Named a top 10 CNN 2016 "hero," Becca Stevens is an Episcopal priest and the founder of Thistle Farms, a safe haven for women who have been victims of abuse, addiction, prostitution, and sex trafficking. She has written several books that address the work she does, including Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling (Jericho Books, 2014), but Love Heals (Thomas Nelson, Sept. 5) is a gift book featuring photos, poetry, and inspirational quotes.
The idea was pitched to her by editors at Thomas Nelson at the Thistle Stop Cafe in Nashville, which serves as the headquarters for the Thistle Farms community.
“It took me about 10 minutes to say I’m interested,” said Stevens, who lives in Nashville with her husband, songwriter Marcus Hummon, and their three sons. “Love Heals is the first book where the goal is to share the story of Thistle Farms, but also to get readers to think about how they can be part of this community of healing for women.”
Each chapter also features stories and advice centered on the healing qualities of compassion, forgiveness, and daily rituals. It is designed to help readers learn to love themselves and others despite shortcomings, trauma, and brokenness, according to Stevens.
“I hope readers come away inspired to do more justice in the world and with a renewed sense that, whatever walk they’re on, they are headed in the right direction, or that they turn to head in the right direction [toward healing],” she said.
As a victim of child abuse, Stevens’ path to healing began in 1997 when she welcomed five women who had been victims of trafficking, violence, and addiction into the first Thistle Farms facility. Twenty years later, the two-year residential program in Nashville houses 32 women at a time. Sister organizations have also sprung up around the country based on the farm’s model, which helps women gain economic freedom through distributing and selling their natural home and body products.
One of the stories Stevens tells in Love Heals follows Tracey who was charged with the murder of her employer—a drug dealer who had beaten and shot her in the past. Rather than jail time, Tracey was sentenced to Thistle Farms (and ordered to wear an ankle monitor). Tracey was on probation for 10 years, but went on to become one of the directors of Thistle Farms.
“Like the healed leper, like the person with the spinal cord injury trying to walk, or like Tracey freed from jail, we can feel the amazing, healing power of mercy,” Stevens writes in Love Heals. “In turn, we can feel gratitude and offer mercy to those around us.”
Stevens' background and the content in Love Heals was an easy fit for Nelson and its parent company, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, according to Laura Minchew, senior v-p & publisher, gift books. "Becca Stevens and Thistle Farms are internationally recognized for helping change lives through love and faith,” she said. “This book shows the grittiness, beauty, and grace of faith in action.”
Nelson's launched a pre-order campaign for the book offering a free printable poster as well as e-blasts scheduled through Thistle Farms and HCCP. The publisher also hosted Facebook Live events with surprise guests, social media advertising, gift trade advertising, and Nashville launch parties at Thistle Farms, Parnassus Books, and Barnes & Noble, according to Michael Aulisio, v-p of marketing, gift books, Tommy Nelson children’s books and new media.