Becca Stevens may well be the fastest-talking woman in Tennessee. Although the Episcopal priest speaks with a gentle Southern accent, the velocity is rapid-fire New York, so it’s no surprise to learn her parents hail from there. Tragically, her father””also a pastor””was killed by a drunk driver when Stevens was just five years old. That experience, she says, changed her life and made her more aware of the pain that women can feel. “We went from being this hopeful young family to looking for the Social Security check,” she says. To add to her suffering, the senior warden of the church began sexually abusing her.
Today, however, Stevens has channeled that pain into a compassionate and unique ministry to women from the streets. In 1997, she founded Magdalene, a Nashville-based program for women with a history of prostitution and substance abuse. Most of those women, Stevens says, were physically and sexually abused as children. “Because women don’t get to the streets by themselves””it takes all kinds of failed systems to get them there””they’re not going to get off the streets by themselves. It takes a community to bring them back.” Magdalene is that community, a two-year residential program that gives women job training, drug rehabilitation and a house of their own to live in. It has been so successful that there are now five houses in Nashville, two in Charleston, one in Chattanooga, and even one in Rwanda. Another is planned for Ecuador.
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