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About Us

Our Story

So You Get to Know Us Better

That's Us

We are Candidate Missionaries with the Assemblies of God and serve with FREE International to Find, Restore, Embrace, and Empower survivors of human trafficking and forced prostitution. Our primary focus is to spearhead all “Restoration” initiatives including the creation and implementation of a holistic and restorative aftercare program.

Brandon has served his community as a Licensed Professional Counselor for the past five years and has had several ministry and leadership roles at his home church. Shayla grew up ministering side by side with her parents who have been missionaries in El Salvador for 30 years.

We love traveling, experiencing new cultures, food and outdoor activities. Brandon loves to garden, cook, play music, backpack and fish whenever he can. Shayla loves to read, listen to Brandon play music, create pinterest art and jogging. We have a 3 year old Shiba Inu puppy named Bō. We lavish him with lots of love and treats. Bō enjoys sunning himself, naps, playing with other dogs and popcorn!

So, how did we end up here?


Brandon’s Journey

During the summer of 2008, I traveled to Ghana and visited the Elmina Castle of the Gold Coast.  Elmina was the first castle built for the purposes of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  I took a tour of the castle and learned a great deal about what slavery looked like in the 1500′s.  Immediately after I exited the castle, I was confronted with a proposition by three pimps and the young girl they were prostituting.  This event solidified the reality that slavery still exists and is prevalent throughout the world.

A few weeks later, I was back in St. Louis and on my way home from work at 2:00 a.m. when a minivan cornered me a few blocks from my home.  The first thing I noticed about this van was an 8 or 9-year-old girl who was sitting in the passenger seat.  The driver rolled her window down and attempted to sell her to me.  More shocking than knowing that an 8-year-old girl is being sold for sex a few blocks from my front door was that the trafficker was not trying to sell her to me for 30 minutes but for life.  It was his intention to sell her to be mine permanently.  Not only is slavery happening overseas, but it is literally on the sidewalk of my high-rise.  Tragically, I was not able to help that little girl, but God has called me to find and help restore others just like her and nothing could be more motivating.

Shayla’s Journey

While interning for Convoy of Hope Europe in Brussels, Belgium in 2011, I felt God calling me to specifically work with hurting women. I didn’t know in what capacity that calling would flesh out, but I knew God would set the pieces in motion. While in Belgium, I got to travel throughout Europe, I remember walking Amsterdam’s red light district and recording this in my journal:

It was surreal walking the streets, especially through the red light district, the hopelessness, sadness and loneliness found there is permeable—it seeps into your skin and becomes a heavy weight upon your heart. God is there. He is in the beauty and in the few who still believe, who kneel and pray for more light in the darkness. Amsterdam is one of the hardest mission fields in the world. It requires a great effort with little visible result but there MUST be a great effort! When a city thinks it’s normal to offer tours and “romantic” carriage rides into the red light district where human trafficking is prevalent, a cultural norm even, there is something extremely wrong and dehumanizing within that framework. Pray for Amsterdam it is a mixture of beauty and ugliness, darkness and light, despair and hope…pray for more light.

William Wilberforce, 18th century abolitionist, said “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” My eyes were open, God tugged at my heart and whispered to me, “Will you speak up for those who are being abuse and broken? Will you stand and fight against the darkness?” In a moment of bravery, I said, “Yes” and every day since then God has given Brandon and me the courage to continue to say “Yes!”


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The Team

Meet Our Team

We have the pleasure of joining this great team of 20 abolitionists who are tenacious, vigilant, and have a tender heart for the exploited.

FREE International has a collaborative vision. We partner and collaborate with organizations across the country. No one organization has the lone power to end the tragedy that is human trafficking; but together, working with communities through partnerships on all levels of society, we can maximize our effectiveness towards ending this issue. Partnership with FREE International takes many forms including facilitating outreaches, one-time trainings, awareness campaigns, as well as in-depth, ongoing, working relationships. The goal is to bring organizations to the table around this issue and facilitate their involvement to the degree that they are able.

Brandon & Shayla

Restoration Directors

Brandon & Shayla have served with FREE International since July 2013 as the Restoration Directors.  They oversee FREE’s aftercare program & are currently preparing a shelter that will provide holistic care to sex-trafficking survivors.  Brandon is a Licensed Professional Counselor & is eager to see healing & restoration in the lives of the girls who will soon find refuge at the Oasis.

FREE International

FREE International | Founders & Directors

Mike & Denise Bartel are the founders & directors of FREE International. FREE is a not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to Find Rescue Embrace & Empower those who have been victimized through human trafficking.  Prior to founding FREE in 2007 in the U.S., the Bartel’s previous work was focused in India. Learn more at http://freeinternational.org/.

Say Something Assembly

School Assembly Team

The Say Something Assembly offers a relevant & engaging presentation through media, testimonials, & expertise. The school assemblies are presented in Jr. & Sr. high schools across the country, educating the youth on human trafficking. Presenters in the assembly are part of a partnership between Student Reach & FREE International.  Learn more at http://saysomethingassembly.com/.

  • Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

    ― Harriet Tubman ―
  • You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.

    ― William Wilberforce ―
  • I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.

    ― Harriet Tubman ―


Let's get in touch

We would love the opportunity to get to know you. We are primarily in the Mid West but will be traveling throughout the country as well and want to connect with as many people as possible.

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