Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauren Johnson.
Hi Lauren, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Early in 2014, I began to feel a tugging from the Holy Spirit that I should help survivors of human trafficking in Houston, Texas, where we lived at the time. That summer I began volunteering at a local organization as part of their Backpage research/rescue team. By the end of the three-month research project, I just knew I could not go back to life as normal. I had to do more for these precious girls. A dear friend of mine put me in touch with a local safe house, Freedom Place, where I soon found myself each week.
At this safe house, I would simply hang out with the girls, watch movies with them, help with their sewing classes, sit in on their Bible studies, and I even personally mentored a few of them. Over my time there, I heard their stories and watched them battle to break free from the emotional trauma. I also heard most of them say how they struggled to just get sleep each night because of the nightmares.
Later in 2014, I began using essential oils for my own family. At the time, we had mostly only experienced the physical benefits from essential oils, but I began hearing numerous testimonials from others who had experienced emotional healing from trauma in their past by utilizing these same essential oils.
I felt a tugging from the Holy Spirit, yet again, to donate some of my oils for the girls to use during their counseling sessions and at night while they slept. I reached out to the safe home, and much to my surprise, the staff at Freedom Place, had been praying for someone to donate essential oils out there! They knew of the benefits and wanted to give them a try in their program. My husband and I began donating some oils shortly thereafter, but it was evident that we could not impact as many lives as we wanted to without letting others in on this mission with us.
That’s when I decided to open an online shop selling handmade (some are even survivor-made) fair trade products and use the profit to purchase the essential oils for the girls. I didn’t want to only ask for donations from friends, family, and strangers. I wanted people to be able to walk away with something tangible for themselves or for a friend and know that they were able to help survivors of sex trafficking through that purchase.
We have now supported safe homes and recovery programs in several different states across the US. We are most excited about our newest safe home partnership with Life Recaptured as it is right here in Brevard County, FL!
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has definitely not been a fast process or an easy road since we began this nonprofit I have a background in the health care industry, not in business or marketing or anything that would be helpful for this… ha! Every step of the way has required me to trust God, spend a lot of time learning new skills, and gain knowledge on topics I never thought I would need.
For example, the application process to obtain the federal nonprofit 501(c)(3) status (so that we can provide our donors with a tax deduction) was a gruesome process. As a homeschooling mom of four littles, it took me a lot longer than most people to fill out the paperwork. And, I have to admit, I shed a lot of tears over it. It was worth it, though, because it’s a small way we can thank our generous donors.
Another challenge we have faced is that our cause encompasses two topics that many people still do not fully understand: (1) sex trafficking in America and (2) the benefits of essential oils. If people don’t understand sex trafficking in America or don’t know much about essential oils, then there’s a huge disconnect; they won’t see the need to come alongside us in our efforts. Our biggest supporters have always been those who know sex trafficking is a massive problem here in America and those who truly understand how powerful essential oils can be for releasing deeply rooted trauma.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about ReleaseSARA?
We are on a mission to provide 10,000 bottles of essential oils to survivors of sex trafficking by 2030 because we believe survivors deserve to release the emotional trauma and flourish into their future. Many people often wonder where the name ‘ReleaseSARA’ originated… and almost everyone asks, “Who is Sara?”
The “Release” in our name reflects both the physical release of the girls as captives in the trafficking ring as well as the emotional release we are hoping for them to experience as they utilize the essential oils.
As for ‘SARA’ – well, one of the many essential oil blends we donate to survivors is the SARA blend, which is an acronym that stands for “Sexual Abuse and Ritual Abuse.” This blend can be used as a tool alongside other therapies to help survivors release the negative emotions and traumatic memory of sexual or ritual torment and other forms of physical or emotional abuse. Sara also happens to be the name of the very first survivor who opened up to me about her emotional struggles. Sara was one girl. One survivor. But SARA represents all of the girls (and boys) we aim to help.
So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
Two of the best ways people can support us are by (1) shopping in our online shop regularly for gifts and (2) donating through our website. We would be honored if your readers would set up a one-time or recurring monthly donation. Every $10 supports the restoration of one survivor of sex trafficking and can make a lasting impact for generations to come!
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.ReleaseSARA.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/releasesara
- Facebook: facebook.com/releasesara
Michelle Bender Photography