Lee University hosted guest speaker Becca Stevens, an author, speaker, priest and social entrepreneur, at its Conn Center for chapel service on Feb. 28. She shared her women empowerment and recovery …
Lee University hosted guest speaker Becca Stevens, an author, speaker, priest and social entrepreneur, at its Conn Center for chapel service on Feb. 28. She shared her women empowerment and recovery program, Thistle Farms.
The organization is dedicated to helping heal women survivors of sexual violence, addiction and trauma. This happens through a mission of three interconnected parts, — in residential communities, through meaningful employment and across a coordinated national movement.
Stevens took the stage to praise the Lee University worship team who performed earlier, as she said she’s never heard such devoted worship from a group of students.
“I’m seriously so impressed with the genuine worship going on here today. You can feel the love in this room,” Stevens said.
She then went over some grim statistics, including how most women are first raped between the ages of 7 and 11, and how most women take to the streets between ages 14 and 16.
“These are women who have experienced significantly traumatic things in their lives,” she said.
Stevens is a victim of sexual abuse herself, which came at the hands of a church minister from age 6 to 9..
When she started working with women with criminal histories, Stevens went to the alleys and streets where the women lived and worked.
She explained there was only ever one wildflower in those areas, a thistle. She quoted Jesus Christ when he talked about the single wildflower existing in the middle of all of life’s chaos.
It was then, she said, that she began to think of the thistle. She wanted to go out and bring these women into sanctuary, and find a place where women can have the space and time to do the healing work they need to do.
“The world has deemed the thistle as an awful weed. They thrive in brutality yet have this soft, deep purple center and with their deep taproots, they can survive floods and droughts,” she said.
Over the years, Thistle Farms has grown into the largest social justice enterprise in the U.S., according to Stevens. There are over 50 sister communities around the country, meaning more than 210 beds for displaced women. Thistle Farms also has 26 global partners.
She added ha thistle can be found anywhere in the world, and despite the dislike of the plant, it is beautiful. The same is true of these women who’ve gone through trauma. Beauty and strength underlie their trauma and past baggage.
“Thistles become this beautiful way of seeing the Gospel, where you remember the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” Stevens said.
Thistle Farms helps in residential communities where women experience healing, restoration and love without judgement. It helps through meaningful employment, where women gain new skills, earn a living wage and have the opportunity to connect with customers and partners from around the world via one of its social enterprises. It even helps through coordinated national movement of customers, advocates and communities willing to collaborate in finding new and innovative ways to deliver healing, hope and justice.
Levi Hummon, Stevens’ son, is a songwriter, and after growing up seeing the empowerment of women that his mother instilled in him, wrote a song called “Love Heals,” referencing Thistle Farms. Hummon’s music video even included various women from Thistle Farms singing different parts of the song.
“Part of what makes women so vulnerable in this world is poverty, and dangerous relationships are part of that violence and vulnerability. That’s when we started making products that are healthy for the body like oils and lotions,” Stevens said.
Thistle Farms makes everything from bath soaks to body butter. Every purchase of the organization’s handcrafted, natural body and home products directly benefits the survivors who make them.
Stevens has been featured in the New York Times, on "ABC World News" and NPR and was recently named a 2016 CNN Hero and White House “Champion of Change.” She was named Humanitarian of the Year by the Small Business Council of America, was inducted into the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame and featured in the PBS documentary, “A Path Appears.”
She attended the University of the South and Vanderbilt Divinity School and has three honorary doctorates. At the moment, she lives in Nashville with her husband, Grammy award-winning songwriter Marcus Hummon, and their three sons.
Following a prayer, Stevens concluded the emotional chapel service.
For more information about Thistle Farms, visit https://thistlefarms.org/pages/leadership.
For more information about Lee University chapel services, visit http://leeuniversity.edu/chapel/.
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