By Jamie Shafer
Both Tim and Sarah Gosnell have full-time jobs and full personal lives in their hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia. Tim serves as the Communications Director at Blue Ridge Community Church, and Sarah works as a nurse. But after participating in a mission trip in 2010, Tim said they knew they couldn’t turn a blind eye to what they witnessed.
During the trip, the Gosnells worked with a ministry in Nicaragua that was rescuing young girls and women from the sex trade. Some of the girls were forced into the trade while others had chosen prostitution out of desperation to provide for their families. The stories were horrific and heartbreaking. On his blog Tim shares stories of girls as young as 6 who have been tortured and forced into doing the unspeakable.
Witnessing the Struggle
“Seeing their faces and hearing their stories made it real,” shared Tim. The ministry they visited was striving to meet the needs of these girls, but it was difficult to raise enough money on a regular basis, even for basic needs like good nutrition. Tim said that a typical meal there might consist of rice and chicken feet, just to provide some source of protein. This type of work is so important, and yet the global need is immense. Some people might be tempted to become overwhelmed and fail to act at all.
Tim and Sarah believed others would want to help if they knew more about what was taking place on a global scale and how they could make a difference. Out of this belief, the Gosnells launched Paper Hope.
In its third year, the “cards with a cause” company exists to raise awareness and support to help women and children escape human trafficking and prostitution while learning about the hope of Jesus. Its initial efforts centered on Mother’s Day cards. Instead of giving chocolates or flowers that last for a short time, the Gosnells provided a creative way to express appreciation for moms and offer the hope of Christ to girls who desperately need it.
Cards are $20 each, and 100 percent of that money goes to gospel-centered organizations like Women’s Rescue Network (Virginia), Gospel for Asia’s Red Light Outreach (India), and Wipe Every Tear (Philippines), which are helping girls and women find new hope after leaving the sex trade. Card are distributed through Paper Hope’s website (www.paperhope.org) and through independently owned businesses in Virginia, West Virginia, and Indiana. In its first year Paper Hope raised over $6,000 with the Mother’s Day project.
Tim noted that, in our culture, it seems like Christians are often known for what we stand against. His hope is that we become known for what we stand for—being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in the world.
Hope for the Future
The Gosnells’ goal is to be able to give as much away as possible. Part of this plan includes the launch of a new line of boutique-style cards with various designs, including thank-you notes. Wherever possible, volunteers participate and provide free labor for the operation. Several artists donated their time to create the new card styles. The goal is that these cards can help with the printing and operational expenses of the Mother’s Day cards, so in turn they can keep directing all of the project funds toward ministry. The remaining portion of the proceeds from the smaller cards will also be directed to Paper Hope’s chosen ministries.
Tim highlighted Isaiah 1:17 on his blog, which says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
The couple shared: “We don’t want to just create awareness of the injustices that are going on but also give a practical way to get involved. Together we can make a difference in the lives of women and girls living in sexual slavery with something as simple as a greeting card.” Learn more at www.paperhope.org.
Jamie Shafer is the communications director at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.