By Rick Kern
What would you think of a woman whose driving dream in life was to lead homeless teens away from sexual exploitation by criminals and predators, provide victims and at-risk kids help, healing, and most of all, hope — in a non-judgmental environment? Yeah, me too! And what would be your take-away if she leveraged every connection, every drop of ambition, her health, her resources, and every other dream she had to make it happen? Say hello to my newest hero, a woman who is nothing short of amazing — on a bad day, Andi Buerger. And meet the mission statement of “Beulah’s Place,” (essentially quoted above), a desperately needed shelter for homeless teens she and her husband Ed have established in Redmond, Oregon.
Andi, short for “Andrea,” is as at-home being in life’s trenches as water is being wet, and that’s no surprise — she was raised in them… Actually, in addition to helming a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, Andi is a lot of things most of us aren’t — a victim of sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking, for starters. Andi has owned a cruel and crushing history that she has not only survived, but totally triumphed through and made work for her — and others.
A national motivational and keynote speaker, Buerger is also a seminar presenter who develops and delivers energizing programs for corporate retreats, training rallies, and special events. In fact, at this writing she is on a national speaking tour to educate, inspire, advocate, and educate a bourgeoning network of law enforcement agencies, schools and universities, and businesses.
Additionally, she is an experienced entrepreneur having launched Media Perfection, Inc., a public relations and training company. As CEO and communications director, Buerger has provided training in sales, customer service, marketing, and other essential skills for Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and nonprofits.
Oh, and then there’s this — Andi is a newly minted authoress having recently wrapped her first book. Titled, “A Fragile Thread of Hope,” Buerger has teamed up with co-writer Kay Farish to pen the gripping saga of one woman’s sacrificial passion to rescue teens from life on the streets. The book’s moniker comes from Andi’s own life. A deeply committed Christian she notes, “I never would have thought I’d live to be in my late fifties or that it would take so long to see God’s fulfillment of His destiny in my life. But I always believed He would fulfill it. I held on to that fragile thread of hope until it became a solid rope to hold on to and climb up.”
Profiling the gripping stories of four at-risk youth, each journey from homelessness or trafficking into a promising new life is told in the first-person and interwoven with intimate flashbacks from Andi’s beguiling life. And as she unpacks her narrative, Buerger reveals how her intense zeal for these young women to find healing and wholeness stems from the years of severe abuse she suffered as a child and young adult. The absorbing accounts of these itinerant teens are riveting, their forgotten voices disturbingly authentic, and their rescues deeply compelling.
“Honestly, sexual violation is always the most intimate, the most evil form of violation that I can think of myself,” reflects Buerger. “It steals the core of somebody’s soul and spirit and without help, there will always be that black hole, that emptiness — if there’s nothing to help reconcile that experience.”
In the intimate communion between reader and author, the hauntingly candid chronicle resonates poignant and passionate. Andi relentlessly jump-starts a long overdue coast-to-coast conversation festering in the nation’s heart… Virtually paralyzed by the tears these kids can’t cry anymore, readers find themselves longing to know who these displaced young people are that would rather struggle on our streets, homeless, in self-imposed exile, than go back to the circumstances of their lives?
“A Fragile Thread of Hope” answers these questions with an almost blinding clarity, baring the unclad soul of these despairing young people, and the compassionate heart of one who has been there and dared to go back into their combat zone. Andi has lived their nightmare, awakened from it, and done something about rescuing these young women because she gets it! They need mercy, unconditional love, and acceptance… Just like she did!
“These are bright kids that want a second chance but they’re out of options because there is nobody else out there and they don’t know anyone who cares,” she laments. “I didn’t know anyone out there because I didn’t have any friends until after my first eighteen-years of life.”
The trafficking statistics and demographics are ominous and unnerving. “Basically, I can tell you this, the international trafficking numbers have risen dramatically,” Buerger explains. “A few years ago, it was a $35 billion-dollar business and now, it’s well over a $161 billion-dollar business worldwide.” She goes on, “The predator used to be a white male, 35 – 45 years old, with a family of his own. That profile has dropped to 25 – 35 years old. The predators are even younger now.”
“There are actually recruiters that the perpetrators pay to be on college campuses,” she adds, her voice trembling with conviction. “An ex-navy seal friend of mine was telling me it was up to $2,000.00, in this case for a young man to target a girl on the campus. They’d target a girl if she was disenfranchised, not popular, if she had no girlfriend to go to a frat party with her or whatever it was… That boy was supposed to target her, gain her trust, and then cunningly get her into human trafficking. It’s a thriving business because not many people get caught doing it verses how many people get caught panhandling drugs by comparison.”
While Andi did not navigate the deadly reefs of trafficking recruiters in college herself, she did have a brush with the underlying mindset, running smack dab into a sexually predatory professor. “In college, I was not doing as well as I’d like in my required accounting course,” she recalls haltingly. “I approached the male professor as class let out one afternoon to find out if there was any extra credit available or other ways to help me earn a better grade. His response was, ‘Well if you do what Sarah (not her real name) does for me, I could get you a better grade.’ I was astounded as what the professor said sank in. I knew Sarah, and I knew what the professor meant… I also knew Sarah’s fiancé and felt conflicted on multiple levels with the professor’s revelation.”
Buerger, who is a deeply committed Christian, has fought her way forward with faith, desire, and determination to get Beulah’s Place off the ground — and she’s paid serious dues to do it. “There is always a cost for being on the frontlines of faith or even community,” she declares philosophically. Andi has weathered more than one storm including: nine traumatic brain injuries, two silent heart attacks, liver failure, Celiac disease, Ehlers Danlos, chronic Epstein Barre, adrenal failure, and multiple broken ribs. She’s also had hip repair, back fusion (with rods and screws), and reconstructive shoulder surgery.
Believe or not, the list continues, but then so does her work with nomadic teens. “Many of these things occurred after starting Beulah’s Place,” she reflects, “but I never stopped believing it was the right thing to do. Many loving friends encouraged me to stop, to take a break, but I couldn’t. Not after the first teen we rescued. I knew there were more, and I had to continue the journey no matter what.”
If you know anyone who needs help in the Oregon area, they can reach out to Beulah’s Place through the contact page of their website located at www.beulahsplace.org or call Andi at (541) 526-0445. Additionally, they can call Dee Dee Myers who also works with Beulah’s Place, at (541) 279-3584. Outside of Oregon but in the United States, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline is available at (888) 373-7888.
“I lived it and survived it,” Buerger reflects, “I’ve made choices to move forward and not be a victim, not be entitled and/or medicate. My life is a testament to any other victim out there that they can succeed and be victorious. Every community needs a place where it is safe for kids and teens who are homeless and without resources, to come and find help, healing, and hope.”
Andi’s book, “A Fragile Thread of Hope,” is slated for an April 2020 release and you may also contact her at Beulah’s Place for more information about obtaining a copy when it is available.