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What is your favorite memory from SCPS? 

When I was a senior, my brother was in Mrs. Patrick’s kindergarten class. He would ride to school with me and walk around to visit his high school “friends.” Mr. Helmly, the biology teacher, would take him into the labs and show him what we were dissecting that day. When I ran for class treasurer, my very cute 5-year-old little brother campaigned for me and told everyone to vote for his sister. I won, and Chris Roach, my opponent and friend, asked how he could compete with Deke campaigning.

What did you do after graduation? 

I went to Charleston Southern and majored in Sports Medicine. I then moved back to Savannah to work in orthopedics while I received my MBA, which led to me moving overseas to work in an AIDS orphanage in South Africa. I continued in missions, working in other places in the world,  from Central and South America to Europe and Asia.

What inspired you to get involved in your mission of rescuing Muslim women from human trafficking? 

Ever since I lived in South Africa, I could not imagine doing anything else except sharing the gospel overseas and helping those who have not been as blessed as we have. I felt God calling me to go to Asia, but I wasn’t sure where, so I backpacked across SE Asia, visiting missionaries in 5 countries. I discovered that my skills would be best used in the Philippines. There are closed islands in the Philippines that are Muslim majority, but I could use scuba to gain access. While I was in language school in Manila, I would study at a cafe where single Muslim females worked. One day, I had evacuated from a volcano eruption in my city, so I was about 9 hours away. I received a text from my friend that her mom had just sold her, and she was begging me to come to her at the mosque. I got to her a few days later, and I found out that the cafe was actually a trafficking ring. The owners would sell single women to men in the Middle East, and they would never be heard from again. My friend was sold to a man in Manila to bring honor back to her family because her mom had brought shame. I walked through ‘being sold’ with several friends and the abuse that followed. We were able to buy some of the girls their freedom, and some disappeared. They all said that there was no one to defend them, and they had no voice. When I was with them, they would often tell me they felt peace when the believers were around, and they wanted to know how to have that. They would ask me where my hope came from. God broke my heart for this specific group of people because no one defends them. Their families are selling them, and they are crying out for help. I did not go to work specifically in this area, but God allowed me to see the atrocities that were happening, so I would do something. I came home on furlough for a year to better prepare and build a team to focus on this, and now we are ready and are fighting the trafficking of these women on the island of Mindanao.

Tell us more about the work you are doing and your plan for your next steps in the Philippines.

I have partnered with a Filipino named Pia, who is a trauma counselor from Iligan, Mindanao. Her family fled this area when her grandfather was killed by Muslim extremists. Pia left the Philippines when she was 18 to come to America, but her family still had several acres of land right on the ocean on this southern island. Several years ago, ISIS set up a training camp in an area about an hour away and recruited Filipinos as suicide bombers. The government eventually ran them out by bombing the area but left it devastated. Pia’s church went in and rebuilt the homes and the mosque in this community, and then Pia started a school for Muslim and Christian kids to come together and bring peace among families of different faiths. She did this under the protection of the local sultan, who allowed this because of what the church had done for his community. He came to Pia in 2022 and said, “Women are being abused in my community, but by our law, they are allowed to be treated as property and sold. If I can smuggle them out to you, can they stay on your land?” Pia said of course, but when I counsel them, I will share the gospel, and he said their safety was the most important. God has given us a favor in the eyes of this man. We also partner with an organization in Manila that poses as Johns and goes into brothels to get girls out of forced prostitution. The girls come down to us for healing and counseling, and then we train them in a vocation and help them acclimate back into society. None of these girls can go home because it’s their families who have sold them. I will head back to the Philippines in January to start construction on the safe house and be an advocate for abused females. The need is great, but we are praying we can be a voice for the voiceless and show them their value and worth as children of God.

What experiences at SCPS prepared you for this important ministry? 

I attended SCPS from K-3 through graduation. I think there were 6 or 7 of us in my class that went the whole way through. My time at Savannah Christian was truly like a family. I still get together with some of these friends, like Lindsay Miller Buck (01). We have stayed connected, and our moms, Debbie and Cindy, are still friends who served so many years in PTF together. Sarah Usher Buck (98) is another friend who took me to school freshman year, and then I took her sister Mary (03), who is a huge support for me when I’m overseas and just the best encourager. Ashley Yaughn Dewitt (02) is also my best bud to this day, who was always my counterpart on costumes during homecoming week and slept over after football games. We have gone through so many ups and downs in our lives. Our senior year, Matt Bragg, died in a car crash a few months before graduation, and our class just leaned on each other through this.  The camaraderie we had growing up at SCPS taught us to be a family, from the rough times like death and illnesses to the good times like marriage and babies. We were taught to love God and to help others, which has continued into our adulthood where any of these girls, plus many more, I have texted from somewhere in the world with a crazy time difference to cry with or to celebrate successful ministry days with because of the lifelong bond that was established in the hallways of Savannah Christian.

How does your dive shop support your ministry?

1. I have found that diving quickly builds relationships with the Muslim women in the community. It all started when I took some of my Muslim female friends on shallow dives to try “evangelism through diving,” and it worked beautifully! I was able to build immediate trust within our relationships and share Christ with them rather quickly. It usually takes seven interactions before you can build a deep enough friendship to share the gospel, but through diving, our team saw this reduced to just four interactions.

2. When we have church planters or believers who need a career and are interested in diving, I can train them to become dive masters and assistant instructors rather easily. Filipino nationals will always be more effective in sharing the gospel than me (given the cultural and language barriers), so I want to empower them and do all I can in order for more unreached people to hear about Christ.

3. Based on my experience, taking children of all ages (they do have to be above 10 years old) diving is such a blast and it is also such a great way to show them God’s incredible underwater creation.

4. I currently have a dive network in the Philippines, and I host these divers while I am in Mindanao (this island is well-known for its beautiful marine life). The proceeds go towards our resort/safe house for women.

5. There are few places safer for victimized women to share than on a bangka (boat) in the middle of the sea, especially when they know they are surrounded by caring and compassionate believers. Their stories of abuse tend to just come out because they know they cannot be overheard, and they can feel they are being treated with love, honor, and respect.

How can other alumni support you in your efforts?

1. Financially, to support our safe house, you can donate here

2. Please pray. We are in a very dark area, and it’s hard work, and sometimes we are threatened because we are taking the money makers out of the hands of the traffickers.

3. Send me an email The Philippines is far, far away, and I feel like I’m at the end of the world. Encouragement means so much because we see the most depraved acts of man

4. Come visit! It is far, but you will never see beauty quite like our islands or have more hospitable people. Plus, you would be putting money right in the pockets of the locals who have chosen to fight for their people and follow God along with some crazy Americans. We promise to show you the best time and show you the beauty of God’s creation above and under the sea.