Saturday, September 28, 2013

Love Heals, But Not All By Itself

If prostitution is the world’s oldest “profession,” then child sexual abuse is one generation older. The experience of unmitigated sexual abuse in childhood is the single most common event in the lives of women at Magdalene. A vulnerability to being trafficked, to addiction and to eventual prostitution occur in the aftermath of a childhood marked by severe abuse, chronic familial and institutional neglect and early alcohol and drug abuse to numb emotional pain. The difference between a child abuse victim who ends up trafficked or prostituting and victims who don’t lies in the ability of families and systems to protect children, in the severity and duration of the abuse, and in the tendency of our culture to minimize the trauma of the experience.

Magdalene and Thistle Farms are working to shift the national conversation around sex trafficking so that the secrecy, power and consequences of untreated child abuse will be consistently acknowledged at a national level. Much of that work begins at home. On a local level, we partner with staff at Nashville's Sexual Assault Center who are licensed specialists in recovery from  sexual abuse and assault. The Sexual Assault Center provides a safe, therapeutic place for women at Magdalene to share their stories of abuse and to receive the support they need to heal. Replacing anxiety and depression with healthy tools for coping with stress gives women a new found sense of power and control in their lives and strengthens their commitment to recovery.

At our upcoming national conference, we will explore these topics during the workshop PTSD and SECOND STAGE RECOVERY in Adult Survivors of Trafficking and Prostitution led by the following veteran mental health counselors from Nashville's Sexual Assault Center: 

Meet Rosemary Cope, LPC/MHSP:
Rosemary has worked in the mental health field for over 20 years serving as a counselor at the Vanderbilt University Counseling Center, a pastoral counselor, a schizophrenia researcher, and most recently as the senior mental health clinician with the Vanderbilt Community Mental Health Center. She has MA degrees in clinical psychology and from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Nashville Psychotherapy Institute and has specialized training in Level I and II EMDR and in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 

Meet Becky Russell, LPC/MHSP:
Becky has also worked in the mental health field for over 20 years serving as a Case Manager, Behavior Specialist, Outpatient Therapist, and Behavior Research Clinician/Consultant. She received her M.Ed. in counseling from The University of Mississippi. Becky is a Certified EMDR Therapist (Level I and Level II) with specialized training in behavior modification (CBT model); Cognitive Processing Therapy; Attachment, Self-Regulation and Competency Model (ARC); as well as various other training in trauma and dissociation. 

Meet Eve Vanzant, M.Ed., N.C.C.
Eve received her Masters degree in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt University. She is a National Certified Counselor specializing in the treatment of adolescent and adult survivors of rape and childhood sexual abuse, as well as non-offending parents and partners of survivors. She has specialized training in Cognitive Processing Therapy and Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and serves on the board of the Nashville Psychotherapy Institute.

To register and for more information, go to

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Stand With

Rev. Becca Stevens, the Episcopal Chaplain at St. Augustine’s Chapel at Vanderbilt University and Founder of Magdalene & Thistle Farms, gave a sermon that ended with a call to action to respond to the rape that happened on the Vanderbilt campus this summer. 

That call to action is coming to life this Friday, September 27th, as a vigil in solidarity for all survivors of sexual violence.

From 12 PM to 1 PM on Friday, individuals will stand with one of four posters along the main corridors of the Vanderbilt campus. Stickers will be passed out to wear that day and throughout the weekend. St. Augustine’s will provide the pre-printed posters and stickers or you can print your own.

If you would like to participate please respond to so we can assign spots on campus to ensure that the whole campus is covered. If you are unable to stay for the whole hour, please pair with a friend.

If you can't join us for that hour or aren't in Nashville, you can still show your support online by changing your Facebook profile picture to the I Stand With Logo or sharing the information on your social media outlets.

We want to emphasize that this is a vigil of individuals and is not sponsored by any Vanderbilt groups. Our hope is that this will create connections and initiate dialogue about sexual violence on campus and throughout the world. By changing the culture on campus, we are all empowered to stand against sexual violence and to stand with survivors.

Poster Pick-Up Times at St. Augustine's Chapel:

9 AM to 3 PM

9 AM to 1 PM

Email to participate, and go to for more information.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Village Of Healers

When people visit for our monthly education workshops, we stress that there is no way we could do this work alone. We rely on a village of healers: health care providers, safety net programs and a strong relationship with our local law enforcement agencies to support the care of each Magdalene resident.

With our first national conference -- Welcome to the Circle -- less than a month away, we are especially excited to introduce you to some of our amazing community partners. We truly could not do the work we do without them.

On Tuesday, October 15, join us for the workshop called Interrupting the Cycle of Supply & Demand: A Criminal Justice Perspective led by Nashville Assistant District Attorney Antoinette Welch and John School Volunteer Director Kenny Baker.

Meet Antoinette:
Antoinette is an Assistant DA in Nashville prosecuting large scale drug and human sex trafficking cases. She is also a former 14 year veteran officer with the Metro Nashville Police Department where she was an undercover VICE decoy and became a sergeant for the VICE unit that dealt with street level prostitution and drugs.

Her work led her to found a pioneering program called The Hannah Project. The program screens for victims of sex trafficking and provides treatment options and counseling to women stuck in the cycle of prostitution. Antoinette is also an instructor at Nashville's John School (read more below).

Antoinette is a dynamo. We can't wait for you to meet her.

Meet Kenny:
Kenneth "Kenny" Baker volunteers his time with Magdalene to lead Nashville's John School (Prostitution Solicitation School), a program aimed at getting first time offenders of soliciting prostitutes to understand the full ramifications of their behavior and to prevent further occurrences. In addition to his volunteer work us, he is owner/CEO of Behavioral Treatment Providers in Nashville.

Kenny is a self-described "veteran of the trenches" with over 17 years experience working in counseling and behavioral treatment. On a daily basis, he works closely with elected judges, attorneys, probation officers and case managers. He educates offenders and remediates criminal behaviors. He is a State Certified Domestic Violence Treatment Provider and a State Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor. Kenny has appeared on CNN and NPR and co-authored the workbook, Rules are Made to be Followed.

Kenny is a member of the Magdalene family and an integral part of the work we do.

You'll have to race us to the front row for this workshop.

To register and for more information, go to

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Lost Sheep

 Years ago, I got lost and drove onto an old country road that looked forlorn and abandoned. It was a cold day and the land was full grey from the exposed limestone that made it poor country for farming. There were three old buzzards sitting in a barren hackberry on my left, and a cabin by the road had a worn-out rebel flag handing from the clothesline near a bunch of trash and old tires. Across the road was a fenced-in field with just one sheep standing there looking abandoned and alone. It was the clearest image I have ever seen of the parable of the lost sheep in which Jesus leaves the ninety-nine in search of the one forsaken.

      I read the front page of the Nashville paper that described the confession by one student about the brutal rape and sodomy with a foreign object in June of a coed in a Vanderbilt dorm room by four other students and their ensuing attempts at cover up. Six pages later the Tennessean’s "World News" section announced the death penalty just handed down to four young men in India convicted in the rape, sodomizing with a foreign metal object and death of a young woman there in December. The image of the foresaken sheep is about all of the victims of violence that not only carry the universal issues including post traumatic stress, loss of life, permanent physical and mental disabilities but the private and lonely scars unrevealed to a wider world. It is the image that I carry with me when I meet folks when they are broken, or just coming from the streets, or when someone is bearing the news of tragedy.  It is the image of all of us lost and wandering in a field of uncertainty. And in that lost sheep I can see the faces of people I have known almost daring someone to offer them a sign of hope.

     I fear that place and what it stirs up in me of anger and fear. I want to run from it and mourn the part of all of us that knows what it is to be the lost sheep. I want to fight the world that is harsh enough to make us feel like we are standing between buzzards and old useless flags. But the parable of the lost sheep is a parable about compassion, humility, idealism, and ultimately love. Jesus is telling the growing crowd that is following him to Jerusalem where they will find themselves as lost as a lone sheep in winter, that even in the hardest times, they are never abandoned. Into this place love goes with you. Jesus is reminding us that as followers of the way, that those are the very places we are called to go, remembering our own fears, and like love itself, help each other find our way back. This gospel preaches that Love steps into the places we worry that live beyond even its bounds and finds us.


     The lost sheep is the call to idealism. In idealism, we can live in hope with courage that no one is outside of love’s embrace. When we encounter a woman on the streets that has been victimized before she could even identify where she lived on a map, we don’t give up but find a way to welcome her home. Idealism says there is no one on all of God’s green earth that is hopeless. The lost sheep is a call to humility. In humility, we find the courage so face huge and unmovable systems whether justice, education, or penal, and work on behalf of those who have been marginalized. While we are aware of our means and strength, we just keep walking towards the gates with love, even to gates of the city that kills its prophets, not abandoning those who are oppressed. The lost sheep is a call to community.  Community is the very thing a sheep longs for more than anything else. It is through the gift of traveling together that we don’t get lost and make room for people to walk their individual path with friends heading in the same direction.

     This Gospel, though, is not a theory. It more than a way of being, it is calling us to action. Living faithfully has always been about the lost sheep, whether in standing up for gay and lesbian rights, or welcoming women with housing and jobs and family from our streets and prisons, or speaking up for a rape victim on this campus. Luke’s gospel should embolden us to look again at the abandoned fields of this world and make a path wide enough for the sheep to come home. I have learned so much from people who came to find me when I was lost standing with my back against the wind hoping someone was idealistic and humble enough to see me. I have been changed by the folks who love heroically in their work and their lives and goes to the margins of this community and to the ends of the earth to help the lost sheep. Going to find the lost sheep for me means being a part of a movement in this country calling on every city to provide long term free housing for the survivors of trafficking, prostitution, addiction and violence. For many folks here it means growing the work in Ecuador, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Haiti and anywhere else where this community is pouring their hearts into the work of justice for others to find freedom. For others here it means working hard in this diocese for the equality in rites and rituals for every person. And I think for the Vanderbilt community, it means we stand together and say that we put the physical and emotional safety of student’s way ahead of athletics, Greek life and donors in a way that demonstrates our compassion for the sheep and our outrage at the horrendous violence that took place.

     Imagine for a moment the powerful message that would be preached if the whole university abandoned for a home game all the tailgates and frat parties and stood in solidarity with the one student who was abandoned on this campus one night back in June. We could hold a parade for her. It could happen. I am the lost sheep. You are the lost sheep. Together we find our way to love then go back and search the lonely ridges to bring a message of unfathomable love to others. When the sheep comes home there is rejoicing and it stands as testimony to the truth that in the end love is more powerful than anything that wants to wound us, abandon us, or make us feel alone.  

By Becca StevensThistle Farmer

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Conference Workshop Preview: Duplicating the Magdalene Model

In recent years, we have welcomed more than 1,000 visitors from Atlanta to Canada who have come to learn about duplicating the Magdalene model in their own communities. They've traveled to Nashville for our monthly education workshops and many of them have returned again and again to learn and share best practices. This circle has grown into a true movement with cities across the nation working together, sharing knowledge and adopting common strategies to help women and their communities recover and heal.  

At next month's Welcome to the Circle Conference, you will meet two of our favorite trailblazing kindred spirits, Kara Van de Carr and Mike Kinman. Hear firsthand how they are working to bring healing, recovery, housing and economic sustainability to women in New Orleans and St. Louis. 

Mike Kinman and St. Louis team in Nashville at a Magdalene & Thistle Farms Education Workshop in 2011

Learn how they are duplicating the Magdalene model while remaining true to what makes each of their respective communities unique. Eden House opened its doors last year in New Orleans and Magdalene St. Louis, with its board and 501c3 status in place, is in the process of hiring its first Executive Director. 

Kara Van de Carr, Magdalene graduate Clemmie Greenlee and summer intern Kiren at Eden House in New Orleans

For those of you who are social workers and LCPs, we are offering nine CEUs (continuing education units) sponsored by Mental Health Association of Middle TN and MTSU Department of Social Work. 

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all model for healing in this world, but we believe in sharing best practices with our neighbors and know that the widening of this circle represents what we can do standing together and not alone as witnesses to the truth that in the end, love is the most powerful force for change in the world. 

To learn about implementing the Magdalene model into your community and for more information on our first National Conference, go to

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Thistle Stop Cafe Spotlight: Rob

What would a great Café be without great coffee? The Thistle Stop Café is proud to serve Just Love Coffee and today, we spotlight: Rob Webb, founder of Just Love Coffee Roasters.

What is special about Just Love Coffee Roasters?
We are focused on roasting Fair Trade Organic coffees that support non-profits, adoptive families, and clean water in Ethiopia. Fundamentally, we are an organization rooted in love for everyone, especially those in need and those who are poor in love.

How did you hear about/get involved with Thistle Farms / Thistle Stop Café?
My wife, Emily, was making coffee sample drops and decided to stop by Thistle Farms. When she did, Courtney had coincidentally just been by our coffee shop and was holding a Just Love cup in her hand. We invited Thistle Farms to our roasting facility, got to know each other better, and began cupping coffees.

What is your role in the Café? Which element of the Café do you have the strongest personal connection with / are you most proud of?
We are the coffee roaster for the Café. We spent time with Thistle Farms cupping coffees to choose for the shop and blending coffees to create the Thistle Stop Café Blend. We also provide ongoing training for the baristas at Thistle Stop Café and consult with Thistle Stop Café for everything from equipment and brewing methods to the menu and coffee bar logistics. It was amazing to see our head barista train the ladies. She never dreamed that being in the coffee business would give her the opportunity to touch the lives of the ladies at Thistle Farms and be touched by their stories as well. It’s an incredible experience to be a small part of these life transformations.

One of the baristas at Just Love, showing the Thistle Stop Cafe staff how coffee beans are roasted.

What about the project / women inspires you?
My description cannot do justice to the miraculous transformations that occur in the ladies at Thistle Farms. It is an exhibition of love in its purest form. It's a love that I strive for and fail at every day. I will continue to strive for the kind of love that the ladies, Becca and her team at Thistle Farms give everyday. It is humbling to witness it and I am envious of it. It makes me realize that I can do so much more than I am doing. It makes me realize how comfortable I've made my life and how a little discomfort is good for the soul. Stepping outside of my comfort zone and displaying God's love should be as common as your 3 meals a day. It is at Thistle Farms and Thistle Stop Café.

What brings people to the Café and keeps them coming back?
Love and Great Coffee.

Just Love Coffee is sold at the Thistle Stop Cafe, including the Thistle Stop Cafe Blend.

Stop by the This Thistle Stop Café at 5128 Charlotte Pike in Nashville,
find us online via our website / facebook / twitter,
or contact Courtney, the Café Coordinator at

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

National Conference, Music City Style

Can it already be September? We're 6 weeks out from our first national conference and so excited we might just break out into song. It is Music City after all.  

Several years ago, when we started dreaming about gathering in Tennessee to share best practices with friends from the wider world, one of our first ideas was to offer rejuvenation and connection through story and song. Because we call Nashville home, music has played a role in shaping our understanding of community. We can't imagine offering hospitality to out of town friends without a few songs in the mix.

Over the past couple of months, we've introduced you to the visionary keynote speakers who are scheduled to be with us. Now, we are thrilled to announce that Becca StevensDr. Nicholas Hitimana, and Martina Vandenberg will be joined by:

Radney Foster - Celebrated Americana singer/songwriter who has penned hits for Keith Urban, Dixie Chicks and more.  

Ashley Cleveland - Three-time Grammy and two-time Dove award-winning singer/songwriter.

Marcus Hummon - Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter who has written hits for Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw and more.

So far, representatives from 29 states have registered. Remember if you encourage a friend to register, you'll receive a $25 gift card from Thistle Farms. It's shaping up to be a powerful and inspiring event. We hope you'll join us in the circle October 13-15, 2013. We'll be the ones singing along. 

For more information go to

Monday, September 2, 2013

Switching It Up On Music Row

Music Row is known for it's famous studios, producers, songwriters, and now, Thistle Farms' products. If you visit Starstruck Entertainment on Music Square West, you will notice that its bathrooms are stocked with Thistle Farms hand soap, hand lotion and room spray

Shana and Ronza, two of Thistle Farms' sales reps, came by to deliver the product directly and made sure that each bathroom was stocked with either the Tuscan Earth or Lavender scents. Once a new order is ready to be placed, with one simple phone call, they will bring over another scent to try out.

Switching up your regular bathroom products (which you have to purchase anyway!) to Thistle Farms products makes it THAT easy to support a local social enterprise. Plus, the five scent options offers you a chance to add some "work aroma therapy" to your office.

Email today and tell her that your company wants to Make The Switch!