinator of the Beloved Initiative, an anti-trafficking and sexual abuse awareness ministry of the Send Relief Ministry Center in Boston. She and her volunteers meet needs and share Christ with strippers, prostitutes, refugees, homeless and other hurting or lonely women who are vulnerable or have already fallen victim to human traffickers.

And God has used all of Faith’s past experiences, good and bad, to prepare her for this work.

The first lesson Faith learned about human trafficking came when she left home and struck out on her own. She discovered how the need for income, acceptance or friendship can make women vulnerable to exploitation.

“Many women, especially those who are single or financially struggling, have unmet emotional, social and deep spiritual needs,” she says. “They have a huge need for community, especially if they’re from out of state, or from a different country, or are a single mom trying to make ends meet, all of which can make them vulnerable to the manipulation of human traffickers who actively look for these insecurities.”

God rescued Faith. “The healing for me happened in stages,” she says. “Now I call that season, ‘my beautiful car crash season.’ And Jesus lovingly brought me back from it.”

Faith Garland, a missionary with the Send Relief Ministry Center in Boston, is coordinator of the Beloved Initiative, an anti-trafficking campaign. A large part of her role is to educate women and equip them to recognize, resist and combat trafficking in their own communities. She calls these training sessions “Human Trafficking 101.” NAMB photo by Ben Rollins

Faith emerged from her “beautiful car crash season” with an “I’ve-got-to-do-something” heart, and even though it had never been her plan, that’s what led her back to her hometown and the Send Relief Ministry Center there.

Boston is a regional hub for human trafficking, and less than a 10-minute walk from the Send Relief Ministry Center, there are places like Union Street, which is known as a place where women are openly sold for sex.

“Women are experiencing abuse right there on the streets,” Faith says, “and there are large, vulnerable populations there. There’s a high crime rate, high drug abuse, and there’s so much work to be done, because everyone there is seeking, and they don’t know if they’ll find what they’re looking for in sex or drugs. But really, they’re all ultimately seeking Jesus.”

Part of what Faith does with The Beloved Initiative focuses on “interruptive” trafficking ministry. High-risk populations like refugees struggle financially and have language barriers that make it hard for them to find work. That makes it easier for traffickers to lure them with the promise of friendship and jobs. That’s why every week, Faith drives out to the Boston suburb of Dorchester loaded down with fabric and sewing supplies.

Refugee women are especially vulnerable to human trafficking. That’s why Faith Garland, a missionary with the Send Relief Ministry Center in Boston, meets weekly with an Afghan refugee woman who recently arrived in the U.S. Faith is helping her build a business, and as she does so, God is giving her opportunities to talk with her new Afghan friend about the hope of the gospel. NAMB photo by Ben Rollins

“I love to sew,” she says. “So I started meeting every week with an Afghan refugee woman and I’ve committed to helping her and her family build up her curtain business. She’s trying to learn English, but sewing is a language we both speak and spending time with her has become the highlight of my week because she and her family ask curious questions about Christianity. And my being able to answer why I love Jesus has been one of the most life-changing things I’ve ever experienced.”

Faith now hears curious questions about Christianity almost everywhere she goes. Not long ago, she heard this one: “The gospel—how does it work?” That question came from one of the women she’d met out on the street who then showed up at the Send Relief ministry center. Faith had invited her to come and help make jewelry that she and her volunteers hand out to women that they meet.

Missionary Faith Garland prays with her volunteers before they go out to meet strippers, prostitutes and other hurting women who are hiding in Boston’s dark alleyways. Faith is a missionary with Send Relief, Southern Baptist’s compassion ministry arm. As the leader of the Beloved Initiative, an anti-trafficking campaign, she and her volunteer teams make bracelets and earrings that they then take to women on the street. The jewelry opens doors for gospel conversations. NAMB photo by Ben Rollins

“We made jewelry and talked for two hours,” Faith says. “We had the opportunity to share the gospel with her and since then we’ve been texting back and forth. And I’m really looking forward to more conversations with her. She’s experienced so much trauma and loving takes time. But going long distances with people is my heart’s cry.”

Faith Garland went from “prodigal” to “beloved.” Now, she’s showing other women how to do the same thing.

“I came to know that I am my heavenly Father’s beloved daughter,” she says. “That’s why now, my sole purpose is to tell others that they are His beloved for eternity and show them His love until they realize that truth too.”

The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® provides half of NAMB’s annual budget, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the field. The offering is used for training, support and care for missionaries, like Faith Garland, and for evangelism resources.

Published March 6, 2024

Tony Hudson

Tony Hudson writes for On Mission