Fighting for the Souls of America’s Vulnerable
By Joy Lucius and Anne Reed
(Editor’s Note: The following was written by Anne Reed & Joy Lucius and was first published in the AFA Journal’s October 2019 edition)
Wendy Henderson was born to an unwed teen. She spent much of her childhood tossed back and forth between her mother in Texas and her grandparents in Tennessee.
“My mom and I never really had a relationship. I thought she hated me,” said Henderson. “I felt like it was because I messed up her childhood.”
Although Henderson never felt loved by her mother, she did find love and security while visiting the Christ-centered home of her grandparents in Memphis, Tennessee. So, she was thrilled when she was sent to live with them permanently.
Henderson flourished there. She graduated high school and got a great job with the IRS. Even when she got pregnant with her son Neko, her grandparents continually loved and supported her.
A few years later, Henderson’s grandparents both died within 18 months of each other. A family inheritance feud left Henderson without a home or a car and endangered her custody of Neko.
Entrapped by Darkness
A subtle but unyielding change began in Henderson as she desperately looked for another source of love and acceptance. That search led her into the dark world of drugs and sexual exploitation.
“I turned to the only place I felt I was loved: sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” Henderson stated. “The underworld was so fascinating to me, and the money flowed like water.
“I turned my back on the only person who needed, depended on, and loved me: my son,” Henderson said. “My [drug] addiction and lifestyle convinced me I was helpless, hopeless, and good for nothing, just like I had felt growing up.”
She voluntarily placed her son in the foster care system, claiming it was for the best since Neko should not be penalized for her failures. Henderson’s life spiraled ever downward from that point.
Continually looking for love, Henderson finally found her very own Prince Charming – or so she thought.
“It turned out that he was Satan himself,” Henderson declared. “I saw things, felt things, said things, watched things, allowed things, and begged for things that no human being should have ever seen, been exposed to, or reduced to.”
After a failed suicide attempt, Henderson was arrested on prior felony charges. That arrest turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After seven months in jail, Henderson entered a long-term residential program called A Way Out.
She got off the streets, and off drugs, and she began brushing up on her computer skills. And rather than seeking the love of a man, she discovered God’s unconditional love.
“I look forward to the future. I have hope,” Henderson said. “But if it weren’t for A Way Out, some of us girls would really be lost.”
Called into Battle
Originally founded by Carolyn McKenzie, A Way Out is a ministry arm of Citizens for Community Values (CCV) of Memphis. A Way Out has been a beacon of light for over two decades, pointing sexually exploited women to Christ.
McKenzie had served as an Army nurse during the Vietnam War. But nothing she experienced there prepared her for the war she saw raging against women on the streets of Memphis in 1994. A one-night stint riding along with an undercover police officer vividly exposed the desperate plight of women being exploited in the city’s sex trafficking industry.
McKenzie, a wife and mother of four sons, subsequently began CCV as a city-wide campaign to shut down the area’s adult pornographic bookstores, topless nightclubs, and other indecent venues.
About that time, the founder of the American Family Association, Don Wildmon, heard about McKenzie’s work and called offering to help with CCV’s efforts against indecency. That call forged a bond that has endured for more than 25 years, as both ministries continue to battle against evil in the courts, the culture, and the homes of our nation.
Soon, more and more doors began to open for McKenzie to spread CCV’s campaign for decency, including an invitation to speak on a local radio station. An indignant, broken-hearted mother called in during that radio interview. She openly rebuked McKenzie for her judgmental attitude, explaining how desperately her daughter wanted out of the topless dance club but felt trapped with bills to pay and a baby to feed.
Thoroughly convicted, McKenzie called the mother back, met her daughter, spent countless hours babysitting the dancer’s baby, and helped her find housing as well as a new job managing an apartment complex.
So began the ministry of A Way Out, specifically designed as a practical way to help sexually exploited women discover freedom and life in Christ.
McKenzie led the ministry until 1999 when she retired to help care for her parents. At that point, Carol Wiley had been working with McKenzie for some time. It made perfect sense for Wiley to assume directorship of the program.
In a recent interview with AFA Journal, Wiley recounted her personal history with the ministry.
“I first got involved because they were looking for a Christian counselor to work with the women,” Wiley explained. “It was very grassroots back then, with just four or five women we had helped get out of the strip clubs.”
Rescued by Love
Those vulnerable women quickly stole Wiley’s heart as she began to witness their brokenness.
“Most of our girls don’t know how broken they are at first,” Wiley stated. “But when the light comes on and that light comes into their eyes, they recognize that God loves them and there actually could be something different for them in life.”
From that point on, A Way Out has taught participants how to successfully navigate seven key areas of their new lives: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, financial, and vocational.
Sadly, drug addiction has become a major component of care for broken and exploited victims of the sex trafficking industry. But with Christ’s love, the volunteers and staff of A Way Out are determined to meet the needs of each precious woman, whether it is by helping her beat addiction, repairing her drug-damaged teeth, regaining custody of her children, or simply throwing her the first birthday party of her life.
As Wiley put it, “God has given us a deep urgency and love for these women – an urgency to see the darkness dissipate.”
And for many of these women, Wendy Henderson included, A Way Out is the path out of that darkness and into His light.
Yet, countless others across the nation are still entrapped by the dark underworld of sex trafficking.
Exposing the Source
“Let’s go after the demand that drives sex trafficking!”
It was Ricky Darr – husband, father of three, owner of a flooring business, and co-founder of the National Decency Coalition (NDC) in Nashville, Tennessee – who spoke those emphatic words to Russ White, attorney and executive director of CCV. White felt the weight as the words sank in and became the impetus for his involvement in fighting for legislation that stops sexual exploitation before it starts, by going after its source – pornography.
The two men have since worked together, applying their own passions, gifts, and connections to bring an end to the rampant availability of hardcore pornography.
“One of the biggest issues of my heart is the ease with which a child in our culture accesses pornography,” Darr told AFA Journal. He co-founded the NDC after reading about former UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s work to protect children from online pornography access while also blocking the most dangerous forms of sexually explicit content from adults, including violence and child pornography.
“I promised God I would do something,” said Darr, “and a year later, in 2016, I just decided to do it.” He began by thoroughly researching the inherent harms of porn and wrote a 13-page paper detailing his findings. In 2017, he also joined existing efforts to pass a resolution in Tennessee declaring pornography a public health crisis.
Tennessee was the fourth of 15 states to pass this type of resolution. And other states are working toward the same goal.
The resolution stresses the need for education on the addictive nature of porn, the dire need for recovery programs and accountability standards for those perpetually infecting the environment with toxic messages that objectify women and hypersexualize teens and prepubescent children.
Hardcore material often becomes a child’s “sex education,” leading to body image disorders and extremely risky sex acts – including child-on-child abuse that leads to increasing addiction and worsening thought patterns and behavior in adulthood. Porn addicts also experience difficulty or inability in forming and maintaining the level of intimacy found within the context of a healthy marriage.
Pornography seeks to normalize violence and abuse, and it fuels rape and sex trafficking. It destroys the self-worth of girls who are taught through viewing porn that rape and abuse are harmless, normal, and enjoyable.
While CCV is rescuing those nearly destroyed by the shattering effects of sexual abuse, it also attacks the agent cultivating selfish desires in the first place.
Protecting with Laws
NDC, CCV, and the Tennessee House of Representatives are pushing federal lawmakers to follow in the footsteps of the UK, which passed the Digital Economy Act in 2017, a law implemented on July 15, 2019, that requires age verification before accessing online pornography.
The validity of arguments supporting pornography withers when the facts are presented. Pornographers have claimed constitutional rights for years, calling it free speech. But it was made clear in Roth v. United States (1957) that obscenity is not protected by the freedoms of speech and press.
And now Internet providers argue that the burden of responsibility for protecting children is too great, the technology too advanced, and the cost exorbitant. White challenged that argument.
“Not only is pornography not protected free speech,” he told AFA Journal. “but the other arguments made by the Internet service providers fail as well. The cost to develop this technology is one cent per month per customer.”
Hope is on the horizon. Establishing that pornography is a severe detriment to a state’s society lays a solid foundation on which to build a legislative framework that protects our most vulnerable against sexual distortion and abuse.
If you would like to help with a resolution to declare pornography a public health hazard in your state, contact Ricky Darr at [email protected]
▶ National Decency Coalition
▶ Citizens for Community Values/A Way Out
Whether male or female, those addicted to pornography are victims of the enemy’s schemes to steal, kill, and destroy. Confidential help for those suffering due to one’s own addiction or because of a loved one’s addiction is available at:
▶ Pure Life Ministries