As a meter reader for the Louisville Water Company, Cindy Crawford was going about the rut and routine of work when she witnessed a man and woman arguing across the street.
“Immediately I can tell that it’s a pimp and prostitute situation,” said Crawford, who was in her early 20s. “She crosses the street. When you’re reading meters—especially in different neighborhoods—you learn to be aware of what’s going on around you, but try not to be seen. The safest thing is just to do your job. Most of the time, people leave you alone, occasionally someone might come up and ask for a cigarette or money. She came right up to me. She said, ‘Can you help me? I’ve got to get away from this guy.’ At the time, we didn’t have cell phones, so I said, ‘If you want to follow me to my Jeep, I can call dispatch and have them get ahold of the police.’”
The woman started following her but abruptly disappeared. As a victim of sexual exploitation herself, Crawford, 48, will never forget that day.
“What stuck with me so much is I couldn’t help her and I wanted to,” added Crawford, a member of Southeast Christian Church’s Southwest Campus. “I just kept going back to, ‘What makes her think it’s OK to be treated that way?’ I think back to my life and how my life wasn’t bad at all, but I still put myself in a bad situation. Whatever the worst thing that you’ve done sticks with you. For me, it was my identity. That was who I was. It followed me like a black cloud. Actually, it didn’t follow me, it just was me … I don’t even know her name or what she looks like, but I remember how she made me feel. I don’t want somebody to come to me and me not be able to help them.”
That encounter eventually unleashed Crawford to have Kingdom impact.
She is now the executive director of Sycamore Farm, a nonprofit with the mission of providing women who have been trafficked or exploited a safe opportunity to create an independent, self-sustaining future through residential programming and discipleship.
‘I can do anything’
A Louisville native, Crawford was adopted as a baby due to neglect. She occasionally went to church with friends and actually transferred from a public high school to a Christian school.
“It’s funny because my mom was not a believer, and she put me in a Christian school,” Crawford said. “I was saved at school, but I felt like I already had a relationship with Him because I remember talking with Him, even though I didn’t know or understand the whole story.”
Crawford’s early 20s were marked by drugs, drinking and other bad choices, but one choice stamped her with shame.
“I made one of the worst choices in my life and began to let myself be sexually exploited,” Crawford added. “I’ve always felt that I can do anything that I want, even though it was uncomfortable and unhealthy. I went into it like I do everything else: I can do anything. But I kept praying that somebody would jerk me out of here and say, ‘What are you doing here? You don’t belong here.’”
She got out after a year.
‘not a fan’
Crawford got married in 2000 and had kids, and her sister-in-law invited her to Southeast. The Crawfords started attending Southeast in 2010, and after reading Kyle Idleman’s ‘not a fan,’ Cindy got baptized in 2011.
“I remember reading the book, and it changed my whole outlook on what being a Christian was. I thought I knew. I was getting bits and pieces from sermons, but the book opened my eyes for what God wants for me,” Crawford said. “He wants all of me, not a piece of me. He doesn’t just want me to think God is great, but to live that out. It was an ‘aha’ moment in itself. I wasn’t living for God when I was growing up. Yea, I had a relationship, but I realized I was playing it safe.”
Routine to risk
In 2013, former Senior Pastor Dave Stone talked about Scarlet Hope, an organization that shares the love of Jesus with women in the adult entertainment industry, and Crawford started serving.
“That struck a chord with me because I knew those ladies,” Crawford said. “I could relate to them. Because I didn’t have such a bad background or horrible childhood, I didn’t have a reason to make those bad choices, but I still felt horrible. I still felt it was my identity. So, I thought, ‘If I can make it through, maybe I can help someone else follow God’s plan for their life.’”
Crawford has gone on four missions trips to The Samaritan Women, an organization in Baltimore that provides restorative care to survivors of domestic sex trafficking, to host a retreat for staff and women in the program.
“I fell in love with the structure of their house,” Crawford added. “I knew I wanted to have a house just like that in Louisville. I didn’t know when, how, where, but I knew that was in my heart. Once you know what sex trafficking looks like, you can’t unsee it. I wanted to be able to offer more than just a Band-Aid.”
Sycamore Farm is in the process of raising money to buy a house to “have a space between us and the world,” so that woman can heal from trauma through Christ.
Crawford and her team of five also speak at local schools about human trafficking, Internet safety and healthy boundaries.
For more information or how to help, visit www.sycamorefarmky.org.