Magdalene’s Light provides a bridge to hope

Published 6:50 am Tuesday, January 8, 2019

On an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in rural Mower County, teams of horse-drawn wagons took people on rides down country roads and between fields.

The sun was shining brightly in a blue sky as temperatures hovered in the high 40s. In a lot of ways, the day of bright sunshine and blue skies reflected the reason for the outdoor activity — raising awareness and creating hope.

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The event, held just north of Lyle and organized by Tim Carroll and Doreen Carroll and many others, was meant to bring awareness to a new residential program that will be hosted at a site in northern Iowa for exploited or abused women and victims of sex-trafficking.

Called Magdalene’s Light, the program is a bridge for women affected to cross to a better life filled with more possibilities.

A carriage takes riders through a field Saturday afternoon. The day was dedicated to bringing awareness to Magdalene’s Light.

“Often they’ve got no job, no skills and no place to live,” Tim Carroll said late last month, when announcing the program. “They have a hard time getting off the ground. We’re going to teach life skills; everything from maintaining your car, changing oil, writing a business plan and starting a business. Give them opportunities to get their businesses off the ground.”

The idea for Magdalene’s Light arose from a chance meeting with Mark Jenkins, director of the grounds on which Magdalene’s Light headquarters are located. The site location is not disclosed to maintain the safety of the women using the services.

Jenkins doesn’t look at the moment as chance, but rather, “A God thing.”

“I had some walnut trees on the property, so Tim came down and logged some of the trees,” Jenkins said. “He started asking me what the camps do.”

The location hosts a number of camps throughout the summer months and is church-affiliated.

After that, the idea arose of creating a residential program, where Magdalene’s Light would lease the property to help women get their lives back on track. Officially, the idea was launched last January, and Carroll is hoping the program will open its doors later this year.

“I would like to get it going by the fall of this year,” Carroll said. “Initially, we were going to open Nov. 1, but if we could open sooner, great.”

According to Jenkins, the program is designed to run for 13 months. From November to the end of April, the women will stay on site learning a variety of skills.

Starting on May 1, they are offered positions either at the camp or businesses around the area. They will work through the summer, where they will return to the camp and where their actions will be seen as examples that things can and do get better.

“It’s more about discipline,” Jenkins said. “Get up, go to work and do a good job. It’s critical because these ladies are going to come in that have failed in the past. Here, they can see ladies that can say, ‘You can make it.’”

There will also be a mentorship component, where women in the area of the program will pair with the women going through it.

Among those helping to organize and run the program is Tammi Nelson, who Carroll met when his own ministry and counseling work was getting off the ground.

People came out to the home of Tim and Doreen Carroll Saturday for a sunny afternoon of horse-drawn wagon and carriage rides in an effort to raise awareness for Magdalene’s Light.

Carroll said it was Nelson’s story that pushed him toward more counseling work with women.

“She’s the inspiration of this whole thing,” Carroll said. “I met Tammi and through her experiences, I started to focus on helping women. That got me focused on this ministry.”

Nelson was an owner of Paradise Island, a strip club and bar in Austin that closed in 2016.

A particularly frightening incident pushed her away from that life and into ministry work.

“My daughter tried to commit suicide and that’s kind of where it stemmed from,” Nelson said. “In crying out to God to help her, I called out to God to help me as well.”

Nelson saw that life first-hand and wants to guide women away from it.

“We closed with the thoughts of helping Tim in his ministry,” she said. “To give back and help the women.”

The program, which Carroll said is getting support from a number of areas as well as a positive reception, will teach all the skills these women will need in business and in life.

It’s about bridging a gap that Carroll, Jenkins and Nelson all hope will create a foundation they can build on — an opportunity to show others affected by abuse or trafficking that life can get better.

“We’re teaching these women things like banking skills,” Nelson said. “They’ve been abused, we’re helping them see another life and love … real love.”