WAR peels away the underbelly of human trafficking so at-risk women and children can experience freedom from what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines as a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people that forces them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
"I felt really compelled to do something after we left," said Jacobson, now 24 years old.
Baking talents to make a difference
And so she did. In 2013, New Creation Cupcakes was launched, an outreach ministry that concocted up to 18 different flavors of the tasty treats as a way of gaining favor with the women who worked as dancers at strip clubs and in massage parlors in Grand Rapids.
Since then, the ministry — renamed Created Free in June of this year — has expanded to accomplish the same goals in Cadillac and Traverse City as in Grand Rapids. Jacobson also is mulling the possibility of adding Benton Harbor to the mix.
"We spend usually a year gathering resources before we begin a city," said Jacobson. "We never want to be just deer in the headlights. We have partnership resources in all three cities," meaning organizations they work with, such as Safe Haven Ministries.
Diligence is vital
Connecting with dancers and massage parlor workers requires diligence and biblical wisdom, which is why a Bible study is held about an hour before the small teams of women head out.
But make no mistake, said Jacobson, coming alongside women means success is measured in inches, not yards.
"It's not like instant gratification in any way," said Jacobson. "We love them where they're at. I'd love to see them have stable jobs with 401ks but getting them to that point is not always feasible. We'll go to a club and spend three years there and a year later we'll find out that girl left the club. You're not sure if you watered the seed, but it keeps you on your toes.
"I think because it's sexual there are a lot of barriers to break down," added Jacobson. "We want to get these girls to trust you when they can't even trust their parents, their boy friends."
Jacobson said the primary reason New Creation Cupcakes was renamed Created Free is to emphasize no one need be a prisoner of a painful past and can instead live their best lives.""They were created free from addiction, from slavery, from depression, from feelings of unworthiness; Christ has really called us out of those things," said Jacobson. "It's been a yearlong prayer to switch (the name) and it's been really good for us so far."
An outreach to massage workers requires a different tact than at strip clubs.
"(A dancer) know she's a stripper; there's nothing to hide there," said Jacobson. "With massage parlors, they view themselves as legitimate massage therapists so there's a whole other level. Strippers have shared with us they have been, or are being, sexually abused or are being pimped out on the side. That's where the trafficking comes in with strip clubs."
There have been some surprises, though nothing shocking, according to Jacobson.
Some dancers are college students who are paying their tuition. Many were sexually abused as children, according to Jacobson and, she adds, "In those scenarios, if you were sexually abused when you were six years old, you might as well get paid for it (as an adult). I think that's the mindset of a lot of women that we serve.
"A lot of women we work with did not have a stable parent in the house," added Jacobson. "And generational prostitution is a real thing. They started 15, 16 years old as a bartender and their mom kind of trains them and so if that's all you've ever known, there's no reason to go anywhere different. A lot of girls know the Gospel and it's hard to break that barrier when they do know the Bible."
Victories amid heartache
But in that mix of heartache are victories, such as a dancer in Traverse City who contacted Jacobson's mother following a car accident her friend was in that landed him in the hospital. Her mother prayed a number of times on behalf of him while he was recuperating. It was the start of a new beginning for the dancer.
"That particular girl sought my mom out several times and started to believe in prayer and represents my mom's and the team's consistency," said Jacobson. "Another girl said, 'I need to leave. I prayed for the first time today (at a club) and I felt if you were coming tonight, God was telling me I need to leave.' We walked her out and packed her things. I don't think the (club) owner was very happy with us."
Jacobson smiles. Although she holds down a full-time job as a grant writer for Kids' Food Basket, Created Free has revealed to her a different side of what success means.
"To me a success story is when a girl is sharing a prayer request," she said. "Some will spill their life's story and it will be messy and look at us for a reaction. We need to be unshockable. Who are we to sit there and judge them?"
Jacobson and her husband attend Ada Bible Church where he works as music coordinator.