Interview with Steve Austin –
Author, Advocate, Activist
The Grace is Messy Project and The Fight Against Sex Trafficking
Steve…..your story is so compelling and what you are now doing to impact the lives of others is amazing. I was hoping we could start by having you share with us first…..what was the tragic experience that happened to you as a child?
As a four-year-old, I was molested by the teenage boy from across the street. There is such a stigma that comes with being molested and the humiliation that followed as I grew up and more and more memories of that day flooded back to me. It’s certainly not something you want others to know as a teenage boy. Thankfully because of God’s grace and emotional healing, I am able to talk about it and help others talk through their pain.
What other experiences in your childhood are sources of inspiration to you today?
My Mom’s sister, Missy, who was one of my favorite people on the planet, committed suicide when I was about thirteen and it shook our family. She was the upbeat one, the funny one, and the one who always seemed genuinely interested in spending time with me. I was rocked to the core and I still miss her very much to this day. She left two teenage girls (my cousins) behind, and I see the ripple effect that her decision has had even 17 years later. Through each of my experiences, it is my prayer that God would use my mess as a message and bring Hope to others.
As a young adult you attempted suicide and thankfully did not succeed. How did your life and perspective change after that experience?
Getting to the place where you’re willing to end it all and take your own life carries with it a great amount of heaviness, but waking up and realizing you’re still here…that’s a whole new issue. My boss (and dear friend), Sue, has made a statement to me so many times that it has now become my own mantra of sorts, “You have choices.” For me, as a sign language interpreter, I have word choices, ethical choices, business choices, and so on; as a human being, I have even more choices.
What were some of the new choices that were revealed to you?
Waking up in ICU, temporarily paralyzed, at rock bottom mentally and emotionally, and being TICKED to be alive left me with some new choices:
• I can suffer through ICU, get well enough to be transferred to the psych ward, and as soon as I get out, go find a gun. Yes, that was my first thought.
• I can leave my wife, family and friends, and tell no one where I am going. I can start a new life. (Not an ideal choice, but these ARE choices that I could make, whether I should or not.)
• I can lie. I can tell everyone that it was a big medicinal mess-up and act like everything is fine.
• I can decide to change my life completely and get well.
I decided to get well.
Here are some of the things I did to make that happen:
1. I admitted that I tried to take my own life and that I did not want to be here (alive).
2. I agreed to go into counseling and get serious help.
3. I agreed that my marriage also needed major work and began marriage counseling as soon as I was home. (Best decision I ever made.)
How has counseling helped you and how has your life changed since then?
First, I have recognized that I am on a journey, and that final destination won’t be reached until God calls me Home. Hopefully that will be many, many years from now. I’ve learned that I am not perfect and that perfection isn’t even the GOAL. It was a heck of a blow for me, but I finally have accepted the fact that I was born into sin, that this World is a mess, and that I am just one tiny piece of a very large puzzle. Recognizing and accepting those things have given me a new mindset. Now that my perspective has changed, I am also seeking to have a completely new mind.
True humility comes when a person recognizes that our lives have been atoned for with the death and resurrection of Christ. On that Cross, Jesus died for us and as us, and we certainly didn’t deserve his sacrifice. That realization that we are receiving daily, undeserved, unending grace causes genuine humility. Thanks to this, I am coming out of a lifelong pattern of shame, based on what religion expected of me and I am beginning to walk with my head held high, realizing that my Abba is the King of all Kings and that, as His child, I can walk in freedom and confidence in who He has made me and how much He loves me.
I have daily choices (and so you do):
• I can choose joy for the day, or to stay depressed and in bed.
• I can choose to love myself or live in shame.
• I can choose to enjoy the journey or stress myself over the final destination.
• I can choose to see God in everything or feel like He has abandoned me forever.
• I can choose to seek the Truth of God’s word or to believe the lies that are still whispered in my ear.
• I can choose to respond when someone angers, offends, or hurts me or I can “fake it to make it”.
• I can choose to be honest with myself and others about my struggles or internalize everything and end up where I was a year ago.
Your current mission is a bold and impactful one. Tell us about your upcoming book: Grace is Messy. What is the book about and what can readers expect from it?
After reading Steve Austin’s new book, “Grace is Messy: Reflections on Jesus”, all I could say is “Wow.” Steve immediately captured my attention and would not let it go. When I read the riveting account of his poverty-stricken youth and how he was able to come out of that situation, I was encouraged that anything is possible for those who believe, and that included me.
Steve has found that sweet spot between sharing stories that belong to him and giving them away. You too can benefit from the blessing of overcoming defeats and being raised up to victorious life. The lessons that he shares will give those people caught in the middle of seemingly hopeless situations, the courage and strength to move forward in faith.
His book is faith filled, but it is not religious. It is not for the faint of heart . The stories are real life and real life is not always clean, neat and tidy. As you read through the various chapters, you will find yourself immersed in a what could be a reality T.V. program, right along side of Steve and his experiences. The best thing about going along with Steve is, you never know what to expect, but you can always expect to be blessed. I highly recommend that you experience this book for yourself and someone you love.
You are partnering with WellHouse and using your book as an instrument to fight Sex trafficking. Why is sex trafficking an issue that has become your mission?
Approximately 27 million are trafficked every year, either for labor or sex. 80% are women and 50% are children. Let that sink in. Somewhere around 13, 500,000 children are trafficked every single year. Children as young as 11 and 12 years old.
Sex trafficking has become the second major epidemic, right after the drug on war, but it’s not getting near the attention. I wish we could use just a fraction of the resources we have to fight drugs and begin to fight for the exploited and trafficked.
Tell us about WellHouse and the work that they do?
The WellHouse is a faith-based and Christ-centered nonprofit organization offering immediate shelter and transitional housing to women who have been trafficked, are prostituting, or otherwise sexually exploited. Food, clothing, spiritual guidance, Christian counseling, and other necessities are provided, along with assisting with referrals for substance abuse treatment, if needed. Life skills classes, GED preparation, and other enrichment services are part of the experience to help these women become self-sufficient and give them a sense of self-worth. The goal is for women to go on to live full and productive lives.
Few shelters exist for sexually exploited women.
The WellHouse is the only 24-hour shelter offering immediate housing assistance to women being prostituted in the Southeast. Other shelters have entry requirements undermining a women’s access to an immediate, safe environment, such as requiring state identification, proof of homelessness, and other prerequisites, which this population of women may not have. The WellHouse does not require qualifying information. While in the program, residents receive assistance in obtaining the identification and documentation they need to rebuild their lives. Safety is an ongoing concern.
Exploited women cannot experience personal progress and future success, if their safety is in question or jeopardized. The length of time in the program is guided by safety and individual needs, since most residents have no other resources available than those provided by the WellHouse.
The WellHouse is run by Tajuan McCarty, who was trafficked (pimped) for 10 years across 48 states, addicted to the drugs she was forced to sell, and later found freedom through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Tajuan speaks from such a place of grace, sincerity, and healing that I just knew I had to do what I could to help.
I was talking to Tajuan McCarty, Founder and Executive Director of The WellHouse recently and this is what she told me, “Sex trafficking has been an issue for many years. God called me back to a house I had been trafficked to 25 years later to rescue a beautiful princess. He allowed this to happen so others will realize it hasn’t gone anywhere if it is still happening at the EXACT same house 25 years later. It is imperative we bring more awareness to those in the dark and provide a way out for those enslaved. We must not only raise awareness, we must provide the hope and love of Christ as well.”
Your book is scheduled for release this fall. However, readers will have an opportunity to participate in bringing your mission and campaign to life. Tell us about the GoFundMe campaign that you have started?
The address for the GoFundMe Campaign is http://www.gofundme.com/93lbf8 and we are asking for donations, ranging from $5 to $500. Remember that 50% of the proceeds from the sale of each book goes directly to support The WellHouse and combat sex trafficking on the I-20 corridor, from Texas to Atlanta.
Our goal is to raise $10,000 (that’s $4,000 to set up our 501(c)3 (non-profit) status with the IRS and $6,000 to have the book published and printed.
I am sure that many of our followers will want to follow your progress and get updates on your amazing projects. What are some of the ways that we can stay connected to you for updates?
The best way to stay connected is by subscribing to my website: www.graceismessy.com, but there are also constant updates on our
Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/iamsteveaustin and our
Twitter account at https://twitter.com/iamsteveaustin
More about Steve:
Author website: http://www.graceismessy.com
GoFundMe Campaign: http://www.gofundme.com/93lbf8
About the Campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Av8lUqa05mw
Steve’s story in 50 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INQyEHAFFL0